NEW YORK – All the hubbub about the "Survivor" ethnic experiment turned out to be pretty worthless.
After only two episodes, producers merged the black, white, Asian and Latino tribes into two mixed-race gangs on the CBS reality show Thursday night. No explanation was given for the quick abandonment of segregation; it seemed to pass by so quickly as to mean nothing.
"We're back to America. We're a melting pot," said Parvati, a boxer on the new Raro tribe. "I love it."
Even before the first episode from Cook Island aired, the segregation experiment had drawn criticism. Some New York City Council members accused CBS Corp. of promoting divisiveness; the network said the tribes would eventually merge, but gave no timetable.
The show had begun the season missing a few advertisers that it had in past seasons, including General Motors, although the advertisers denied that they left because of the segregation experiment.
The average viewership of the first two episodes was essentially the same as "Survivor" last year, even up slightly, Nielsen Media Research said. An unexpectedly strong showing by ABC's "Ugly Betty" in the same time slot this week is likely to cut into "Survivor" ratings, according to the ratings company.
The two new tribes competed in a grueling challenge that seemed better designed to get prisoners of war to talk. Each person strapped on a 15-pound weight and trudged through knee-deep water around a course, with one tribe trying to catch the other. For any person who dropped out, a teammate had to carry their weight.
The Raro tribe won. For the losing Aitus, it meant more politicking than a brokered convention. No one knew or trusted each other much, so they had to feel their way into alliances.
The result was to send Cecilia packing in a 5-3 vote.
Oh, and remember last week's reject, Billy, talking about how he made a love-at-first-sight connection with another player, Candice?
She thought he was nuts, too.