You come at me with some trash, you’re gonna get some trash.
Those were the words spoken by Ben Browning at the tribal council he would eventually be voted out in and he was right, for all of his time on Survivor Samoa, Ben Browning was trash. Recently on ABC’s the Bachelorette, there has been a lot of criticism leveled at the network for casting a pretty obvious racist as one of the love interests to the franchise’s first ever black bachelorette. While Survivor has never gone to that level, it has had some people that were questionable to ever put on, Ben Browning is one such person.
During his cast assessment for Samoa, Jeff felt that Ben could be someone really interesting if he could make it far,
That dude is a time bomb waiting to go off. Question is when. It’s gonna happen, if he lasts long enough in this game, Ben will go off, like a bottle rocket. Boom. And then the question will he recover from it? I think he’s a complicated and interesting person. I definitely want Ben to go far in this game
It would have been nice if Jeff could have been prophetic about this estimation because instead, what we got from Ben was a one-dimensional person who spewed hatred and toxicity wherever he went. Right from the get-go, the audience gets the impression that Ben will be a villainous character. He complains that Mick Trimming was made leader because as a self-proclaimed hillbilly, Ben would have been the perfect man for the job and, to give him minimal credit, Ben is the one who starts the fire for his Foa Foa tribe. That is about all the credit he will get from me.
During his short time on the island, Ben managed to pull a bunch of questionable antics. His first stupid move was kicking, or tripping as he would call it, Russell Swan from behind during the Schmergen Brawl. This was right after Jeff Probst had warned everybody that they were right on the line of playing dirty and that he would issue no other warning. Immediately upon catching Ben’s cheap shot, Jeff pulled him out of the challenge, a key moment for letting Galu winning the reward.
In Samoa, one of the twists allowed for the leader of the winning tribe to appoint someone from their side to go spy on the other up until tribal council. With Galu’s win, Russell chose to send Yasmin Giles. Certainly not a quiet person, Yasmin made sure to take the time while on Foa Foa beach to talk to Ben about his decision to tackle her hard during the challenge.
While Ben is right that it was a challenge and he was therefore game to hit whoever stood in his way, the approach that he takes with Yasmin is downright offensive. He started telling the animated Yasmin to go to grammar school because of the way she spoke, which seems to me like a racist remark. Later he would remove any doubt about the racial motives behind his words as Ben would also tell Yasmin that she is ghetto trash. If that wasn’t enough, he also tells her to go eat ketchup sandwiches because Ben assumes that since Yasmin is black, she must be poor. He once again called her ghetto trash at tribal council, this time in front of his tribemate Jaison Robinson, a black man.
Of course, Ben doesn’t let color stop his ignorance. During his short stint on the island, he also tells the women on his tribe to not even attempt to start a fire with the flint. According to Ben, it would be impossible for them because they are too weak and their hands are too small. In Ben’s world, Foa Foa would starve and die without him around even though we mostly see him sitting around and the camp seems to survive just fine. When he votes to vote out Betsy, a police officer, he mimics shooting a gun at the camera because that is the kind of classy guy Ben Browning is.
The only reason Ben is kept around by his tribe is because they see him as a tool in challenges. Logically a tall country guy like Ben would be a fairly competent physical competitor but because nothing good is allowed to come from Ben, he sucks at those too. While Foa Foa and specifically Russell Hantz wants him around to help win challenges, Ben keeps going out there and doing nothing to help his team. Of course, Russell also wants him around to continue to cause chaos because Hantz will be Hantz.
A person as unlikable as Ben is also destined to lack any modicum of self-awareness. He refers to himself constantly as an Outlaw and tries to pass himself off like a bad boy. In reality he is a weak competitor who likes to bark at those smaller than him.
All of this might even be excusable if Ben showed remorse for his words. Maybe if he admitted to losing his cool with Yasmin and apologizing, it could all be water under the bridge but instead, Ben doubles down on his beliefs. Being sane, rational and proud of his race, Jaison decides that he can’t co-exist with Ben on his tribe. Who could blame him? He just had to sit there and listen to Ben berate a woman and pull out terms with heavy racial implications to them and then pretend like it didn’t happen? As Jaison puts it, a million dollars is not worth to him the price of letting that slide and for that, Jaison deserves a whole lot of respect.
This all culminates in Jaison essentially laying down the law, “it’s me or him”. At tribal council, Jaison rips into Ben in the most articulate and professional way possible,
He is an incredibly negative force. Here’s the thing, when someone is in camp screaming and yelling at other people constantly about everything, that puts everyone in a bad mood. You’ve yelled at Ashley, you’ve yelled at Marisa. You’ve yelled at one of our guests who came. Anybody who asks you a question or tries to do something on their own, you constantly correct them and tell them that they’re doing it wrong. It’s absolutely true. 100% true.
Of course, Ben tried to jump in and ask Natalie White if what Jaison was saying is true, implying that Ben would never do any of those things but Jaison was not deterred,
Amazing that you always go to someone you think is weak. That’s what bullies do. You yell at every single girl. Talk to me.
About his specific words to Yasmin, Ben tried to argue that she was from the ghetto and that she was acting like trash. Ben did not believe that any of his words were coming from a place of racism and that he was simply calling it like he saw it. Jaison had some thoughts on that too,
You should have some sensitivity to history and historically, when certain comments are made and directed towards certain people, it is because of race. I mean, if what you’re telling me is that what you said had absolutely no racial context then maybe Yasmin was right and you are ignorant. Maybe you don’t really get it.
Boom. Roasted. Those are the final words before Ben is finally voted off Survivor: Samoa with the tribe finally realizing that he was a poison. When Russell Hantz can look at a person and realize that he is being way too antagonistic, it’s time to take a long hard look at said behaviour and that is exactly what happened with Ben. On his way out, Ben takes the usual classy road by hoping his tribe starves and calls them a bunch of sissies. Glad to see that among everything else, Ben is at least sensitive to gender biases.
Even after he was voted out and while the season was airing, Ben refused to admit any wrong doing for anything. With TV Guide, he spoke about the confrontation with Yasmin and how he saw it go it down,
I thought everyone else was just being a little too sensitive about everything. If somebody comes in to my house and tries to tell me what’s what, that just doesn’t fly. They were saying I don’t respect women? Give me a break. I’ve got a huge family, I’ve got three sisters. I was raised by girls. It’s just funny to me. You want equal treatment? I’ll give you equal treatment. It’s not like I hit a girl or anything like that. It was strictly me sticking up for my tribe and them not appreciating it.
As for his thoughts on whether he was racist,
Not at all, I just think it’s funny. I’m so not racist that it makes me laugh. Will I call somebody out? Sure. Will I try to piss somebody off by saying something? Sure. Does that make me a racist? No. It might make me a cruel and witty bastard if I can get somebody so fired up over something I say.
Ben may be right about the bastard part but I don’t think anybody would call him witty. When it comes down to it, Survivor is a game about social relationships and there are no set rules. Ben was playing the game the way he felt would work for him, he didn’t break any of the show’s rules. By stooping so low as to calling someone ghetto trash and then try to accuse Jaison of playing the race card, he crossed over the line for me and for many others. Ben always liked to claim that he never started fights but even if that were true, he was always the one to escalate them and bring very personal things out to the forefront.
At the end of the day, if you can make Russell Hantz look like a more honorable person in my eyes, you’re doing something wrong and that’s exactly how I will always remember Ben and I hope to never see him on television again.