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Tribal Council

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This is part of the ritual of Tribal Council because in this game fire represents life. As long as you have fire, you are still in this game. When your fire's gone, so are you.

–Jeff Probst

Tribal Council
Guatemala Tribal CouncilAn authentic Mayan ruin was the Tribal Council of Survivor: Guatemala.
Survivor Gameplay
Description: Where the tribe votes to eliminate somebody from the game.
Appearances: Every season.

Tribal Council is an elimination ceremony that usually happens every third night in the game of Survivor. This is where the contestants are being held accountable for their actions in the game.


Usually situated in equal distance between all tribe camps, the Tribal Council area is designed to strike fear into the contestants, adding up to the tension of voting. Intricately designed by the Survivor Art Department, the Tribal Council area can range from looking like a makeshift hut, a temple, or an enormous stilt house, based on the theme of the season.

Tribal Council usually starts at sundown. When a tribe visits Tribal Council for the first time, its members are given torches and are to dip them in the central fire pit. The host then reminds the castaways that the fire on their torch symbolizes their life in the game, and once it is extinguished by him, their time in the game is over. This metaphor is used commonly within the show's theme. The castaways will have a conversation with the host for hours, usually edited in the actual episode to only feature the highlights, regarding camp life, strategy, social interactions and events he witnessed at the challenges throughout the cycle. The session oftentimes lead to a tension-filled discourses among tribe members, and contestants in precarious situations may reveal important information or plead their case to keep themselves in the game. If a castaway fails to give a satisfying answer to the host, the host reserves the right to test that contestant further by peppering him or her with more questions.

The Boran tribe's first Tribal Council (Africa).

Also at Tribal Council, the host may potentially throw castaways off-guard after a hard, embarrassing, or strategy-related question, leaving them potentially vulnerable. After the long conversation with the host, the tribe members will vote one by one. The contestants will go to a distant voting booth where they will write the name of the castaway they want to vote out and must state the reason why he/she wanted to vote for that player. Occasionally, these confessionals are shown on television, but to increase suspense, not all voting confessionals are aired. These confessionals can be viewed in full through CBS's YouTube account and the show's DVD releases. After voting, the players would insert their ballot inside an urn after which the host collects. The host tallies the votes and reveals the results to the players. When the votes are read, the order that the votes are pulled has also usually been manipulated by production to extract the most suspense from the players during the tally. All votes are final and cannot be further altered; though in theory, there could have been an exemption in Survivor: Panama, Survivor: Cook Islands, and Survivor: Cagayan due to the powers of a special Hidden Immunity Idol that could be used to negate votes after the deciding vote is revealed. Beginning from Survivor: Fiji, the host would ask the tribe if any one of them possesses a Hidden Immunity Idol and feels the need to use it before he reads the votes.

Once the vote tally has exceeded the plurality needed, the host stops tallying, pronouncing that player eliminated from the game, keeping the remaining votes a secret, though typically the unread votes are also for the eliminated contestant. The eliminated player presents the host his or her torch and the host extinguishes (known in the series as "snuffing") it and tells that contestant the parting words, "The tribe has spoken," before asking the player to leave the Tribal Council area. Eliminated players walk away from the Tribal Council grounds into a small confessional booth, where they can air out their grievances and reflections, which are shown during the end credits.

In rarer cases, if a starting tribe has been decimated to its last two members and no merge has been announced, these two players will compete in a fire-making challenge where the winner stays and the loser is eliminated from the game.

Tie votes

Please see Tiebreaker.

Jury Phase

See main article: Jury.

Final Tribal Council

For more information, see Final Tribal Council.

Double Tribal Councils

In some seasons, Double Tribal Councils have occurred, wherein both tribes go to separate Tribal Council sessions to eliminate one of their own. This is to quickly reduce the number of remaining castaways, if the season has more than sixteen players since having an expanded cast breaks the conventional 3-day cycle. The first Double Tribal Council happened in Survivor: Pearl Islands to give way for the returning Outcasts. In Survivor: Palau, Survivor: Cook Islands, Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains, and Survivor: Nicaragua, a the tribes competed in a Reward Challenge for a feast to be eaten at Tribal Council, where the winning tribe gets to listen in the losing tribe's Tribal Council.

In Survivor: Samoa, a Double Tribal Council was supposed to be slated on Day 15, but was postponed when Russell Swan suffered severe exhaustion during the Reward Challenge. The said challenge was called off with neither tribe winning the reward; instead, they were just instructed to proceed to Tribal Council for further notice. But the castaways were relieved when Jeff Probst announced that Russell's condition was getting well and the planned double elimination was canceled due in part to his impressive tenure as "chief" of Galu.

Tribal Council-related twists

In Cook Islands, a special twist caused the Rarotonga tribe to vote another player out immediately after they had already eliminated a tribemate. After their Tribal Council, Rarotonga eliminated two tribe members in two separate voting rounds. This also occurred in Survivor: Redemption Island and Survivor: South Pacific.

However, unlike Cook Islands, Redemption Island and South Pacific each had an impromptu Immunity Challenge between the votes, and the Tribal Councils in question were conducted after the two starting tribes had merged.



  • Tribal Council sets may or may not have a roof, so in some seasons, castaways might suffer getting wet during a rainy Tribal Council.
  • The castaways are told where to sit by producers at Tribal Council.
  • In Survivor: Guatemala, the Tribal Council set was an actual Mayan temple.
  • The Survivor: Tocantins Tribal Council set was repaired several times, because the roof caught on fire during hot days.
  • There are four tribes that have never visited Tribal Council: Viveros, Bayoneta, Puka Puka, and Tandang, with Tandang being the first, and thus far only, tribe to have all of its original members enter the merge.
  • Survivor: Philippines winner Denise Stapley became the first contestant to go to every single Tribal Council.
  • Ian Rosenberger was the first contestant to be voted out outside of Tribal Council. He is followed by Brandon Hantz.
  • In the first few seasons of the show, the voting confessional was located far from the fire pit so that the person who was voting could talk in a normal voice and not have to whisper, as they were not within earshot of the other players. In more recent seasons, the producers wanted to make Tribal Council feel more intimate, and therefore the voting confessional was relocated closer to the fire and the person voting would have to be careful not to speak too loudly to avoid being overheard. However, some contestants, namely Crystal Cox, Randy Bailey, Jonathan Penner, and Gervase Peterson have deliberately stated their voting confessional audibly enough for the players to hear.
  • Prior to the show being filmed in high-definiton, Tribal Council sets were lit only by the fire pit and torches. In later years, a few electric lights with red gel were installed to provide better exposure of the vicinity and the contestants. It is interesting to note that red fire, which symbolically represents life, is used to light the entire Tribal Council set, except the lane where the eliminated contestants exit, where the color of the torches is blue, which represents death and sorrow.[1]
  • Tribal Council can actually last from 45 to 90 minutes, but is edited down to the 10 minutes of it that is actually aired.[2]
  • After actually collecting the votes, Jeff Probst consults with producers, who have been watching the voting confessional footage live in a production booth far away from Tribal Council. Based upon what they have seen and the actual outcome of the vote, they decide the order in which Jeff will read the votes aloud, organizing them for maximum drama and selecting which contestants' votes will be shown on TV. This is why the votes Jeff reveals first are the ones viewers have already seen.[3]

See also


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