Skip to main content

Survivor 41's Shan Smith Talks Those Big Brother Cookout Comparisons And Her Hope For Season 42

screenshot s41
(Image credit: CBS)

With CBS committing to more diversity last year, both Survivor 41 and Big Brother 23 had at least 50% people of color making up their respective casts. Things got interesting, though, when both shows manifested powerful all-Black alliances for the first time as a result of the change. We saw it play out on Big Brother first (since it was live during the summer), with a six-player “Cookout” alliance taking themselves all the way to the end. Naturally, a lot of comparisons were drawn when Survivor started airing episodes in September that showcased a similar but ultimately divergent strategy. Now, Survivor 41 fan-favorite Shan Smith is addressing those comparisons with new insight, as well as sharing her hope for Season 42.

An obvious similarity was that both “Cookout” alliances had a strong Black woman steering the ship. Namely, Shan Smith’s epic strategic moves throughout Survivor 41 put her at the forefront to win, and the same was expected of Tiffany Mitchell on Big Brother 23. But apparently, the comparison goes much deeper than that, according to Smith. She said on Rob Had A Podcast recently that she actually came up with the same “buddy” strategy that Mitchell created on her show, even if it wasn’t shown that way on screen. The notorious pastor revealed,

The strategy of the [Big Brother] Cookout was very similar to that of the [Survivor] ‘camp-out,’ for lack of better words. I said to Danny [McCray], ‘You have your person, Syd [Segal]. I have my person, Ricard [Foye]. Liana has her person, Evvie [Jagoda]. Deshawn has his person, Heather [Aldret],’ because he kept calling her Mama H. So those, we were all close. So basically, all we have to do is keep our people close and then just kind of go down that. So we just talked about that as being strategy, but we didn't push it as much as I think the Cookout did. [Ours] wasn't as marketed as their strategy, that’s fine.

It was clear almost immediately that the rules of the game of Survivor were going to hinder its all-Black Cookout-esque alliance. Where Big Brother 23's team was able to crown the first Black winner, Survivor 41’s alliance eventually fell apart, starting with Shan Smith's own ousting. Yet, despite the endings looking different for the two shows, it all still holds meaning for Smith, who says she saw herself in Tiffany Mitchell and the rest of their team in the BB Final 6. She reflected,

It was really moving for me to see just how well that [Cookout] strategy was executed…Everyone in the final were all people of color. It was really, really beautiful to see the final six, all Black people, in a year where Black people were just at the bottom. We were marching. We were risking our lives in COVID just to be out there in the streets, just to say Black Lives Matter, and to say the names of those that were lost. It was just such a beautiful moment, and it was hard, too, because I knew where Survivor was going and I knew how Survivor ended…our whole thing gets cannibalized, and it just felt like I had worked so hard for nothing, and it was hard. It was really, really frustrating.

Though the jury didn't crown a Black Survivor 41 winner, one of their Cookout alliance members Deshawn Radden did make it to Final 3. Erika Casupanan took home the title of Sole Survivor in a landslide vote, making her the first woman of color to win on the show since Natalie Anderson in 2014 and the first Canadian ever. As for Shan Smith, she hopes that what transpired can be built upon in Season 42:

We learned a lot. One victory, one lesson, so Big Brother was the victory and Survivor was the lesson. I hope they get it right in 42. I hope it's a great season in 42. The bigger thing is, can we work together? So there's a lot to learn there.

The new twists and advantages started in Season 41 are expected to return again in Season 42, which spells more of the same difficulty for any future all-Black alliance hoping to outlast on Survivor. But if we get another Shan Smith in what’s to come, who has learned from the mistakes of the past, then we should be in for another treat. Stay tuned when Survivor 42 premieres on CBS on March 9 in the 2022 TV schedule!

Freelance writer. Favs: film history, reality TV, astronomy, French fries.