The Sole Survivor is the title held by the winner of the reality TV show Survivor, as determined by a plurality of votes from the jury. It is the task of the jury to award the title to the castaway it believes to have most thoroughly embodied the game's three-word slogan: "Outwit, Outplay, Outlast."
On the final evening of the game, the Final Tribal Council will be held in which the finalists are subjected to questioning by the jury. The jury who may ask any questions or make any statements that they feel will help them make the best decision possible. As there is no objective definition of 'best' in this case, the methods by which castaways have won the game, and the reasons adopted by the jurors in voting for them, have varied widely throughout the history of the series.
Jury members are expected, however, to elect a winner that have credibly embodied the game's three-word motto: "Outwit, Outplay, Outlast."
Outwit: The social element; the ability to bring about one's desired strategic goals without sacrificing one's social standing or alienating other contestants emotionally. A strong candidate will remain respected while playing an efficacious game.
Outplay: The strategic element; the ability to outmaneuver other contestants and eliminate them in a manner conducive to one's own long-term success in the game. This component of the game may include alliance formation and management, execution of blindsides, use of Hidden Immunity Idols, advantages, or any other manifestation of guile, deception, or strategic command.
Outlast: The physical element; the ability to literally survive the harsh realities of the game, such as harsh weather, grueling challenges, and the overall deprivation of the necessities and luxuries. It is expected that the Sole Survivor will have not only endured the physical difficulties of the game, but indeed will have borne them with enthusiasm and grace.
It should be noted that in the game of Survivor likability and respect are not always fungible qualities. In some cases, the winner may have played a game strategically dominant enough to overcome the fact that other finalists were more likable. At other times, the opposite may be the case, where a more sociable player may win due to the quality of their character even in the presence of a more strategically "active" but socially inept competitor. It is up to the idiosyncratic interpretation of the jury to determine who has fulfilled all three elements of "Outwit, Outplay, Outlast," and it is up to each finalist to present a compelling argument in their own favor, emphasizing their strengths and eliding their weaknesses at the Final Tribal Council. Regardless the jury's reasoning behind their vote, they fundamentally choose which finalist they feel comfortable losing to.
The Sole Survivor receives a check of $1,000,000, to be received after the season finale. Earlier winners additionally received a car that is usually similar to the one given at the Reward Challenge where a car was also given, though this has been abandoned since Survivor: Cook Islands. The winner, and all contestants present in the live Reunion Show will also receive an extra $10,000 appearance fee, which immediately follows the finale broadcast. From Survivor: Panama to Survivor: Caramoan, the Sole Survivor was also eligible to win the Fan Favorite Award. All cash prizes are taxable at the U.S. rate of 35% leaving the winner $650,000.
The winner of Survivor: Winners at War will receive $2,000,000, billed as the biggest prize given in reality television history.
Nine winners have won without ever having a single vote cast against them during their winning season: Tina Wesson, Ethan Zohn, Brian Heidik, Sandra Diaz-Twine (in Pearl Islands), Tom Westman, J.T. Thomas, John Cochran, Natalie Anderson, and Nick Wilson.
Ben Driebergen has the most votes cast against any winner in a single season, with 11. This includes 9 votes that were negated by Hidden Immunity Idols.
Natalie White has the most votes cast against any female winner in a single season, with 8. This includes 3 votes cast during a revote.
The most common decision for Sole Survivor by the jury is a 4-3 vote, occurring a total of 5 times. This count does not include the 4-3-0 Final Tribal Council of Survivor: Gabon.
Nine winners voted against the person who was ultimately eliminated at every Tribal Council they voted in: Tina Wesson, Ethan Zohn, Brian Heidik, Amber Brkich, Tom Westman, Yul Kwon, Todd Herzog, Parvati Shallow, and Tony Vlachos.
Yul Kwon is the first Sole Survivor to have found a Hidden Immunity Idol.
Yul and Kim Spradlin are the only Sole Survivors to find a Hidden Immunity Idol and keep it until it expired.
Mike Holloway, Jeremy Collins, and Ben Driebergen are the only Sole Survivors to use a Hidden Immunity Idol successfully in their winning season. In addition, Sarah Lacina successfully used a Legacy Advantage to save herself.
Ben Driebergen has found and played the most Hidden Immunity Idols in a winning season, playing three idols in consecutive Tribal Councils. Two of the three were played successfully; the third was played before votes were cast.
Sarah Lacina and Nick Wilson are the only Sole Survivors to have used a variation of the Extra Vote.
In both "Fans vs. Favorites" seasons, a Favorite won.
From the four all-returning player seasons, Jeremy Collins is the only male Sole Survivor. The other three winners of all-returning player seasons were women: Amber Brkich, Sandra Diaz-Twine, and Sarah Lacina.
Tom Westman won the most challenges in a single season, with 17. Natalie Anderson and Michele Fitzgerald are tied with the most challenge wins for a female winner, with 13.
Tom Westman and Mike Holloway are tied with the most individual immunity wins out of any winner, with 5.
Jenna Morasca and Kim Spradlin are tied with the most individual immunity wins for a female winner, with 4.
Natalie White and Chris Underwood won the fewest challenges out of all Sole Survivors, with 3; in Natalie's case, none of them were from individual challenges.
Ten Sole Survivors have won without ever having won an individual Immunity Challenge: Tina Wesson, Sandra Diaz-Twine (both times), Yul Kwon, Earl Cole, Todd Herzog, Natalie White, Tony Vlachos, Sarah Lacina, Ben Driebergen, and Tommy Sheehan.
Eight winners have won the game as returnees: Amber Brkich, Parvati Shallow, Sandra Diaz-Twine, Rob Mariano, John Cochran, Tyson Apostol, Jeremy Collins, and Sarah Lacina.
All were second-timers, except Tyson (third time) and Rob (fourth time).
Seventeen Sole Survivors who have competed more than once have experienced being voted out, either prior to or after the season that each of them had won.
Voted out once: Richard Hatch, Tom Westman, Danni Boatwright, Aras Baskauskas, Yul Kwon, John Cochran, Tony Vlachos, Natalie Anderson, Jeremy Collins, Sarah Lacina, and Wendell Holland.
Voted out twice: Ethan Zohn, Sandra Diaz-Twine, Amber Mariano, Parvati Shallow, and J.T. Thomas.
Voted out thrice: Tina Wesson*, Tyson Apostol, and Rob Mariano.
Jenna Morasca is the only Sole Survivor to play multiple times and never be voted out, as she quitSurvivor: All-Stars.