Exile Island
S12 Panama Exile Island CU
Survivor Gameplay
Description: A separate camp where contestants are forced to live alone, away from the tribe
Appearances: Palau (one-time)
Cook Islands
San Juan del Sur
Kaôh Rōng (one-time)
Game Changers (one-time)

If you are looking for the 12th season of Survivor, click here.
If you are looking for the 10th episode of Survivor: Palau with the same title, click here.

Exile Island is a game-changing twist used in Survivor. Exile Island is a small campsite apart from the actual tribe camps where one or two contestants will be left, banished for a predetermined period of time. Though in seclusion, the banished castaway(s) will often have a "consolation prize" such as a clue to the location of a Hidden Immunity Idol that may or may not be hidden there.



Terry banished at Exile Island in Panama.

The premise of Exile Island is simple: To force someone (though still depending if there is another twist) to live on his/her own on an uninhabited island. The logic is that the banished player will be separated from their tribe, unable to strategize and will be out of the loop until a predetermined period of time. This twist provides more emphasis on the social aspect of the game, for which players can have an open opportunity to gossip and/or to campaign the ouster of the exiled survivor. However, all these can backfire, as Exile Island provides clues to the whereabouts of a Hidden Immunity Idol, which may or may not be hidden on the island. Clues will constantly be handed in every episode, though it does not guarantee the player truly finding the Idol (especially if the Idol had already been found by someone else). This will add more mystery in the game as suspicion would arise between the castaways regarding who really has the Idol.

Usually after winning a Reward Challenge, aside from the reward itself, the winning tribe (or individual/group, if merged) will also have the power to send one person from the losing tribe/team to Exile Island.

During the pre-merge phase, if a tribe switch takes place with an odd number of castaways, the odd person out will be automatically banished to Exile Island. They will rejoin the game after the following Tribal Council, as a member of the tribe that loses a member at that Tribal Council. Not being on any tribe, they cannot compete in any challenges, nor vote or be voted out at that respective Tribal Council.

Banished players will be given a machete, a pot, and a piece of flint to fend for themselves. They will usually be reunited with their tribe in time before the next Immunity Challenge, through there are exceptions.

In Kaôh Rōng, the twist was used only once, and instead of sending the exiled to another location, the victim was simply banished to the camp of the dissolved tribe, To Tang.



A happy Janu during banishment.

The concept of Exile Island was first introduced in Survivor: Palau, when a single contestant was made to stay alone on a beach as an added stipulation for being the first bail out from an Immunity Challenge (Last Gasp). Janu Tornell was the very first exiled castaway in Survivor history. The incident was only a one-time twist. The twist later became an official part of the game in Survivor: Panama (even meriting a subtitle in the season's logo) and a number of subsequent seasons.


There have been strategies and other factors that can be considered in banishing a player over the course of the series:

  • The winning tribe can send the same person over and over again so that only that person receives the clues of the hiding place of the Hidden Immunity Idol (also potentially branding him/her a threat).
  • The winning team may potentially weaken the other tribe by sending either their strongest or weakest member.
  • Sending the losing tribe's resident food provider to exile, ensuing probable hunger and weakness to the tribe.
  • To further isolate a tribe member from its tribe so that he/she can be an easy target.
  • In the event of a combined Reward/Immunity Challenge, the winning tribe will grant individual immunity to one member of the losing tribe in the form of banishment to Exile Island. This person will be abstained from Tribal Council and cannot vote or be voted out.
  • Sending a person to Exile Island can be also a fitting revenge plan (as seen in Cook Islands, where Candice Woodcock was sent by the Aitutaki tribe to Exile Island several consecutive times in revenge for mutinying).
  • Sending the most likable person to exile can also cause demoralization of the opposing tribe.
  • Sending an ally, or in extreme cases, sending him/herself to exile to allow them to access clues of Hidden Immunity Idol (as seen in Fiji, where Yau-Man Chan sent himself to exile in order to access clues for the Hidden Immunity Idol.)

Exile Island and the Hidden Immunity Idol

Terry idol

Terry unearths the Hidden Immunity Idol.

See: Hidden Immunity Idol

Though players may feel alone and uneasy during their banishment, there is a silver lining about staying on the dreaded island - a clue to the whereabouts of a Hidden Immunity Idol that may or may not be hidden somewhere on Exile Island. But recently, Exile Island was merely reduced as a decoy; with players discovering that the Idol is hidden back at his/her tribe's camp (if the game is still in its intertribal phase, players can safely assume that there are two Idols, one hidden at each camp).

Hero Duels

First used in Survivor: San Juan del Sur, Hero Duels are Reward Challenge duels in where the castaways meet in an arena called the Hero Arena. There, each tribe must choose only one representative from their tribe to play a round of rock-paper-scissors, after which the winner will give his tribe the right to choose first which among their tribe members will compete in the challenge. The representative would then compete against a castaway from the other tribe (during Survivor: San Juan del Sur before the tribes were switched, the other tribe must choose the loved one of the representative chosen by the other tribe).

The winning castaway wins a reward for their tribe, while the losing castaway will be sent to Exile Island. In addition, the winning castaway must then choose from his own tribemates who would join the losing castaway on Exile Island.

Twist History

Survivor: Panama

In "The First Exile" (first episode of the season), all sixteen castaways were sent to the island, with the host telling them about the twist. Immediately after the revelation, the castaways were immersed into their first Reward Challenge. The losing tribe, Bayoneta, would then leave one of their own on the island. After a harrowing game of rock-paper-scissors, Misty Giles was forced to stay there. After the incident, Jeff then revealed the existence of the Hidden Immunity Idol.

On Day 4, the four tribes were integrated into two new ones. Bayoneta and Viveros were abolished, while Casaya and La Mina will house the fifteen remaining players. Bruce Kanegai was left alone due to the odd number of players. After being scared by Jeff Probst that he will be eliminated from the game, Bruce was relieved that he would instead receive free immunity, though he had to stay on Exile Island for the rest of the episode, but he will rejoin the game by joining the tribe that loses a member after the subsequent Tribal Council (under the premise that the tribes will still be even with seven members each).

For the rest of the pre-merge phase, Jeff announced that the tribe that wins a Reward Challenge would also get the power to banish any member of the rival tribe to Exile Island. During this time period, La Mina's Terry Deitz would obtain the Hidden Immunity Idol. On Day 15, the tribes competed in a combined Reward/Immunity Challenge, where it was revealed that not only would they win reward and immunity, but the winning tribe would then pick one person from the losing team and send him/her to Exile Island. Sally Schumann (La Mina's last female member) was sent there, thus forcing the existent all-male alliance to turn on each other and vote out Dan Barry.

After the merge, on Day 19, the merged tribe Gitanos was divided into three groups of three for their next Reward Challenge. The winning tribe would send two people, one member from both teams to Exile Island. Sally, Bruce, and Aras Baskauskas won the challenge, and chose Danielle DiLorenzo and Austin Carty to stay on Exile Island. Up until the final five, the same rules applied, though only one person was exiled per episode. In a precarious sitation, Terry was left alone unallied. Not only was his La Mina Alliance wiped out by the Casaya Alliance, but he was sent to Exile Island numerous times (though he still had the Idol as consolation).

On Day 34, the winner of the Reward Challenge, Aras, chose Cirie Fields to join him on the reward, while Terry and Danielle were exiled together.

In the season finale, Exile Island was retired, though the final three castaways (Aras, Danielle, and Terry) would revisit the island for the Rites of Passage ritual to celebrate their fallen tribemates, after which they headed to the venue of their Final Immunity Challenge.

Survivor: Cook Islands

Worked the same way as it did in Panama. Yul Kwon found the Hidden Immunity Idol.

Survivor: Fiji

Worked the same way as in Panama and Cook Islands, but the idols were hidden at camp. The Moto and Ravu tribes merged on Exile Island.

Survivor: Micronesia

  • Prior to the merge, two people, one from each tribe, would go to Exile Island and had the option of looking for the Hidden Immunity Idol together, or separately.
    • After the merge, only one person at a time would visit Exile Island. The idol was hidden at Exile, except on a single occasion where it was at camp.

Survivor: Gabon

  • When a person is exiled, he or she can choose to get a clue to the Hidden Immunity Idol or to stay in a shack with a bowl of fruit.

Survivor: Tocantins

  • Similar to Micronesia, two contestants (one from each tribe) would be sent to Exile Island where they would choose between two urns. One contained a clue to the Hidden Immunity Idol and the mutiny offer, while the second contained nothing.

Survivor: San Juan del Sur

  • This season was the first to use the Hero Arena, in lieu of the planned Redemption Arena, due to a last-minute change decided on by the producers, reusing the already-built set.
  • During the pre-Tribe Switch phase (where all of the castaways' loved ones were in opposing tribes), each tribe must choose a castaway that still has a loved one in the game, in which that castaway must face their loved one from the tribe to duel. On this season's Exile Island, the two castaways sent there must each choose an urn, similar to the Tocantins format, in which one contains a clue to the Hidden Immunity Idol found at their beach, and the other one containing nothing.
  • After the merge, the castaway that would be sent to Exile Island would be determined by the Reward Challenge, usually grouped by teams. The winning team picks one castaway from the losing team to be sent to Exile Island. Unlike before the merge, only one urn would be available (as there is only one castaway sent there at a time), but would guarantee it would contain an idol clue.

Survivor: Kaôh Rōng

Survivor: Game Changers

  • At the second tribe switch on Day 14, Debbie Wanner drew a package which did not contain a buff. As such, she was left without a tribe and was sent to exile. Exile turned out to be a large ship stocked with luxurious commodities ranging from juice to alcohol. Debbie lived comparatively lavishly. She was given a surprise visit by Survivor: Caramoan winner John Cochran, who acted as a sounding board with whom Debbie could discuss strategy. After offering her tips to get further in the game, Cochran presented to her an "advantage option" - Debbie could pick a fake Hidden Immunity Idol kit with which to fashion a decoy idol, an extra vote, or an advantage for her tribe in the next challenge; she chose to take the extra vote.