CBS edited out racial remark on Survivor, Jeff Probst inadvertently reveals

A comment made by Survivor One World cast member Tarzan, whose real name is Greg Smith, was apparently edited to remove a reference to fellow contestant Jonas Otsuji’s race.

About midway through the episode, 64-year-old plastic surgeon Tarzan had a fight with 37-year-old sushi chef Jonas. Tarzan said, “I do not like Jonas. I do not like that guy any more,” and then a moment later, as he’s walking away from the camera and bending over in his dirty briefs, said, “I can’t look at that face any more.”

But what he actually said–according to host and executive producer Jeff Probst–was “I can’t look at that Asian face any more.”

Jeff is in the Philippines filming season 25 (which he admitted obliquely), but he still live tweeted the episode. How? He was apparently watching a DVD or electronic advance copy of the show, which seemed to be confirmed when he asked over a series of tweets if he was synchronized with east coast viewers (“we’re on the same ‘moment'”).

My educated guess is that Jeff was watching a version that was not the final air version of the show, and/or a last-minute decision was made to edit out that reference. While it’s far from the most horrible thing anyone has said this season, it was unnecessary of Tarzan to point out Jonas’ ethnicity, and bringing it up in a negative context only suggests that Jonas’ ethnicity had some kind of impact on Tarzan. (Consider how absurd it would sound if he’d said about someone else, “I can’t look at that white face any more.”)

Jeff Probst seemed to be aware that this would be controversial, because before the episode began, he teased the line, asking his followers to guess who said it. Later, when Tarzan said the line (minus the word “Asian” on CBS’ east coast broadcast), Probst tweeted it again, but this time with attribution:

“big words from tarzan and there’s the quote of the day – ‘cant look at that asian face anymore.”

The audio that was broadcast didn’t have an ambiguous word in the sentence; the word “Asian” simply wasn’t there, and I cannot imagine Jeff Probst making that up or tweeting about it twice if he didn’t hear it clearly and know that it was included in the episode. Considering the relatively dull nature of this episode, and the high voltage response the show got from Colton’s bigotry, Probst teasing that quotation makes sense.

Still, it’s very, very odd that CBS would choose to edit out that word, considering what the network did broadcast coming out of Colton’s mouth.

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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.