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Tribe
Savaii tribeThe Savaii tribe of Survivor: South Pacific.
Survivor Gameplay
Description A group of individuals who compete together against another group for an extended period of time.
Appearance(s) Every season.

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.

Gender Equality

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).

Other

In some seasons, the castaways are divided into tribes with a common theme:

Starting Tribes

Tocantins

The two competing tribes of Tocantins, Timbira and Jalapao.

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.

Tribe Switch

See also: Tribe Switch.
Micronesiaswitch

The Malakal tribe of the Favorites drawing stones in preparation for the 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.

Mutiny

See also: Mutiny (twist).
Aitu

Candice turning back from Aitutaki and rejoins Rarotonga. Penner will soon follow.

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.

Tribe Dissolves

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.
  • In Cagayan, Luzon lost three of the first four Immunity Challenges, causing their numbers their numbers to drop to 3. The tribe was dissolved and the remaining fourteen castaways were shuffled between the remaining Aparri and Solana tribes. All three remaing Luzon members, Spencer Bledsoe, Tasha Fox, and Kass McQuillen, were placed on the new Aparri tribe.
  • In Worlds Apart, the "White Collar" tribe, Masaya, was dissolved and the remaining fourteen castaways were shuffled between the remaining Escameca and Nagarote tribes.
  • In Cambodia, the Angkor tribe was formed on Day 7 and then dissolved back into the remaining Ta Keo and Bayon tribes on Day 14.
  • In Kaôh Rōng, To Tang lost three of the first four Immunity Challenges, dwindling the tribe from 6 to 3. The thirteen remaining castaways were shuffled between the remaining Chan Loh and Gondol tribes. To Tang was disbanded; Cydney Gillon and Kyle Jason were placed on Chan Loh, while Scot Pollard was placed on Gondol.

Merged Tribe

See also: Merge.
S15 Hae Da Fung Flag

The newly-painted flag of the merged Hae Da Fung tribe (China).

Barramundi

The Barramundi tribe (Australia), newly merged and feasting.


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.

Ghost Tribe

Outcast

The infamous Outcast tribe of Pearl Islands.

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

Key
Bold Text Merged Tribe
Italic Text Dissolved Tribe
Underlined Text Additional Tribe
Regular Text Lasted until Merge


Survivor (U.S.) Tribe Colors Per Season
Orange Yellow/Gold Green Blue/Teal Red Magenta Purple Black Brown
Borneo Tagi Pagong Rattana
Australia Barramundi Ogakor Kucha
Africa Boran Moto Maji Samburu
Marquesas Maraamu Rotu Soliantu
Thailand Chuay Gahn Chuay Jai Sook Jai
Amazon Jaburu Tambaqui Jacaré
Pearl Islands Morgan Drake The Outcasts Balboa
All-Stars Saboga Mogo Mogo Chaboga Mogo Chapera
Vanuatu Alinta Yasur Lopevi
Palau Ulong Koror
Guatemala Nakúm Yaxhá Xhakúm
Panama La Mina Viveros Bayoneta Casaya Gitanos
Cook Islands Manihiki Puka Puka Rarotonga Aitutaki Aitutonga
Fiji Ravu Moto Bula Bula
China Zhan Hu Fei Long Hae Da Fung
Micronesia Airai Dabu Malakal
Gabon Kota Nobag Fang
Tocantins Forza Jalapao Timbira
Samoa Foa Foa Aiga Galu
Heroes vs. Villains Heroes Villains Yin Yang
Nicaragua La Flor Espada Libertad
Redemption Island Ometepe Zapatera Murlonio
South Pacific Te Tuna Upolu Savaii
One World Manono Salani Tikiano
Philippines Tandang Matsing Kalabaw Dangrayne
Caramoan Gota Enil Edam Bikal
Blood vs. Water Galang Tadhana Kasama
Cagayan Aparri Luzon Solana Solarrion
San Juan del Sur Coyopa Huyopa Hunahpu
Worlds Apart Masaya Escameca Nagarote Merica
Cambodia Orkun Angkor Ta Keo Bayon
Kaôh Rōng Gondol Chan Loh To Tang Dara

Trivia

  • 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 11 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:

References

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