Survivor’s Newest Villian: Playing a Role, or Playing for Keeps?

Deception is standard procedure for many contestants on Survivor. But in the case of Michael Jefferson, SLU fitness model and star of the 24th season of Survivor: One World, premiering tonight at 8/7 c, it’s appearances that might be deceiving. He’s been labeled by the show’s host as the villain of the season, and his look certainly suggests the banker might be as conniving as his occasionally raised eyebrow.

SLU Model and Survivor Star Michael Jefferson

But as soon as I get him talking, I can’t help but question the label he’s been given. One of the first things he brings up is his volunteer work as a mentor with Big Brothers, Big Sisters. “I hang out with this awesome kid, Matt, and we basically just run around the woods all day,” says Jefferson.

The 30-year-old Marysville native is much more comfortable exploring the great outdoors than sitting behind a desk. “I love the Northwest,” says the avid hiker. “Anything you want is right here—lakes, rivers, mountains, anything!”

Jefferson camps, hikes, plays soccer, and hits the gym five times a week, which viewers can expect to give him an edge in the rigorous games on the show. “It was definitely something I wanted,” he says, “and I had to apply three times to prove it!”

He explains that the premise of this season is a battle of the sexes. Jefferson, who was Washington’s Hottest Bachelor in Cosmopolitan, noted before the games started that he was “definitely looking for a Mrs. Jefferson—and she could be on this island.”

But with men and women on opposing teams, was there really any room for romance? Jefferson grins and admits, “I am actually dating someone now,” but won’t confide whether or not it’s a fellow contestant.

Changing the subject, what I really want to know is how a philanthropic, romantic, Northwestern mountain man got labeled as Survivor’s newest “villain.”

He laughs when I ask about it, clearly not bothered by the stigma. “You know, at first I wanted to go in as the hero—of course. But now I love it! I’m going with it!”

It’s true that the rules change when you’re on the island, though I have a hard time believing he’s done anything nefarious enough to earn true villain status. Watch the premiere tonight on CBS to find out, and check back with us for more insider perspective as we follow Michael throughout the season.