A duel is a challenge that occurs at Redemption Island between two or more contestants who have been voted out at a prior Tribal Council. The challenge format first appeared in Survivor: Redemption Island, and has since been seen in all subsequent seasons featuring Redemption Island: South Pacific and Blood vs. Water.
The challenge accommodates two to four contestants in an individual challenge. The winner(s) of the challenge remain at Redemption Island to await their next duel, or at certain points (immediately prior to a merge or before the final five Immunity Challenge), re-enter the game. The losing contestant(s) are permanently eliminated from the game, represented by the burning of their buff as they exit Redemption Island Arena.
In seasons featuring duels, Reward Challenges tend not to occur, being replaced by duels in the running time of an episode for brevity purposes, or are combined with Immunity Challenges.
At Redemption Island, duels determine who would stay on the island and who would be permanently eliminated. On the day of each duel, the castaways would receive Tree Mail instructing them to proceed to Redemption Island Arena, a special challenge area where all of the duels take place.
Upon reaching the arena, they will be welcomed by the host. Also in the arena are selected players from the competing tribes who are there to watch the duel. After the duel, it is up to the observers to decide if they will spoil the goings-on at the arena, or stretch the truth. In Blood vs. Water, all members of both tribes were in attendance due to the switch-out twist, and after the first re-entry point (the merge) of each respective season, the entire tribe attends each duel.
Unlike other times when tribes convene to meet with host Jeff Probst, players on Redemption Island line up in a particular order, typically with the most recent eliminated on the right whilst the current champion(s) are to the left. In Redemption Island and South Pacific, the challenge props were colored in greyscale, while in Blood vs. Water, they were comprised of three colors: blue indicating the longest serving duelist, red for second longest duelist, and yellow for the newest duelist.
In this special challenge, the winner(s) of the duel will stay on Redemption Island and continue their pursuit for the title of Sole Survivor, while the loser(s) will be permanently eliminated from the game (this is denoted by the loser tossing his/her buff in a fire wok). Theoretically, should the first person voted out make it to the re-entering stage, he/she must win all succeeding duels, meaning the castaway must defeat all subsequent castaways sent in the island.
In certain cases, there are more than two people residing on Redemption Island, with them participating in multi-person duels. In this format, the number of eliminated castaways varies. A three-person duel is unofficially known as a "truel", as coined by Mike Chiesl, Matt Elrod, and David Murphy in a secret scene before the first three-person duel took place. All Redemption Island duels in Blood vs. Water were of the three-person variety.
Head-to-head challenges reminiscent of duels have appeared in other seasons, but these challenges were for tribal reward, and are not considered as duels. The separate term "Hero Duel" was used to refer to the head-to-head challenges in Survivor: San Juan del Sur.
The re-entry portion of this challenge was spun off into its own challenge, the re-entry duel, in Survivor: Edge of Extinction. In addition, the second re-entry duel in that season was functionally the same as Redemption Island duels in that all remaining castaways on the Edge of Extinction competed for the right to re-enter the game, with the losing contestants all being permanently eliminated.
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Blood vs. Water
- Matt Elrod has won the most duels overall, winning 10 out of the 11 duels he competed in. He is also the first person to win a duel, and the only castaway to compete in all duels in a single season.
- Ozzy Lusth is the only contestant to return twice from Redemption Island via winning duels.