A Fake Merge is a game-changing twist, where the remaining contestants are led to believe they are merging tribes, however, in reality, they are not.
In the first four seasons of Survivor, a merge happened when there were only ten contestants remaining. In the fifth season, Survivor: Thailand, this fact left contestants assuming of its advent and prematurely devising strategies and schemes they would use once they merge, completely forgetting that the game of Survivor is always in a state of change. Introduced after two consecutive seasons with tribe switches, the fake merge became a key plot in its debut season.
It has only happened thus far in Survivor: Thailand, where the contestants met Jeff Probst, who divided the 10 remaining contestants into 5 pairs, with each pair having one member of Chuay Gahn and one member of Sook Jai. One pair was instructed to visit both tribe camps and decide which one was better. The contestants were them instructed to migrate to the Chuay Gahn camp. The ten remaining castaways already assumed that the tribes merged, and immediately created their tribe name "Chuay Jai". One Sook Jai member, Shii Ann Huang even went far as plotting with the Chuay Gahn members. The tribes met the host at the next Immunity Challenge, where he stated that the tribes were not yet merged. The two tribes only coexist with one another, but they haven't merged yet. Sook Jai lost, and they immediately disposed of Huang for her premature scheming.
The tribes eventually merged with eight castaways remaining, five from Chuay Gahn and three from Sook Jai.
Though this wasn't intentional, in the final 10, everyone was expecting a merge. But instead, they got a tribe switch. The merge came three days later.
In Survivor: Fiji, the ten remaining contestants met on Exile Island and found a box containing ten purple buffs and a note telling them that they were merged into one tribe. They all subsequently returned to the Moto camp. At the following challenge, they drew rocks to divide into two teams for the challenge. The winning team would win a barbecue feast back at camp and be exempt from attending Tribal Council. After the challenge, the losing team of Dreamz Herd, Mookie Lee, Stacy Kimball, Alex Angarita, and Michelle Yi went to Tribal Council where Michelle was voted off and became the third member of the jury.
In Survivor: Gabon, the tribes convened for what they thought was a merge. They were treated to a feast which included a clue to an Idol. Marcus Lehman convinced everyone to dig up the idol and throw it into the ocean. After the feast they read a note which revealed that there would be no merge, instead, there would be a second tribe switch.
Heroes vs. Villains
In Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains, there was no intention for an early merge or fake merge. However, the Villains tribe misunderstand their Tree Mail and thought that the Reward Challenge on Day 19 is a merge feast. The Villains even packed their whole camp to the challenge, thinking that they will merge and move to a new beach. At the Reward Challenge, Jeff Probst clarified that the tribes are not to be merged and will compete against each other as a normal challenge with the pizza feast being their reward, which would be won by the Heroes.
Other Fake Merges
In subsequent seasons, the possibility of a merge has oftentimes led to late tribe switches as a twist, thus delaying the actual merger.
The concept of two tribes living together on the same beach was later used for Survivor: One World.