The jury consists of a group of eliminated castaways (typically past the merge portion of the competition) that return to witness the remaining castaways' actions at Tribal Council. The information they take in from these visits is supposed to help them decide who to vote for to win the $1,000,000 prize and the title of Sole Survivor at the end of the game. They are usually forbidden to speak, with the exception of the Final Tribal Council, where they are allowed to address the finalists and ask them questions.
The number of castaways on the jury ranges from seven to ten depending on the season.
When Survivor jury members get voted out, they are whisked away to a camp called Ponderosa (not to be confused with the base camp where the production crew stays). The CBS website has allowed fans to see what happens behind the scenes as jury members enter the camp and re-assimilate to life in the outside world since Micronesia. Jury members stay at Ponderosa until the day after Day 39 and are transported to every Tribal Council to get a glimpse at what is happening with the remaining castaways who are still in the running. While at Ponderosa, cast-offs enjoy movies, all the food they can eat, special excursions, bedding, showers, and many other luxuries not permitted during the game of Survivor. Additionally, the contestants get a chance to ponder on who they will vote for as the winner of the show, and conversations between the jurors at Ponderosa can decide the outcome of the season.
Final Tribal Council
On Day 39, except in the case of The Australian Outback which lasted 42 days, at the Final Tribal Council, after hearing the finalists' opening words, every jury member gives their jury speech, giving a chance to ask them a question or make a comment regarding their game and the moves they made. After all jurors have spoken, the finalists give their final statements, trying to convince the jury members to vote for them. The jury then votes for a winner.
Beginning with Game Changers, a new format for the Final Tribal Council was introduced. Instead of having each jury member speak one by one, the host would now moderate an open discussion to ensure a more insightful rapport between the jury and finalists.
The jury has appeared on every season of Survivor, as a fundamental part of the game. However, some foreign versions use a viewer vote or a challenge to decide the Sole Survivor.
Despite playing the game four times, Rob Mariano has never been a member of the jury. He was voted out one cycle before the jury phase on both Marquesas and Heroes vs. Villains, and was a finalist on All-Stars and Redemption Island.
According to the revisions of the Survivor Rulebook, depending on the circumstances, a person who quits during the jury phase may or may not be included on the jury. In such a case, the jury can be comprised of fewer members than initially planned, or a Final Two may take place instead of a Final Three.