When Charlie Davis first watched Survivor, he was off to the races to get on the show. Perhaps inspired by his first season, the epic Winners at War, he knew immediately he had to play. It was more of a marathon than a sprint for the cross-country runner to get to Fiji, but now that he's here, he's ready to hit the ground running. Despite his bookish perception, the law student plans to withhold his legal aspirations. But that won't stop the 26-year-old from turning Tribal into trial, as he plans to use his questioning skills to net a million-dollar verdict.
Read on for my interview with Charlie, and check in with Parade.com daily for interviews with this season's contestants and other tidbits. Survivor 46 premieres on February 28 with a two-hour premiere on CBS.
Related: Meet the Full Cast of Survivor 46
Interview with Charlie from Survivor 46
To start, give me your name, age, and occupation.
My name is Charlie. I'm 25. And I'm a law student. Just finished up my second year. So I've got one year left. So, two years down, one year to go.
How are you feeling about that?
I'm feeling pretty good. I mean, this is one way to spend your 2L summer: going out to Fiji playing Survivor. I actually was very lucky. The firm that I'm basically interning at this summer was very good about letting me have this long sort of vague leave of absence. So I'm excited. In however long from now, I can finally be like, "Well, this is what I was doing."
What's the reason you gave for your absence now?
So, I said that I was on a leadership retreat. And I pretty much just left it there.
I mean, that's true, in a sense!
Hypothetically. I mean, I don't know if I want to be a "leader" in all caps. But leadership qualities.
Do you have a goal right now for when you graduate next year?
So I don't know for sure. Still figuring it out. This summer, when I get back to work, I'll get to try a lot of different things. So, I worked in immigration law before I went to law school. And then, this past semester, I did my law school's immigration clinic. So, I do care a lot about that area of law. I don't know if necessarily it'll be the sole focus of my career. But it's something that I've definitely worked on a lot enough that it's pretty much going to be my cover. That's going to be my end-game occupation, an immigration paralegal.
So what brings you out to the "leadership retreat" that is Survivor?
So, I found Survivor in the pandemic. So my first season that I ever watched was Winners at War, which was a terrible idea for someone who ended up absolutely loving Survivor and mowing through the rest of the seasons. Because, like, "Oh, that's Sandra's first. That's her second win." That was one of the better ones because at least there's a 50/50.
But I think what unintentionally helped your future career as a Survivor player is that you could watch specifically honing in on the winner's journey and seeing what they did to get the million dollars.
Yeah, you can sort of dissect things a little bit more, be a little bit more analytical. Because from day one, I was a huge fan of the show; I loved watching. But I was like, "I want to play this thing." I remember, a couple of episodes into Winners at War, I filmed some absolutely abysmal audition video in my basement at 3:00 a.m. with my cat. And I sent it off, and then, years later, I was like, "Wow, that was really, really bad." But I kept auditioning, and here I am. So I'm just so excited. Love the show, love the community. Started going to watch parties when Survivor came back. I went to my first one, a season 43 Brice and Wen event, and then another one in 44. And that took my love of the show to a new level. The fans are amazing. It's just such good energy and people loving Survivor.
And now you're going to have people at a Brice and Wen event watching you on the screen!
I know, which is literally what I've been doing for two seasons. It's so cool. It feels like it's almost like giving back. I've been absorbing all this entertainment over the years. And hopefully, I give a little back to the people, give them something to cheer for or against.
It's not completely altruistic, though. You do get some money at the end of it all.
At the end of the day, people ask you, "Would you rather win the title of Sole survivor or the million dollars?" And it's like, "Well, luckily, you get both of them." And even if I were to say the title, I have a lot of student loans that are really excited about the million.
Given your history with Survivor, give me one winner and one non-winner who you identify with the most.
I would say Natalie Anderson is the winner I identify with the most. I also look up to [her]. I feel like it's flattering myself a little too much to say I identify with her. But her drive, great mind for the game, competitive, loyal to her allies. I love season 29, that sort of her revenge arc. I really love that. And then, non-winner, I'm gonna say Christian Hubicki. Just so likable. If I can muster an ounce of that likability, I feel like I'll be okay. And just fun to watch. Great distilling the game. I think that's a really underrated skill. If I can do that, that would be great, too. Again, these are like huge shoes to potentially fill. But those are my favorites.
What's one life experience you feel has prepared you most for the game?
I think being a distance runner. So, I've been a lifelong distance runner. And I've thought about this, and here's why. Runners are all a little weird. A little crazy. It's like, "What do you like to do for fun?" "Oh, I go on runs." And kind of the same as Survivor. It's like, "I love Survivor. I'm gonna come play Survivor." Oh, what does that mean? I'm gonna starve on an island. You gotta be a little kooky, a little crazy, to want to try something like that. And then just sort of being comfortable with the discomfort. That's really what running is. To succeed in running, you have to get in the zone where you're just in so much pain, and then just keep going.
So, the obvious comparison people make when it comes to lawyers and Survivor is that you know how to pitch yourself in front of a jury. But do you think anything in law applies to playing?
It's a good question, and I agree with you. But ultimately, the main reason why I'm going to not really mention that I'm a law student is I just don't think it can help me. I don't see it as anything helping me in going just the small step down to paralegal. It's not like I'm stretching my world so far. I'm not a personal trainer, or something like that. But I definitely see what you're saying where I do think that having that type of mind where you're thinking about almost building a story.
What a good lawyer does is tell a story. And I think we've seen in the past couple of seasons, the winners tell really good stories at final Tribals. That's how they win the game. Even if you're looking at their game from–I hate to use the word objective, because what is objective? There's no set criteria that you can check off to win. There's no objective way to win Survivor. But they can get to the end and come up with something to explain and how it makes sense why they should win. And I think that's a really underrated skill. Because if you can just get to the end, and then sit there on the last day before final Tribal and be like, "Here's a story I can craft," whether or not I was thinking about it before as I was playing the game, doesn't really matter. The jury buys it.
Do you have an overall strategy in approaching Tribal Council, whether analyzing the vague statements being made or the cross-examination of Jeff Probst?
I mean, it's gonna be tough. Part of it is I have no idea what to expect. So, I definitely want to get my feel for Tribal and make sure it doesn't bring about the end of my game. But I think, and I hope, I can use Tribal as sort of a weapon as well. In the right moments at the right times, you can sort of get people a little flustered in a way that they wouldn't have expected. Turn something around, a question Jeff asks us, pin it on someone else. Take someone's random analogy or your obfuscating answer and say, "Oh, who are you talking about right now? When you said someone's driving the bus, name them. Name who you think is in charge." Just finding moments where, if your back's against the wall, trying to turn up the heat a little bit.
What would you say is your biggest superpower in your life, and how that may play into your game?
Probably my ability to name Taylor Swift songs within the first few seconds of them playing. I mean, I don't know if you're going for something in-game, but that's probably just overall. As long as it's Taylor Swift. I mean, I used up a lot of memory on her.
I can't wait for you to say, "I can't remember the name of your kids. But if you play the first three notes of 'Shake it Off,' I can clock it." Well, on the other hand, what is your biggest piece of kryptonite, musically or otherwise?
I'm thinking musically. Gosh, I don't know. I don't know anything old. But then in game, I feel like my kryptonite will be if I get too enchanted by one alliance partner. So, I think what I want to do is find someone I can really trust. But there's a lot of savvy people out there. And I might trust them wholeheartedly and be telling them all sorts of things. I like to think that I would know that they trust me and tell me all sorts of things in return. But I could get fooled. I think that's the thing people don't realize. There's gonna be a fooler and foolee every time. And it could be me. It absolutely could be me. So that's what I'm worried about.
You talk about an alliance partner. Are there any particular qualities you want in them?
I think I want someone who I consider a good social strategic player, someone who I can bounce ideas off of. Ideally, I have a really solid alliance that I take and go with far into the game. But the flip side is all those players are going to be big threats right at the same time. And so I'm sort of thinking about it in that way. But definitely, early in the game, I want someone who I can trust to handle all the craziness of the game and work with me and sort of help spitball ideas. And just have fun with it as well.
How emotionally difficult would it be to cut your number one ally if it meant benefitting your game?
I think it's so hard to say. Because I feel like, as fans, we're watching at home. It's so clear. Vote them out then, go do this at that moment. And that doesn't take into account this crazy bond you build in such a short amount of time. So, I'm trying not to tell myself that I would easily cut the person that I had been working with the whole game. I think I could do it. But I think it'd be really hard. I really think it's gonna be hard.
What do you think people will perceive you as?
Oh, man. I think people will probably get a read on me that I'm somewhat book-smart sounding, at least. I mean, I'm not. I don't totally try to be that way. I don't think I usually sound that way. But also, I'm usually around a lot of law students. So it's tough to say what people are gonna think of me. They might hear me talking like, "Wow, this kid is a law student." It's like, "Okay, there goes my lie." [Laughs.] I don't think necessarily being book-smart is the exact type of Survivor smart. That is the most threatening. But people will use it no matter what. So I think that's a big one for sure. Also kind of the young hotshot. I hope not, but people might think I'm arrogant or cocky. I am competitive. So I hope it doesn't come off in a sort of cocky way. But those are probably the couple of things that I would think people would say.
Let's turn that perception around. Is there anyone you're picking up good vibes with in the preseason?
I mean, so many people are just giving off really fun and magnetic energy. Even though people can't talk, you can feel the charisma, especially from certain people. They just ooze it. So there's this one, kind of taller [guy]. He looks almost Norwegian to me. He's like Scandinavian, kinda like a Viking. And he's just got a big presence. When he walks in the room, big smile. Pretty athletic, imposing guy, arms twice the size of mine. So he's one. There's this one woman. She's a Black woman with braids, and she has some tattoos on her legs. And she's just such good energy and good vibes—just a beautiful soul. But then, at the same time, I see her doing little puzzle books. I know she's very smart. And she's probably got an incredible mind for the game. Lot of dangerous players out here.
Is there anyone you're picking up bad vibes from?
I don't know; it's hard to say. I'm really trying to tell myself, "Don't let one of your impressions early on get in the way of you making an alliance." I'm trying not to let those run too far. Because it's like, "Oh, someone didn't pass me a fork when we were in the dinner line." I'm not gonna be like, "You're first out." [Laughs.] We'll see when the game starts more who I click with and who I don't.
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What was your preparation like for Survivor? Because you're also pursuing an education on top of getting ready to win a million dollars.
This past year has been quite the roller coaster. So, I think I started the casting process in October. [That's] my first contact, if you're a Star Trek fan. So that was that was when it all started. And then it's just sort of been trying to get through that. And then you finally get the call that you're on. It's like, "Wow, this is very real. It's not just this sort of weird fantasy I've had. I'm gonna actually be on Fiji surviving in a jungle playing this insane game." So, a lot of Survivor podcasts. I think I was probably on 10 hours a week, which, as you point out, was quite a bit in addition to schoolwork. So a lot of podcasts, taking notes on things like little strategy ideas that sort of come into my brain. I have a little notes app on my phone.
After watching Carson, I ordered a bunch of puzzles off Etsy. I don't have any brains to do 3D printing. I wouldn't even know where to start. But I was like, "Okay, I'll get six or eight puzzles. If one of those comes up, I can do it." That's about my max there. And then just like staying fit. I run a lot. But I didn't want to do anything too drastic. Because I didn't want my body to have crazy whiplash. I didn't want to put on 30 pounds like Carson. And I put on a couple, a little bit of a little bit of weight that will get burned off in a second. But other than that, just sleeping, trying to take it all in. Get my Zen on. I did get a little balance block, worked on my balance. Yeah. So, a little bit of that. We'll see if it pays off.
Well, let's test your balance in terms of weighing out options. Let's say a boat shows up at your camp on Day 2, asking one person to go on a journey. How would you approach the situation?
That's really hard. Honestly, part of me is the cop-out, "Oh, we'll just do random. And if I go, I go, and I'm going to make the most of it." I do think you have to do one of either two things in the new era. You either have to have an advantage, or know exactly where the advantage is and be close to the person who has it. So, I want to be in one of those positions. So it's either me going on the journey or an ally.
But then the other thing is 44 kind of opened the door where they did a journey where it was just food. And I was like, "Thank God." Because now, hopefully, I can come back and be like, "Oh yeah, we just had some BLT wraps and chatted for a bit." And then, hopefully, there's no Carolyn that wants to smell my breath, and I'd be okay. So I mean, we'll see. I would go on a journey. I don't know if I'm gonna do a Lauren and rig the rock draw. But I go for it. I wouldn't be upset having an advantage in my pocket.
Talk to me a bit more about advantages. Of the two categories you mentioned of succeeding in the new era, are you more someone who wants to have an advantage, or someone who wants to know who has an advantage?
I feel like I've got one foot in both camps. And then you got to kind of see what the tenor on the beach is. I don't think I'm going to be someone who's Day One looking for an idol. I think still, even now, that is a pretty bad idea. But I think as long as you are in one of those positions, either you have something, and you keep your freaking mouth shut about it, or you have an ally who's told you about what they have. I'm envisioning, if I was walking through the jungle, and I see a Beware Advantage, I'd be weighing two options. I'm either going to take it myself, and figure out how the hell to get it without losing my vote. Or I'm going to take someone, ally or not, and I'm going to try to get them to find it. And then, who knows? Maybe I want them to not have a vote. Maybe I won't give them a bead or tell someone else not to give them a bead.
Is there a decision in Survivor history that you remember disagreeing with particularly?
This is tough. So, Erik Reichenbach, of course. That's probably where everyone's mind goes, giving up immunity. But I actually love Erik. Erik was a cross-country runner himself. He wore freaking split shorts! I loved it. So I actually really like Erik. I think he has a great social game. And I think I wrote that somewhere in some of my materials. But another one, though, I'll try to think of one from the new era. I don't know if this is so much of a jump out of my seat, but it sort of compiled together over the course of this season. I wish Xander did something with his idol. And I'm sure Xander probably thinks that, too. So I don't need to lay into him. [He's] also a cross-country runner. But I think Xander probably thinks that in hindsight, too. If he could play it again, he would get something going with that, idol or otherwise. So yeah, that's something that comes to mind.
What is your hottest Survivor take?
Maybe I'm jaded, because [after] I became a fan, my first couple of live seasons were basically the new era. But I really have no qualms with the advantages or twists thrown my way. I'll see what I can do with them. I just love thinking about like, "Oh, what would I have done in that situation?" And now people will tell me I'm an idiot with my idol! [Laughs.] Xander and Erik, both of you pile it on, please. I mean, I deserve it at this point. So that's probably my hottest Survivor take. I feel like that's of the moment as well that's in the discourse.
What celebrity or fictional character would you want to come out for a Loved Ones visit?
Easiest question I'll ever be asked. It's Taylor Swift. 10 out of 10. 100 out of 100 times. 13 out of 13 times may be more apt. My gosh, I would die. I would simply die. I mean, that would be the downside is that would happen, and I would have to exit the game. I'd probably have a heart attack. I mean, what an episode, right? Taylor Swift shows up to Survivor. I have a heart attack on the spot. Dr. Will is explaining, "Well, what happened here is Charlie's seen this celebrity that he's very obsessed with. And he's died on the spot. And so that's where we are now."
The good news is a million dollars can buy a lot of Eras Tour tickets!
I mean, maybe two or three. [Laughs.]
Finally, what's your emotional cocktail right now? How are you feeling as the big day gets closer and closer?
Oh, man, it's probably the grossest college jungle juice that's ever existed. It's like somebody poured in vodka, tequila, Red Bull, Jagermeister. Every single liquor they could find, it's all swirling in my stomach. And either I'm gonna make it through the night, or I'm just gonna vomit. And who knows which one people want to see. But everything, excited, scared, just so grateful. So amazing. Really, really happy to be here.
Next, check out our interview with Survivor 46 contestant Ben Katzman.