Survivor: Nicaragua is the twenty-first season of the American CBS competitive reality television series Survivor. It premiered on September 15, 2010 at 8 pm, moving to the Wednesday timeslot for the first time since Survivor: Borneo. The tribes were split into two tribes divided according to age. The season has to date produced one returning player for subsequent seasons: Brenda Lowe. Fabio Birza became the winner, defeating Chase Rice and Sash Lenahan by a vote of 5-4-0.
The season is perhaps most notorious for its twelfth Tribal Council, which featured two castaways quitting together. This incident resulted in permanent alterations to the Survivor Rulebook to discourage quitting.
The location of Nicaragua was announced at the conclusion of the finale of Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains. This season and Survivor: Redemption Island were both filmed in San Juan del Sur. Jeff Probst has stated that he and the production crew were very grateful for the natives' warm hospitality.
These are the game-changing events of the season:
- Old vs. Young: The 20 contestants will be divided up into two tribes based on their ages. The Espada tribe will feature contestants over the age of 40, and La Flor tribe will include contestants aged 30 years and younger. The producers deemed that they have a good slate of competitive older people, so they expected that the "Battle of the Ages" format will not agree to the younger tribe's sheer strength.
- Hidden Immunity Idol: Similar to Fiji, China, Tocantins, Samoa, and Heroes vs. Villains, one idol will be hidden at both tribe camps. Jeff Probst, has also announced that the Hidden Immunity Idol will be hidden differently this season. Realizing that idols have been found too easily the past two seasons (notoriously often by Russell Hantz), the clues of the idol's location will be rebus puzzles rather than textual. They dubbed it as "The Russell Factor." Both idols are usable up until the Day 36 Tribal Council.
- Medallion of Power: The two tribes will also vie for a new item, the Medallion of Power. The tribe that currently hold the Medallion will have an option to have an advantage in challenges (i.e. shortcuts, less workload etc.). They can either use it or save it until the next challenge. However, once the Medallion is utilized, regardless of whether the host tribe won or lost the challenge, they must surrender it to the rival tribe. The premise of the Medallions is to further even up the playing field for the tribes defined by age. After the tribe switch, the Medallion was retired.
- Less Physical Challenges: Aside from the Medallion of Power, challenges in this season will be more innovative and less physical, due to the Old vs. Young format. Instead of sheer strength, majority of the challenges will require teamwork to win. Jeff Probst said: "It's way less physical this season, so there will be no wrestling on the beach. Our challenge department has come up with some inventive ideas that are fair, still take skill and still take strategy. They're going to be the kind of things you think would be fun to do."
- Tribe Switch: Selected tribe members will be transferred to the rival tribe.
- Double Tribal Council: Both tribes will go to Tribal Council and will vote somebody out, with one member of both tribes possessing individual Immunity.
- Early Merge: Similar to Survivor: Samoa, the tribes will be merged with twelve people still in the game.
- Expanded Jury and Final Three: Instead of the conventional Final Two facing the jury of seven, the Day 39 Tribal Council was held with a Final Three facing a nine-person jury.
|Original Tribe||Switched Tribe||Merged Tribe|
48, Fromberg, MT
|Espada|| 1st Voted Out|
30, Lafayette, LA
Pest Control Company Owner
|La Flor|| 2nd Voted Out|
66, Islamorada, FL
Former NFL Coach
|Espada|| 3rd Voted Out|
47, Gloucester, MA
|Espada|| 4th Voted Out|
42, Inglewood, CA
|Espada||Espada|| 5th Voted Out|
26, Durham, NC
|La Flor||La Flor|| 6th Voted Out|
41, Kansas City, MO
|Espada||Espada|| 7th Voted Out|
43, Erie, PA
|Espada||La Flor|| 8th Voted Out|
23, Downey, CA
|La Flor||Espada||Libertad|| 9th Voted Out|
1st Jury Member
48, Mill Valley, CA
|Espada||La Flor|| 10th Voted Out|
2nd Jury Member
27, Miami, FL
Paddleboard Company Owner
|La Flor||La Flor|| 11th Voted Out|
3rd Jury Member
27, Los Angeles, CA
|La Flor||Espada|| Quit|
4th Jury Member
20, Mesa, AZ
|La Flor||La Flor|| Quit|
5th Jury Member
23, Los Angeles, CA
|La Flor||Espada|| 12th Voted Out|
6th Jury Member
56, Jackson Springs, NC
|Espada||La Flor|| 13th Voted Out|
7th Jury Member
63, Water Mill, NY
Real Estate Executive
|Espada||Espada|| 14th Voted Out|
8th Jury Member
44, Eureka, SD
|Espada||Espada|| 15th Voted Out|
9th Jury Member
30, New York City, NY
Real Estate Broker
|La Flor||La Flor|| Second|
24, Fairview, NC
Professional Racecar Jackman
21, Venice, CA
|La Flor||La Flor||Sole Survivor||2|
Twenty new castaways were divided into tribes by age: the younger La Flor, and the older Espada. Both tribes also vied for ownership of the newly introduced Medallion of Power, which granted them an advantage when played in challenges. At Espada, several members of the tribe such as Jimmy Johnson and Jimmy Tarantino vied for leadership as Marty Piombo stealthily built an alliance along with close ally Jill Behm.
Despite dominating in challenges, La Flor also had their own share of conflicts. Two warring alliances (one led by Shannon Elkins, and the other led by Brenda Lowe and Sash Lenahan) emerged, with both alliances vying for Chase Rice's vote. A confused Shannon lashed out at Tribal Council, making some of his alliance members and Chase to turn on him, causing his elimination instead. The remnants of Shannon's group found themselves at the mercy of the majority alliance. Not only did they have the numbers, but Brenda and NaOnka Mixon successfully found their Hidden Immunity Idol, leaving them more vulnerable. However, their supposed eliminations were put on hold, as La Flor went on to win two more Immunity Challenges.
On Day 12, a Tribe Switch caused allegiances to shift. At the new Espada, Holly Hoffman bonded with her new tribemates, and formed an alliance with them. At the new La Flor, the once-powerful Marty fell from grace, thanks to Jane Bright flipping to Brenda's alliance. Marty narrowly escaped the swapped tribe by giving Sash his Hidden Immunity Idol. On Day 19, the two tribes were merged into the Libertad tribe.
Sash and Brenda took control of Libertad, finally eliminating Marty. Seeing that Brenda was controlling the game, Holly made her move by turning everybody else on Brenda (who hoped that Sash would give her his Idol), causing her demise. Brenda's elimination, along with the voluntary exits of Kelly Shinn and NaOnka, left Sash alone and without allies. However, Sash became the swing vote and managed to find a new alliance in Holly, Chase, and Jane. After voting out the untrustworthy Benry Henry, the new formed majority alliance planned to eliminate Fabio Birza next, but he went on to win the last three Immunity Challenges, ending up in the Final Three along with Chase and Sash, who were forced to turn on Jane and Holly.
At the Final Tribal Council, Sash was ignored by the jury because of his numerous deceptions; while Chase was castigated for his indecisiveness at several points during the game. Fabio on the other hand was chastised by the other two for seemingly coasting throughout the game, but he rebutted that he did that on purpose to not hurt anybody's feelings, and still stay longer in the game. In the end, Fabio's unconventional strategy earned him the title of Sole Survivor by a 5-4-0 vote over Chase and Sash.
|Episode||Air date||Challenges||Medallion of Power|| Eliminated|
|Finish||Viewership (in millions)||Rating/Share (18-49)|
|1||"Young at Heart"||September 15, 2010|| |
| 1st Voted Out|
|2||"Fatigue Makes Cowards of Us All"||September 22, 2010|| |
| 2nd Voted Out|
|3||"Glitter in Their Eyes"||September 29, 2010|| |
|La Flor||✘|| |
| 3rd Voted Out|
|4||"Pulling the Trigger"||October 6, 2010|| |
|La Flor||✔|| |
| 4th Voted Out|
|5||"Turf Wars"||October 13, 2010|| |
| 5th Voted Out|
|6||"Worst Case Scenario"||October 20, 2010|| |
| 6th Voted Out|
| 7th Voted Out|
|7||"What Goes Around, Comes Around"||October 27, 2010||Espada||Espada|| Jill|
| 8th Voted Out|
|8||"Company Will Be Arriving Soon"||November 3, 2010||None||Jane|| Alina|
| 9th Voted Out|
1st Jury Member
|9||"Running the Camp"||November 10, 2010|| Benry, Dan,|
| 10th Voted Out|
2nd Jury Member
|10||"Stuck in the Middle"||November 17, 2010|| Chase,|
| 11th Voted Out|
3rd Jury Member
|11||"We Did It Guys"||November 24, 2010||Recap Episode||N/A||N/A|
|12||"You Started, You're Finishing"||December 1, 2010|| Benry,|
4th Jury Member
| Kelly S.|
5th Jury Member
|13||"Not Sure Where I Stand"||December 8, 2010|| Chase|
| 12th Voted Out|
6th Jury Member
|14||"This Is Going to Hurt"||December 15, 2010|| Chase|
| 13th Voted Out|
7th Jury Member
|15||"What About Me?"||December 19, 2010||None||Fabio|| Dan|
| 14th Voted Out|
8th Jury Member
| 15th Voted Out|
9th Jury Member
|Jury Vote|| Sash|
^1 Combined Reward/Immunity Challenge.
^2 Jeff tempted the winners of the Reward Challenge by offering a new supply of rice and tarp for the tribe if one of the winners chooses to give up his/her share of the reward. Furthermore, being singled out due to the odd number of players, Dan was chosen to sit out in the challenge, but if he guessed the winning team correctly, he would join them at their reward. Dan guessed the winning team correctly, winning himself reward as well.
^3 Sash used a Hidden Immunity Idol, negating 1 vote against him.
|Survivor: Nicaragua Voting History|
|Original Tribes||Switched Tribes||Merged Tribe|
|Voted out:|| |
|►►||Fabio||—||Brenda||—||—||—||Kelly B.||Kelly B.||—||Marty||Alina||Jane||Brenda||—||Holly||Jane||Dan||Holly||Jury Vote|
|►►||Dan||Wendy||—||Jimmy J.||Jimmy T.||Tyrone||—||Yve||—||Alina||Jane||Brenda||—||Fabio||Jane||Chase||Fabio|
|►►||Jane||Wendy||—||Jimmy J.||Dan||—||Marty||Marty||—||Marty||Marty||Marty||Brenda||—||Benry|| ||Chase|
|►►||Kelly S.||—||Shannon||—||—||—||Kelly B.||Kelly B.||—||Jill||Alina||Marty||Benry||Quit||Fabio|
|►►||Brenda||—||Shannon||—||—||—||Kelly B.||Kelly B.||—||Jill||Alina||Marty||NaOnka||Chase|
|►►||Marty||Wendy||—||Jimmy J.||Jimmy T.||—||Brenda||None||—||Jane||Alina||Jane||Fabio|
|►||Jill||Wendy||—||Jimmy J.||Jimmy T.||—||Brenda||Kelly B.||—||Jane|
|►||Yve||Wendy||—||Jimmy J.||Jimmy T.||NaOnka||—||Dan|
|►||Tyrone||Wendy||—||Jimmy J.||Jimmy T.||NaOnka|
|Jimmy T.||Wendy||—||Jimmy J.||Dan|
^1 Tribal Council resulted in a tie. Per the rules, a second vote was held where the castaways involved in the tie would not vote and the remaining castaways could only vote for those involved in the tie.
- This is the second season to have tribes split by age, the first being Survivor: Panama, which was divided by age and then by gender.
- This season's Tribal Council set is designed after a destroyed church, with a mock graveyard pathway where the eliminated castaways walk after being voted out.
- This was the first season since Survivor: All-Stars to feature two castaways quit in the same season.
- This season marked the first, and currently only instance in Survivor that two castaways quit at the same time.
- This season marked the second time that Jeff bribed a tribe for something after an unfortunate event at camp. The first time this happened was in Survivor: The Australian Outback, where the Barramundi tribe suffered miserably after a terrible storm, with their remaining food supply being washed up. Jeff bribed them to dismantle their shelter for a new supply of rice.
- This season has three 4-day cycles. "Company Will Be Arriving Soon", "Not Sure Where I Stand", and "This Is Going to Hurt" all covered more than 3 days.
- This season marked the second time that more than one castaway used a Hidden Immunity Idol at a single Tribal Council, being Sash and Chase.
- Original La Flor members had an etched flower design at their torches, while the original Espada had saber-like etchings on theirs.
- This was the first time that tribe names were prominently displayed on the buffs, though this would be the second time that buffs were customized for a tribe, following Survivor: All-Stars, where their buffs had their tribe insignia drawn on it.
- This is the first (and most recent overall) season since Survivor: Gabon where the difference in the jury vote was only one vote.
- It is the first season since Survivor: Cook Islands where the jury vote has been 5-4-0. There had been three seasons with a final three and nine jury members between Cook Islands and Nicaragua.
- This season marks the third all-male Final Tribal Council, following Survivor: Thailand and Survivor: Tocantins.
- This season also marks the first and only all-male Final Three.
- This is the first season to have a castaway that was born in the 1990s: Kelly Shinn.
- Composer Russ Landau had composed a new version of "Ancient Voices" for this season featuring indigenous flutes and elements of Spanish music, however the producers instead used an extended version of the original theme from Survivor: Borneo. The theme composed for Nicaragua was later released on iTunes and is known as "Survivor: Nicaragua Unapproved."
|Survivor (US) Seasons|
Borneo • The Australian Outback • Africa • Marquesas • Thailand • The Amazon • Pearl Islands • All-Stars • Vanuatu • Palau • Guatemala • Panama • Cook Islands • Fiji • China • Micronesia • Gabon • Tocantins • Samoa • Heroes vs. Villains • Nicaragua • Redemption Island • South Pacific • One World • Philippines • Caramoan • Blood vs. Water • Cagayan • San Juan del Sur • Worlds Apart • Cambodia • Kaôh Rōng • Millennials vs. Gen X • Game Changers • Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers • Ghost Island • David vs. Goliath • Edge of Extinction • Island of the Idols • Winners at War