The person who has earned the highest number of votes from the jury.
The Sole Survivor is the title held by the winner of the reality TV show, Survivor, determined by a plurality of votes from the jury, who decides which of the finalists best embodies the show's three word slogan: "Outwit, Outplay, Outlast."
Though there is no one absolute strategy of winning the title, as it is subjective, but to be a Sole Survivor, a contestant must survive all 39 days of competition (42 in The Australian Outback, 39.5 in Blood vs. Water and San Juan del Sur) and gain the respect of most recently eliminated contestants, a group known as the jury.
At the Final Tribal Council, the finalists are to be subjected to the jury, who would either ask questions or make a statement to help them come up with a decision as to which of the finalists is most deserving of the title of Sole Survivor and the one million dollar prize.
All Sole Survivors are known to embody the show's three-word premise:
Outwit: The strategic element; the ability to eliminate competition whether directly or indirectly, knowing what moves to make, not to make, and the timing of doing such moves. The fulfillment of this element is commonly attributed by making alliances.
Outplay: The social element; it is how a contestant carries out the "outwit" element, eliminating competition but keeping their respect such that they still give their jury votes in the end. As such, it is the job of the finalist to still sway the jury to his favor.
Outlast: The physical element; the ability to withstand the harsh realities of being a contestant for 39 days, such as harsh weather, tests of willpower, and in a certain extent, challenges. The fulfillment of this element is making it to the Final Tribal Council and facing the jury.
It should be noted that in the game of Survivor respect does not always translate into likability. In any case, a Sole Survivor has one way or another, fulfilled all three elements of Outwit, Outplay, Outlast. In Survivor: One World, the principle "perception is not always reality" is introduced by eventual winner Kim Spradlin, stating that in order to win the game, a player must match his or her "perception", or what he or she thinks is happening, with "reality", or what is actually happening.
The finalists succumb to certain pitfalls such as poor work ethic, bad challenge performances, coming off as abrasive to fellow competitors, and lack of self-awareness. As such, it is the job of the finalist to still sway the jury to their favor.
The Sole Survivor receives a check of $1,000,000, to be received after the season finale. Earlier winners additionally received a car that is usually similar to the one given at the Reward Challenge where a car was also given, though this has been abandoned since Survivor: Cook Islands. The winner, and all contestants present in the live Reunion Show will also receive an extra $10,000 appearance fee, which immediately follows the finale broadcast. Furthermore, the Sole Survivor is still eligible for winning the Fan Favorite Award. All cash prizes are taxable at the U.S. rate of 35% leaving the winner $600,000.
Coincidentally, each of them defeated a female finalist.
Tony Vlachos is currently the Sole Survivor with the most jury votes received in a Final Two, with 8.
In seasons with a Final Three and a 9-person jury, only men have won in a 5-4-0 vote (Yul Kwon and Fabio Birza), only women have won in a 6-3-0 vote (Sandra Diaz-Twine and Sophie Clarke), and only women have won in a 7-2-0 vote (Natalie White and Kim Spradlin).
Jenna Morasca and Kim Spradlin are tied with the most individual immunity wins out of all the female winners, with 4.
8 winners have won without ever having a single vote cast against them: Tina Wesson, Ethan Zohn, Brian Heidik, Sandra Diaz-Twine (in Pearl Islands), Tom Westman, J.T. Thomas, John Cochran, and Natalie Anderson.
J.T. and Cochran went on to play a "Perfect Game" and won unanimously.
7 winners have won without ever having won an individual Immunity Challenge: Tina Wesson, Sandra Diaz-Twine (in both Pearl Islands and Heroes vs. Villains), Yul Kwon, Earl Cole, Todd Herzog, Natalie White, and Tony Vlachos.
Sandra accomplished this twice, making it an eight-time occurrence.
Aras Baskauskas has the most votes cast against any winner in a single season, with 9.
Natalie White has the most votes cast against any female winner in a single season with 8 (however, this includes the 3 votes she received in the revote in “The Day of Reckoning”).
The most common decision for Sole Survivor by the jury is a 4-3 vote, occurring a total of 6 times. This includes Survivor: Gabon where Bob won in a 4-3-0 vote.
Tina Wesson is the only winner to return twice after being crowned Sole Survivor on their first attempt.
She is also the only Sole Survivor to be eliminated first on another season.
Tyson is the first, and only, contestant to win on their third season.
Rob is the first, and only, contestant to win on their fourth season.
12 Sole Survivors who had competed more than once had experienced being voted out, either prior to or after the season that each of them had won: Richard, Tina, Ethan, Amber, Tom, Aras, Parvati, J.T., Rob, Cochran, Tyson, and Jeremy.
With Natalie Anderson's win, she and Natalie White are the first two Sole Survivors to share a name.
In both Blood vs. Water seasons, winners won in their third attempt on reality shows. Tyson competed in Survivor thrice, while Natalie participated in The Amazing Race two times before winning on her first try on Survivor.
Mike Holloway and Jeremy Collins are the only Sole Survivors to use a Hidden Immunity Idol to negate a majority of votes cast against them.