|The Savaii tribe of Survivor: South Pacific.|
|Description||A group of individuals who compete together against another group for an extended period of time.|
The competing teams in Survivor are known as Tribes. Commonly, there are two tribes in a season, but there have been instances where three or four may be active at the same time. A tribe can have anywhere from four to ten contestants at the beginning of the game.
Dividing Into Tribes
Most commonly, the tribes are divided by the producers before the game begins. However, there have been exceptions.
One of the most important aspects is to make sure one sex doesn't dominate a tribe and vote out members of the opposite sex first. Earlier seasons tried to roughly distribute age and gender equally to each tribe. The usual distribution based on the number of contestants are the following:
- 16 contestants: Two tribes equally having 4 men and 4 women.
- In Survivor: Panama, the 16 players were divided into four tribes, with two tribes representing both genders and both age groups.
- 18 contestants: Two tribes of 9 with one tribe having 5 men and 4 women, while the other has the opposite, OR three tribes of 6 with 3 men and 3 women on each tribe.
- 20 contestants: Two tribes each having 5 men and 5 women, or four tribes of 5 with two tribes containing 3 men and 2 women, and the other two having the opposite.
The Schoolyard Pick
- See also: Schoolyard Pick.
Some seasons have had the tribes selected by the contestants themselves. This is known as the "Schoolyard Pick".
- In Survivor: Thailand and Survivor: Gabon, the oldest male and female castaways were told that elders were given utmost respect in the location, and it was only fitting that they were the ones who will pick their tribe members.
- Survivor: Palau and Survivor: Fiji had a schoolyard-style picking process.
- In Palau, the first pick was based on a challenge, while in Fiji, Sylvia Kwan divided the tribes because she was voted as the contestant who contributed the most to building the shelter.
The Schoolyard Style selection is not limited to just selecting starting tribes, but can be also used in a Tribe Shuffle (see below).
In some seasons, the castaways are divided into tribes with a common theme:
- In The Amazon, Vanuatu, Panama, and One World, tribes were separated by gender, known as the Battle of the Sexes twist. This creates an all-male tribe and an all-female tribe.
- In Panama, the 16 castaways were divided into four tribes of four divided by age and gender (namely, the Older Men, the Older Women, the Younger Men, and the Younger Women).
- Survivor: Cook Islands generated controversy when the 20 players were divided by ethnicity (African-American, Asian-American, Caucasian-American, and Hispanic-American).
- The castaways of Fiji created a lavish shelter using pre-cut lumber and tools. After Sylvia Kwan divided the tribes, they competed in a combined Reward/Immunity Challenge where the winning tribe wins the shelter with additional amenities, while the losing tribe will move to a new beach where they will have only a pot and a machete. This is known as the "Haves vs. Have Nots" twist.
- In Micronesia and Caramoan, 20 cast members were divided into two tribes: one tribe containing all-new players, while the other has players from past seasons, thus creating the "Fans (Airai & Gota) vs. Favorites (Malakal & Bikal)" format.
- As the name suggests, Heroes vs. Villains saw the castaways divided by how they were generally perceived in their previous season(s), placing the contestants on either the Heroes or Villains tribe.
- In Nicaragua, the tribes were divided by age.
- In Redemption Island and South Pacific, 16 contestants were already drafted into tribes, while the two returnees drew randomly to determine which returnee would be added to which tribe.
- In Philippines, the 15 new contestants were already divided into 3 tribes of 5. The 3 tribes were joined by a former evacuated contestant, Michael Skupin, Jonathan Penner, and Russell Swan, and were already put into tribes.
- In Blood vs. Water, the 20 contestants were split into two tribes. One tribe consisted of returning players (Galang) while the other tribe consisted of their loved ones (Tadhana).
- In Survivor: Cagayan and in Survivor: Kaôh Rōng, 18 new castaways were divided into three tribes of six, based on a major trait or quality which they individually possessed, namely Brawn, Brains, and Beauty.
- In Worlds Apart, the 18 new contestants were divided into three tribes of six based on their professions and approaches to life: (Blue Collar, White Collar, and No Collar).
Each Survivor season starts with 16, 18, or 20 (19 in Survivor: Fiji; unintended) contestants (dubbed as the "castaways" or "survivors") stranded in a remote location and will be left there for the next 39 days (42 in Survivor: The Australian Outback). The castaways will be then equally divided into teams "tribes". These tribes then will be sent out to separate camps identified by a colored tribe banner. Both camps are far apart from each other and they have an equal distance from the challenge areas, the production team's encampment and the Tribal Council set (example, if tribe A has a 1-mile distance from Tribal Council, so does tribe B; see the Camp article for more information). The resources of both camps (food and water) can be either equally found or compromising (example, tribe A's camp may have a better water source but finding food would be difficult, while tribe B will have the opposite). From there on out, the contestants must fend for themselves in all aspects of survival (foraging for food, creating shelter, fishing, etc.). Tribes will also be given meager supplies (with a machete, water canteens and a pot as staples), depending on the season (there are seasons that that have limited food rations, but there are some seasons that they they were given only the staples). Earlier seasons allowed castaways to have a "luxury item" (a piece of home), though some seasons pit the players into the game without preparation (merely making them competing with only the clothes they are currently wearing). In Survivor: Palau, running shoes were also provided for the contestants.
Names and Identification
Starting tribes are given unique names (based on local language, culture or history) and identifying colors which are used on tribe flags, challenge props, on-screen text and various other items. Each player is given a buff, an elastic ring of cloth generally adorned with the logo for the current season, that can be worn as an armband, headband, tube top, miniskirt, mask, or a bow tie. Players are required to wear the buff with the color of their tribe in a visible location at all times only being allowed to take their buffs off when Jeff Probst tells them to, allowing the audience to identify tribal affiliation.
- See also: Tribe Switch.
A tribe switch is the very first Survivor twist. Jeff Probst asks the contestants to drop their buffs, signaling there will be a change in the nature of the tribes. For a tribe switch, the contestants will either end up at their original tribe or they will be swapped into another. They must give up their old buff and must don a new one. If there is a switch, it occurs before the merge, commonly catching players off-guard. As seen in Survivor: All-Stars and Survivor: Gabon, the switch twist may sometimes happen even when there are only ten players left, leading the remaining players to believe that a merge is coming. The logic of the switch is that the relationships from their first tribe will be tested in their new tribe, and will create additional possibilities when the tribes finally merge. Oftentimes, players who were not successful in their original tribe use the switch as an opportunity to create new bonds, and potentially last longer in the competition.
- See also: Mutiny (twist).
The mutiny is a variation of the tribe switch. This twist allows players to change tribes at will. Like a traditional swap, the "mutineer" must surrender his/her old buff and will be given the same colored buff as his/her new tribe. The Mutiny is a rare twist, for it was unpopular among players (for this is deemed a big, bold move for many, thus doing so will be very risky). Four seasons have offered a chance to mutiny, though from those four times, the offer was accepted only once.
- In Survivor: Thailand, the first ever mutiny was offered at the Survivor Auction (another first, for Survivor Auctions are commonly held post-merge). No one accepted the offer.
- In Survivor: Pearl Islands, a mutiny was offered, but was unanimously declined and not televised.
- Survivor Cook Islands marked the only time the mutiny was accepted. Candice Woodcock, a former Raro member, felt uneasy since transferring to the Aitu tribe. When the mutiny was offered, she turned on her tribe and jumped back to her original team. Jonathan Penner followed suit, leaving Aitu with four members; Raro's numbers increased to eight.
- In Survivor: Tocantins, the mutiny was a sub-twist of Exile Island. Both banished castaways must pick one of two bottles. One bottle contains a clue of the whereabouts of the Hidden Immunity Idol and a choice to join the other camp, while the second one holds nothing. Nobody from the players who got that option accepted the offer.
- See also: Tribe Dissolve.
Another variant of the tribe switch is the "Dissolve." In seasons that have more than two starting tribes, an tribe dissolution before the merger will take place. The tribe will be permanently disbanded, spreading its old members into the other two tribes. Like in a traditional swap, the members of the dissolved tribe must surrender his/her old buff and must join his/her new tribe.
- Before the fourth Reward Challenge in All-Stars commenced, a twist was revealed that only two of the three tribes will exist after the challenge, as the losing tribe will be disbanded and absorbed by the two winning tribes. Saboga wrote Survivor history as the very first tribe to retire before the merge. Ethan Zohn and Jerri Manthey were absorbed by Mogo Mogo, while Rupert Boneham and Jenna Lewis transferred in Chapera.
- In Palau, Ulong was conquered by its rival, Koror, so its last member was transferred to the opposing tribe; this makes it the only season not to have a merge.
- In Panama and Cook Islands, two of the four tribes were disbanded, and all the players were randomly assigned to one of the two remaining tribes.
- In Philippines, Matsing lost the first four Immunity Challenges, dwindling their numbers from 6 to 2. The tribe was disbanded; Malcolm Freberg was absorbed by Tandang, and Denise Stapley by Kalabaw.
- See also: Merge.
The merged tribe is composed of the remaining members of the two starting tribes. Whereas the starting tribes are named by the producers, the new tribe will be usually named by the castaways themselves.
They will be given a new, blank tribe flag and buffs with some paint to decorate the new flag. Usually, a feast is held at the new tribe's camp to celebrate the event. The merged tribe camp is generally the better of the two former tribe camps, but in rare cases (The Australian Outback, Amazon, and Redemption Island) they will be relocated to an new beach. Reward Challenges may be still a team-based (depending on the number of remaining players), but Immunity Challenges will be conducted on a strictly individual basis.
The only ghost tribe that appeared in the show was the infamous Outcasts in Pearl Islands, where the six eliminated players returned for a second chance to play the game. This caused a mixed response from fans.
Tribe Colors Per Season
|Bold Text||Merged Tribe|
|Italic Text||Dissolved Tribe|
|Underlined Text||Additional Tribe|
|Regular Text||Lasted until Merge|
- Blue and yellow have been the most recurring tribe colors in the history of the series with 19 tribes each.
- On the other hand, brown is the least recurring, having appeared only once.
- Several tribes have had insignia's based on their tribe names (such as Foa Foa and Galu, which are Samoan words for "trumpet shell" and "ocean wave" respectively), while Manono and Salani have had particular animals represent them (regular animals include stingrays and turtles).
- Yellow starting tribes have produced the most winners, with 8, and the most finalists, with 20.
- Blue tribes have produced the most female winners, with 5.
- Orange tribes have produced the most male winners, with 5.
- Black is the most recurring merged tribe color, with 10 tribes being black.
- The only black non-merged tribe is Timbira.
- Black is the only color to appear more times as a merged tribe than it has as a starting tribe.
- Survivor: Cagayan and Survivor: San Juan del Sur are the only pair of consecutive seasons to lack a yellow tribe.
- The following seasons have had identical tribe color schemes, including the merged tribe:
- The Amazon, Guatemala, and Nicaragua
- Pearl Islands (excluding The Outcasts) and One World
- Micronesia and Caramoan
- Philippines and Worlds Apart
- In addition, Heroes vs. Villains shares its color scheme with the dissolved schemes of Cook Islands and Worlds Apart, and Redemption Island shares its color scheme with the dissolved schemes of Panama and Cagayan.