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. In Survivor: Edge of Extinction and Survivor: Winners at War, the number of jurors was variable, as jury status on those seasons were dependent on staying on the Edge of Extinction.
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 U.S. Survivor as a fundamental part of the game. However, some foreign versions use a viewer vote or a challenge to decide the Sole Survivor.
- According to the revisions of the Survivor Rulebook, depending on the circumstances, a person who quits or is ejected 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.
- Rupert Boneham, Andrea Boehlke, Ozzy Lusth, Cirie Fields, and Joe Anglim are tied for most times on a Survivor jury, each of them appearing on three juries.
- Andrea and Joe are the only players to finish in the jury in all three seasons they participated in. They also voted for the eventual winner on each occasion.
- Despite playing four times, Sandra Diaz-Twine has never been on the jury. She was a finalist in Pearl Islands and Heroes vs. Villains, and was eliminated before the jury phase in Game Changers and Winners at War.
- The only tribe not to be represented on the jury by an original member is Aitutaki in Cook Islands.
- The jury of Redemption Island is the only jury in a season with returning players to contain only first-time contestants.
- Two-time jury members Alicia Calaway, Tom Buchanan, Lex van den Berghe, Eliza Orlins, Candice Cody, Jonathan Penner, Laura Morett, Malcolm Freberg, Abi-Maria Gomes, Ciera Eastin, Kass McQuillen, Sarah Lacina, Keith Nale, Hali Ford, Zeke Smith, Aubry Bracco, David Wright, and three-time jury members Cirie Fields, Andrea Boehlke, and Joe Anglim have all voted for the eventual Sole Survivor on every occasion they were a jury member.
- On the other hand, two-time jury members Jenna Lewis, Kathy Vavrick-O'Brien, James Clement, Sierra Dawn Thomas, Parvati Shallow, and three-time jury member Ozzy Lusth have voted for the eventual runner-up on both occasions (with Ozzy voting for the eventual runner-up twice, and voting for the eventual winner once).
- Rupert Boneham, Jeremy Collins, and Sarah Lacina are the only castaways to vote for the same person in two separate seasons: Rupert voted for Sandra Diaz-Twine on both Pearl Islands and Heroes vs. Villains, Jeremy voted for Natalie Anderson on both San Juan del Sur and Winners at War, and Sarah voted for Tony Vlachos on both Cagayan and Winners at War.
- Erik Huffman is the first juror to vote for an eventual third-place finisher. He voted for Amanda Kimmel at the Final Tribal Council of China. This would later be followed by Baylor Wilson in San Juan del Sur when she voted for her loved one, Missy Payne, and Devon Pinto in Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers when he voted for Ryan Ulrich.
- The largest jury in Survivor history is the 16-person jury of Winners at War.
- Neal Gottlieb holds the distinction of being the first castaway to be eliminated during the jury phase and not be present at the Final Tribal Council, as Michele Fitzgerald voted him off the jury on Day 38 as part of the Juror Removal twist. He would be followed by Dan Spilo, who was ejected from the game.
- Thailand, Cook Islands, Fiji, Gabon, Heroes vs. Villains, and Island of the Idols are the only seasons to have the jury phase start before the merge.
- In addition, Edge of Extinction and Winners at War had pre-merge boots on the jury, but they did not officially join the jury until after the merge.