‘Survivor 41’: Black castaways create their own ‘Big Brother’-style Cookout alliance

When the merge kinda-sorta happened on the sixth episode of “Survivor 41,” it brought together people from all three tribes. Immediately, the show’s four remaining Black castaways — Shantel “Shan” Smith from Ua, Liana Wallace from Yase, and Deshawn Radden and Danny McCray from Luvu — struck an agreement to remain loyal to each other for the rest of the game. While they didn’t give an official name to their group, fans of “Big Brother 23” immediately had flashbacks to the Cookout alliance, which dominated that season and resulted in a Black person winning for the first time ever.

In truth, this 41st cycle of “Survivor” was filmed back in the spring, well before the “BB23” houseguests created their Cookout alliance during the most recent summer installment. “More than any other season that I think I’ve ever watched on ‘Survivor,’ I think Season 41 has been the most diverse and most inclusive and representative of America,” Shan said in a confessional.

SEE Everything to know about ‘Survivor 41’

Shan, a pastor from Washington D.C., was the first to bring up the idea of creating an alliance, urging the others at the merge, “I want us to be on the front page … just like, look what we did.”

Danny smiled ear to ear, replying, “You’re making my heart sing right now.” The former NFL superstar suggested keeping their deal “really low” so that none of the other players would get suspicious.

Liana chimed in, “After this year, we need that.” Later, the college student explained to the camera, “As people of color, there is a shared experience. You’re like, ‘Oh, you’re the only one in your classroom that looks like you? Me too.’ And so you have this bond and this connection right off the bat. We do want to uplift one another in this game and that would be a really beautiful thing.”

Deshawn, a medical student from San Bernardino, revealed, “I’m used to being around a lot of African-American people. But I thought that I probably wouldn’t get a chance to play with Black people in this game. And that’s not the case. This season, the beauty of having a diverse cast is that it kind of busts your possibilities wide open.” He concluded, “It would be foolish not to work together.”

SEE ‘Survivor’ deaths: Full list of castaways we’ve lost

This is the first season viewers are seeing CBS’s new 50% diversity mandate for its reality TV shows play out. A series-high six Black castaways were cast on “Survivor 41,” but two were voted out pre-merge: Eric Abraham on Day 3 and Jairus “JD” Robinson on Day 9. Will Shan, Liana, Deshawn or Danny go on to win the game?

Of the first 40 seasons of “Survivor,” only four were won by African-American players: Vecepia Towery in Season 4, Earl Cole in Season 14, Jeremy Collins in Season 31 and Wendell Holland in Season 36. See the winner’s list.

“Big Brother’s” history-making 23rd season resulted in Xavier Prather winning the $750,000 check. His Cookout alliance members finished second through sixth place: Azah Awasum, Derek Frazier, Kyland Young, Hannah Chaddha and Tiffany Mitchell.

SEE exclusive predictions: Who will win ‘Survivor’?

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