The Island of the Idols appears to be a variation of Ghost Island where castaways may wager their vote to play a game of chance in exchange for game advantages. However, instead of a lottery, castaways will be mentored and challenged by two former Survivor winners, Rob Mariano and Sandra Diaz-Twine.
The island prominently features giant busts of Rob and Sandra. As stated in an oath recited by Rob and Sandra to each castaway sent to the island, both mentors are not competing for the million dollar prize, though they live under the same conditions as the actual contestants, albeit with better supplies and rations.
At random points in the game, castaways will be banished to the Island of the Idols, where they will be welcomed by Rob and Sandra. The mentors will teach the castaways survival skills and winning strategies. The castaway will then be given a choice to take the mentors' challenge. If a castaway accepts and passes the challenge, the mentors will award them an advantage in the game such as Hidden Immunity Idols or Extra Votes. However, if a castaway loses the challenge, the contestant loses the right to vote the next time he or she visits Tribal Council. If a castaway refuses to take the challenge, Rob and Sandra may tempt them into taking it.
Previous disadvantages imposed by Exile Island and Ghost Island such as the castaways being away from their tribe, ostensibly from its social dynamics, remain.
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|Episode||Inhabitant||Lesson||Mentors' Challenge||Advantage Offered||Result|
|Fire-making||Defeat Rob in a fire-making challenge||A Hidden Immunity Idol good for her next two Tribal Councils|
|Paying attention||Answer three* out of five questions correctly about Sandra's personal life||A Hidden Immunity Idol good for her next three* Tribal Councils|
|Staying calm under pressure||Sneak into Vokai's camp, light a torch, and sneak back to the Island of the Idols without getting caught||A Hidden Immunity Idol good for his next two Tribal Councils|
|Persuasion||Persuade her tribemates to let her be the caller in the next Immunity Challenge||Vote Blocker|
|Courage||Be able to obtain a Vote Blocker hidden at the next Immunity Challenge||Vote Blocker|
|Calculating risks||Unknown||Safety Without Power:
The castaway may choose to leave Tribal Council before the vote, being granted immunity. By leaving, however, they will not be able to vote.
|Taking false opportunities;
|Not take the hanging note with an enticing message at camp||Lost his vote just by arriving at the Island of the Idols, but was given the opportunity to sabotage another player.*|
|Situational awareness||Correctly predict the person who will win the next Immunity Challenge.*||A Hidden Immunity Idol good for her next two Tribal Councils|
|Jury management||Game of chance:
Win a coin toss
|A choice between an Extra Vote, an Idol Nullifier, and a Hidden Immunity Idol good for the following Tribal Council which could not be played on himself.*|
- Rob Mariano and Sandra Diaz-Twine are the second and third Survivor winners to return as mentors to the current group of castaways, following John Cochran who appeared in Survivor: Game Changers, though only for one episode.
- Elizabeth Beisel is the first person to be sent to the Island of the Idols.
- She is also the first person to lose the mentors' challenge.
- Kellee Kim is the first person to win the mentors' challenge.
- She is also the first person to refuse the original challenge, and then accept it when the offer is improved.
- Vince Moua is the first male to be sent to the Island of the Idols.
- He is also the first person to be sent to the Island of the Idols and be eliminated at the next Tribal Council.
- Noura Salman is the first person to volunteer to go to the Island of the Idols.
- She is also the first person to be offered an advantage other than a Hidden Immunity Idol, and the first person to be immune from the following Tribal Council after going to the Island of the Idols.
- Janet Carbin is the first person to decline the mentors' challenge.
- The statues of Rob and Sandra were so heavy, the cast of Survivor: Winners at War still saw them by the time they arrived. Island of the Idols and Winners at War were filmed two weeks apart.