Survivor Cook Islands’ four tribes are separated by race

As rumored, the 20 cast members on Survivor Cook Islands are divided into tribes by their race. The tribes consist of white people, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and Hispanic people, and were divided that way because of past criticism that the show was too white, according to host Jeff Probst.

Probst appeared on The Early Show and said, “The idea for this actually came from the criticism that Survivor was not ethnically diverse enough, because for whatever reason, we always have a low number of minority applicants apply to the show. So we set out and said, let’s turn this criticism into creative for the show. And I think it fits in perfectly with what Survivor does, which is, it is a social experiment, and this is adding another layer to that experiment which is taking the show to a completely different level.”

Later, he said, “Our original idea was simply to have the most ethnically diverse group of people on TV. It wasn’t until we got to casting and started noticing this theme of ethnic pride that you’re alluding to that we started thinking, wow, if culture is still playing such a big part in these people’s lives, that’s our idea. Let’s divide them based on ethnicity. So, yes, I think it’s very natural to assume that certain groups are going to have audience members rooting for them simply because they share ethnicity.”

Jeff also said, “I found it to be one of the freshest ideas we’ve had going back to the beginning of this show,” and later noted that the players themselves had “mixed” reactions. Oh, Jeff.

Harry Smith did his best to generate controversy, saying that he personally was “stunned” and “dismayed,” and that the show had “gone to far” with this “stunt to draw attention.” He was so excited that he spilled the news at the top of the 8 o’clock hour, saying that this is “the first that this word is out.” Uh, not quite. But first, we had to sit through a segment with newswoman Julie Chen talking about chalkboards being replaced with smart boards that, surprisingly, don’t require chalk.

By the way, about a year ago, Donald Trump said The Apprentice was considering dividing the teams by race, but then backtracked and said “I personally don’t like it, so it will never happen.” Now that Survivor is doing it, look for Trump to take credit and then split his teams by race next season, and claim his racially divided teams are the best ever.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.