UNLV Student Stars in Upcoming “Survivor” Season 46

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David “Jelinsky” Jelinsky from the CBS Original Series SURVIVOR, scheduled to air on the CBS Television Network. -- Photo: Robert Voets/CBS ©2023 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Meet David Jelinsky: a UNLV student who proved that dreams really do come true after being cast on the newest season of the hit reality television show “Survivor” that is set to premiere its 46th season on Feb. 28 at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.

Having first premiered in 2000, “Survivor” has been a household name of reality television. The premise continues to be having people from all different walks of life stranded on a remote location using survival skills and competing in challenges to be “the sole survivor” that wins the million dollar prize.

At the time of applying to the show, Jelinsky was working at a slot machine company where he repaired monitors, bill validators, central processing units and buttons. As someone whose upbringing was based in Las Vegas, Jelinsky went into the show with that as a prominent part of his identity.

“When I found out I was gonna be on ‘Survivor,’ I was mind blown,” said Jelinsky. “It honestly felt like a dream that was unattainable for the longest time until I got that final call. I remember I was in the FedEx parking lot. I just dropped off a package to be shipped to one of our clients and then I got the phone call saying I was on. I genuinely haven’t felt a better feeling in my entire lifetime. It felt like hard work does pay off, dreams do come true and it was euphoric.”

Jelinsky first began applying for “Survivor” in 2020 when he was 18 years old and got his first call from casting when he was 21, applying only three times total. His obsession with the show dates back to the year 2019 where he began watching every single season over and over, labeling himself a “superfan.”

“It’s funny because ‘Survivor’ is very good at finding people that you’ve never interacted with in your lifetime. I feel like being in ‘the City of Sin,’ Las Vegas, Nevada, there are all kinds of people here so it was really like being inside of a casino. There’s about a million different people coming from a million different places, but when you’re stranded on an island, that’s where people’s truest versions of themselves come out. It was really cool to get to know people down to their core,” said Jelinsky.

In terms of preparation for the show, Jelinsky primarily focused on analyzing the game from a viewer’s perspective. As someone who was not routinely practicing puzzles or participating in professional athletics prior to the game, his “superfan” knowledge was something to rely on.

“Something I would say that I was surprised by was how much I underestimated the survival aspect of it all. Watching it from home, it just doesn’t feel as real until you’re out there. When you’re out there you realize this is the real deal, I gotta sleep on bamboo, sleep in the sand, find food, work for fire,” said Jelinsky.

While the survival aspect of the game has remained significant over the past 46 seasons, the game itself has seen many changes. The game is often divided by viewers into eras with seasons one through 20 being classified as “old school ‘Survivor,’” 21-40 as “new school ‘Survivor’” and 41 on as “New Era ‘Survivor.’” As a player of the New Era, the season Jelinsky played lasted a total of 26 days rather than the original 39 day format. The shortening of days was intended to keep the game intense and fast-paced.

In his transition back to a regular student life on campus at UNLV, Jelinsky accredits his UNLV professors for being fantastic at what they do as well as being incredibly time-considerate. There has been a change of pace for Jelinsky with how much busier his life has become now, but he emphasized staying focused on academics in order to get the job done.

“UNLV is a great family to be a part of. Especially after the Dec. 6 shooting, it really puts into perspective ‘wow, we really do only have one life.’ Do what you want to get done and take the people that truly care about you with you. If you are a UNLV Rebel and you’re a fan of ‘Survivor,’ seriously give it a shot. It’s truly a life changing experience and I recommend this for everybody,” said Jelinsky.

A key takeaway from Jelinsky’s experience is learning to be proud of who you are and learning to not change yourself for anybody. For Jelinsky, this meant understanding that he was put on that island for a reason because the CBS team saw what he saw in himself.

There is no better time for UNLV students and staff who have never seen “Survivor” before to begin watching than now. Having someone straight from the Las Vegas and UNLV community on the big screen is something students and staff of UNLV will hopefully pride over when they see Jelinsky on the premiere of “Survivor” 46.

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