Redemption Island is a major twist that has appeared in multiple versions of Survivor.
Being the primary twist of Survivor: Redemption Island and Survivor: South Pacific, and also appearing in Survivor: Blood vs. Water, Redemption Island provides an opportunity for an eliminated player to re-enter the game and continue their pursuit to the million-dollar prize and the title of Sole Survivor. In order to do so however, eliminated contestants will compete in head-to-head challenges (known as Duels) in order to remain on the island and avoid permanent elimination.
There are two re-entry points that take place whilst Redemption Island is in play. The first is at the merge, whereupon the winner becomes part of the merged tribe, bringing the tribe to 12 (on Survivor: Redemption Island and Survivor: South Pacific) or 11 (on Survivor: Blood vs. Water) members. The second re-entry point is at the Final 4, where the returning contestant becomes the fifth member of the final five. Unlike The Outcasts, who had individual immunity bestowed upon them, those "redeemed" would re-enter the game without any safety.
The concept of Redemption Island rooted from three foreign versions of the Survivor franchise, namely, the Island of the Dead of the Israeli version, Isla Purgatoryo in the Philippine version's second installment, and Ghost Island from the Serbian version. Instead of being eliminated for good, players that have been voted off from their tribes will be given an opportunity to re-enter the game and have a second shot at winning the game.
Comparing to The Outcasts' Twist
Survivor host Jeff Probst compared Redemption Island to the infamous "Ghost tribe" twist of Survivor: Pearl Islands. He stated that the twist received lukewarm responses from both players and fans alike, because the twist was not announced beforehand, thus deeming the incident as unfair for the remaining players.
As a solution, Probst revealed the twist of Redemption Island to the players at the very start of the game. The aim of the twist is to give a second chance for players to "redeem" themselves after making early mistakes, such as choosing the wrong alliance or having their voting strategy backfire on them.
When the next person is voted out, that player would be sent to Redemption Island as well, meeting up with current inhabitant at the same night. They would then live together from that point, until the next morning, where they will duel to remain on the island.
In the first appearance of Redemption Island, the pre-merge cycle was always a one-on-one showdown. But when Redemption Island was restarted after the merge, "group duels" were used, where more than one person may win.
In Survivor: South Pacific, the twist was incorporated to only have no more than three at Redemption Island and mainly focus on two player duels as opposed to the previous seasons. Additionally, only one person could survive each round while the other contestants were eliminated.
Redemption Island was retooled for Survivor: Blood vs. Water with the potential to keep pairs in the game by giving the opportunity to switch with their significant other, negating the need to be voted off entirely and risk permanent elimination.
Similar to a predecessor twist Exile Island, players would be living alone, away from their camps and tribemates. This encampment will have meager supplies for a predetermined period of time and must fend for themselves during their stay. In Redemption Island, however, its current inhabitant will stay in a more indefinite time, as opposed to Exile Island, where the player is only banished after the Reward Challenge, but returns to his/her tribe before the next Immunity Challenge.
Upon reaching the island, contestants will have a roofless shelter and it is up to the player to make its roof and maintain it. Players will have the same amount of supplies (such as flint, lantern, machete, and fishing gear) as everyone had at their camp. Additionally, a short supply of rice will be replenished every day.
Apparently, Redemption Island also has its own Tree Mail, which announces the upcoming duels.
Redemption Island also houses an Arena where contestants compete to stay longer in the competition. Much like Tribal Council, the design is based around the motif of the season, but the same features are incorporated.
- The Duelists' Arena: Where the two (or more) castaways compete.
- Bleachers: Where players yet to be voted out observe Duels. During Survivor: Redemption Island and Survivor: South Pacific, a pair from both tribes would be chosen to watch the Duel with which they could return to their tribe giving news of the elimination and decide whether or not to disclose the truth. In Survivor: Blood vs. Water all members of both tribes attended Duels.
- Fire Pit: Upon the elimination of a castaway, their buff is tossed into a small fire which symbolizes the end of their shot at redemption in lieu of a torch.
See full article: Duel
In Redemption Island, duels determined whoever would stay in the island and who would be permanently be eliminated. On the day of the duel, the castaways would receive Tree Mail about their duel, instructing them to proceed to the Redemption Island Arena. The arena will be a special challenge area where all duels will 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 these observers if they will spoil the goings-on at the arena, or stretch the truth (in Survivor: Blood vs. Water, both tribes were in attendance due to the switch out twist)
Unlike other times when tribes convene to meet with Jeff Probst, players on Redemption Island line up in a particular order with the most recent eliminated on the right whilst the current champion(s) are to the left. In Blood vs. Water, the three person duels were in one of three colors, blue indicates the longest serving duelist, red for second longest duelist and yellow for the most recent.
In this special challenge, the winner of the duel will stay on Redemption Island and continue their quest to become the Sole Survivor, while the loser 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 off make it to the reentering stage, he/she must win all proceeding 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 vary. A three-person Duel is unofficially known as a "truel", as mentioned by Mike Chiesl, Matt Elrod, and David Murphy in a secret scene before the first three-person Duel took place.
Introduced in Survivor: Blood vs. Water, this enabled the loved one of a Redemption Island inhabitant to take their loved one's place before a duel, with the previously voted off contestant taking the place of their loved one on their tribe. The offer is made only once the day following their elimination at the arena with all players in attendance. If a swap occurs, the player receives their new buff at the start of the next Immunity Challenge thus officially gaining membership to their new tribe.
A re-entry point is the final Duel of either the pre-merge or post-merge game that permits the winner to re-enter the game. The first point is the day of the merge wherein both tribes attend to watch, once the Duel has concluded the players merge and are informed that Redemption Island will reset. The second and final point is when there are four players left in the game with two (or more) players at Redemption Island, once again, all those in-game attend to watch. On completion of the final Duel, Redemption Island is then retired with all subsequent eliminations following the traditional format.
Hidden Immunity Idols
In the advent of Redemption Island, many speculated that the Hidden Immunity Idol is voided once its bearer gets voted out and sent to Redemption Island (which follows the standard rules that once the person gets voted out, his/her Idol is wasted away in the process). Ozzy had similar thoughts, which is why he gave his Hidden Immunity Idol to Cochran before heading to Redemption Island in "Trojan Horse". However, in an announcement via Twitter, Jeff Probst revealed that the holder's Hidden Immunity Idol is still effective, and it is still usable if the owner reenters the game. If the owner were to lose a duel, the idol would be rehidden.
In Survivor: Blood vs. Water, the person who places first in each duel will give a clue to the Hidden Immunity Idol to whoever they wish. If the castaway wins a game-returning duel, the castaway may also decide to keep the clue for itself.
For the remaining contestants, eliminating other players would be a more difficult burden. Given that they would be voted out from their tribe, chances are that player they chose to vote may come back. In theory, if a player was removed from a tribe after a blindside vote, and returns after winning the final duel, a more unpredictable series of events would complicate the game. For instance, voting out a physically strong player can be potentially risky, as that player might win subsequent duels and will just come back on a later time. Also, if the contestants are chosen as observers, any divulging of the goings-on at their camps is potentially fatal, because this will be substantial to the strategies of the returnee, and worse, to the rival tribe.
As for the Island's current inhabitant, he/she can have a longer time to rethink strategy and how he/she will re-assimilate with his/her former comrades. The "resurrected" player may forgive the same people who double-crossed him/her, or might show bitterness by making bolder and more rebellious moves, to avenge his/her untimely departure, such as creating a counter-alliance with the rival tribe, though all rethinking may all be wasted if they lose a duel. Furthermore, re-assimilating back into the game will be difficult because the inhabitant is oblivious to the happenings at the tribe camps. Additionally, a "resurrected" player is not guaranteed free immunity, making him or her vulnerable from getting voted out once again, so winning immunity is crucial.
Once the Redemption Island cycle restarts post-merger, inhabitants will have the perfect time buying jury votes, gaining their sympathy as they share similar sentiments, stipulated they are all disposed from the tribe.
During the events of Survivor: South Pacific, Survivor veteran Ozzy Lusth hatched a plan in order to defeat the current champion of Redemption Island, Christine Shields Markoski; their tribe would intentionally throw an Immunity Challenge so that their strongest member would then be eliminated with the intention of defeating Markoski. This plan came to fruition, and although the Savaii Alliance believed it to be a "game-changer," Coach Wade panned the strategy - believing it to be insulting that the Upolu tribe would find it believable.
Redemption Island received mixed to negative response from the fans, stating that this deviation has watered down the show's premise and Jeff's usual opening sentence on every first Tribal Council—having lit torches symbolizes the contestants still in contention, while those who have extinguished torches are out of the game. Also, in the first two seasons this twist was in play, the Redemption Island returnees were disposed right after re-entering the game, or in Ozzy Lusth's case, the first opportunity they had in which he wasn't immune, thus having little to no effect on the endgame. Additionally, many fans found the multi-person duels pointless, because of the large amount of cast members that were still in the game during the finale (8 in Redemption Island, 6 in South Pacific, 7 in Blood vs. Water) and would be eliminated anyway. Though multi-person duels in Survivor: South Pacific were rehashed by having a "win-or-go-home" mechanism (only the first-placing contestant stays, eliminating the others), the same disadvantages of having Redemption Island still arose. Fans also castigated the "dead airtime" Redemption Island gives, with the goings-on in the Redemption Island camp and Arena having nothing to do with strategy, given that only one person stays there at a time. With little to no social interaction, the driving point of the game, human relationships, is compromised.
Other fans panned the twist because the type of challenge they would perform may have the tendency to not suit the participants' abilities, and would result into a mismatch (e.g. performing a physically-punishing challenge with a bodybuilder and a physically weak person as competitors) while others speculated that the twist would directly "save" a contestant with whom the viewing audience would prefer, such as returning contestants, or contestants who would bring high ratings for the show. It is often hinted that the twist was to keep returning players such as Coach Wade, Ozzy, Russell Hantz, and Rob Mariano longer in the game should they be blindsided early on for being too big of a threat. This suggestion holds no sustainable evidence, however, as only one returning player, Ozzy Lusth dominated Redemption Island versus any other returning player who has been sent there.
Survivor: Blood vs. Water's Redemption Island was received more positively due to the accompanying twist of switching places with a loved one and vice-versa. This has led to several strategic blindsides in hopes of gaining control of the game. However, there has been criticism of the twist still being carried during post-merge. In all the Redemption Island seasons, a vast amount of fans felt that once the jury phase began (which started as soon as the merge happened in each of those seasons) the voted off players should just be sent directly to Ponderosa instead of being in the game longer for what would realistically be a minimal chance of re-entering and ultimately winning the game.
- With the advent of the Redemption Island duels, most of the challenges held in the seasons containing Redemption Island are for both reward and immunity. There has been only one reward-only challenge in a Redemption Island season, namely the first challenge of Survivor: South Pacific, which is a one-on-one challenge between Coach and Ozzy, on behalf of their tribe.
- Francesca Hogi is the first person to ever live on Redemption Island and also the first person to lose a duel.
- Matt Elrod is the first person to win a duel, and currently has the most wins, winning ten of eleven duels.
- Matt also has the record for longest winning streak at 10 straight Redemption Island duel wins.
- Laura Morett holds the record for the most duels won by a female contestant, with six.
- Ozzy Lusth, Andrea Boehlke, and Tina Wesson share the record for best winning percentage in duels; the only other contestants to return from Redemption Island, were Matt Elrod and Laura Morett, who both were subsequently sent back post-merger and lost a duel.
- In Survivor: Redemption Island, both people who returned from Redemption Island (Matt Elrod and Andrea Boehlke) were voted out as soon as they returned.
- Duels are scaled-down versions of challenges which are used in past seasons. Additionally, the challenge props are colored in greyscale.
- For Survivor: Blood vs. Water the colors are red, blue, and yellow.
- Having the other contestants as viewers in the duels was a last-minute addition decided by Mark Burnett.
- In every season, the person who won the first duel was the second person voted out of the game.
- Thus far, every contestant to be voted out first at Tribal Council and sent to Redemption Island has been an African-American woman. (This excludes the First Impressions twist of Blood vs. Water.)
- Ozzy and Christine were the only contestants to win Redemption Island duels in Survivor: South Pacific
- Survivor: Blood vs. Water was the first season to have Redemption Island in a 20 castaway format.
- Both Exile Island and Redemption Island were first used as a season-long twist in a season number ending in a "2".
- Ozzy Lusth, Candice Cody, and Aras Baskauskas are the only castaways to experience both Exile Island and Redemption Island.
- Blood vs. Water is the first season to have multiple returning players competing in a single duel, and by extension the first season to have multiple returning players be sent to Redemption Island.
- The seasons that have Redemption Island also don't show the Rites of Passage.
- Survivor: Redemption Island did have a Rites of Passage, but was not broadcast on air.
- This twist was originally going to be used for Survivor: San Juan del Sur, but it was ultimately cut and the arena would be used for Exile Island.
- Out of all the people who have been to Redemption Island, none of them have reached the Final Tribal Council that season.
- Survivor: Redemption Island
- Survivor: South Pacific
- Survivor: Blood vs. Water
- Exile Island
- The Outcasts