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Broward’s Own Survivor

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By Danielle Charbonneau

Wearing rectangular black-rimmed glasses and a yellow button-up shirt under a khaki blazer on the first episode of CBS’s 35th season of “Survivor” Dr. Michael Zahalsky — or “Dr. Mike” as he goes by on the show — came off as the ultimate nerd. He stands stoically on the front of a boat, peering out at sea, his blazer blowing in the breeze, as his team of “Healers” rows a boat to their camp on a remote island in Fiji. The “Healers” are up against a team of “Heroes” and a team of “Hustlers” in this edition of the popular reality show, which tests players physical, mental, social, strategical and manipulative skills as they all compete for a million dollar prize.

Through the course of the show — which is the longest running reality television show in history — the players form alliances, backstab and blindside other players, search for hidden immunity idols under waterfalls and rocks, and compete in outlandish physical competitions involving puzzles, balance and strength, all the while sunburned and starving on a diet of mostly white rice and freshly-speared fish. Personalities clash. Tears fall. Spirits are broken. But in the end, one player rises victorious. This is Dr. Mike’s fantasy.

“Winning Survivor is the biggest dream of my life,” he says in the first episode. “My wife thinks I’m crazy for doing this. My kids think I’m going to die. But, I’m going to rise to the occasion and win.”

On the show, Dr. Mike is cast as the quirky, sometimes annoying, but ultimately lovable dork. In the first episode, the show’s affable host Jeff Probst asks Dr. Mike what he does for a living, to which Dr. Mike replies matter-of-factly: “I’m a sex doctor.” After a chorus of laughter from the other players, Dr. Mike clarifies: “I’m a urologist. I specialize in male sexual dysfunction and infertility.”

Pompano Beach-ians can be proud; Dr. Mike, who is the chief surgeon of Pompano Beach’s Z Urology practice on Federal Highway, is our city’s own sex doctor. And he’s still a contestant on the show, chiseling away at other players and gunning for his chance on the podium. As of Pompano! magazine’s print date, Dr. Mike has officially made it past the 13th episode and is competing as one of just six players left.

While he’s been at the bottom a few times, Dr. Mike keeps making comebacks and has made a few big strategic moves. In the 12th episode, Dr. Mike went so far as to throw another player’s immunity idol in the fire at tribal council, ultimately rendering her vulnerable and cast off the island. And in the first several episodes, Dr. Mike shined as a puzzle master, earning his team of Healers three consecutive wins in puzzle challenges. While he’s been a bit tactical, he’s never come across as calculating or utterly disloyal, so he’s still seemingly well-liked (which could ultimately play to his favor in the end of the game when formerly cast-off players, and later viewers of the show, get a stake in the votes). Flying slightly under the radar, he also hasn’t been seen as a huge threat, so Dr. Mike could very well go far. But as fans of the show know, anything can happen on “Survivor.”

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