“Survivor” is a game that can be physically taxing and psychologically ruthless.
But no matter what remote part of the world the “Survivor” castaways are stranded in, no matter how many players try to backstab and sabotage them, they can always count on their moms to have their backs.
“When it comes time they start deciding who they’re going to vote off and they start talking negative about him, I know I’m going to be very uncomfortable,” said Susan Snow of Cumberland, whose son Michael is competing on CBS’ “Survivor: Caramoan – Fans vs. Favorites.”
Michael Snow, 44, is a graduate of Greely High School and the University of Maine, and now lives in New York. He tried out for the show several times before landing a spot on “Survivor: Caramoan.”
On the show, which airs at 8 p.m. Wednesdays, 20 contestants divided into two “tribes” are abandoned on separate beaches in the tropical Caramoan Islands in the Philippines.
In each week’s episode, the teams come together to compete in physical challenges, hoping to win immunity before the next tribal council so they won’t be voted off and sent home.
Snow is an event planner who has lived in Atlanta, Chicago and New York, and comes to Maine often to visit his parents, brother and two sisters and their families.
His island odyssey actually happened last year, but he can’t reveal yet whether he was the “sole Survivor,” the last player standing, who wins the $1 million prize.
In an email written from New York, Snow said the experience “was everything I’d hoped. I was looking for a challenge and an adventure boy, did I find them.”
Rats jumped on Snow at night while he was sleeping on the beach, and he was constantly afraid of seeing snakes. Those are probably the only two things he didn’t prepare for in advance.
“I thought long and hard about how I wanted to approach the game, how I would play and what my strategy would be once I hit the beach,” Snow said. “Physically, I’m a runner, so I kept that up, but added some swimming and yoga. I did puzzles and practiced making fire when I was back in Maine and in my sink in NYC don’t tell my super.”
This season pits “Survivor” fans against some favorite past players, including John Cochran, “the nerd,” and Phillip Sheppard, the “crazy” one who wears pink underwear. Snow said he wasn’t starstruck. He’s had favorite players over the years, “but none of them jumped out of the helicopters and became my opponent.”
Although Mainer Bob Crowley won “Survivor” in 2008, when he was 57, it’s mostly a young person’s game. Many of the contestants are in their 20s and 30s. Snow, who was the oldest member of the Gota tribe, said that while he worried about that before the game started, age turned out not to be a big factor.
That doesn’t mean it wasn’t difficult to “outwit, outplay, outlast,” as the show’s motto goes. Snow said the game turned out to be as hard as he expected, “and there were parts that were harder,” he said. “I’ll leave it at that.”
Snow describes himself on the CBS website as “determined, enthusiastic and witty.”
Susan Snow dittoed the “determined” part, and said it’s why she and Michael’s father, Lew, think their son will do well on the show.
“When he sets a goal, he goes for it, works hard toward it,” she said. “He’s very personable. In school, he worked real hard. And when he’s made up his mind he’s going to do something, he does it, and he does it right.”
Snow said she and her husband had never watched “Survivor” in the past, but she definitely had heard of the show.
“Are you kidding me? Every single one of our grandchildren and our other son and daughters are foolish over it,” she said. “So it was some big excitement here, waiting until the nieces and nephews found out he was going to be on it.”
Snow’s parents and siblings watched the season opener last week as a family. Their “Survivor”-style party at brother Tom’s house in North Yarmouth included “a real kind of native meal” that included chicken, pineapple, oranges and rice. Snow’s nieces and nephews provided the decorations.
So far, Susan Snow said, her son has done “just like I expected him to do. He thinks everything through. He was plotting and planning how he was going to do it. So he had a plan. What it is, I have no idea.”
Snow said it has been “hilarious” to watch himself on the show since it premiered Feb. 13.
“I love the show, but don’t take myself too seriously,” he said. “I fell jumping off the boat (in the first episode) and really wanted them to show it so my friends and family would laugh, and all that happened.”
Snow said he had “a giant bash” on premiere night, but will watch the rest of the season more quietly, with his friends and family.
He said everyone he knows wants to know what happened and how he did on the show, “but it is so much more fun if you don’t know. And fun for me to keep everyone in suspense.”
Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at: