CDC employee Davie Rickenbacker and former Ga. Tech post-doc student Christian Hubicki are both part of the "David" team in the 37th season of "Survivor," which uses the "David vs. Goliath" concept.

‘Survivor’ 37 contestants with Atlanta ties: Davie Rickenbacker and Christian Hubicki

Originally posted Wednesday, September 26, 2018 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

There are many reasons why CBS’s “Survivor” remains consistently popular 18 years after its debut: the unpredictable and often scintillating social dynamics, the visually impressive challenges, the blindsides, the chase for immunity idols, the pretty vistas, the steady hand of host Jeff Probst, the occasional “Survivor” hook up.  

And as this Entertainment Weekly story notes, if one season sucked, another brand new one will soon be on the way! 

Most people who try out nowadays are super fans, the types who have seen multiple seasons and know that there is no one path to win, that enough luck is involved that it’s impossible to predict who will take home the $1 million at the start of any competition. Some seasons, the winner is the socially savvy player; sometimes, it’s the physically dominant one, sometimes, it’s the strategic master. On occasion, even the reckless, crazy one takes home the prize simply for being so audacious. 

Probst & Co. debut season 37 on Wednesday, September 26 with the theme “David vs. Goliath.” Half the members are scrappy types who are under-estimated. The “Goliaths” appear to have privileges heaped on them. Often times these themes shape the show early on then disappear once the merge happens. 

I spoke with two of the players with close Atlanta ties and both know the game well: Christian Hubicki, 32, just left Atlanta last month for Tallahassee where he has a new job as a robotics professor.  Davie Rickenbacker, 31, had to quit his health communications specialist job at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to go on “Survivor.” 

The two are part of the David team. And Hubicki noted that he found out during the competition that they both spent time in Midtown at the same time and might have unknowingly crossed paths. Small world, even in “Survivor” terms. 

Season 37 was shot at the end of the wet season in Fiji and the photos definitely reveal very wet contestants. In fact, EW’s Dalton Ross said the show suffered not one - but two- typhoons during shooting

Christian Hubicki.

Christian Hubicki

Age: 32

Profession: assistant professor for mechanical engineering at the Florida State University

A fan from the start: he recalls watching season one as an impressionable 14 year old. 

His Atlanta ties: He spent three years at Georgia Tech from 2015 to 2018 working on various robotics projects and loved every minute of it. Tech provided him a post-doctoral research post that ultimately led to his professor job. 

How he prepped for the show physically: push-ups. Lots of them. By the time he made it to Fiji, he said he was doing 300 a day. 

How he prepped to make fire, an important “Survivor” skill: he went to a survivalist store to buy the necessary items and went on the roof of his Midtown apartment to practice. Management never found out, he said.

How he prepped to find immunity idols: he and his girlfriend already regularly play geocaching, which he described as “real life idol hunting.” 

Why the show intrigued him: “It’s more complicated than chess. It’s like 3D chess with 19 other players and then Jeff Probst will occasionally come in and pull six pieces off the board.”

Why he tried out: He saw parallels between his work as a robotics guy and the game dynamics. “If I’m going to test out all these ideas and hypotheses on how the game is played, the best dang way to do it is for me to actually get out and play and get on the island.” 

Worry going in: He hoped he didn’t come across as so dorky that he would be ostracized by his group early on.

His self-perceived strengths and weaknesses: “My biggest strength is going to be my adaptability, to assess the situation. These are all the players on the board, what’s my move going to have to be, even if that means completely changing my strategy midway. I feel I will have that agility mentally while being friendly with all these players. My core worry is I won’t be the biggest and toughest guy out there so people may make the decision, ‘Hey, we need to get rid of someone, may as well be the robot guy!’”

First episode: He makes an immediate first impression, selected by the Goliath team to take part in an opening reward challenge. He then proceeds to solve a slide puzzle in a matter of seconds, noting later that he creates puzzle-solving algorithms. He is also catnip for the producers with his sweet dorky persona. 

Davie Rickenbacker of Atlanta competes on "Survivor: David vs. Goliath" season 37 starting September 26, 2018.

Davie Rickenbacker

Age: 31

Profession: Former health-care communications specialist at the CDC. He has done some canvassing work for the Stacey Abrams Georgia gubernatorial campaign but is otherwise seeking a full-time job. 

Last-second pick up: He was an “alternate” for season 37 but when someone else dropped out three days before shooting was to begin, “Survivor” called him and asked if he could drop everything and go to Fiji pronto. He said yes, but the consequence was he had to leave his job at the CDC.

How “Survivor” inspired him: “I went through depression for not being able to get a job after college. Watching ‘Survivor’ helped pull me out of that, watching everyone’s stories and their motivations for life. It kind of pulled me out of my depression and told me to get up off my butt and move to Atlanta and start on my own.”

Preparation for the show: “I always had the feeling I’d be selected. I just wasn’t sure when I’d be selected. I’ve always been training, doing a lot of swimming to increase endurance under water. I breed Siberian Huskies so I always run with them to stay physically active... I also watched a lot of fire-making videos. I have a fire pit in my backyard so I’d go once a week and try some things out.”

Big fan of “The Walking Dead”: “I have a lot of weapons like machetes. I love Rick Grimes. He was an inspiration for me to go on the show. He was such a leader and he knows how to round up those survivors and get the motivated. That’s what I wanted to do on the island.”

The time when they are on the boat and can’t talk to each other:  “It’s a little like ‘Hunger Games.’ They have that pre game and are assessing each other. It’s a lot like that.” 

Being a “David”: “It was okay for me. I am a religious person. The story of David vs. Goliath, it gave me chills when I found out. Me being unemployed and a middle child and being picked on as a child, I identified as a David growing up.”

Dork alert: “Given the fact we are Davids and me being a bit of a nerd, there are other nerds I can talk Pokeman with or talk Dragonball-Z with or talk Dungeons & Dragons with and meet them on a common ground.” (He calls himself a Blerd - a black nerd.)

Diet plan? “I wanted to lose some weight. I weighed about 220 going in and hoped to lose at least 180 coming out of there.” 

Strength going in: “I’m a bit of a chameleon with everyone I can adapt to different human beings and find common ground.”

First episode: He catches an octopus with a spear! Not bad for a city slicker! “Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier!” he said. 

TV PREVIEW

“Survivor: David v. Goliath,” season 37 debuts at 8 p.m., Wednesday, September 26

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
X