More than 80 people enjoyed dinner and an early broadcast of the premiere of the 29th season of the popular CBS series "Survivor" on Wednesday night, Feb. 26 — along with commentary from one of the cast members, Tehachapi attorney Kassandra "Kass" McQuillen.
A long-time fan of the show, McQuillen traveled to Cagayan, a province in the Philippines, last summer for 39 days of filming.
She's sworn to secrecy about the outcome, but did share some background with audience members during commercial breaks in the broadcast as audience members enjoyed a Filipino-inspired meal prepared by Don Juan’s Latin Grill.
Each of the 13 episodes took about three days to film, she said. The crew worked 24-7 (rotating members through 10-hour shifts) and she sometimes woke up to find a camera in her face.
In case you wondered, life is just as rugged as it appears on the screen. Although the crew had regular meals (never in front of the cast), McQuillen and her teammates had to survive with bare provisions and whatever they could come up with on the island.
Which meant trouble when one of her fellow "Brains" teammates turned out not to be so brainy, dumping nearly all of the team's rice in the fire.
The "Brains" team — and McQuillen — got a lot of screen-time in the two-hour premiere largely because they came in last in both of the challenges.
That means what "Survivor" calls a "Tribal Council" and sending a member of the team home after each lost challenge.
At the end of the premiere, McQuillen was still standing — and smiling — and waiting for the next challenge.
The premiere event at West Park Activity Center was a fundraiser for the new Tehachapi Parks Foundation.
"It was incredibly generous of Kass to bring us this opportunity," said Gayle Stewart, president of the Tehachapi Valley Recreation and Parks District."
McQuillen coaches youth basketball for the district.