Ranking the 31 Merged Tribe Names on Survivor

We had ourselves a merge this week, and with it came one of Survivor’s enduring traditions: the naming of the collection of contestants who made the merge that the show insists on pretending are a “tribe”. To mark the occasion, I thought I’d rank that name among the 30 that have come before it.

survivor-cambodia-flag-supplies

Here’s a thing you should probably know about me: I think Merged Tribe Names are stupid. I don’t mean the names themselves, although most of them are. I mean the entire idea of naming a collection of players in the individual portion of the game as a “tribe”. THEY ARE NOT A TRIBE! They are not competing against another tribe. They do not act like a tribe. Nobody is cheering them on by their tribe name. Probst does not call them by their tribe name. We don’t look back and think “that Tikiano tribe sure was something, huh?”. In order for a team to have any meaning, they need to be competing against another team. But they are not. They are all competing against each other.

All tribe names are is something to put on a flag. They aren’t even a good representation of the end of the previous tribe phase, largely because those tribal connections ALMOST ALWAYS carry over. Nobody is team “Chaboga Mogo”, they are team Cha and team Boga and team Mogo.

But I know some of you are into this sort of thing. And far be it for me, a co-host of one of the top 15 Survivor Podcasts currently on the internet, to judge anyone for being into the minutia of Survivor. So I thought, why not make a list? Who can resist a list? But as you read my choices, remember: this is a list coming from a guy who thinks the entire concept is stupid. It may influence my thinking.

31. Nobag – Gabon

Fuck you Gabon and everything about you. Haphazard strategy, haphazardly chosen tribes, haphazard casting, haphazard naming. No.

30. #Huyopa – San Juan del Sur

You might think you’re being ironic when saying hashtag this, hashtag that. You know, like the kids do. But you’re not. You want that hashtag. We see through you.

#fucksanjuandelsur

29. Hae Da Fung – China

shawn-marion-tattoo

This is the Chinese character tattoo of tribe names. They say it means “black fighting wind”, which… what? I think this is one of those scenarios where Shawn Marion gets a Chinese character tattoo he thinks means “The Matrix” (his nickname), but really means “Demon Bird Mothballs”. This is the tribe name of that.

28. Chaboga Mogo – All-Stars

The true Merged Tribe Name heads HATE the combined tribe name thing, where they force an awkward portmanteau of the previous 2-3 tribes that make up the new non-tribe. Chaboga Mogo wasn’t the first one to do this, but as the first to squish together three tribes, it is the most awkward. It also sounds like something a racist would say if he was pretending to talk in a fake aboriginal language.

27. Yin Yang – Heroes vs Villains

yin-yang-coffee-table

At some point in my lifetime, the Yin and the Yang transformed from a piece of Chinese philosophy to douchebag signifier. And that was before this season aired. The Yin Yang symbol is something you’d find on the jacket of that white guy in your office who has a samurai sword in his living room and only dates Asians. How did this come AFTER Coach was voted out? Knowing about the Yin and the Yang doesn’t make you deep. It makes you basic. So very, very basic.

26. Libertad – Nicaragua

Sounds like something FOX News calls people who think health care shouldn’t bankrupt families (or maybe what CBS producers call people who think the show should do a better job highlighting women). It’s apparently Spanish for “Liberty”, which… why? What does liberty have to do with anything? Note: this is as high as anything Nicaragua related has ever, and probably will ever, rank on our site.

25. Enil Edam – Caramoan

There comes a time when a joke stops being cute.

24. Te Tuna – South Pacific

big_tuna

Apparently from a Samoan legend about the origins of the coconut tree? I’m not sure I believe any stories about legends in seasons with Coach.

23. Forza – Tocantins

When you’re doing the ol’ “using a word from the Native language that is symbolic of something deep” thing, maybe spell it right? They were going for “strength” in Portuguese, which is apparently spelled “força”. What’s Portuguese for typo?

22. Chuay Jai – Thailand

The first of the portmanteau tribe names. Obviously a bad precedent to those who care.

21. Aiga – Samoa

galu-invisibrett

The Wiki says that Brett came up with this, meaning “extended family” in Samoan. But that can’t be right. I don’t remember a Brett in Samoa. Get your shit right, Wiki.

20. Aitutonga – Cook Islands

Some of you might think that I should have all the combo names near the bottom, but I don’t. Why? Because I respect the lack of effort. It gives the proceedings the respect it deserves.

19. Alinta – Vanuatu

They subtitled Vanuatu “Islands of Fire”. Alinta is an Aboriginal word for “people of the fire”. Appropriate, right? Sure. But it sounds so wimpy. Sounds like a cholesterol drug.

18. Dabu – Micronesia – Fans vs Favorites

#problematic
#problematic

Oh Erik, you scamp. Telling everyone it’s a Micronesian word for “good”. You sure pulled one over on them! I don’t mind the trolling; I respect it even. But in true Erik fashion, it’s a pretty limp troll. At least make your trickery mean something. Or sound cool. The flaw with the whole “I tricked everyone into this fake tribe name” bit is that I’m hoping most people are like me and DGAF. Thus, they’re like “sure, sounds great. Paint it up, ice cream scooper dude”. Note: this was the high point of Erik’s Survivor career.

17. Kasama – Blood vs Water

I’m torn. Apparently, Aras and Tyson and them wanted to name it Tightay Whitays as a shout out to RHAP. Which, cool, shout out! But… a little too cute by half, right? We may be better off with what they chose.

16. Xhakúm – Guatemala

cambodia-keith-tribe-name
Another combo name, this one is just fun to say. Bonus points for starting it with the Xh. That’s some creative thinking.

15. Soliantu – Marquesas

Rob and Kathy apparently came up with this one for “sacred allegiance to the sun”. It’s fine. Seems like a little much, but it’s fine.

14. Moto Maji – Africa

Swahili for fire and water. Which, as you may have heard, represents life on Survivor.

13. Orkun – Cambodia – Second Chance

The thought behind it is nice. Kimmi says its Khmer for “thank you”, a nice way to recognize us, the fans, who put them on the season. But then there’s that whole spelling thing again, where it seems like thank you is actually “saum arkoun anak”. So I’m not sure what to believe. Plus, there’s the He-Man/exterminator thing that most of us thought of when the episode didn’t show the explanation.

12. Tikiano – One World

Samoan for “Year of the God”. So it was nice of them to name the tribe after Kim.

11. Gitanos – Panama 

10. Jacaré – The Amazon

I'm guessing literally no one will get this reference.
I’m guessing literally no one will get this reference.

I just think they’re fun to say.

9. Solarrion – Cagayan

I think this was one of the dozens of Wu-Tang Clan offshoot groups.

8. Rattana – Borneo

019Rattata

Mark tells me this is practically a Pokemon. Couldn’t decide if that moves this up or down.

7. Murlonio – Redemption Island

So why is it when Boston Rob tricks people I rank it highly and when Erik does it I’m ambivalent. The answer is bias style. Erik was being all impish with his move, but it didn’t mean anything. Rob was trolling his fellow castaways for his own (and our) amusement. And picked something with an alternate meaning. It has the added benefit of being symbolic of the season, as it’s another example of him completely owning everyone and the whole affair turning into his own personal inside joke. (By the time Malcolm did it again, the joke was stale).

6. Bula Bula – Fiji

At first glance, this is a really stupid name. But say it out loud. Say it again. Tell me that didn’t feel good. If this were my tribe-that’s-not-a-tribe’s name, I’d be saying it so often, usually in the cadence of the above song that I’ve now stuck in your head, that they’d have to just vote my ass out.

5. Barramundi – The Australian Outback

Gotta respect the classics.

4. Balboa – Pearl Islands

It’s a little lame that they named it after Rupert’s pet snake, but if we’re keeping it 100 emoji, Rupert did a pretty good job naming his snake on theme. Rupert’s greatest skill as a Survivor contestant is staying on theme.

3. Merica – Worlds Apart

Fight me.

hali-ford-merica

Look, no one’s saying that it wasn’t stupid when they took what is usually an ironic look at the idiocy of America and earnestly made it a tribe name. It’s BECAUSE it was stupid that Merica is one of the best merged tribe names of all-time. Because, again, the entire concept of naming the group of people competing in the individual portion of the game is stupid. So go ALL THE WAY stupid. Survivor could go 60 cycles and we’ll still remember Merica. Merica is life.

2. Dangrayne – Philippines

Using the tribe naming process to bitch? That I can get behind. Originally, they wanted to name it Fuckingrayne, but production put a stop to that. I think it’s actually more clever this way.

1. Koror – Palau

Kororclaws

Here it is: the one and only time it made sense for there to be a tribe name in the post-merge tribe phase. Koror was a tribe before the merge, and stayed one after the merge. 30 other times, it was a bullshit exercise in kitsch. This time, it was a statement of complete dominance.

 

Andy
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Andy

Co-host of the Purple Rock Survivor Podcast and the Canadian of the group, Andy has been watching Survivor continuously since the very beginning and likes to treat that as some kind of virtue to lord over others.

Favourite seasons: Heroes vs Villains, Cook Islands, Palau, The Amazon, Cagayan
Favourite players: Boston Rob, Kim Spradlin, Tony Vlachos, Cirie Fields, Yul Kwon, Rob Cesternino
Andy
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  • purplerockpodcast

    They should’ve gone with Herillains for the merged tribe name in Heroes vs. Villains, just to shine a spotlight on how dumb the combo merged tribe name thing is.

    • andythesaint

      Might have to rank that second.

    • Kemper Boyd

      I am forever disappointed they didn’t just call that one “merge tribe”.

    • gouis

      Man is Yin Yang disappointing. Herillains is legitimately better.

      • purplerockpodcast

        Herillains is actually kind of amazing. If I’m ever on Survivor, that’s my back-up merge tribe name (behind Culo Pelo, which is Spanish for ass hair but sounds vaguely tribe name-y).

  • Max_Jets

    The top 2 are correctly ranked, which is all that really matters. #sanjuandelsurisaverage

    • Other Scott

      #sanjuandelsurisslightlyaboveaveragebecauseofthepostmergebutthepremergestillsucks

    • andythesaint

      #iwasmakingajokeaboutthehyprocrisyofusingahashtagwhilecriticizingthesame

  • Roswulf

    I think there is a case Merica should be higher. Dangrayne is yet another case of the players thinking they are being terribly clever (though in this case, it is at least kind of clever).

    Merica is sincere. Terribly, hillariously sincere. Plus, as a storytelling tool, Merica gave great character moments to Mike, Shirin and Hali. That’s real value!

    • jackdw97

      Merica legitimately angered me during worlds apart, but I agree – looking at this whole list, I appreciate a merge tribe name that people at least talked about.

    • andythesaint

      I was going to have Merica at 2, but then backed down. How un Merican of me.

  • Other Scott

    This is spurred on by ranking Koror number 1, but I am really ready for a non-swap two tribe season again. We haven’t seen it since South Pacific, and I think casting has gotten good enough at casting non-fodder and gameplay has advanced enough that we won’t see a post merge pagonging.

    • purplerockpodcast

      That’s a big risk, though. I’m fine with them doing whatever it takes to avoid a post merge pagonging, short of erasing the votes of players to make it happen.

  • jackdw97

    Was anyone else hoping for some kind of meta/callback name this season? Orkun is nice, but I kind of expected that a season with Stephen, Kelley, Jeremy, Spencer, etc. would have something better. (Of course, it is possible that they had ideas but didn’t feel like reminding everyone of their superfandom right at the merge. Or maybe I just got my hopes up too much.)

    • Roswulf

      I suspect your parenthetical is correct. The proper way to play it is almost certainly to enthusiastically embrace whatever blandness someone else seems excited about. There’s no benefit to hurting Kimmi’s feelings about a merged tribe name.

  • moontrt

    Dangrayne was the only one I actually remembered before Merica, so good~~

    LMAO at the tattoo. Hae Da Fung (traditional Chinese characters: 黑大風) is actually a pretty good name if you know Chinese. It has a sense of domination and evil spirit in it and it sounds funny because of its unusual combination of adjectives.

  • sharculese

    I will say this about Orkun – if you watch the secret scene, arkoun sounds much closer to what Kimmi actually said, so presumably this got diluted through a game of telephone

    • andythesaint

      I wanted a secret scene where Kimmi busts on Joe or whoever for misspelling it on the flag.

      • sharculese

        That would be awesome, but I suspect that even Kimmi has the basic level of perspective to not blow up about that.

        • andythesaint

          Not to his face. In a confessional, where the true shit-talking belongs.

  • Barbara Anderson

    Um…guys…Keith is the one to point out that everybody puts the names together. Is he slowly becoming a Survivor Historian or Know-It-All?

  • Kemper Boyd

    One of these days some genius is going to name it Merge Tribe in a foreign language. Tribo Mesclada for example.

    • andythesaint

      Then I will have a new number one.

      • Kemper Boyd

        This is what I would do pre-trip, find the word Merge in the native language and use it as the tribe name.

  • Diego Armando

    I’m stunned Merica was not number 2. That’s what I wound up naming my town in Animal Crossing.

  • Scarlett3639

    If I am ever on Survivor and make the merge I want the merge tribe name to be I’oda T’gra.

    I will admit that I got the reference.

  • corndogshuffle

    I never knew about Dangrayne. Completely agree about Merica.

    The one from Gabon is so “idgaf” that I would have been tempted to put it far closer to #1 than #31. It’s the one season I haven’t seen and I spat my drink all over the place when I read that they called themselves Nobag. Ten minutes later and I’m still laughing a bit every time I think of that name.

    • andythesaint

      I will say that I considered being nice to it because of the DGAF factor. But it’s such a bad name on its own that I couldn’t. Plus, I figured putting it last would lead to no controversy.

      I was wrong. So very, very wrong.

      • corndogshuffle

        You should know by now that any time you do anything on the internet you are inviting controversy. 🙂

        Actually I thought this was a fun exercise in pure subjectivity and anyone who could get genuinely worked up should be slapped!

        • andythesaint

          On the one hand, it’s completely ridiculous that there were people who got upset over my somewhat random ranking of words. On the other hand, we were kind of hoping for it when we linked to it on a certain site known for getting worked up over such things.

          To be fair to them, if you don’t know our traditional tone and sense of humour, this could come off as aggressive. To be unfair, it’s a fucking list of silly names.

  • Violina23

    I got your Jaqueé reference Andy… not sure what that says about me.

    And that’s about all I can contribute because I’m mostly just impressed that you found that many words to expend on tribe names. Some interesting stories though! I didn’t know that about Dangrayne… that’s awesome 😀

    • andythesaint

      I may have leaned heavily on the Wiki for some of this. After that, it was a pure writerly exercise to see if I could find things to say about words.

  • bder19

    I’d love to convince 11 other people to name a tribe Korrasami. Would the joke still be stale then?

  • sharculese

    FUCK YOU, GABON