Overview of the Game :

Deprived of basic comforts, exposed to the harsh natural elements, your fate at the mercy of strangers…who would you become?

Beginning in March of 2000, for 39 days, 16 castaways will be marooned on a tropical island in the South China Sea. They will be forced to band together and carve out a new existence, using their collective wits to make surviving, without any conveniences of the modern world, a little easier.

Day by day the location and tropical sun will test the endurance of the castaways. Each three days of island life will result in a one-hour Survivor episode. The survivors must form their own cooperative island society, building shelter, gathering and catching food, and participating in contests for rewards. Those who succeed in the day-to-day challenges will be rewarded with things to make island life more bearable-simple comforts like pillows, some cold beer, and clean clothing. Those who fail must do without.

On the last day of each three-day cycle, the castaways must form a tribal council. At this meeting, each person places a secret ballot vote to send one fellow castaway home, eliminating him or her from eligibility for the one million dollars.

Week by week, one by one, the tribe shrinks until at the end of the final episode, only two survivors remain. At that point, the seven most recently eliminated castaways will return to form the final tribal council and decide who will be the final survivor, the winner of $1,000,000!

This was the opening statement from the Survivor: Borneo website on cbs.com. It describes a show idea that would take television by storm and lead to huge changes in how TV was made. Survivor is a combination of a game show and TV drama. The participants are not actors, and they are compensated based on where they finish in the game. The first person voted off, or last place finisher, earns around $2,500 for their work on the show. From there the pay scale increases until you reach the fifteenth and final person voted off of the show, second place, who makes $100,000. The winner and Sole Survivor earns $1,000,000 and also wins a car.


The most basic format of the show is that the 16 contestants are split into two groups, known as tribes, of eight people each. The tribes are evenly split down gender lines, with the members working as a team. The tribes compete in Reward Challenges where the winners receive rewards such as special food items or tools. The tribes also compete in Immunity Challenges every episode whose outcome determines which tribe is forced to go to Tribal Council. Tribal Council takes place every three days, and is where the tribe eliminates one of its members. The tribe eliminates a member by voting them out. Each person must vote for another member of the tribe, they cannot vote for themselves. The person with the most votes is required to leave the game. In cases of a tie there is another vote. If this ends in a tie, there is a tiebreaker involving chance. The host, Jeff Probst, presides over Tribal Council, asking questions of the contestants and giving his take on things that have been happening. When his questions are over, the tribe votes and the person with most votes is then eliminated from the game.

Traditionally, after six people have been voted out of the game the two tribes merge into one tribe. From the merge on, all challenges become individual rather than tribal. Once the eighth person is eliminated (or ninth place finisher), they become the first jury member. They return to Tribal Council every episode so that they can make a more informed decision at the end of the game, when they decide who wins the million dollars. The jury continues to grow with every show until the finale, when the seven member jury chooses which of the finalists they want to win the million dollars. To help make their decision, each jury member is given time to ask a question or to make a statement.

There have been many slight changes to the rules of the game since the first two seasons (Survivor: Borneo and Survivor: Outback), which followed the format above. All of the seasons follow these basic rules but every Survivor since the third season has a twist of some sort. Season three (Survivor: Africa) and four (Survivor: Marquesas) rearranged the tribes before the merge, changing the group dynamic. Season five (Survivor: Thailand) delayed the merger a few episodes, but had the competing tribes live on the same beach. The twist in season six (Survivor: Amazon) separated the tribes into male and female tribes, but then rearranged them a few episodes before the merger. Season seven (Survivor: Pearl Islands Panama) followed the classic format until the merge, when the six people who had already been voted out were formed into the "Outcast Tribe" and allowed to compete with the remaining tribes for a chance to get back into the game. The Outcast Tribe beat both teams in the challenge, and was allowed to vote two of their members back into the game, while each of the remaining tribes had to eliminate one of their own. Finally there was season eight, Survivor: All-Stars. This game brought back 18 of the most memorable and popular players from the previous seven games. The contestants were divided into three tribes of six, though the format didn't change much. One of the tribes was dissolved early on and the merge occurred when there were ten players left on the island.


Contestants may not conspire to share the prize. The million dollars may be won by one and only one individual. Survivors are prohibited from sharing or making any agreement to share all or any portion of the prize.

Contestants may not enter the production area. The area designated for the production crew is strictly off-limits to the survivors.

Contestants may not break the law. Even though they are stranded on a remote tropical island, the castaways will still be held to U.S. law, as well as local law. Any breach of those laws is against the contest rules.

Contestants may not miss a Tribal Council. Tribal Council meetings are mandatory for all castaways, and everyone is required to vote. In addition, sitting out of a challenge that requires the participation of all survivors is not allowed.

Contestants may not damage the island environment. Only designated fruits, vegetables and marine life are allowed to be harvested as food. In addition, the survivors may not leave litter or any other debris in the water or around the island, and they will be obliged to give full consideration to the ecological impact of everything they do on the island.

Also, any misconduct is against the rules, including but not limited to stealing or misappropriating food, harming other castaways or crewmembers, and acts of violence.

Survivor Seasons:

Survivor: Borneo
Survivor: Outback
Survivor: Africa
Survivor: Marquesas
Survivor: Thailand
Survivor: Amazon
Survivor: Pearl Islands Panama
Survivor: All-Star - also filmed in Panama
Survivor: Vanuatu - airing in September, 2004