The Survivor Rulebook is a contract that is to be signed by all contestants before competing in the game of Survivor. Though these rules are not explicitly revealed on television, they are to be followed by every Survivor castaway, or face expulsion with possible forfeiture of any prize money, and in rare cases, incarceration. The said set of rules are applied to the American and Philippine versions as of their latest seasons.
A copy of the rulebook was leaked by TV critic Andrew Dehnart, on the website, Reality Blurred.
While most conversations about these rules are low key both in and out of the Survivor series, this has influenced castaways to how they should act based on their signed contract, or face legal problems. Despite these limitations, there are few instances where players have tried to use them to their advantage, or, in other instances, evade them.
The rulebook is a nine-page contract signed by all castaways before being subjected into the competition. Though the rules may vary per season, and are subject to change, depending on the sole discretion of the Producer and/or if the US and/or local governments say so. The following is a summary of the terms and conditions in effect as of May 31, 2010.
Contestants are expected to abide both US and local laws.
Contestants may not bring his/her luggage at camp during filming except for one hand-held item (known on the show as Luxury Items). Also, they are only allowed to wear pre-approved clothing. In some seasons, castaways are to wear outfits that are the same color as their tribe (e.g. members of a red-colored tribe should wear clothes that have shades of red). Furthermore, prior to filming, contestants would be strip-searched.
Contestants must disclose their full medical history.
Contestants may receive meager food supplies such as small sacks of rice, beans and the like, thus expecting significant weight loss. In pre-determined cases, food will be provided as prizes in Reward Challenges.
Stealing personal items from other contestants is strictly prohibited. This includes personal clothing and Luxury Items. The Hidden Immunity Idol is considered a personal item, thus cannot be stolen from its owner.
The contestant should be responsible to his/her actions, as the Producers may not protect the contestant once he or she faces public scrutiny.
Castaways are to be videotaped and/or recorded 24/7, whether they are clothed, partially or fully nude. Additionally, contestants may talk to the cameramen, though they will not talk back.
Castaways may be divided into a predetermined number of tribes (usually two), though there have been cases where the cast was divided into three or four tribes. Castaways are expected to stay with their tribe unless a Tribe Switch or a Merge happens. They are forbidden from visiting the opposing tribes' camp.
There are parts of the series location that are "off-limits" to the tribes.
During conflicts in between castaways, they are not allowed to purposefully inflict physical harm to each other, or face disqualification and forfeiture of any consolation prize.
Castaways are to participate in challenges that can be physical and or mental. Castaways are expected at the challenge sites at all times, even those who are not participating in the challenge (known as "sit-outs").
Castaways must follow the rules stated in the instructions. The Producer always reserves the right to disqualify a castaway from a challenge if he/she fails to comply with these rules.
The Producer has the sole discretion to continue or cancel a challenge, should the need arise.
During individual challenges, assisting other castaways on the challenge is forbidden .
Similar to challenges, complete attendance of any tribe is expected at any Tribal Council, unless a castaway is sent due to twists, such as being kidnapped, sent to Exile Island, etc.
A castaway may not cast a vote against him/herself, nor immune castaways. Doing so will force the castaway in question to redo his/her vote.
The Producer has the sole discretion to increase/decrease the number of Jury members. There is a possibility that the Jury may be less than seven, depending on circumstance. Furthermore, the Jury are required to watch subsequent Tribal Councils.
If a castaway refuses to vote, he/she will either face expulsion or become ineligible for immunity at the next Tribal Council.
It only needs a plurality of votes to eliminate a castaway, not a majority.
If a tie occurs, a second vote would commence, where the people involved in the tie will be eligible for elimination (see Tiebreaker).
Castaways may be evacuated from the game for medical reasons. With this, Tribal Councils may be delayed if deemed necessary.
Castaways are responsible to report to the Producer about any situation that might compromise the safety of both the contestants and any personnel on location, such as infections and diseases.
While the aforementioned rulebook is currently in effect as of May 31, 2010, these are the rules that are added as of the latest season:
At the Survivor: NicaraguaReunion Show, it was revealed that after the controversial back-to-back quits of NaOnka Mixon and Kelly Shinn, the producers decided that starting from Survivor: Redemption Island, not only quitting is considered a violation of their contract, this would result to a contestant's exclusion to the Jury (if the quitter left the game while during the Jury phase of the game) and withholding their consolation prize.
If a tribe wishes to go to Tribal Council after winning an Immunity Challenge, they may do so, as long as this choice is an unanimous decision.
All castaways, including the winner may only collect their prizes under the discretion of the Producer, and after all episodes have been aired. The Producer may give an extra consolation prize, but is not obliged to do so.
Each castaway is liable for paying taxes or any other legal obligation that has something to do with the cash prize.
Conspiring to share winnings between castaways is strictly prohibited.
While the prize matrices for seasons with more than 16 contestants remain unknown (except for the last and runner-up placers, who would receive $2,500 and $100,000 respectively), the pay scale for a 16-player format would be:
In Survivor: The Australian Outback, Colby violated the Federal Australian law for removing coral from the Great Barrier Reef, during a reward. CBS was later fined $100,000 for the incident.
In Survivor: Marquesas, Paschal English, who was eliminated on Day 37, skipped the Day 38 Tribal Council due to him passing out immediately after his elimination. Given his situation, he was excused for being absent at the said Tribal Council.
In Survivor: Thailand, multiple members of Sook Jai were disqualified from a Reward Challenge for stepping out of the specific attack zone prescribed in the challenge.
Helen Glover was known to write a column for a local newspaper, revealing behind-the-scenes information about the show, and some production-restricted secrets within three years since Thailand finished its run. Glover's column was discontinued.
In Survivor: All-StarsRichard Hatch smuggled a set of matches between his butt cheeks. Since the incident, subsequent contestants are strip-searched prior to filming.
In Survivor: Palau, an impromptu Tribal Council was held after a challenge that ended late at night, thus having the Jury absent.
In Survivor: Cook Islands, three castaways from the Aitutaki tribe accidentally came across the Rarotonga's camp while exploring another island. They did not know beforehand that the other tribe lived on that island.
Also in Samoa, Ben Browning was pulled out from challenge due for continually inflicting unnecessary physical harm to the other contestants after several warnings from the host (i.e. intentionally tripping member of the other tribe). Note that Jeff Probst is also an Executive Producer of the US series.
Also in Samoa, Russell Swan was medically evacuated in the middle of a reward challenge due to severe low blood pressure. The challenge was cancelled with neither tribe declared as the winner.
In subsequent seasons, when a challenge has been cancelled due to a tribe being physically unable to compete, the other tribe has been declared as the winner. This was impossible in this case, as the reward would have been to sit in at the other tribe's Tribal Council, and awarding the challenge to Foa Foa would have had no effect because Swan's evacuation meant there would be no Tribal Council.
Several castaways, alliances or tribes willfully sent themselves to Tribal Council by losing Immunity Challenges on purpose, to eliminate a contestant who was either disliked or considered as a threat.
In Survivor: Caramoan, the Bikal tribe forfeited an Immunity Challenge in order to vote out Brandon Hantz. While the rulebook would normally force them to participate in the challenge, an exception was made due to Brandon's actions potentially endangering the psychological welfare of the tribe.
In Survivor: Caramoan, Phillip Sheppard was allowed by the producers to sit out of an Individual Immunity Challenge involving swimming due to his fear of water. While Phillip was not penalized, he was voted out that night as a result of not having immunity.
In Survivor: Fiji, the "Haves vs Have Nots" (also known as the "rich versus poor" twist) gave one tribe an unfair advantage by giving them luxuries uncommon in the game of Survivor such as a lavish shelter, food, cutlery, and a bed. The rival tribe was only given a machete and a pot. This predictably resulted in a lopsided pre-merge competition, in favor of the "rich" tribe. In one episode, the "rich" tribe won a Immunity Challenge with an added stipulation—a dilemma between keeping their lavish camp in exchange for immunity. Jeff Probst even showed disdain for the said twist, but was overruled by Mark Burnett.
The rule on pre-approved clothing items may likely be the reason why most recent seasons have its contestants wearing clothes that are of their tribe color (e.g. a red tribe with its members wearing red at the start of the competition).