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Tribal Council

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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
Appearance(s) Every season

Tribal Council refers both to the elimination ceremony that usually happens every third (though it varies) night of each cycle; and the location where such event occurs.

Every event throughout the whole episode will come into play. At the end of each Tribal Council, the tribe votes a player out from the game, sending a castaway home.


Tribal Council SetEdit

Usually situated in equal distance between all tribe camps, the Tribal Council area is somewhat 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 tree house, based on the motif of the season.


Tribal Council usually starts at sundown. If the Tribal Council was the first one for one or more players, those players must take a torch and dip it in the fire. The host will remind the castaways that:

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

This metaphor is used commonly within the show's theme. The castaways will have a chat with the host, usually talking about the events in the past few days, before they vote. While the Tribal Council clips shown on television are shortened on purpose, highlighting only the most important parts of the meeting, it has been said that Tribal Council can last about thirty minutes or two hours.

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

Tribal Council is where all of the drama and other happenings during the entire episode come into play. This is also where a player is accountable for his/her actions, which can either benefit or hurt them in the future. The host (Jeff Probst) interrogates the tribe about everything that has happened throughout the episode (about the previous challenges, camp life, work ethic, recent conflicts, and the most important topic of all, strategy). During the conversation, the host may potentially throw a castaway off-guard after a hard, embarrassing, or strategy-breaking question, leaving him/her 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). The host then tallies the votes himself 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 during Panama, Cook Islands, and Cagayan, if the player involved draws out a Hidden Immunity Idol to nullify all votes cast against him/her, thus sending the person who has the next-highest amount of votes home. Once the vote tally has exceeded the plurality needed, the host will stop tallying, pronouncing that player eliminated from the game, keeping the remaining votes in secret to the players themselves, though it appears to be imperative to the remaining contestants that the unread votes are also for the eliminated contestant. Whoever gets the highest number of votes will be eliminated from the game, where the eliminated player's torch will be extinguished (dubbed as "snuffing"). Upon their elimination, eliminated players will walk away from the Tribal Council grounds into a small confessional booth, where they can air out their grievances and reflections.

Jury PhaseEdit

See main article: Jury

During the Jury phase of the game, the flow of Tribal Council will still be the same, though the most recently eliminated players (the Jury) will also watch over the proceedings. These eliminated players are not to interact with the remaining players nor to join in with the conversation with the host (except in rare occasions such as when Paschal English fell unconscious immediately after his elimination in Marquesas, where fellow Jury member John Carroll revealed the lowdown of his condition) and James Clement (in Micronesia, who joked about Erik Reichenbach's elimination). The Jury members are only meant to watch the proceedings, while listening in to potentially vital information that will help them decide of which among the finalists will be the winner of the game.

The Final Tribal Council will be the culmination of a season. This is when the finalists will have to sell themselves to the Jury and convince them to vote for them. In this special occasion, the Sole Survivor will be voted for.

Final Tribal CouncilEdit

For more information, see Final Tribal Council.

Parts of Tribal CouncilEdit

Contestants' AreaEdit

An area where stools are placed. This is where the tribe sits while at Tribal Council. Behind them are their torches, mounted on slots in the floor.

Fire PitEdit

Common at every Tribal Council set is a fire pit. This is where the tribe gets the fire on their torches during their first Tribal Council. Also, if a fake Hidden Immunity Idol is played, the host will throw it into the fire pit.

Jury BenchEdit

When the Jury starts to form and continues to expand, they would sit opposite to the contestants' area. In some Double Tribal Councils, a tribe that has won a food reward will sit here and eat while they listen to the other tribe's Tribal Council. In the case of "the observer" from Samoa, or Bruce Kanegai's case in Survivor: Panama when he was going to join the losing tribe, they will watch from the Jury Bench as well.

Voting BoothEdit

When the host instructs the survivors to vote, they will walk across the room of Tribal Council and cross a small walkway/bridge to a separate, small booth which contains parchments, a paperweight, and a black marker pen. They will vote for a player (addressing that player by either their real name or well-known nickname) to be eliminated here and present their parchment to the camera and voice their reasons as to why, after which the vote is folded in half and placed in a small urn either to the left or right of the contestant.

After all contestants have voted, the host collects the votes upon completion and determines who is eliminated. Usually the votes are organized in a way to draw out the most suspense possible and to make it clear how the votes were distributed. For example, at a Tribal Council in which there are 10 tribe members present, if the first three votes read "player A", and the next six votes read "player B", at that point the host stops reading the votes since the majority has been reached. Even though the tenth and final vote wasn't read, it can be deduced that it was a 7-3 vote that eliminated "player B" since if the final vote was for "player A", it would have been read (there are some rare exceptions to this). In the event of a tie or a possible "null" vote (where all votes have been negated due to multiple Hidden Immunity Idols), he will order a re-vote and instruct one castaway to take the urn back to the booth and begin again.

Extinguished Torch AreaEdit

Though its location varies every season, a special area would be designated as the final resting place of the eliminated castaways' torches. They are propped according to boot order.

Tiebreaker Challenge AreaEdit

A special booth only used during a deadlock tie vote typically placed adjacent to where the Jury sit. In case of a deadlock tie at the final four, the tie-involved players will compete in a fire-starting challenge.

Notable Objects at Tribal CouncilEdit

  • Torches: Each contestant will possess a torch and must bring it every Tribal Council. The torch's fire represents each castaway's life in the game. If the torch gets snuffed by the host, they are out of the game for good. This has changed in the advent of Redemption Island, where after a contestant's torch is snuffed, they are sent to Redemption Island and are still in the game.
  • Voting Urn: This is where the votes are placed.
  • Snuffer: The host's "weapon of choice". He uses it to extinguish the castoff's torch.

Double Tribal CouncilsEdit

In recent seasons, a new twist, called Double Tribal Council, has  occurred, wherein both competing tribes will go to separate Tribal Council sessions to eliminate one of their own. This is to quickly decimate the number of remaining castaways, if the season has more than 16 castaways (since having an expanded cast breaks the conventional 3-day cycle). The first Double Tribal Council happened in Pearl Islands, to give way for the returning Outcasts. However the first time both tribes voted someone out at a Double Tribal Council was in Vanuatu

In 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, and wait until 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.

Tie votesEdit

Please see Tiebreaker.

Tribal Council-related twistsEdit

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. But unlike Cook Islands, Redemption Island and South Pacific both had an impromptu Immunity Challenge between the votes, and was 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 while at Tribal Council.
  • The castaways are told where to sit by producers at Tribal Council.
  • In Survivor: Guatemala, the Tribal Council set is an authentic Mayan temple.
  • The Survivor: Tocantins Tribal Council set was repaired several times, due to its roof being caught in fire during hot days.
  • In Survivor: Nicaragua, three Tribal Councils breached beyond the 3-day cycle. The gap between Tribal Councils of What Goes Around, Comes Around and Company Will Be Arriving Soon, You Started, You're Finishing and Not Sure Where I Stand, and Not Sure Where I Stand and This Is Going to Hurt was four days, the longest gap between Tribal Councils in consecutive episodes in the history of the series.
  • The Survivor: Thailand is one of the very few Tribal Councils to leave evidence behind.
    • The pier that the Tribal Council sits on still stands to this day for visitors to the area.
  • There are five castaways in the whole series that never visited Tribal Council: Wanda ShirkJonathan Libby, Gary Stritesky, Kourtney Moon, and Dana Lambert.
  • There are two tribes that voted someone out in Tribal Council by giving up Tribal Immunity even after winning the Immunity Challenge: Moto and Manono (Moto, however was forced to choose between keeping their luxurious camp or keeping Tribal Immunity, while Manono chose to give up Tribal Immunity without anything in exchange).
  • There are four tribes that have never visited Tribal Council: Viveros, Bayoneta, Puka Puka, and Tandang, with Tandang as the first (and currently only) tribe to never visit Tribal Council that has been successfully dissolved by the Merge.
  • In Survivor: Palau Stephenie LaGrossa visited every single Tribal Council, but attended the last five as a jury member.
  • In Survivor: Philippines, Denise Stapley visited every single Tribal Council as a contestant still in the game (i.e. never eliminated and not part of the Jury), including the Final Tribal Council on Day 39, and also the first Sole Survivor to do so.
  • Ian Rosenberger is the first contestant to be voted out outside of Tribal Council.
  • In the first few seasons of the show, the voting confessional was located rather far away from the fire pit, so that the person who was voting would be able to 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 located closer to the fire and the person voting would have to be careful not to speak too loudly to avoid being overheard.
  • The layout of the Tribal Council set for Survivor: The Australian Outback was reversed. In most seasons, the players sit opposite Jeff Probst on the left side of the fire, but in this seasons the players sat on the right. This season's Tribal Council area was also notable for being located at the top of a waterfall.

See alsoEdit


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