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On Survivor 42, two players refused to perpetuate an ugly pattern

On Survivor 42, two players refused to perpetuate an ugly pattern
Jeff Probst tells Survivor 42's players that they're about to become two tribes. Those players, from left to right: Lindsay Dolashewich, Maryanne Oketch, Romeo Escobar, Tori Meehan, Rocksroy Bailey, Drea Wheeler, Hai Giang, Mike Turner, Omar Zaheer, and Jonathan Young. (Photo by Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment)

Survivor 42 split the post-merge tribe into two temporary tribes for two Tribal Councils, which not only exposed some fault lines, but revealed that the players were on track to repeat an ugly pattern that’s been common on Survivor and throughout reality TV history.

The episode opened with Rocksroy trying to put together an alliance of men, because as we all know, men really struggle to get far in this game. After all, when this season was filmed, men had only won Survivor eight of the last 10 times. Good grief, get your shit together, bros!

Hai shut down the idea of a “boy’s alliance,” saying “I’m not part of the misogyny club here.” But he soon found himself in that alliance, alongside his new mortal enemy Romeo, who’d dared to cast a vote for Hai at the last Tribal Council.

“The way that Rocksroy talks to people makes me upset,” Hai said. “He’s quickly making his way up the ranks” of targets. That ascent was rapid.

Hai Giang falls after winning individual immunity by balancing in rough seas and high wind
Hai Giang falls after winning individual immunity by balancing in rough seas and high wind. (Photo by Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment)

To make way for two Tribal Councils, the reward and immunity challenges were combined into a recycled immunity challenge.

This challenge is not one I love, mostly because it’s not an equal playing field for everyone: waves move the platforms, which makes it difficult, yes, but also means one player might get knocked off by a wave that totally misses another player.

And I had that feeling the moment I saw that it was this challenge, before the wind and waves made themselves known. As Jeff Probst said, the players this season were facing “unprecedented swells and wind on an already-difficult challenge,” and it’s “very difficult to do this challenge on a flat sea.”

A reverse merge post-merge reversing

The twist of this challenge was that there were two immunity idols—and two teams of five competing separately for that immunity, and then heading separately to Tribal Council.

Basically, there was a reverse merge two episodes after the actual merge was reversed. My brain hurts.

The teams produced two temporary tribes: Hai, Mike, Omar, Rocksroy, and Romeo (aka Rocksroy’s guy’s alliance) and Drea, Jonathan, Lindsay, Maryanne, and Tori.

Immunity went to Hai and Jonathan, with Jonathan winning reward for his temporary tribe.

Romeo seemed immediately resigned to going home, especially considering his rift with Hai, but not everyone was on board with Rocksroy’s guy’s alliance of players who make a decision and stick to it and that’s that now where is my dinner?!

Rocksroy said “guys are more rigid in making a decision, so I’m banking on that.”

Then he went bankrupt.

Rocksroy’s exit was telegraphed throughout the episode, so I was not surprised. But I was disappointed that we didn’t get to see it actually come together, especially if it was all grunting.

But seriously, Omar repairing the rift between Hai and Romeo, and then Hai convincing his ally Mike to go along with that plan: that’s interesting! Show it!

By the way: Omar’s game is an A+ right now. He was skeptical of Rocksroy’s alliance of dudes plan (“Are you insane, Rocksroy?” he said in a confessional, referencing, among other things, having to compete in individual immunity against Jonathan). But he managed his skepticism well, in the same way he later managed to gently float the idea of blindsiding Rocksroy while also managing to get Hai and Romeo together.

Jonathan’s big man moves

The temporary tribe’s vote was fairly standard: a player who thought they were in control discovering that they’d been blindsided. With that, Rocksroy joined the jury.

On the other temporary tribe, Lindsay pointed out that “Tori might be the easy target here”—especially given Tori’s dual individual immunity wins.

But Jonathan, he’d been “waiting for my moment to make a big move.” His plan was to vote for Drea, flushing her idol, and he told Maryanne she’d be the goat.

Maryanne immediately realized the problem with this, because she’d be voted out if Drea played her idol, and was annoyed that “Jonathan treats me like a young little girl, the sheep that needs to be led.”

Drea, meanwhile, was told that the target was Maryanne, and told us “that’s a red flag for me.” If the tribe is targeting people with idols, she said, “this girl has one, too.”

Lindsay tried to point out the problems in the plan to Jonathan, namely that if Drea played an idol, Maryanne would be voted out, along with her extra vote. The blank look on his face said everything, as did his increasing condescension at having to think about things.

“I know more than you know,” Lindsay told him, and the gears just ground together. In a confessional, she said, “Jonathan is impossible to talk with.”

“We’re not supposed to trust anybody out here,” Jonathan mansplained, and then told Lindsay, “You’re getting really worked up.” She said, “sorry.” Ugh.

Maryanne, Jonathan, and Drea at Tribal Council on Survivor 42's episode 9
Maryanne, Jonathan, and Drea at Tribal Council on Survivor 42’s episode 9. (

When their temporary tribe entered Tribal Council, their jaws all literally dropped. They were stunned to see Rocksroy on the jury, a member of the big alliance cast out.

But Drea and Maryanne noticed something else. Suddenly, there was a pattern on Survivor 42: a jury composed of only Black players, and only Black players, and two more Black players about to vote for each other and add to that jury.

And then Drea and Maryanne saw that they were about to contribute to that pattern, and decided to stop that.

After some chat, Drea said, “I was so proud because we had four Black contestants on Survivor. And it always happens where the Black contestants get voted out, boom boom boom,” Drea said. “That’s exactly what this is right now, so I’m pissed.”

“Do you think it’s race-related?” Probst asked. Then he said, Do you think my hair is wet from all this rain?

“I think it’s just subconsciously a little bit of that, unfortunately,” Drea said. “I’m playing my idol tonight so I can stay in this game. I’m not going to let that happen to another one of us.”

What they were talking about was not a single vote: flush an idol, go back to camp. That’s an individual, isolated decision. So was Drea’s vote for Chanelle last episode, and the previous temporary tribe’s vote of Rocksroy.

What they were talking about were 22 years of votes, and, outside of the game, 403 years of history, never mind what’s happening right now and over the past two years.

After some whispering, Maryanne said—and I am so grateful to her for this—”You know what, everyone can hear me.” She talked about how there was about to be “three Black people in a row,” and how she didn’t want to be “part of perpetuating a problem.”

We didn’t need to see an example of white fragility, but that’s when we got one in Jonathan’s immediate defensiveness. “Ya’ll are coming at this like we’re racist,” Jonathan said.

“No one ever said that,” Drea said. No one did, but Jonathan heard that, just as so many Big Brother fans watched a group of Black people work together and read that as an attack on white people.

Maryanne and Drea talked about implicit bias and patterns of behavior; Jonathan made it about himself.

As Survivor alum Julia Carter tweeted, “Jonathan is a good representation of the ‘I’m not racist’ person that actively contributes to problem. Instead of listening to understand, they get defensive and gaslight.”

Jonathan then made this worse by telling Drea, “You are being aggressive” when she was most definitely not being aggressive at all. (Chanelle and Rocksroy’s faces on the jury expressed the immediate shock and dismay that Jonathan decided to perpetuate that old stereotype.)

Seeing Jonathan get defensive in real time was perhaps a window into some living rooms, judging by some responses on social media.

There was more to what Drea and Maryanne said, but watching it is better than reading a transcript. I appreciate their open discussion of this frequent reality TV pattern.

If you don’t see the need for these conversations on Survivor, I encourage you to go dip your toes in the Facebook Survivor waters for just a few minutes, and see what you find.

Another error in judgment from Survivor’s host

Rocksroy Bailey has his torch snuffed by Jeff Probst on Survivor 42
Rocksroy Bailey has his torch snuffed by Jeff Probst on Survivor 42 (Photo by Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment)

Once again, I think Jeff Probst made a colossal error: this time, in suggesting that they dispense with the Tribal Council formality.

“We can skip that pomp and circumstance,” he said after everything. Um, no. This is a game for $1 million, not a fucking talk show, and it has rules.

Also, voting in private—well, with cameras watching!—is a key part of the game. So is a player’s decision to play an idol or not, including their ability to threaten to do so and then not actually give up their idol.

Turning the vote into a performance erased all of that. Jonathan literally asked Probst “would they turn in their idols?” as if it was something they’d decide together. Both Maryanne and Drea immediately stood up and played their idols, answering the question definitively for him.

Ultimately, Tori became the target, played her shot in the dark, and was voted out.

While it was on a much smaller level, I think Probst’s decision to talk through Tribal Council instead of having an actual vote is equivalent to Survivor 41’s biggest mistake: fundamentally altering the game and its editing at the same time that the cast was diversified, which allowed racist fans to link the two.

Instead of just letting the players play the game, Probst intervened. Maybe, like Jonathan, he should have just shut up.

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.

Discussion

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Comment rules: My goal is for us to be able to share our perspectives and exchange ideas in a welcoming, supportive space. That’s why I’ve created these rules for commenting here. By commenting below, you confirm that you’ve read and agree to them.

Happy discussing!

BadMitten

Saturday 30th of April 2022

Some resources for people to educate themselves on this instead of acting ignorant:

https://twitter.com/perksofbeingHC/status/1520052613546483713?s=20&t=qdwDWH9qP8Eb47J3iOLmzQ

https://twitter.com/wendellholland/status/1520183836306550784?s=20&t=Aaug0eF5BkYQ0rEUqsd1Yg

Chuck

Friday 29th of April 2022

I was a big fan of Jonathan until this episode. Not because of his actions at Tribal Council, but because of his actions with the other players on who to vote out. He was condescending and stubborn. He wasn't willing to listen and realize that he had some flaws in his plan. He presented himself as a macho meathead.

Patricia Powell

Saturday 28th of May 2022

@Chuck, I think we meet people where we they are. I still don't think he is a bad person, living in Alabama he may experience things differently. Through out the whole game he did not ever talk smack about anyone as opposed to Lindsay for example. Every time someone won and he failed in his confessionals he was complementary to people abilities.

I agree he did not listen but he really thought he had the plan of the century and stuck with it. He and Drea are good friends to this day, I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Denny

Thursday 28th of April 2022

So if you get voted out, it's because of implicit racism? They should have equity in the outcome based on the makeup of the players? Johnathon was pissed because race never even crossed his mind. Wasn't there an earlier discussion about an all black alliance? Wasn't Roxroy voted out because an Asian decided to save a Latino? You can read whatever you want.

BadMitten

Friday 29th of April 2022

@Denny, someone's big time mad! The crazies turned off Fox and flooded realityblurried it seems, how unfortunate.

Dave

Thursday 28th of April 2022

Among those who voted out Chanel previously was Rock and Drea. Does that mean they are racist? If I’m not mistaken there wasn’t a white person in the tribe who voted Rock off. Does that mean all are racist and Mike is black btw! Omar, who orchestrated Rocks departure, must Bea racist too. Survivor has been and is becoming more social engineering at the core. After 40 seasons! I’ve had enough! Oh yeah! If white privilege is such a problem then Jeff and Mark should relinquish their positions to a someone of a different skin hue if they really want to lead by example. I’m betting the farm it doesn’t happen.

Clark

Saturday 30th of April 2022

@BadMitten, Just one question for you badmitten. Can a white person vote out a black person without having any subconscious racism?

BadMitten

Friday 29th of April 2022

@Dave, there is so much wrong with this comment I dont even know where to start. Mike is Puerto Rican btw. If you had enough of having tolerant discussions about race relations then you probably should probably just turn off your tv instead of crying in the comment section. Heard the Survivor Facebook page is a safe space for people like you with this intolerant attitude.

Kyle

Thursday 28th of April 2022

I have been annoyed by Maryanne's personality for most of the season, but her clear and concise explanation of the situation in the middle of that tribal counsel was extremely impressive.

ANTONIO

Tuesday 3rd of May 2022

@Kyle, I agree. I don't like Maryanne, but she stepped up and was quite clear and wonderful at that moment.