Klein is returning to the game for the first time since winning Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X, which was the show’s 33rd season and aired in the fall of 2016.
Here’s what you need to know about this contestant.
1. Adam Is a Stanford Graduate
Adam Klein was born and raised in Burlingame, California, which is a suburb of San Francisco. After high school, he studied International Relations and Spanish at Stanford University, graduating in 2013. During his time there, he worked as a tour guide, an admissions associate, a resident assistant and was a member of the Ram’s Head Theatrical Society’s annual revue called “Gaieties.”
When he applied for Survivor, former university president John Hennessy appeared in a video with Klein, assuring the producers that the Stanford grad would be an excellent contestant. And in an interview with the Stanford student paper after his win, he credited his Stanford community for helping him prepare for the show.
“When I made it my mission to get on Survivor, the Stanford community had my back,” he said. “Stanford also helped prepare me mentally and socially for this extremely challenging adventure. Now that I’ve not only been on the show but made my ultimate dream of winning come true, I want to say thank you to everyone who has supported me along the way from the Stanford community.”
2. He Went From Managing a Homeless Shelter to Hosting a Travel Show
Prior to going on the show, Klein was working as a senior manager for strategic initiatives at the San Francisco Bay Area homeless shelter provider LifeMoves. These centers provide “interim housing and supportive services for homeless families and individuals to rapidly return to stable housing and achieve long-term self-sufficiency. On any given night, we feed, clothe and house over 850 Peninsula and Silicon Valley residents experiencing homelessness,” according to their website.
After Survivor, Klein got a chance to live one of his life-long dreams by hosting a Travel show for his local CBS affiliate KPIX. It was called Taiwan Off the Grid and it featured Klein and co-host Jorge Maravilla, who is the 2017 winner of the San Francisco Marathon, biking through Taiwan and showcasing its beautiful scenery and active nightlife and food scene.
Now Klein currently works on the YouTube show Coin Flip Trip for Thirst Lounge alongside professional poker player Matthew Forsythe. The idea here is that during a trip around the world, a coin flip in every city determines whether each host will receive $25 or $500.
3. Adam Applied for Survivor with His Mom
Klein initially applied to be on the second “Blood vs Water” season of Survivor, which featured pairs of loved ones competing against each other, but Susie’s lung cancer diagnosis during the casting process left them unable to participate. Klein kept applying and got accepted for “Millennials vs. Gen X” a few years later. In an interview before going on the show, he told Parade that it was “surreal” because there as so much joy and so much heartbreak in his life right then.
“My mom, who is the healthiest person in the entire world, worked out every day and is all organic and never smoked a day in her life — you name it — has stage four lung cancer,” he said “It’s just been the greatest nightmare of my life. Now to have the greatest dream of my life alongside that? Everything feels so surreal right now.”
He told ET Canada in an interview after he won that he knew he could play the game because of the strength his mom gave him.
“She always instilled [so much strength] in me and I felt that when I went out there … she instilled so much confidence in me. Her energy will always be guiding me,” he told ET Canada after his win.
4. His Mother Died Of Cancer Right After He Filmed His Season
During the filming of “Millennials vs Gen X,” Klein’s loved one visit was from his brother, Evan. While there, Evan told Adam that their mom’s condition was worsening. Klein revealed this to the cast during the jury Q&A in the finale. After filming wrapped, Klein rushed home and was able to see his mother before she passed away; she died about an hour later.
He said during the live finale that he had told her he won the season even though he wasn’t sure if he did. He also said that he would be donating $100,000 of his winnings to Stand Up to Cancer.
“The reason I was out there was to bring joy to my family so that they could watch me at home and be a part of it with me. And it didn’t happen like I imagined it happening, with us on the couch watching together with my mom, but she lived it. She really did and the reason why is something I haven’t mentioned … my mom stopped treatment and towards the end of the game, she was gaining so much strength by having me out there … they made the decision that if I were voted out of the game that I would come home so in a way my mom got to play along because every day that I didn’t come home was another day that she knew I was moving forward in the game, so she was able to live it right there alongside me from the other side of the earth and know that I was succeeding,” he told ET Canada at the finale.
5. Adam Thinks He’ll Be Underestimated By the Other Winners
Klein comes in with quite a target on his back as one of only five people who have won Survivor unanimously — Earl Cole, J.T. Thomas, John Cochran, and Jeremy Collins being the other four. He thinks that people will still underestimate him because he was up against “the easiest people to beat at the end.”
“I welcome the egos I’m going to be dealing with,” he tells ET Canada in a pre-show interview. “I want people to come into this thinking that they can beat me. I want to be underestimated. I think I was underestimated last time … I think people can’t decide if I won because of my social game or in spite of it.”
He also says he’s so excited to play with all of these legends because he’s a kid who grew up watching them on Survivor.
“I grew up with this show, I grew up watching many of the people that I’m going to play Survivor against … it makes me excited. I will always be nervous to play Survivor because things can always go wrong, you can be the first one out, that’s terrifying. But to be able to come and be a part of this momentous season that I personally have been dreaming of for a long time, even before I played Survivor … this is all part of the epic journey,” says Klein.
Survivor: Winners at War airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.
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