Warning: Spoilers ahead for Season 42 of Survivor!
it was double tribal/double elimination night during the April 27 episode of Survivor 42. Rocksroy Bailey – who had taken advantage of what fans consider the worst twist in the game’s history just a week prior – was voted out first in the double whammy. Walking in with the next group, Drea Wheeler was floored to see how Bailey had joined another Black player (in Chanelle Howell) already on the jury. This situation prompted a huge conversation about race, and now, last season’s fan-favorite Shan Smith is calling out “toxic” fans for the reactions to what transpired.
Specifically, contestants Drea Wheeler and Maryanne Oketch (the only two Black players remaining in Season 42) noted the trend in Survivor of how Black players usually are voted out early or consecutively. It didn't sit well with their tribemate Jonathan Young, who took it as an insinuation that he was a “racist” for planning to vote out Wheeler next. Nevertheless, Wheeler and Oketch made a stand in solidarity by openly using each of their hidden immunity idols to combat what they view as a systemic problem.
There have been a ton of reactions to the intense tribal in the wake of its airing, especially on the official Survivor Facebook page. On one side of the spectrum, a lot of fans have commented that the two contestants were “playing the race card,” which is in fact what Drea Wheeler predicted would be the takeaway from viewers. Survivor 41's Shan Smith isn't happy about what she's seeing on the forum and is calling for the page to be deleted by CBS. She wrote on Twitter,
This pastor says fuk the FB fandom. Its toxic& @survivor should delete that page. It’s hard calling out racism especially on national television. I am so proud of @maryanneoketch and @Drea_Wheeler for standing their ground, speaking our collective truth #Survivor #survivor42April 28, 2022
Drea Wheeler wrote on her own Twitter in the wake of the fan divide that she respects “everyone’s thoughts and opinions” and only asked that fans “be kind” toward her Survivor 42 family. Conversely, Maryanne Oketch (who formally changed her Twitter last name to match her on-screen crush) remarked on her account about the “overwhelming” support she's received for taking a stand like she did. She added that having seen major conversations about “sociocultural issues” take place on Survivor throughout the years is what “empowered” her to not “allow a pattern to continue.”
Race was a big topic of tribal council as well in Shan Smith’s season of Survivor. Both 41 and 42, per CBS’ diversity pledge back in 2020, increased the number of players of color to 50 percent, where before they were outliers. As a result, Smith and her other Black tribemates decided to form an alliance together post-merge as a nod to “the culture.” Their group ultimately fell apart, and finalist Deshawn Radden broke down in tears at one tribal about being torn between his Blackness and the demands of the game.
There were a lot of comparisons made at the time between Survivor 41’s all-Black alliance and the one seen last summer over on Big Brother, called “the Cookout.” The latter was clearly more successful in its goals, as it was able to crown the show's first Black winner in 23 seasons, but it also faced fan criticisms concerning the race dynamics. Shan Smith reflected on all the Cookout comparisons after her stint, though, saying that she hoped the next season would accomplish what they failed to do.
Obviously, Shan Smith’s vision of a more formidable all-Black alliance didn't materialize exactly on Season 42, but there's still the remaining possibility of a Black winner sitting in the final three. Judging by the preview for next week's episode, Drea Wheeler and Maryanne Oketch are not so much in trouble as a certain “he.” Tune in to CBS on May 4 at 8 p.m. EST in the 2022 TV schedule to see how it all continues to shake out.
Freelance writer. Favs: film history, reality TV, astronomy, French fries.
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