February 10, 2013

Three Underwood cronies called back to reality show

The Oakland school nurse reflects on her 'Survivor' experience and reveals her favorites this season.

By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling mhhetling@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

Ashley Underwood, central Maine's most famous elementary school nurse, won't have an opportunity to cut throats during Wednesday's season premiere of the notoriously cold-blooded reality television show "Survivor."

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Former “Survivor” competitor Ashley Underwood works as a nurse at the Atwood Primary School in Oakland.

Staff photo by David Leaming

"Seems like a No Brainer"
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Ashley Underwood has her torch snuffed out after she was voted out in the season finale of “Survivor: Redemption Island,” which was broadcast on CBS on May 15, 2011. Underwood made it to the final four before being ousted.

Courtesy of CBS

Three of her former teammates, however, will appear on the show, and she thinks they will surprise audiences as they attempt to out-scheme each other in pursuit of the show's million-dollar prize.

Underwood, 27, grew up in Benton, starred on the Cony High School and University of Maine basketball teams and later was named Miss Maine USA.

She made a splash on "Survivor" in 2011 by nearly toppling one of the most dominant winners the show has ever seen: "Boston" Rob Mariano.

She wasn't chosen as one of the 10 players to return to the game, however, saying only, "They have their reasons for why they bring certain people back."


Life is different now for Underwood, who tended to a boy's bleeding nose as the school nurse at Atwood Primary School in Oakland last Tuesday, before standing for a quick photography session.

Underwood said people at the school and around the state continue to associate her with the show.

"Everyone wants to ask questions about the behind-the-scenes stuff," she said.

Often, she said, she is asked whether the cast ate more than the slight amount of rice shown on camera.

"We literally don't get anything," she said. "People are always amazed by that."

While she has one foot rooted firmly in reality, she also has become a reality celebrity. Underwood's circle of friends now includes many people who have enjoyed 15 minutes of fame.

Mariano, for example, now sends her Christmas cards with pictures of his family every year, she said. Usually his three daughters are decked out in Red Sox gear, but this year, she said, they wore dresses.

"It's funny that he has four girls that are probably running his life," Underwood said, including Mariano's wife, former "Survivor" winner Amber Mariano.

Underwood also has occasional contact with another "Survivor" contestant from Maine: Bob Crowley, a 61-year-old physics teacher at Gorham High School who won the show's $1 million prize in 2008.

Underwood said she most recently saw Crowley at a wedding last summer.

"He's a good dancer," she said. "He was twirling me around the dance floor."


Underwood won't return to the show this season, but three of her former island-mates will: Francesca Hogi, 38, of Washington, D.C.; Andrea Boehlke, 23, of Random Lake, Wis.; and 54-year-old Phillip Shepherd, of Santa Monica, Calif.

"It's going to be funny to watch them now," she said.

The returning players will have an advantage over the 10 first-time players, she said.

"Like anything else, you do something once and you learn from your mistakes and would have had time to think about what you would have done differently," she said.

Underwood said her relationships with some people outside the game is much different than what it was while the game was going on.

That difference is evident with Hogi, who finished in last place after Underwood and her fellow tribemates plotted against her while she slept. Since then, Underwood said, she has gotten to know Hogi, particularly when the two were tent-mates while climbing the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro to benefit a Kenyan orphanage.

"I'm rooting for her more than anyone else," she said.

Among the first-time players, she said, she has her eye on Hope Driskill, a 23-year-old fellow beauty pageant queen from Jefferson City, Mo.

"If you're a young pretty girl, you have a target on your back right away because you're seen as weak and not doing a lot around camp," she said.

(Continued on page 2)

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