Ulonging is a term used to describe a circumstance when a tribe enters the merge with few members due to constantly losing Immunity Challenges. The term was coined in reference to the infamous Ulong tribe from Survivor: Palau, who failed to win a single Immunity Challenge, entering the "merge" with only one member.
This is similar to, but not the same as, Pagonging, where a tribe is picked off in succession post-merge.
Before Ulong became known for this "achievement", the Maraamu tribe in Marquesas lost five of the six Immunity Challenges and entered the merge with only three members, with only two making the jury stage. Despite this, Maraamu produced the winner of that season, Vecepia Towery.
In Palau, the infamous Ulong tribe coined this popular term by losing every single Immunity Challenge. The tribe was decimated until only one member remained, Stephenie LaGrossa. As a result, there was no official merge that season. Instead, Stephenie simply moved to Koror and the game began the individual phase. She would later be voted out at the final seven and became the third juror.
Fiji featured the infamous Haves vs. Have Nots twist, with the Moto tribe being well-fed and well-rested, while the Ravu tribe started with nothing but a pot and a machete. Predictably, this led to Moto annihilating Ravu at every single Immunity Challenge. The only time Moto had to vote somebody out was when they were forced to choose to keep immunity or lose their luxurious camp. However, of the four original Ravu members that entered the merge, one, Earl Cole, eventually won the season unanimously against two original Moto members.
Micronesia saw the post-Tribe Switch Malakal tribe lose every single Immunity Challenge up until the merge phase. Despite the Airai tribe losing Jonathan Penner and Kathy Sleckman due to a medical evacuation and quit respectively, Malakal trailed 4-6 entering the merge.
While Fang performed very badly in Gabon, losing five of the first six Immunity Challenges, the original incarnation of the tribe still managed to enter the merge in the majority due to the season's two Tribe Switches occurring at points advantageous to the tribe, allowing the original Fang to pick off most original Kota members in a post-merge pagonging. While not Ulonged in the traditional sense, their long losing streak makes them worth a mention in this article.
Samoa saw the Foa Foa tribe lose all but one Immunity Challenge to their rival Galu tribe. However, despite these drawbacks, the Foa Foa Four dominated the merge thanks to their use of Hidden Immunity Idols and their ability to appeal to certain members of the Galu Alliance. In the end, all four Foa Foas reached the final five, made up the entirety of the Final Three, and produced the winner of the season, Natalie White.
In Nicaragua, the older Espada tribe dwindled until the merge due to constant immunity losses and conflicts between its members. Like Foa Foa, the tribe entered the merge with only four members compared to the younger La Flor's eight. The last Espada, Holly Hoffman was voted out one day before the Final Tribal Council, leaving three La Flor members represented in the Final Three.
Philippines saw the Matsing tribe, a tribe that many consider being the true successor to Ulong. The tribe, plagued by failure and poor leadership, became the first tribe in Survivor history to not have a single challenge win to its name, having lost four straight Immunity Challenges before the tribe dwindled to its last two members; Denise Stapley and Malcolm Freberg. On Day 11, the tribe officially dissolved with Denise and Malcolm joining Kalabaw and Tandang respectively. After Denise joined Kalabaw, they faced a similar problem with Dana Lambert quitting due to concerns about her health, as well as losing the next two Immunity Challenges. This left only three original Kalabaws reaching the merge, all of them being male. Despite all of these drawbacks, Matsing and, by extension, Kalabaw produced the winner of the season, Denise.
In Caramoan, the Gota tribe lost nearly every Immunity Challenge except the first one and another forfeited by the rival Bikal tribe. Although Gota won every Immunity Challenge after the Tribe Switch, the numbers still dwindled as only original Gotas were eliminated and the original Bikal held the majority on both sides. Like Foa Foa and Espada, Gota would merge with only four members compared to the eight on the Bikal side. Although one Gota, Sherri Biethman, made it to the Final Three, she lost unanimously to a Bikal, John Cochran.
In Cagayan, the Luzon tribe was plagued by poor challenge showings and dysfunction at camp, leading to them losing three of four Immunity Challenges, and were reduced to a paltry three by Day 11 and was dissolved the next day. However, all three who survived the original incarnation of Luzon lasted to the merge, and each of them won individual immunity at least once.
In San Juan del Sur, the Coyopa tribe showed poor performances in challenges. They lost five out of six Immunity Challenges, and four out of five Exile Island duels. Coyopa was forced to vote out three people in a row in the beginning and was down to six members on Day 9. The Tribe Switch on Day 11 mixed up the tribes, but that did not change their losing streak. The tribe continued to lose, voting out pair Kelley Wentworth and Dale Wentworth. When the tribes merged on Day 16, there were only five original Coyopa members left compared to their rival tribe, Hunahpu, having seven.
The Ta Keo tribe in Cambodia lost a majority of its members before the merge, despite winning (or coming in second) in the majority of the tribal challenges. After voting out two of their own due to immunity losses, another two were eliminated on Angkor, Terry Deitz was evacuated two episodes later, with Woo Hwang being voted out in the same episode, leaving their tribal numbers in a 4-9 deficit heading into the merge. One original Ta Keo, Spencer Bledsoe, managed to reach the Final Three, but ended up getting no votes.
In Kaôh Rōng, the To Tang tribe put up a poor challenge performance largely blamed on Alecia Holden's weaknesses. As was the case with Luzon in Cagayan, the three members who made it to the tribe dissolve also made it to the merge, but none of them made it to the Final Tribal Council.
The Mana tribe in Game Changers suffered a fate similar to that of Ta Keo, losing the first two Immunity Challenges. After the first switch, two more were voted out by the Nuku majority. After the second switch, another two were voted out, again by the Nuku majority. By the end of the pre-merge, the Manas were down, 4-9, to the Nukus. One original Mana, Troyzan Robertson, made it to the Final Three, but he received no votes to win.
The Malolo tribe in Ghost Island lost the first two Immunity Challenges, another two after the first switch, and another one following the second switch, entering the merge with a 5-8 deficit against the original Naviti. One original Malolo, Laurel Johnson, was able to reach the Final Three, but received no votes from the jury.
In Edge of Extinction, Manu lost all but one Immunity Challenge and three Reward Challenges, before and after the switch. And the auxiliary tribe Lesu, consisting only of original Manu members, won immunity only once and never reward. Not counting the Edge of Extinction twist, the original Manu entered the merge in an 8-4 deficit over the original Kama. Despite this, Manu produced the winner of the season, Chris Underwood, who had returned from the Edge and won against two original Kama members.
- Maraamu, Ravu, Foa Foa, Matsing, and Manu all produced the winners of their respective seasons despite their terrible track record.
- Ulong (Palau), Matsing (Philippines), Luzon (Cagayan), and To Tang (Kaôh Rōng) are the only tribes to be dissolved after being Ulonged. Every other Ulonged tribe merged without being dissolved.
- The term "Matsinging" is sometimes used by fans for Matsing, Luzon, and To Tang as a subset of Ulonging in three-tribe seasons.
- The term "Ulonging" is similar to Pagonging in that both refer to the consistent eliminations of their namesake. The difference is that Ulonging refers to a tribe's members being decimated before the merge, not after. Additionally, Pagonging is a strategic move, whereas Ulonging is, in most cases, solely the result of challenge performance.