When I first heard that CBS’ Survivor was revisiting the Brains vs. Brawn vs. Beauty dynamic of season 28, I rolled my eyes. Not only because Survivor: Cagayan produced one of the most obnoxious winners ever but because separating castaways into such distinct groups goes against the melting pot idea of Survivor

Survivor is still my favorite reality show on the air so I decided to give Survivor: Kaoh Rong the benefit of the doubt as it tackled Brains vs. Brawn vs. Beauty once again. After watching the first episode of Kaoh Rong though, the tribe dynamic is even worse than it was the first time around.

Square Castaway in a Round Hole

The biggest and most obvious problem with Survivor: Kaoh Rong‘s employment of the tree tribe set-up is that the majority of the castaways don’t fit their assigned roles. The first 20 minutes of the season premiere was various contestants explaining to the audience (and themselves) why they are on a certain tribe and it was totally ridiculous. 

The Brawn tribe is the most egregious example. Only half of that tribe could accurately be described as brawny. There is no way that Darnell and Alecia should have been put on that tribe. Alecia might consider herself sporty and active but that’s not the same thing as brawny. Brawn is physical strength and Aleciam as exhibited by her woeful performance in the first immunity challenge, does not have a lot of physical strength. 

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The Beauty tribe isn’t much better. I don’t think Tai is an unattractive man but the point of Brains vs. Brawn vs. Beauty is that it is collecting together people who would use that one trait as their main tool in the game. Tai was clearly never planning to use his looks as his main tool in Survivor. I’m not even going to touch on that inner beauty nonsense Survivor is shilling out. 


The Brains tribe gets away with it the easiest because intelligence is so vaguely defined anyway. In Cagayan, the castaways of the Brain tribe talked about their education which seemed to justify their placement. 

If anything the Brains tribe resembled the white collar tribe of Survivor: Worlds Apart than the original Brain tribe of Cagayan. Speaking of which, I suppose we can be happy that Survivor didn’t revisit that particular casting strategy because Survivor: Worlds Apart was godawful. 

It really just appears that Survivor started casting the entire season and then threw the Brains vs. Brawn vs. Beauty set up onto what they had. It wasn’t planned for the beginning but retrofitted after the fact for some unknown reason. It’s true that the most recent season of Survivor had a lot of former castaways voted on from Cagayan. So maybe Survivor was trying to “recapture the magic” as it were. There were a lot of likable contestants on the first Brains vs. Brawn vs. Beauty season but they overcame their tribe set-up more than they were interesting because of it.

Easy Pickings 

The consequence of Survivor not really considering how the tribes were divided, automatically makes some contestants have unfair disadvantage. Castaways like Alecia and Tai are just going to be outsiders from the onset because they don’t fit in with the rest of their tribe. Alecia has some other problems because she’s more leaning into outsider status than trying to fix it but that’s neither here nor there. 

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The point is, these earlier weeks of Survivor are going to be rather boring and repetitive. The respective tribes are going to focus on their one or two member who don’t fit into their assigned role and they’ll be the targets. There should be an element of unpredictably for Survivor and  an outsider status should be caused by a castaway’s own actions. It shouldn’t be defined by the predetermined whims of the producers. 


That’s not the only predictable thing about the tribe set-up though. The lack of unity and logic to certain castaways being assigned their tribes means a switch up will definitely be coming sooner rather than later. Survivor frequently mixes up the tribes when things are working even before the merge. I’d be surprised if Survivor: Kaoh Rong manages to go more than three weeks without a mix-up. Then the Brains vs. Brawn vs. Beauty dynamic will be even more useless because it simply won’t exist. 

But what do you think? Does the casting of Survivor: Kaoh Rong make sense? 

Survivor: Kaoh Rong airs Wednesdays at 8pm on CBS.

(Images courtesy of CBS) 

Derek Stauffer

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV

Derek is a Philadelphia based writer and unabashed TV and comic book junkie. The time he doesn’t spend over analyzing all things nerdy he is working on his resume to be the liaison to the Justice League.