Now that Survivor is back in full force, many of us need a refresher on all of its different aspects. New twists, strategies, and types of challenges have flipped Survivor on its head and made us forget about some of the show's classic elements. But we can’t ignore the jury — one of the essential parts of Survivor since its inception.
Throughout the game, players are constantly contemplating how their moves will be received by the jury. For many contestants, making it to the jury is a mark of a relatively successful game.
Plus, being a member of the jury gives a contestant a greater chance of getting asked to come back as a returning player. But what exactly does the jury do, both in terms of the game and while they’re off-screen?
The members of the jury in ‘Survivor’ decide the fate of the game.
As the jury does in a court case, the members of the Survivor jury are essential in deciding the outcome of the game. But in Survivor, there’s no judge. Thus, it all comes down to the jury (which typically consists of the castaways voted out post-merge) to decide who wins.
In its early seasons, two finalists had to convince the jury that they were worthy of the title of Sole Survivor. As the series progressed, later seasons began to finish off with three finalists instead of two.
Originally, each member used to pose an individual question or statement to the finalists, which is how we got the famous “rat and snake” speech in Season 1. Later, the jury’s decision evolved into a discussion framed around the three elements of what makes a Survivor winner. Who has truly outwitted, outplayed, and outlasted the other two finalists?
Based on some question and answer sessions, speeches from the finalists, and discussion among the jury, each member of the jury then casts their votes for whoever they want to win. In the small chance of a tie, which has only happened once (in Survivor: Ghost Island), the third finalist casts the deciding vote for the winner.
Over the course of Survivor’s 41 seasons, the jury has had a huge impact on the game. It’s not just about getting to the end, as proven by the villainous Russell Hantz. If a player wrongs too many people by lying, cheating, and stealing, this can cause a “bitter jury,” in which they end up voting against a finalist rather than for a winner.
While off-screen, the ‘Survivor’ jury gets to have a lot more fun than the surviving contestants.
When some players get voted off of Survivor, they will often say, “At least I made it to the jury!” Once a contestant makes it to the jury, they also get to stay at the iconic Ponderosa resort. At first, Ponderosa (or its counterparts in other filming locations) was fully off-screen and unknown to fans of Survivor.
However, producers and players realized that fans at home want to see what the jury is up to off-screen! So after each member of the jury is voted out, they get to make a little Ponderosa video to show us what they’re up to.
While there, they get to eat and drink whatever they want after seeing how much weight they’ve lost while playing the game. The jury members also participate in activities and learn about the culture in Fiji.
What we don’t see in Ponderosa is probably the most interesting, as far as Survivor goes. Once other members start making it to the resort, they all hang out together and talk about the game. According to interviews with past players on many Survivor podcasts, they often speculate with one another about who could and should win the game.
In past seasons, near-finalists have made decisions about who to send to the jury based on who will be their biggest advocate in Ponderosa. So while the members of the jury might not be on our screens for an hour each week, they are just as essential to the game of Survivor as the players who make it to the final tribal.
Tune into Survivor every Wednesday at 8 p.m. EST on CBS to see who the next member of the jury will be.