Survivor is a reality television competition that first aired in 2000 and is still running strong, over 40 seasons later.


The show features a group of contestants (referred to as castaways) who must live together off of their basic survival needs in an isolated location. The contestants compete in competitions, slowly voting each other off one by one, until there is a Sole Survivor. Survivor has been filmed in remote locations all over the world and is a staple of the show, having a multitude of versions in different countries.

How It Starts

All castaways arrive at camp, commonly a tropical landscape, and are split up into tribes. The tribes must work together to survive the wild, such as building shelter and fire and finding food and water.


During the first part of the show, over the course of a few weeks, the tribes will face off against each-other in different challenges and competitions. The winning tribe will commonly earn things like shelter, food, or other comfort items, while the losing tribe must head to a Tribal Council and vote to eliminate one of the members of their tribe.


Tribal Challenges

Throughout the show, there are a series of challenges that the castaways must go through. In the beginning, these challenges are tribe vs. tribe. As mentioned above, the winning tribe will receive a reward of sorts whereas the losing tribe will take a trip to Tribal Council and vote a member of their tribe off of the show.


Tribial challenges will typically be an equal number of castaways competing against one another. If one tribe has less players, the tribe with more players will have to sit people out. 


Individual Challenges

Just like tribal challenges, an individual challenge follows the same flow but is a competition with only one castaway as a winner rather than an entire tribe. Winning an individual challenge will commonly lead to winning immunity for the upcoming Tribal Council, though castaways can win other rewards on top of that as well.


Though it is one merged tribe, there can be instances where castaways will be split into teams and participate in competitions still in a team setting.


Types of Challenges

There are many different challenges that have been featured on the show. The consistent aspect of any challenge is that the winner(s) get(s) a reward and the loser(s) must face potential elimination by vote from their fellow castaways.


The common challenges that carry across seasons include, but are not limited to:

– Long-lasting physical endurance

– Puzzle or mental challenges

– Second chance challenge, which will re-use previous challenge components

– A trivia type challenge about your tribe or fellow castaways

– A food eating challenge

– An auction, where players can bid for supplies

– A challenge where loved ones are flown out and the winner typically is rewarded by spending time with their loved one

Tribes/Tribal Council

Tribal Council

Tribal Council takes place around a campfire, a place for all castaways to convene. When you have castaways meeting at a Tribal Council, it means that there will be a vote to eliminate someone from the competition.


Castaways will take their torches with them to the tribal council. When your torch is lit, it signals that you are still alive. If you get voted off, Jeff Probst (show host) will extinguish your torch signifying the end of your life in the competition.


At each Tribal Council, there is time for discussion. Jeff will ask provocative questions and provide time for the castaways to offer their opinions as to how things have gone, who has been weakest, and discuss the past challenge. At the end of discussions, Jeff will state that it is time to vote. At that point, castaways will individually go and place their vote as to who to eliminate. Whoever receives the most tallies will be eliminated.


Once the show has made it to a certain point of the season with sufficient eliminations, a tribal jury will be present at each council. The jury is made up of the recently eliminated castaways. They are instructed to not speak and purely spectate.

If there is a tie, then castaways will typically be asked to vote for a second round; this time only for one of the castaways who tied.


Tribe Swaps

As goes any show, there are different change-ups that will get thrown at the castaways to keep things interesting. In many seasons, there will be a swap of sorts. Sometimes it is swapping players between tribes and other times a tribe will absorb another tribe entirely. All in all, it helps keep the game and the social challenges quite interesting.


Tribal Merge

Near the middle of the season, the tribes will merge and become one. The tribes must now work as one unit, and the game shifts from a tribe vs. tribe strategy to a more individualistic approach.


Final Tribal Council

When only two or three players remain in the game, there will be the Final Tribal council. In this FTC, each castaway will have a chance to defend themselves and make a public statement to all jurors about why they should be crowned Sole Survivor. The jurors then have the ability to ask questions to the castaway.

The jurors are making their vote for who they believe should win and be crowned as the Sole Survivor.


Prior to FTC, there is a fire-making competition. The castaway that wins the Final 4 individual immunity challenge is automatically invited to FTC, and they also get to choose one of the other 3 castaways to take with them to FTC (usually someone they view as weaker than them so they have a better shot of winning). The remaining 2 castaways compete in a fire-making competition, with the winner getting the last seat at FTC and the loser being eliminated and immediately joining the jury.

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Hidden Immunity Idols

Hidden immunity idols are trinkets or ornaments that tend to be pocket-sized and are hidden throughout/around camp. Clues will be provided to the castaways in a multitude of ways to help them find the idols.


Sometimes clues are told to everyone, sometimes they are part of a reward in winning a challenge, and other times they are given to those sent away to exile or redemption island. If a castaway finds a hidden idol, nobody can steal it from them, though going through someone’s things to try and find out if they have one is a strategic component to the game.


Immunity means that the castaway is safe and cannot be voted off, if played. An immunity idol can be used on yourself, used on someone else, or bartered.


There are different types of idols that have been presented and used:

– An idol where a castaway can play it at tribal council before votes are cast, meaning nobody can vote for them that week.

– An idol where a castaway can play it after the votes have been read, saving the person who was supposed to be eliminated and eliminating the person who received the second most votes.

– An idol where the castaway can play it after the votes are made but before they are read, nullifying any votes for the person who the idol was used on.



Like hidden immunity idols, the game also has advantages that can be found/earned throughout the competition. These advantages can cover a variety of perks like being able to have an extra vote at Tribal Council, the ability to steal someone else’s idol or advantage, or a leg up in an immunity challenge, etc.


Typically, the Sole Survivor will be awarded $1,000,000.


Exile Island

A tribe member will commonly get exiled after a reward challenge and before an immunity challenge.

Once selected, the castaway is sent straight away to the exiled island and is provided basic survival material. Typically, the exile will receive a clue to the hidden immunity idol.


Redemption Island

Just as it sounds, redemption island is a twist where a member who was voted off gets sent to an island where they can compete for a chance to redeem themselves and be back in the competition.