|“||This is part of the ritual of Tribal Council, because in this game, fire represents life. As long as you have fire, you are still in this game. When your fire's gone, so are you.||”|
Tribal Council is an elimination ceremony that usually happens every third night in the game of Survivor, where the contestants are being held accountable for their actions in the game, usually with one person being voted out of the tribe.
The Tribal Council area is designed to strike fear into the contestants, adding up to the tension of voting. Intricately designed by the Survivor Art Department, the Tribal Council area can range from looking like a makeshift hut, a temple, or an enormous stilt house, based on the theme of the season. It should be noted however that the Survivor: Palau and Survivor: Guatemala Tribal Council sets were actual archaeological sites.Tribal Council usually starts at sundown. When a tribe visits Tribal Council for the first time, its members are given torches and are to dip them in the central fire pit. The host then reminds the castaways that the fire on their torch symbolizes their life in the game, and once it is extinguished by him, their time in the game is over. This metaphor is used commonly within the show's theme. The castaways will have a conversation with the host for hours, usually edited in the actual episode to only feature the highlights, regarding camp life, strategy, social interactions, and events he witnessed at the challenges throughout the cycle. The session oftentimes leads to tension-filled discourses among tribe members, and contestants in precarious situations may reveal important information or plead their case to keep themselves in the game. If a castaway fails to give a satisfying answer to the host, the host reserves the right to test that contestant further by peppering him or her with more incriminating questions.
Once the host finishes interrogating the contestants, they, one by one, will proceed to a distant voting booth where they will write the name of the castaway they want to vote out and must state the reason why he/she wanted to vote for that player. Occasionally, these confessionals are shown on television, but to increase suspense, not all voting confessionals are aired. These confessionals can be viewed in full through CBS's YouTube account and the show's DVD releases. After voting, the players would insert their ballot inside an urn, which the host later collects. The host tallies the votes and reveals the results to the players. When the votes are read, the order that the votes are pulled has also usually been manipulated by production to extract the most suspense from the players during the tally. All votes are final and cannot be further altered; though in theory, there could have been an exemption in Survivor: Panama, Survivor: Cook Islands, Survivor: Cagayan, Survivor: Kaôh Rōng, and Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers due to the powers of a special Hidden Immunity Idol that could be used to negate votes after the deciding vote is revealed. Beginning from Survivor: Fiji, the host would ask the tribe if any one of them possesses a Hidden Immunity Idol and feels the need to use it before he reads the votes.
Once the vote tally has exceeded the plurality needed, the host stops tallying, pronouncing that player eliminated from the game, keeping the remaining votes a secret, though typically, the unread votes are implied to be for the eliminated contestant. The eliminated player presents the host his or her torch and the host extinguishes (known in the series as "snuffing") it and tells that contestant the parting words, "The tribe has spoken," before asking the player to leave the Tribal Council area. Eliminated players walk away from the Tribal Council grounds into a small confessional booth, where they can air out their grievances and reflections, which are shown during the end credits.
In rarer cases, if a starting tribe has been decimated to its last two members and no merge has been announced, these two players will compete in a fire-making challenge where the winner stays, and the loser is eliminated from the game.
Double Tribal Councils
Following the increase of contestants in some season beyond 16, Double Tribal Councils have occurred, wherein multiple tribes go to separate Tribal Council sessions to eliminate one of their own. This is to quickly reduce the number of remaining castaways since having an expanded cast breaks the conventional three day cycle. The first Double Tribal Council happened in Survivor: Pearl Islands to give way for the returning Outcasts, which by giving two players a chance to return meant that 16 vote outs had to occur this season rather than the standard 14. In Survivor: Palau, Survivor: Cook Islands, Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains, and Survivor: Nicaragua, the tribes competed in a Reward Challenge for a feast to be eaten at Tribal Council, where the winning tribe gets to listen to the losing tribe's Tribal Council. Regardless of the result of the Reward Challenge, both tribes would vote someone out. In each of those four instances, the winning tribe voted someone out first, and all included an opportunity for individual immunity either for one player on just one or both tribes.
In Survivor: Samoa, a Double Tribal Council was supposed to be slated on Day 15, but it was postponed when Russell Swan suffered severe exhaustion during the Reward Challenge, which led to his evacuation. The said challenge was called off with neither tribe winning the reward; instead, they were merely instructed to proceed to a Joint Tribal Council for further notice. But the castaways were relieved when host Jeff Probst announced that Russell's condition was getting well and that the planned double elimination was canceled due in part to his impressive tenure as "chief" of Galu.
Joint Tribal CouncilsSome seasons have held Joint Tribal Councils, wherein more than one tribe attends Tribal Council as one group. The first Joint Tribal Council occurred in Survivor: Samoa in lieu of the planned Double Tribal Council after Russell Swan was medically evacuated from the game. This occurred again in Survivor: One World after Colton Cumbie was evacuated, where it was announced that the two tribes had merged. In both cases, no elimination occurred at Tribal Council in lieu of the evacuations.
In Survivor: Game Changers and Survivor: Edge of Extinction, only the first place tribe in a particular three-tribe Immunity Challenge won immunity, while the two losing tribes were sent to a Joint Tribal Council to vote as one group, with only one player being eliminated that night.
Please see Tiebreaker.
See main article: Jury.
Final Tribal Council
For more information, see Final Tribal Council.
For more information, see Double Elimination.
In Survivor: Cook Islands, a special twist caused the Rarotonga tribe to vote another player out immediately after they had already eliminated a tribe member. During their Tribal Council, Rarotonga eliminated two tribe members in two separate voting rounds. This also occurred in Survivor: Redemption Island, Survivor: South Pacific, Survivor: Ghost Island, and Survivor: Island of the Idols.
Unlike Cook Islands, Redemption Island and South Pacific each had an impromptu Immunity Challenge between the votes, and the Tribal Councils in question were conducted after the two starting tribes had merged. In Ghost Island and Island of the Idols, a single immunity challenge was held, with the merged tribe being divided into two groups that would attend two separate Tribal Councils. Individual immunity was offered to each group in an endurance style challenge, and whoever lasted the longest overall would win their group the privilege of attending Tribal Council second, thus knowing who was voted out from the other group.
- Tribal Council sets may or may not have a roof, so in some seasons, castaways might suffer getting wet during a rainy Tribal Council.
- The castaways are told where to sit by producers at Tribal Council.
- The Survivor: Tocantins Tribal Council set was repaired several times, because the roof caught on fire during hot days.
- There are eight tribes that have never visited Tribal Council: Viveros, Bayoneta, Puka Puka, Tandang, Tavua, Yanuya, Tiva, and Kama.
- Tandang is the first and only tribe to have all of its original members enter the merge.
- Kama is the second original tribe to never visit Tribal Council and remain intact until the merge.
- Survivor: Philippines winner Denise Stapley became the first contestant to go to every single Tribal Council in a season.
- Ian Rosenberger was the first contestant to be voted out outside of Tribal Council. He was followed by Brandon Hantz.
- In the first few seasons of the show, the voting booth was located far from the fire pit so that the person who was voting could talk in a normal voice and not have to whisper, as they were not within earshot of the other players. In more recent seasons, the producers wanted to make Tribal Council feel more intimate, and therefore the voting booth was relocated closer to the fire and the person voting would have to be careful not to speak too loudly to avoid being overheard. However, some contestants, namely Crystal Cox, Randy Bailey, Jonathan Penner, Gervase Peterson, and Domenick Abbate, have deliberately stated their voting confessional audibly enough for the other players to hear.
- Prior to the show being filmed in high-definition, Tribal Council sets were lit only by the fire pit and torches. In later years, a few electric lights with red gel were installed to provide better exposure of the vicinity and the contestants.
- Red fire, which symbolically represents life, is used to light the entire Tribal Council set, except the walkway where the eliminated contestants exit, where the color of the torches is blue, which represents death and sorrow.
- Tribal Council can actually last from 45 to 90 minutes, but is edited down to the 10 minutes of it that is actually aired.
- After collecting the votes, host Jeff Probst consults with producers, who have been watching the voting confessional footage live in a production booth far away from Tribal Council. Based upon what they have seen and the actual outcome of the vote, they decide the order in which Jeff will read the votes aloud, organizing them for maximum drama and selecting which contestants' votes will be shown on television. This is why the votes Jeff reveals first are the ones viewers have already seen.
- The Survivor: Island of the Idols Tribal Council has a secret chamber where mentors, Rob Mariano and Sandra Diaz-Twine watch the proceedings.