"I rank that up there with one of the most compelling moments we’ve ever had on the show," Jeff Probst said

By Eric Todisco
October 31, 2019 01:59 PM

Wednesday night’s episode of Survivor: Island of the Idols featured a controversial comment that was turned into a powerful, teachable moment on television.

During the episode, Jack Nichting referred to black contestant Jamal Shipman’s buff as a “durag,” which sparked a deeper conversation between the two men about their cultural differences.

“Deep-seated. That was subconscious,” Jamal, 33, responded, explaining in a private confessional about how a lot of white people in America have a stereotypical image of black men.

Jamal explained his hurt feeling to Jack, 23, who apologized for his comment. The two men managed to hash things out in a respectful and mature way, with both listening closely to the other’s perspective.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly after the episode, host Jeff Probst called the situation “one of the most compelling moments we’ve ever had on the show.”

Jamal Shipman, Jeff Probst, and Jack Nichting
Robert Voets/CBS (3)

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“There is so much going on in this scene between Jack and Jamal,” Probst said. “For this kind of beautiful connection to happen, both sides have to be open to it. Jack was so clearly earnest in his desire to both apologize for offending Jamal and also learn from the situation.”

The TV host called Shipman’s response to his tribemate “so powerful”

“He was a teacher, he was a friend, and above all else he was a healer,” he said. “It says so much about both men. Jack is a young guy, but he handled himself with such maturity and openness. And Jamal continues to be an empathetic and rational voice despite being on the wrong side of the numbers week after week.”

“His thoughtful explanation made it easy for all of us to understand the importance of the conversation,” Probst added. “A moment that in the hands of two other people could have led to more strife or an argument or hurt feelings, but in the hands of Jamal and Jack became a real teaching moment.”

Like Probst, alumni and fans of the show applauded the exchange between Jamal and Jack on social media.

“If you’re an alumni watching #Survivor from your couch and you get mad at people for having emotions, then you better not have shed a single damn tear or raised your voice even an octave your original season,” wrote season 33 runner-up Hannah Shapiro. 

Season 37 contestant Gabby Pascuzzi wrote, “Strategy and blindsides are great, but what really makes me LOVE #Survivor is when people from different life paths are forced to live together. So impressed & moved by the conversation tonight about race and privilege. Props to the producers for not shying away from the topic.”

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“Kudos to the show for giving Jamal the opportunity to so eloquently narrate that scene,” a fan of the show wrote. “What an amazing moment – Jack was contrite, Jamal was wise & #Survivor gave it space to develop as a human moment. A strong reminder that this is a social experiment, not just mere reality TV.”

“The scene on tonight’s episode of #survivor with Jamal and Jack is one of the most respectful and concise conversations about race and privilege I’ve seen on reality TV. Kudos to the producers for leaving it in (despite impending ignorant backlash),” said another fan. 

Survivor: Island of the Idols airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.

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