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For the second straight season, a Duke student will compete on ‘Survivor’

For the second season in a row, a Duke University student will attempt to outwit, outplay and outlast the competition on “Survivor.”

Molly Byman, a 27-year-old second-year Duke law student from Boston, is in the Vokai tribe for the CBS show’s 39th season, dubbed “Island of the Idols. “ It premieres Wednesday night at 8.

In an interview with Parade magazine, Molly explained that in between graduating from Boston College and starting law school at Duke, she spent a couple of years teaching middle school special education with Teach for America. She found it “enjoyable and fulfilling,” but always planned to attend law school.

Molly, who also studied abroad in Tanzania, told CBS: “I have wanted to compete on Survivor since I first watched Elisabeth Filarski jump off that cliff in the Australian Outback. Now that’s happening (!!!) … I want a behind-the-scenes look at the show I love, and I want to test my mind, body and social prowess. The opportunity to graduate law school with zero debt is a bonus.”

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Molly Byman, Tommy Sheehan, Jack Nichting and Kellee Kim in the Sept. 25 Season 29 premiere of “Survivor: Island of Idols” on CBS. Michele Crowe/CBS CBS

Molly, a big Harry Potter fan, is the oldest of four children and told Parade that she grew up in a “chaotic household.”

When asked why she thinks she’ll win “Survivor,” Molly told CBS:

“I am smart, strong, and not annoying. Discomfort and being dirty don’t bother me. I can fit in anywhere and form relationships with anyone. Being the oldest child and being a teacher taught me how to manage chaos, how to be adaptable and considerate to others’ needs, and how to use subtle powers of persuasion to get people to do what I want.”

[Read our full 2019 Fall TV Preview]

Molly sounds a bit more prepared than Keith Sowell from Fayetteville, a Duke pre-med student who competed briefly in Season 38.

Keith was voted out on Week 2 of his season, and sent to the Edge of Extinction, where he could fight for a chance to return to the group. But not long after arriving at the isolated Edge of Extinction location, Keith opted to go home.

Another NC presence on ‘Survivor’

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Sandra Diaz-Twine returns to “Survivor: Island of the Idols” as mentor. Robert Voets CBS

Legendary “Survivor” personality — a three-time contestant and two-time winner (2003 and 2010) — is back on the show for a fourth time this season, but this time she won’t be competing.

Sandra, a Connecticut native who lives in Fayetteville, joins Boston Rob Mariano as a mentor on the show, and told CBS that she plans to share “all aspects of the game with the castaways.”

The mentor element is new on “Survivor,” so viewers will have to wait to see how all that plays out.

But Sandra has said that her role is to “get to know the players, listen to them carefully and advise them. In other words, I plan on sharing the knowledge I have gained after playing for 94 consecutive days. I’m going to provide guidance, but at the end of the day each person has to make their own decisions and play their own game.”

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Brooke Cain is a North Carolina native who has worked at The News & Observer for more than 20 years. She writes about TV and local media for the Happiness is a Warm TV blog, and answers CuriousNC questions for readers.
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