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Attorney Stacey Stillman hunts for food and shelter, endures physical discomfort, is surrounded by strangers every waking moment, and faces humiliation and rejection. And no, we’re not talking about her average work day at Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison’s San Francisco office. The second-year associate is one of 16 castaways on the CBS television show “Survivor,” which premiered Wednesday night. The show is about a disparate group of strangers marooned on a remote island in the South China Sea for 39 days. Their every word and action is recorded 24 hours a day and edited into 13 one-hour episodes. The goal of the islanders is to remain on the show and win $1 million — or about $865,000 more than a second-year’s salary at Brobeck. Every few days, the castaways vote someone off the island. When two contestants remain, the seven who were most recently eliminated from the show vote on the winner. The show was shot in March and April, and Stillman is back on the job with Brobeck’s business and technology group. But under a tight confidentiality agreement with CBS, Stillman said she can’t talk about her experiences until her on-air departure from the island. “We keep asking her questions, and she says ‘I can’t tell you, I can’t tell you,’” Roxann Preston, a Brobeck paralegal, said. Why would 27-year-old Stillman want to subject herself to the harsh elements of nature and the voyeuristic attention of millions of TV viewers? Preston said the attorney felt it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that she could share with her grandchildren. On the CBS Web site, Stillman describes herself as “intuitive, direct and sarcastic” and said she is most proud of her ability to remain optimistic in the face of emotional difficulties — including her own battle with thyroid cancer. A New York native, Stillman is a graduate of the New York University School of Law and majored in physics and the politics and philosophy of law as an undergraduate. According to a CBS spokeswoman, 6,000 to 7,000 people submitted applications and audition tapes to be on the show. Following a series of interviews, the contestants were narrowed down to 16. CBS was looking for people of diverse ages and backgrounds who could withstand the rigors of the show. CBS says on its Web site that the program is “two parts adventure contest, eight parts surviving the peer group.” During the first six episodes, survivors are divided into two groups of eight who build two competing communities. Every three days they compete to obtain luxury items, like a hot shower, and to temporarily avoid being vetoed off the island. Those cast for this real-life soap opera have a wide range of skills. They include a youth basketball coach, a river guide, a retired Navy Seal, a musician, a neurologist and a biochemist. Stillman’s colleagues think she is a natural for the show. “She’s kind of a Leo, a firecracker type of person,” Preston said. “She likes to keep things lively.” “She is very resourceful, very energetic” and is quite friendly, adds partner Donald Bouey. While her colleagues don’t know whether she is the ultimate survivor, Bouey said the fact that Stillman came back to work might be an indication. After winning $1 million, he said, “I’m not sure all of us would have.”

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