Tribes Divided by Ethnicity is a game-shifting paradigm employed at the start of a competition that divides contestants into ethnic-specific tribes for a pre-determined amount of time. This twist has only been used in the first two episodes of Survivor: Cook Islands.
Tribes were divided up into 4 ethnic groups: Hispanic-Americans (Aitutaki: Billy, Cecilia, Cristina, JP, and Ozzy), Caucasians (Rarotonga: Adam, Candice, Jessica, Jonathan, and Parvati), Asian-Americans (Puka Puka: Becky, Brad, Cao Boi, Jenny, and Yul), and African-Americans (Manihiki: Nate, Rebecca, Sekou, Stephannie, and Sundra). The tribes would stay this way until Day 7 when both tribes were absorbed into Aitutaki and Rarotonga.
Controversial in its execution, division by ethnicity was deemed as racial segregation by many groups and sponsors. This led to companies withdrawing their products, though some of these sponsors claim that the game format change had nothing to do with their withdrawal.
- In the Survivor: Cook Islands TV Guide preview, Jeff Probst stated that 80% of contestant applicants were white.
- Although unconfirmed, it has been speculated that Survivor: Fiji would have also featured this twist had Mellisa McNulty not withdrawn at the last minute.
- This would have resulted in four tribes of five: African-Americans (Anthony, Cassandra, Dreamz, Earl, and Erica), Asian-Americans (Michelle, Mookie, Stacy, Sylvia, and Yau-Man), Caucasian-Americans (Boo, Gary, Jessica, Mellisa, and Rocky), and Hispanic-Americans (Alex, Edgardo, Liliana, Lisi, and Rita).