They’re young. They’re energetic. And they have all the answers.
Ten Millennials have been selected to compete on Survivor, and they’ll be competing against 10 contestants from Generation X.
As he splits up the tribes, host Jeff Probst Jeff Probst defines Millennials as being born between 1984 and 1997. The Generation X contestants are born between 1963 and 1982. (Apparently, if you’re born in 1983, you’re out of luck.)
PEOPLE spoke with all 20 contestants before they competed on the show. The 10 millennials were enthusiastic, confident and ready to play the game.
Will Wahl, 18, Long Valley, New Jersey
The youngest contestant to ever play the game, Wahl is just 18 years old. He actually left high school to play the game, which seems simultaneously irresponsible and awesome. “People are going to think, ‘Oh, he’s the young guy,’ ” Wahl told PEOPLE before the game. “And I’m going to use that to my advantage. My strategy is to let people think they can manipulate them, when I’ll be doing the manipulating.” A self-proclaimed conservative, Wahl lists Ronald Reagan and Jesus Christ as his inspirations. “I may only be 18,” he says, “but I know who I am.”
Mari Takahashi, 31, Los Angeles
She’s a professional video gamer who has nearly a half million Twitter followers, but Mari Takahashi tells PEOPLE that she’ll still be underestimated. “I was in ballet since I was really young,” she says. “Endurance, balance: those are my things. But I’m also going to be good at strategy. Here’s the thing: I don’t have to always speak my mind. Sometimes, I’ll sit back and listen. This is not who can win an argument. This is who can win Survivor. That’s why I’m doing it.”
Taylor Lee Stocker, 24, Post Falls, Idaho
“I have a temper,” the ski instructor tells PEOPLE. “And I sometimes say things I regret later. But what you see is what you get with me. I can also be really chill. I can be funny. I’ll keep people laughing around the campfire. It’ll be great.” While Stocker didn’t seem to know much about Survivor history, he says his adaptability will help him survive. “I’ll take it as it comes,” he says. “You know, just watch things as they happen.”
Justin ‘Jay’ Starrett, 27, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
Is he a bartender or a real estate agent? Since being selected for the game, Starrett’s bio has been updated to reflect a more white-collar job. But no matter what you call him, Jay Starrett says he’s the winner. “I’m telling you this first,” he told PEOPLE. “I’m going to win this game. I’m going to crush it. That’s a fact. I’m going to find immunity idols and win challenges and no one’s going to even think about voting me out.” So what’s his strategy? “I’m just going to dominate,” he says. “You’re going to be amazed.”
Zeke Smith, 28, Brooklyn, New York
He’s a Harvard-educated asset manager, but Smith says he still has a Millennial mindset. “I go after what I want,” he says. “And it’s not always going to be the normal, conventional way.” He came out as gay when he was 15, and says he loves to laugh. “I’m going to have fun out there. I’m going to enjoy the entire experience. I may do some things that will make you hate me, but you’ll love me, too.” And who would be the worst person to have on his tribe? “I am not going to be someone’s ‘token gay,’ he says. Someone like Corinne Kaplan would be a nightmare for me.”
Hannah Shapiro, 24, West Hollywood, California
“I know this game,” Shapiro told PEOPLE before competing. “I’ve watched it. I’ve studied it. I have talked to people who played it.” The self-effacing writer enrolled in a Survivor class at Northwestern University. (Her teacher, Max Dawson, later competed on season 30.) So will she tell everyone how much she knows about the show? “Of course not,” she laughs. “I’ve got strategy, but I also know that the game changes really fast. I’ll adapt as things go along.”
Michelle Schubert, 28, Yakima, Washington
She’s a missionary recruiter who says she’s not above flirting to do well in the game. “I really can get people to trust me easily,” she says. “I’m going to use that to my advantage. I also pick things up really, really fast. So I think I’ll always know what’s going on.” Schubert grew up in church, but went through a rebellious streak when she was younger. “My faith is important to me,” she says. “It grounds me. But I also know I can play this game like everybody else. It’s a game, and I’m here to win it.”
Adam Klein, 25, San Francisco
As a manager of a homeless shelter, Klein is an avid fan of the show who has tried three times to make the cast. “I’ve been dreaming of this since I was young,” he says. “I watch this game and I know it very well.” (He’s not lying: the entire conversation was peppered with Survivor trivia references.) So will the affable Klein be able to make the connections he needs to make? “There are some people who say, ‘I’m not here to make friends,'” he says, “but no one wins this game without making friends.”
Jessica “Figgy” Figueroa, 23, Nashville
As a bartender, Figueroa says she can interact with just about everybody. “I like to be around people, and I’m good at listening,” she says. “I think that’ll be a skill that will help me. People tend to like me pretty easily.” She has been on her own for awhile, which Figueroa says will help her. “I work hard. I’m not going to be a slacker. I’ll be dependable. I have the life experience to do well in this game.”
Michaela Bradshaw, 25, Fort Worth, Texas
Bradshaw knows what could be her undoing. “I’m not the kind of person who holds her tongue,” she tells PEOPLE. “If something needs to be said, I say it. I tell the truth about how I’m feeling. Some people don’t like that, but others do. I’m honest, which some people appreciate.” Bradshaw, who paid off her student loans by scrimping and saving, promises that she’ll do well in the game. “I put my mind to something, and it gets done,” she says. “I’ve always been a winner in life. Survivor will be no different.”
Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X premieres Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.