Watch out: Survivor Season 41 Spoilers from the Oct. 27 episode below!
Survivor is changing so fast in Season 41 that it's kind of hard to keep up. Multiple new powers are at play, which has forced everyone to match chaos with chaos. Moreover, the merge has arrived and with it, more twists and more strategy. In fact, some contestants are pulling a Big Brother “Cookout” maneuver, but the question remains: can the same kind of strategic lightning strike twice?
In case you missed Big Brother 23 this summer, six of its players formed the game's first-ever all-Black alliance, affectionately called “the Cookout.” Their decision to keep it secret paid off big time because they managed to make it all the way to the Final 6 safely. Now, Survivor 41 players are attempting to do the same thing with Shan Smith, Liana, Danny McCray, and Deshawn Radden.
In the most recent episode, the tribes finally merged and the four Black players quietly solidified that they were going to stick together on the down low – for now. However, BB and Survivor are two entirely different games and, judging from what Big Brother fans learned from the Cookout’s own journey, it will likely be harder for this new alliance to succeed without some hiccups.
But first, let's note the positive side. There is now precedent for an all-Black alliance to succeed on one of CBS’ reality shows. Because of the Cookout’s rock-solid allegiance to one another that went beyond the game, Big Brother 23 was able to crown its first-ever Black winner. Conversely, in Survivor's 20-year history, it has only crowned four Black players as winners, but they had no dominant alliance backing them there. So perhaps the Cookout-esque strategy will only make it that much easier for them to make it to the finale night.
There is a serious chance, though, that Survivor 41's version of the Cookout won't work for very long. Unlike on Big Brother, Survivor contestants have to anticipate hidden immunity idols, extra votes, drawing rocks and gambles for tribal council safety, all while starving and playing in grueling challenges. And there are even more variables still unknown, such as Erika Casupanan’s upcoming decision to either flip who got group immunity at the next tribal council or keep it the same. If she decides to flip the groups, then the Cookout 2.0's Danny McCray and Deshawn Radden become the most vulnerable to be voted out because they're both strong male competitors.
Unfortunately, Big Brother 23's Cookout also taught us that individual personality traits can complicate a strong alliance’s longevity. The final six BB23 players almost didn't make it there precisely because they sometimes didn't like each other on a personal level. First it was Tiffany Mitchell versus Derek Frazier, then Xavier Prather versus Kyland Young, then Azah Awasum versus Derek Frazier. On Survivor 41, the teams have only just merged but already there was a slight crack in the form of Shan Smith outing Liana Wallace’s advantage to an outsider. And there are still 14 days left of the game…
Lastly, another potential problem for Survivor’s all-Black alliance is the individual side of the game. Even though all the players in the official Cookout alliance on Big Brother were 100% committed to each other, it didn't stop Tiffany Mitchell from reaching for her second and last HOH against the group’s wishes. They couldn’t trust her after that and she ended up getting voted out at sixth place. If that scenario had happened weeks before, it's possible that they would have flipped on her sooner. Considering Shan Smith's individual (and villainous) game moves in the past few weeks, it seems like history will inevitably repeat itself.
Whatever happens, it's still amazing to see CBS’ commitment to more diverse casts manifest these kind of united fronts on their shows. In a way, they are not so much alliances as they are clear messages to the world about representation and human bonds – complicated though they may be. See more of this new alliance with new episodes of Survivor (opens in new tab) on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.
Freelance writer. Favs: film history, reality TV, astronomy, French fries.
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