Alec Merlino and Kara Kay's Survivor Love Story Deserves Reward

Reality TV stars also reveal their thoughts on possibly joining Big Brother or The Amazing Race

By Mike Vulpo Feb 20, 2019 11:00 AMTags
Kara Kay, Alec Merlino, Survivor Instagram

When Kara Kay and Alec Merlino found out they were appearing on Survivor, finding love certainly wasn't on their to-do list.

Instead, the $1 million prize was one of their main motivations to leave sunny California and try to outwit, outlast and outplay their competition.

While they may not have made the finals on season 37 of Survivor: David vs. Goliath, the two castaways found a prize each of them never expected. Oh yes, these two found love.

"I think we both started liking each other, but we just didn't know it," Alec shared with E! News exclusively ahead of tonight's season premiere. "Toward the end of the show, when I would walk back into Tribal when I got voted out, I was like, 'She's kinda cute.' And it wasn't until the very last night when the thing kinda happened."

That thing is deciding to turn their friendship into something more. The pair says they started dating May 7, which was the last day they were both in Fiji.

Meet the Survivor: Edge of Extinction Cast

Since then, Alec has moved to San Diego, Calif., to work on his Head & Hart small business. And yes, it helps that Kara calls it home too.

While both parties aren't ones to post couples shots on Instagram each and every day, they assure fans that things are going great.

"Usually our days consist of waking up and we'll bike ride, walk by the bay, run. We just like to get caught up in the moment and we don't like to pull our thumbs out," Alec explained. "I just don't feel the need to post every second of what I'm doing. We're both really good about not having our phones and that's just a testament to our relationship."


Kara added, "And it's a testament to how we started too. We started with absolutely nothing. It's like the reverse Bachelor. You start at your absolute worst with no technology, stripped of everything that is normal in everyday life…We're like way closer than a lot of people ever will get to be."

While the pair agrees that you shouldn't join Survivor to find romance, they are grateful that cupid struck at an unlikely destination.

In fact, they aren't the only contestants to find love on the show. Take a look at some of the other couples formed because of Survivor in our gallery below.

Dee Valladares and Austin Li Coon

After making it to the season 45 finale together, Dee, who was crowned the winner, and Austin are playing coy when it comes to their current relationship status. 

"We kind of want to keep that a little private for now, just because things have been so crazy," Austin told Entertainment Weekly. "The finale just aired and I don't think I'm ready quite yet for dealing with all the fans and giving out the answers. So going to keep that private for now."

Frannie Marin and Matthew Blankinship

It was pretty much love at first sight for Matt and Frannie when they stepped on the beach for season 44. And their showmance continued beyond Fiji and they are still dating.

On their one-year anniversary, Frannie shared a blurb she wrotein her journal on the first day of Survivor.

"I have already developed a mild affinity for [Matt]. This is problematic as I want to be best friends with him and will likely a) trust everything he says and b) tell him every thought in my head," she shared. "Halt, emotional being! Enough with reaching your wretched tendrils! Steel yourself!"

Jaclyn Schultz & Jon Misch

After competing on Survivor: San Juan del Sur, the couple said "I Do" in August 2015 near Detroit. In June 2022, Jaclyn and Jon welcomed their son Logan Samuel

Parvati Shallow and John Fincher

Parvati Shallow, a fan-favorite from multiple iterations of Survivor and the Sole Survivor of Fans vs. Favorites, started dating John Fincher of Survivor: Samoa in 2014. They married in 2017 and welcomed a daughter in 2018, with Parvati returning to compete in Winners at War just months after giving birth. In August 2021, the couple would file for divorce. 

Joe Anglim & Sierra Dawn Thomas

These two Survivor lovebirds met in 2014 during Worlds Apart. Although they didn't start dating immediately after the show, they became a couple a few years later and announced their engagement on April 9, 2019. Just before Thanksgiving 2019, the couple said "I Do" in a magical Utah wedding ceremony.

The couple are parents to daughter Della Dawn, 3, and son Vander Joseph, born in August 2022.

Michele Fitzgerald & Dean Kowalski

They dated! Despite competing on different seasons, the pair turned their friendship into something more during quarantine. "Summer lovin'," Dean shared on Instagram back in August 2020. The couple would ultimately part ways before Michele appeared on MTV's The Challenge.

Elizabeth Beisel & Jack Nichting

One day after reuniting for Survivor season 39's finale, the two contestants confirmed on Instagram that they were dating. "WOAH. Did you guys hear the news?" Elizabeth wrote on Instagram. "I've got a curly haired boyfriend named Jack and he is simply the most wonderful human being I know. And yes, we share hair products."

And the Island of the Idols pair announced theit engagement in November 2022. 

Jenna Bowman and Sebastian Noel

These Survivor: Ghost Island contestants were so intertwined that they started a vlog and a couples Instagram account: Tarzan and Jen.

Alas, they broke up, with Sebastian going on to enjoy a brief showmance with Tori Deal on The Challenge: USA season two. 

Whitney Duncan and Keith Tollefson

This pair from 2011's Survivor: South Pacific had almost instant sparks. Their relationship took them on The Amazing Race together, and they wed in 2014 and have a 14-month-old-son, Duncan.

Alec Merlino & Kara Kay

After competing on Season 37 or Survivor: David vs. Goliah, the two contestants formed a romantic relationship in San Diego, Calif. "We shared so much chemistry and friendship on the island," Kara explained to E! News. "And then we got home and we both knew."

Unfortunately, the pair privately split with Alec telling Entertainment Weekly in 2021 that it was "the most normal and amicable breakup." 

Wendell Holland & Michele Fitzergald

The two winners off-camera romance was revealed during an episode of Survivor: Winners at War when the tribe swap resulted in the exes being placed on the same tribe. 

"How the heck did I get stuck stranded on an island with my ex-boyfriend? [Laughs.] Wendell and I dated briefly which is a saga in itself," Michele revealed in an episode after a tribe swap went down. "Even though our relationship didn't necessarily work out, I'm hoping this can work a little better than our dating."

Spoiler alert: Neither won the season.

Rob Mariano and Amber Brkich

Oh, Boston Rob and Amber. These two took showmance to the next level. They met in 2003 while on Survivor: All-Stars, got engaged in 2004, and had a TV wedding in 2005. They competed on The Amazing Race in season seven and returned for The Amazing Race: All-Stars in 2007. They have four daughters together and both competed for the title of Sole Survivor on season 40. 

Tyson Apostol and Rachel Foulger

After competing on Survivor: Blood vs. Water together, which Apostol won, the couple got married 2015 after getting engaged on the finale of Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars' second season.

They've since welcomed two daughters and Tyson most recently competed on Winners at War.

Mary Sartain and Ryan Opray

The couple were introduced by Johnny Fairplay and were engaged, but the relationship didn't last.

Jeff Probst and Julie Berry

After production on Survivor: Vanuatu wrapped, Probst, the longtime host of the CBS series, reached out to Berry. The two started dating, but kept the relationship a secret until after Berry's season aired. They were together for a few years, but eventually split.

Spencer Duhm and Todd Herzog

Todd Herzog, the winner of Survivor: China, met Survivor: Tocantins contestant Spencer Duhm in 2009. The couple eventually split, and Todd later appeared on Dr. Phil for an intervention with his alcohol addiction.

Stephen Fishbach and Courtney Yates

Courtney Yates of Survivor: China and Stephen Fishbach of Survivor: Tocantins never competed on the series together, but met in 2009 and struck up a romantic relationship, but it didn't last. Stephen got married in 2018.

Ethan Zohn and Jenna Morasca

These two Survivor winners met during the finale of Survivor: The Amazon. They started dating in 2003 and were together for 10 years, even appearing on The Amazing Race.

"It is with much consideration and a heavy heart that we are announcing that after 10 years of a loving relationship, the decision was made to move on without each other," a rep for the couple told E! News in 2013. "We will carry with us the memories of a relationship grounded in love, laughter, support and friendship."

"We have experienced some of life's greatest joys and toughest challenges together, and our decision to be apart can never diminish that. We want to thank everyone for their support and we ask that our privacy be respected as we move forward." Ethan is now married and is one of the 20 winners back for season 40.

Erik Huffman and Jaime Dugan-Huffman

The Survivor: China contestants met on the show in 2007 during the competition. They married two years later and have since welcomed a son. 

Alex Bell and Kim Powers

Alex Bell, from Survivor: The Amazon, and Kim Powers, from Survivor: Africa, met through the show and got married in 2006.

David Murphy and Carolina Eastwood

Carolina Eastwood, a Survivor: Tocantins contestant, and David Murphy, a Survivor: Redemption Island contestant, got engaged on TV during the Redemption Island reunion. However, the marriage didn't happen and they later split.

Ozzy Lusth and Amanda Kimmel

Lusth and Kimmel met on Survivor season 16, Survivor: Micronesia, where a showmance quickly developed. They continued dating after cameras stopped rolling, but eventually split.

As for the possibility of seeing Alec and Kara on another CBS reality show down the road? Never say never.

"The Amazing Race sounds right up our ally. We both love to travel. We love being competitive and we make a really good team so I think that's something we would entertain," Kara shared. "I don't know about Big Brother."

Alec added, "I would do Amazing Race in a heartbeat…I couldn't do 100 days [on Big Brother]. I couldn't do it."'

A brand-new season of Survivor kicks off tonight with new episodes airing Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. only on CBS and CBS All Access.