QUICK NOTE: The good folks at XFINITY sent me deep into the Fijian wilderness to bring you an exclusive look at “Survivor: Ghost Island.” While I was there I conducted interviews with “Survivor” host Jeff Probst and the entire cast. I also captured exclusive photos and other behind-the-scenes tidbits. So, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for up-to-the-minute updates.
Name: Morgan Ricke
Hometown: New Albany, Indiana
Current residence: Orlando, Florida
Occupation: Marine Animal Trainer
Gordon Holmes: Killer whale trainer?
Morgan Ricke: Yes. I work with killer whales and pilot whales, but I’ve worked with sea lions, otters, walruses, beluga whales, bottle-nosed dolphins…I’ve kind of done it all.
Holmes: My ex was super into otters.
Ricke: They’re mischievous.
Holmes: And they’re supposedly jerks, right?
Ricke: (Laughs) Everyone thinks they’re all cute and cuddly, but they’ll fool ya.
Holmes: What does training the whales entail?
Ricke: We take care of them. I’m there at 6 am preparing a thousand pounds of fish. Doing all the nitty-gritty work.
Holmes: That sounds like it would smell horrible.
Ricke: I don’t notice the smell anymore, but people tell me I smell really bad.
Holmes: That’s going to serve you really well in the next couple of days.
Ricke: (Laughs) I love the smell of fish.
Holmes: Why do you think you were cast?
Ricke: I think I have a very unique job. I think that made me stand out. In my interview I talked about how I was an athlete and people probably look at me and think I’m scrawny. So, at the end of my interview I flexed my muscles.
Holmes: I thought you were going to say you bench pressed Jeff Probst.
Ricke: No! (Laughs) I flexed my muscles and they said that got their attention.
Holmes: Let’s see.
Holmes: Damn. I’m not going to mess with you.
Ricke: They work.
Holmes: You have a gymnastics background as well. In the top twenty?
Ricke: I don’t know exactly…
Ricke: (Laughs) I was so young. But, it was a huge part of my life. I blew out my elbow serving a volleyball.
Holmes: What were you serving it?
Holmes: That was a terrible joke. I’m not proud of that.
Holmes: If this interview is making you uncomfortable, we can wrap it up.
Ricke: (Laughs) No, of course not. But I blew out my elbow, I grew a foot, and diving was the closest thing I could get to gymnastics. I went to college on an athletic and academic scholarship, so diving worked out.
Holmes: Is there anything about your past that you’re going to keep a secret?
Ricke: I was going to keep the animal training thing a secret, but it’s such a part of who I am. Maybe I won’t let them know how good of a swimmer I am. Not that I’m going to hide it, if I need to swim to win a challenge I will.
Holmes: Have you set any boundaries as far as lying, deceiving, etc?
Ricke: No. I’ll lie, I’ll cheat, I’ll steal, I’ll do whatever. It’s a game and my family and friends recognize that. And I’m such a competitive person, that I’m going to do whatever it takes.
Holmes: What about flirting?
Ricke: I’m not against it. You can look at the menu, you don’t have to order anything.
Holmes: (Laughs) Is there someone back home who’s going to be upset if they see you getting some take out?
Ricke: No, my boyfriend has given me permission. He said do whatever you need to do.
Holmes: Good boyfriend. I can’t imagine my wife giving me that pass.
Ricke: (Laughs) It’s not like he wants to see me making out with someone on national television. But flirting is OK.
Holmes: It’s very rare that it gets to that level on “Survivor.” It’s because everyone smells. But, that isn’t a problem for you.
Ricke: (Laughs) He sends me to get discounts. He’s like, “Go do whatever you need to do to get that discount.”
Holmes: Is he your family visit?
Ricke: He is not because of that reason. I purposely planned that.
Holmes: So, you’re not going to tell people you have a boyfriend?
Ricke: Maybe not. It’ll be a game time decision.
Holmes: Are you a “Survivor” fan?
Ricke: Yes. I haven’t missed an episode since day one.
Holmes: Look at you.
Ricke: Are you saying I’m old? (Laughs)
Holmes: Don’t put that on me.
Ricke: (Laughs) It was a family event. It’s still a family event even though we’re spread out.
Holmes: You’re in the dark as far as twists and themes. Any guesses as to what’s going on?
Ricke: I feel like it’s a lot of ex athletes and a lot of nerdy types. There are a lot of people with six packs and a lot of nerdy-ish people. I’m a nerd too, so it works out.
Holmes: How are you a nerd?
Ricke: I’ve always been an athlete my whole life, but I’ve always been a good student. I was top of my class in high school. Graduated college with honors.
Holmes: It’s actually “Survivor: Animal Trainers.”
Ricke: (Laughs) I don’t think so.
Holmes: You think I came all this way to lie to you?
Ricke: Some of these people don’t look like swimmers.
Holmes: Animal trainers. You don’t need to swim to train a lion.
Ricke: (Laughs) Yeah, I still don’t believe you.
Holmes: That’s probably smart.
Holmes: Alright, I’ll give you two “Survivor” situations. You tell me which one you would rather deal with.
Holmes: Align with a Hillary supporter or a Trump supporter.
Ricke: A Trump supporter…I’m not exactly sure why. I feel like a lot of the Hillary supporters are all feminist and girl power. And I’m not saying I’m not for girl power, but sometimes it gets old.
Holmes: Steal a vote or eliminate a juror?
Ricke: Steal a vote.
Holmes: Endurance challenge or word puzzle?
Ricke: Endurance, endurance, endurance.
Holmes: Align with a racist or align with a sexist?
Ricke: A sexist…racism just irks me to no end.
Holmes: Voted out first or before final Tribal?
Ricke: Before final Tribal.
Holmes: Align with an adulterer or a tax cheat?
Ricke: (Laughs) I’d align with both. It doesn’t affect me.
Holmes: Can’t pick both.
Ricke: Fine…tax cheat.
Holmes: Lose the family challenge or win and have to decide who to take on the reward?
Ricke: Definitely lose. The family challenge…that’s one you don’t want to win. It’s my sister coming, sorry…see ya.
Holmes: Thanks for making the eleven-hour flight. But…bye.
Holmes: Caught stealing food or idol hunting?
Ricke: Idol hunting.
Holmes: Align with a super fan or someone who doesn’t watch the show?
Ricke: That’s a hard one…super fan. They have more of an idea of what’s going on. Someone who’s never played might make dumb moves because they haven’t seen dumb moves before.
Holmes: A dance challenge or a karaoke challenge?
Ricke: Either would be embarrassing. I’d say dance challenge.
Holmes: What’s your go-to move?
Ricke: The Running Man. (Laughs)
Holmes: No exaggeration, I once spent an evening trying to figure out the difference between the Running Man and the Roger Rabbit.
Ricke: I used to practice the SpongeBob all the time.
Holmes: What’s that?
Ricke: Your legs go out sideways. It’s this dance move that’s stupid.
Holmes: You never know how these interviews are going to go.
Holmes: What kind of first impression do you think you make?
Ricke: Loud. Very loud. I have a bubbly personality. I’m always smiling. I love my job, I love life. Sometimes I’m annoyingly happy.
NOTE: The cast members do not know each other’s names at this point. I showed Morgan a picture of each of the competitors and asked her to share her first impressions.
Don’t miss the season premiere of “Survivor: Ghost Island” – Wednesday, February 28, 2018 at 8 pm ET.
Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes