The fourth member of the Heroes tribe, in first-name alphabetical order: Chrissy Hofbeck, an actuary from New Jersey. What does an actuary do, exactly, and why is it that you don’t really want to know the answer? Good questions, both of them! And Chrissy very much hopes her competitors will be happy to stay in the dark.
“I’m going to dumb down my profession,” she says. “I’m going to go with insurance pricing. No one will ever ask about it again because insurance is so insanely boring. I really do insurance pricing, but I do it with data and math, and I get very excited when I talk about equations. We’re not going to want to go there.”
In reality, Chrissy says she’s an executive level actuary who leads a huge team of people — or, more accurately, she was an executive level actuary who led a huge team of people. In order to play Survivor, Chrissy walked away from her “very big job,” for the second time in her career; she previously walked away from a high-level position in the world of finance in order to be a stay-at-home mom and raise her children for nearly a decade. Even during those years, Chrissy still kept aiming for one million-dollar prospect: Survivor. She says she’s been applying for the show since the very beginning, with the lone exception being season two.
“I never gave up the dream,” she says. “When I got the call, it was seriously not a question about work, even though I had a big job. I will get another big job. I will never have another chance to play Survivor.”
Given that she’s been applying since 2001, it should come as no surprise that Chrissy is one of the oldest castmembers this season. In fact, she’s right up there as the oldest alongside fellow Hero and fellow 46-year-old Katrina Radke. It’s not something that Chrissy is especially excited about.
“Anything over 40 is the kiss of death in this game,” says Chrissy, who has paid close attention to Survivor winners’ ages — not a surprise, given that numbers are kind of her specialty. “There are very few winners over 40. Bob [Crowley, winner of season 17] was 57, and then you have Doctor Denise [Stapley, winner of season 25], who was around 41. I was hoping that I would look around and there would be some elderlies in the group, but there are none. So, that is me. There are a couple who I can’t really tell — maybe an older woman and an older guy.”
Listen to the podcast below to hear from Chrissy and the rest of the Heroes Tribe in the second episode of our preseason series, “First One Out.”
With that said, Chrissy has a plan to counteract what she perceives as her biggest obstacle in the game: “I’m definitely lying about my age, because I am seriously more than two decades older than the rest of these young children who are out here with me, and I don’t want to be first vote-off because I’m grandma. I am the elderly of the show, which is so scary.” She plans on telling players that she’s 39 years old, reasoning: “When you’re 25, you have no idea what a 39-year-old looks like. You have no clue.”
Whether or not she succeeds in playing down her age and the high-level magnitude of her profession, Chrissy feels more than equipped to meet the challenges of Survivor: “I think this is the greatest game in the history of the planet. What I love about it is it’s sort of like a choose your own adventure, depending on who’s on the island with you. The method that worked last season does not work this season. It won’t work next season. What works for me, won’t work for the next guy. I love that whole social dynamic of it, and figuring out what everyone else is thinking.”
Indeed, Chrissy sees the problem of predicting other players’ future actions as the great draw of Survivor, and one that leans in quite nicely to her particular set of skills as an actuary.
“What an actuary does is calculate the present value of future risk,” she explains. “We say what we think is going to happen in the future. What’s the probability of that happening? And we use that to figure out our best current decision. That’s exactly what Survivor is. What do I think will happen in three days, six days, nine days? What do I have to do now in order to account for that down the line? It’s all just future probabilities, right? It’s great.”
Watch the video below for more from Chrissy on why she’s going to win Survivor.
Note: comments from the castaways have been edited and condensed for clarity.
Ben Driebergen (Marine, Heroes Tribe): She’s awesome. She’s gonna be the mom of the bunch.
Ali Elliott (Celebrity Assistant, Hustlers Tribe): She definitely seems like the mom. She seems very sweet. Every morning, you can tell that she wants to say good morning, but she’s just smiling. If we get put on the same tribe, I would want to work with her.
Ryan Ulrich (Bellhop, Hustlers Tribe): She seems really sweet. She’s a mom. I can see she wears a wedding band, so I’m assuming she’s married with kids.
Katrina Radke (Olympian, Heroes Tribe): She’s like a mom, like me, I’m thinking. Yeah, she and I kind of connected at the airport. I shouldn’t say airport, huh?
Josh Wigler (Reporter, THR): You can say airport. Everyone knows you flew here. You didn’t row!
Katrina Radke (Olympian, Heroes Tribe): Well, I’m thinking maybe she’s the only one I’m guessing about my age, and maybe has a similar story in the sense that she might be a mom. I’m looking forward to getting to know her.
Desi Williams (Physical Therapist, Healers Tribe): I really don’t have any type of read on her. She kind of stays to herself. I think she’s probably a sweet lady, probably a mom, I would assume. She’s like the people I work with, the faculty and staff. A mom, older, just trying to find her way. I hate to call her a stay-at-home mom, but she seems like that type.
Roark Luskin (Social Worker, Healers Tribe): She’s so sweet. My guess is that she’s a mom. She just wears a necklace with four engraved initials, none of which are hers, and so I’m guessing that she has maybe four kids. She doesn’t strike me as that old, but maybe she started having children young. And she seems super sweet. She’s always kind of offering things to people and she keeps getting yelled at for, “no sharing.” So I think that she could be a Dawn [Meehan, from seasons 23 and 26] type person, potentially.
Jessica Johnston (Nurse Practitioner, Healers Tribe): She seems super sweet, like the mother type of the group, but with those types … I’ve watched the show. Those people scare me because people do view them as a mom I never had, someone they can confide in, and then they ultimately get to the end. Then they win. I don’t like her already.
Simone Nguyen (Diversity Advocate, Hustlers Tribe): Moms honestly don’t do that well in the show, so I’m not really scared of her. … If I could, I’d take her to the end with me, because it doesn’t matter how good she is. People are not going to look at her like a threat and people are not going to respect her at the end, even if she plays a perfect game.
Lauren Rimmer (Fisherman, Hustlers Tribe): I think she’s going to be very easy to talk to. I think she also might be easy to persuade. I’m hoping that, anyway. I think that she’s not going to be as strong during challenges, but you know, not everybody needs to be strong during challenges.
Joe Mena (Probation Officer, Healers Tribe): That’s my Trish. Tony had Trish, and that’s my Trish.
Mike Zahalsky (Urologist, Healers Tribe): I think she’s very, very nice. She’s a lovely person. She was at my finals and the entire time, she was just bouncy and friendly and kind.
Watch the video below for an early look at what Chrissy’s victory speech might look like.
JP Hilsabeck (Firefighter, Heroes Tribe): She’s a little older or something. Seems like a nice girl. Don’t really know.
Alan Ball (NFL Player, Heroes Tribe): The mom. She’s the mom on the show, so far to me. She’s very subtle, very quiet, kind of floats around, if you’re not paying attention you’ll miss her. She says things every once in a while, and I don’t know if she’s a mom or not, but she has that “only speak when something needs to be said” look about her.
Devon Pinto (Surf Instructor, Hustlers Tribe): She’s probably the one I’ve gotten the best vibes from. Just good eye contact, seems trustworthy, intelligent … she’s definitely going to be more wise, since she’s one of the older ones. And she’s very pretty, too. Very pretty.
Cole Medders (Wilderness Therapy Guide, Healers Tribe): She’s got the “hot mom” going on. Even in casting finals, she was super flirty with almost everyone. She even got away with like something you weren’t supposed to do: As she was leaving breakfast one morning, she touched me on the shoulder and winked at me and that kind of stuff.
Patrick Bolton (Small Business Owner, Hustlers Tribe): She squeezed my butt when we were in an elevator.
Josh Wigler (Reporter, THR): She squeezed your butt when you were in an elevator?
Patrick Bolton (Small Business Owner, Hustlers Tribe): Yes.
Josh Wigler (Reporter, THR): What? You can’t just say that and not elaborate.
Patrick Bolton (Small Business Owner, Hustlers Tribe): We were getting off the plane. We were getting in an elevator to go to a separate room where we were all sitting. And you know, she smiled at me, squeezed my butt, and that was about it, pretty much. I guess just to make a little connection, to let me know that she’s …
Josh Wigler (Reporter, THR): That’s a big connection!
Patrick Bolton (Small Business Owner, Hustlers Tribe): She was letting me know that she’s friendly! It was a friendly gesture.
Ryan Ulrich (Bellhop, Hustlers Tribe): She seems really nice — overly nice though, to everybody. She’s really playing. She’s a threat. She does a lot of puzzles in pregame, and you couldn’t catch me near a puzzle pregame.
Ashley Nolan (Lifeguard, Heroes Tribe): The first thing I thought of her is that she might be somebody’s mom or something. Very pretty lady, just like a nice mom. Then it started turning into maybe like a little bit more of a desperate housewives mom? She had a glimmer in her eye that was like … very smiley, but kind of evil at the same time. The more I’m analyzing her, the more I’m looking at her, the more I’m like, “This chick, she looks like she might stab you in the back, and then bake you cookies afterwards.” She could be a scary one.
Chrissy Hofbeck (Actuary, Heroes Tribe): It looks like a really good group of people. I always look at good versus evil in Survivor. So far, it looks like we have at least 10 or 12 good, and only a couple of them evil, and some who I really can’t tell the difference. Once they open their mouths, then I’ll know.
Josh Wigler (Reporter, THR): So, which one are you, good or evil?
Chrissy Hofbeck (Actuary, Heroes Tribe): I am good! (Laughs.) And good should always win!
Click through the gallery below for photos of Chrissy and the rest of the Season 35 castaways.