As fans of “Survivor” are likely to be well aware after the victory of Toronto denizen Erika Casupanan in the 41st season back in December 2021, Canadian citizens are now eligible to compete on the hit CBS reality show. 61-year-old retired hockey player Tom Laidlaw became the first Canadian to take advantage of this new rule back in 2019, when he competed on season 39, “Island of the Idols,” though he was eliminated pre-merge.
Season 41 saw Canadians Erika and Shan Smith compete (though Shan represented Washington D.C.), and season 42 will see three Canadians compete on the show together – more than any other season. So who are the three Canadian contestants? Like the rest of the seasons 41 and 42 casts, Maryanne Oketch, Omar Zaheer and Drea Wheeler are all superfans ready to play the game.
Here’s what you need to know about them heading into the season premiere tonight:
Maryanne Says Erika’s Win Takes the Pressure off Her
Maryanne Oketch is a 23-year-old seminary student from Ajax, Ontario, a town located in the eastern Greater Toronto Area (GTA). In an interview Monday with ET Canada, Maryanne spoke about her pride in representing Toronto (since “people don’t know where Ajax is”), which she loves for its diversity. This was showcased through the five Canadian contestants on seasons 41 and 42, who she described as all such different people.
“[Erika and Shan] are completely different than who I am,” Maryanne said, adding that when it came to Omar and Drea, “We’re all completely different people. … We all have different stories, and that just shows how big and diverse Canada is.” Toronto is indeed the most diverse city in the world, being recognized as such by both the United Nations and the BBC. Interestingly, four of the five Canadians of seasons 41 and 42 hail from Toronto or the GTA.
Additionally, Maryanne spoke of her pride at seeing Erika’s win last season, adding that having a Canadian win season 41 takes the pressure off her, Omar and Drea to perform as well.
“Seeing that Erika won, as a Canadian, I am pumped! Like, you go Erika! Take it home! … Toronto representing!” she said. “And you know what? She took it home, so that means that I don’t have to!”
Omar & Maryanne May Work Together
Omar Zaheer, a 30-year-old veterinarian, is originally from Kitchener, Ontario, but now lives in the nearby town of Whitby (also in the GTA). He also spoke of his pride in representing not only Canada, but also Indians and Muslims on “Survivor” in his own ET Canada interview:
I’m so proud to be a Canadian, and also to be a Canadian minority. I never saw a lot of Indians or Muslims on the big screen growing up, and it made me wonder, maybe I’m not part of that community, maybe I’m not celebrated or embraced…I hope that little kids will be really excited to see somebody that’s like them, whether it’s because I’m Indian, Muslim, or Canadian.
He added that there has never been an Indian or Muslim winner of “Survivor,” so “the pressure is high to perform on my favorite show of all time. Most people will lose the game but you better give it your all trying.”
Omar and Maryanne will be starting off on the same tribe (Taku), and the first trailer released for the season back in December showed the two of them staring at each other in shock while reading what appeared to be an idol clue or advantage of some kind, leading many fans to speculate about a potential alliance between the two.
Drea Wheeler: This Season Will Be ‘One of the Best’
Drea Wheeler, 34, is a San Antonio native who now lives in Montreal, Quebéc. She will also be the only Canadian on the season to begin on a different tribe than the other Canadians. Drea is a fitness consultant who works with actors to help them physically prepare for roles by gaining or losing weight, etc., according to her ET Canada interview.
Drea, who moved to Montreal as an adult, has now lived in Canada longer than she has in Texas, and says she will be proudly representing Canada on the season. “I know Montreal,” she said. “Montreal is my home, Montreal is who I relate to, I am Montreal.”
Drea added that Canada has a lot of “hardcore” “Survivor” fans, and that it’s even like a “religion” there. “Like, it’s a religion in Canada,” she said. “I always say that, because that’s how my Texans know that it’s serious. ‘Survivor’ is religion in Canada.” She added that the messages from Canadian fans are “nonstop,” and go something along the lines of, “Drea, you better rep us in Canada or you’re gonna get deported.”
Drea, who said in her CBS bio that her pet peeve is “Dishonest people,” stated very bluntly that she is able to see through people when they are lying. “There’s only so many lies that people can tell before they end up revealing themselves, and I’m really good at catching people in those lies,” she said. “I’m good at asking questions, I’m good at listening, and I’m good at reading body language.” It remains to be seen whether these skills will indeed pay off for Drea.
In addition, Drea teased the upcoming season as “one of the best.” When asked to give three words to describe “Survivor 42,” she responded:
Challenging, very unpredictable, and the best. It’s probably gonna be one of the best seasons people will watch. I’m sorry, but it’s the truth. It’s a good one.
Will any of these Canadians have what it takes to outwit, outplay, and outlast all the rest, and become the second Canadian winner in a row? Tune in Wednesdays at 8 p.m. Eastern on CBS to find out. The two-hour season premiere will air March 9 at 8 p.m.