$1M in thrills beckons for Douglas `Survivor'.

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Byline: Richard Duckett

The first "tribal council" could be said to have been held last year at Jordan's Furniture in Reading.

That was where Denise Martin of Douglas had her first survival test. Hundreds of people had descended on the store on a June day for a casting call for the CBS reality TV show "Survivor" - one of several such initial auditions held across the country.

The producers conceivably might not have been interested in any of them. The show casts just 16 castaways.

Martin waited 7-1/2 hours. Then she was asked a single question while a video camera taped her: "Why do you think you should be on `Survivor' ?"

Martin's response: "It was pretty much, `My boss wants me to do this, my kids, my husband, even my dog. I don't like bugs, but I'll do it for you, Jeff,'" she recalled. This proved to be a good move. Jeff Probst is the host of "Survivor," overseeing competitions between tribes, dishing out awards and extinguishing the torches of castaways who have been voted off the show at each tribal council. The reference to "Jeff" lit up someone's interest, perhaps even Probst himself. Martin got a call at home two weeks later.

To cut a long story - and a long journey - short, Martin will be one of the 16 castaways when "Survivor: China" premieres at 8 tonight on CBS (locally, Channel 4).

This will be the 15th installment of the Emmy Award-winning series. Martin said she's been watching - and a fan - since the third.

The thought has crossed her mind that perhaps she could do what she saw the castaways doing. "I always did. A lot of the challenges I could do, no problem." On the other hand, she said, she wasn't so sure about the bugs, or eating insects.

Her boss really did want her to try out, however. Martin is a lunch lady at Douglas Intermediate School. Judy Manyak, the food-service coordinator, told Martin about the casting call in Reading and suggested she show up. "I said I have to work. She said she would pay me anyway," Martin said.

It may help that the 40-year-old Martin is a karate expert who has competed and won in international competitions and also runs her own school, the Douglas Karate Club.

The castaways in "Survivor: China" range in age from 20 to 47 and have a variety of occupations, including professional poker player and gravedigger. The series begins in downtown Shanghai before moving to HuangPu Mountain's Mi Tuo Temple for a Buddhist ceremony. The castaways will then be marooned on two

islands on Zhelin Lake in...

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