Billygarcia_cookislands_240 While most critics found the first episode of Survivor: Cook Islands to be more boring than offensive, plenty of scribes still found the show to be overwhelmingly glutted with stereotypes.

Proving that if you seek you shall find, I’ve uncovered the following unfortunate truths from Thursday’s (Sept. 21) episode. I’m just going to assume that if these things are true of four or five people on a CBS reality show, they have to be true of an entire racial group. I hope that’s OK.

African-Americans love fire: Having just finished giving Sekou the boot, the Hiki tribe returns to camp, but they can’t make fire. They try and they try, but they can’t get more than a spark. After much struggle, they finally get embers. Talk about the fire next time. They dance around the flames cheering "Burn, baby, burn." I wish I could say that there’s some awareness of the phrase’s cultural origins dating back to the Watts Riots, but they’re just happy to light stuff up.

Hispanics are good workers: Not all stereotypes are negative. In no time at all, the Aitu tribe has caught a slew of fish, snagged a barrel of crabs (less fun than a barrel of monkeys, more fun than a barrel of gnus). "Latinos are good workers. It’s in our blood. It’s in our heritage," J.P. declares. Heck, the Aitus even manage to capture a chicken in a net. They may be bickering — Ozzy’s domineering, Cristina’s a cop — but they’re eating like kings.

Asians are efficient: The Aitus get a single chicken in a net? Yawn. The Puka tribe traps two chickens in a crate, proving the old maxim that two birds in a box are better than one in a bag. That may be a good stereotype, but Cao Boi is doing his best to perpetuate several uglier ones, giving everybody his patented headache-removing face hickeys and telling ethnic jokes in the tent. There’s an interesting sociological argument that goes on in the shelter where Cao Boi argues that representing your race doesn’t mean avoiding jokes about it. Brad observes that just because the five people in their tribe can appreciate that the jokes aren’t truth, people outside the group may not look so deep. It’s a thoughtful conversation about race, so it’s a good thing it ends in a hurry.

White people hate floors: Jonathan returns from Exile Island and is a bit disgusted by how little progress is Caucasian Raro-ites have made. He recruits Jessica to begin to make a floor for their shelter. Adam, it turns out, is anti-floor. Ceilings he understands, but he just can’t see the percentage in a floor. He attempts to recruit Parvati to his cause, but Parvati is pro-floor. Adam thinks its a waste of time and pouts. Silly white folks.

Hispanics who aren’t hard workers are lazy: Billy’s theory, every bit as well thought out as Adam’s floor apathy, goes like this: If he isn’t good at something, why should he try? And if other people are good at something, why shouldn’t Billy enjoy the fruits of their skills? Ozzy isn’t happy and he allies with J.P. to throw the challenge to get rid of Billy. Some people will interpret this choice to mean that Hispanics are shifty, too, but Billy has already declared that his cultural heritage is Metal. There’s no tribe for that.

The Challenge: Jeff Probst reads the survivors a story. Then they have to run through an obstacle course and answer reading comprehension questions about the tale. What are the playing for? A tarp. In a photo finish, Raro and Puka tie for first. I’m not drawing any conclusions. I also can’t draw any conclusions about the last place finish because Aitu does, indeed, throw the challenge, finishing last. Billy knows he’s going home and tells the Raro girls he’s gone. They say they love him. He says he loves them. Aitu opts to send Yul from Puka off to Exile Island.

Yulkwon_cookislands_240That’s a mistake because: Yul takes one look at the clue and begins mapping the circumference of the earth, the tides, the water table and the vegetation growth and when he’s done, he’s found the Immunity Idol. This is going to provide more fuel for the conspiracy theory that Asians are good at puzzles.

Tribal council: Billy’s tried to sway Cristina and Cecilia in joining him and voting Ozzy out. He loses a bit of his power when he announces to Jeff that the million dollars doesn’t matter to him because he’s found true love in the game and it’s reciprocated. Billy is convinced that Candice, one of the Raro girls, is his real love-at-first-sight prize. Whoa. Jeff wants to laugh out loud. He doesn’t. J.P. says that Billy has always been shady. Cristina’s confidence in Billy is lost and he’s voted out.

What other stereotypes did you notice, dear reader? Are you rooting for anybody yet? Rooting against anybody yet?

Posted by:Daniel Fienberg