The popular reality show Survivor has been on our TV screens since 2000. Twice a year a season airs with contestants battling it out to become the sole survivor and winner of $1 million. There are rules like with any reality show that the contestants need to follow. The castaways are restricted when it comes to what they can eat, with the only food items that are allowed being rice and beans (which are given to them), and any animals or fruit found on the island. Only certain personal hygiene products are allowed as producers want castaways to have the real stranded-on-an-island experience.
Contestants are allowed to select a wardrobe for their time on the island but producers do have a say in what they would like them to wear. Producers want the wardrobe to match a theme or personality. When it comes to being voted off, contestants aren't allowed to go back home if they get voted out early on as producers don't want any secrets about the season to be leaked. So, contestants who get voted off early in the season go on a vacation!
Clearly, a lot goes into reality shows and viewers only see a snapshot of things instead of what goes on behind the scenes. Read on for more information about what Survivor castaways are allowed to do and not allowed to do.
20 Wardrobe Is Okay But Producers Have A Say
Contenders can select what clothes to bring but there is a limit. They're only allowed to bring one or two outfits. Producers select colours which won't clash with the camera and there must be no logos on items.
Survivor likes to cast people who are characters and have a role in the story arc. If production selects a person to play a certain role, they must wear what is given to them even if they don't regularly wear the items. As an example: John Cochran from Season 23 was forced to wear a sweater vest as it revealed his smart character.
19 No Showering And Personal Hygiene Limits
At the start of Survivor, contestants look clean with no dirt on their clothes. As the show progresses, they get dirtier and their clothes look worn out. Castaways need to look like they've been stranded on the island for days for the survival element of the show. No soap, shampoo, toothpaste or razors are therefore allowed. The only time it's okay for contestants to have such items is if a tribe wins them in a reward challenge.
However, contestants are allowed to bring items such as medications, birth control, sunscreen and insect repellent.
18 A Bag Of Rice And Limited Food Resources
There is a Survivor rulebook which contenders must read and sign before the competition starts. It states everything that is and isn't allowed during the 39 days. Survivor wants to portray the survival aspect of the show while allowing contestants to compete against each other socially. Therefore, only basic food supplies are given, such as rice and beans.
Contestants can eat flora and fauna from the land but it must be approved by the producers. Remember in Season One when contestants ate rats? In later seasons, players mainly ate produce from the island, such as coconuts.
17 Sharing Information Is Not Allowed
The producers don't want anyone to share anything about the contestants and what happened during the season. Everyone has to sign an NDA to ensure no information about the season is leaked. Everything must be kept secret before it airs on TV. If someone shares a photo of anything regarding their time on the island, they will get into trouble.
Alec Merlino from Season 37 shared a photo of himself and another contestant, Kara Key. The result? He was not allowed to attend the reunion show! There are clearly consequences of going against the show's rules.
16 Some Luxury Items For Comfort Are Allowed
Contestants can bring one luxury item from home with them for comfort. In the earlier seasons, we saw a lot of luxury items which contestants brought with them, such as Colby Donaldson's Texas flag that he brought with him to all the Survivor seasons in which he participated. The luxury items can be anything from home, like pen and paper or other favourite items.
A razor or a toothbrush isn't allowed, though. Later on in the seasons, sometimes contestants' luxury items were given to them as a reward for winning a challenge.
15 No One Can leave After Getting Voted Out
In Survivor, people are voted out from the game completely until later on in the season when voted-out contestants become part of the jury who decides the final winner. Even though the jury members have been voted out, they're still part of the game as they sit and listen in at tribal councils and vote for the winner at the end.
Early vote-offs aren't allowed to go home - they go on a paid-for vacation at a destination close to the island. Once jury members are voted out they get to stay at a resort known as Ponderosa. It's basically a vacation for them as they get to have fun. The jury will only leave once a winner has been chosen.
14 Clean Water Is Given To Contestants
In earlier seasons, castaways had to boil their water with fire. Water sources were far away from camp and they had to travel to get there. The water was dirty and undrinkable. They could only boil their water if they figured out how to make fire or win flint as a reward.
Now contestants don't have to walk long distances to get dirty water to boil. There's a well near camp filled with clean water and castaways can drink it immediately. They still have to make fire for food but don't need to stress about drinking water anymore.
13 Some Places Are Off Limits
You would think contestants can go anywhere on the island but they actually have restrictions regarding where they can go. Constant strategising and forming of alliances are the main elements of the game.
Since contestants often don't want others to hear what they're discussing, they can wander off with their allies on the show - but not too far as producers don't want them to see things that could ruin the game. They also don't want castaways to see the crew members' secret base camp or the other tribe's camp, both of which have to remain off limits.
12 Jury Members Can Rehearse Their Final Tribal Speech
When there are only three contestants left on the show, they battle it out for the prize money and sole survivor title. The jury members have to give a speech or ask the contestants questions to gather information so they can decide on who to vote as the winner. At the final tribal council it appears as if the speeches aren't rehearsed, but they are!
A former contestant, Corinne Kaplan, said jury members write their speeches beforehand and rehearse them in front of producers, as The Things reports. Producers even give them advice on what to say, probably for more drama!
11 Crew Members Are With Contestants 24/7
There is literally no privacy for the players as the camera crew are with them all the time. They're filming when the contestants eat, sleep, sneak off and find hidden immunity idols. If a contestant wants privacy they can't have it as producers want crew members to be with the castaways 24/7.
Secret discussions between alliances and when a player sneaks off to find an idol also have to be filmed to make for great TV. Contestants aren't allowed to sneak off for some alone time without the camera crew members being there. It sounds stressful!
10 Building A Shelter For Sleep
During the show, we witness contestants building a shelter with bamboo, tree branches and plants. Building a shelter is allowed as the contestants can have some form of structure to sleep inside instead of sleeping on the ground. In some seasons, items were given to contestants, along with tools, to enable them to make their shelter.
In other seasons, they had to make their own shelter with materials from the land. Contestants are allowed to use certain flora for shelter but there's some vegetation they can't use, so they have to follow those rules.
9 Fire Rules Players Must Follow
Fire is the biggest element of Survivor as players have a torch at tribal council and when they get voted out the fire from their torches gets snuffed out. Fire is also important at camp as players need it for food.
In earlier seasons contestants had to make fire without matches and flint. If they were unsuccessful, they had to wait until a challenge to win flint or go to tribal council.
In Season 4, they weren't give any survival essentials and had to find materials to make a fire on their own. Even though the latest seasons are easier, the same rules for making fire apply.
8 Players Can Scour The Island For A Hidden Immunity Idol
In the earlier seasons of the show there were no hidden immunity idols and players had to play a really good social game to reach the finale. Now, hidden immunity idols are a big part of the game. Players are allowed to search for an idol at any time and when they find one it can be used to save them from getting voted out at the next tribal council.
If they want to reveal to other players that they have the idol, they can - or it can remain a secret. After an idol is used, another one will be on the island, and there's no limit to how many idols one player can have.
7 Secretly Smuggling Items Is Not Allowed
Contestants are given a list of what items they can bring to the island, but there are certain things they're not allowed to have. Matches and some form of food (as mentioned earlier) are off limits. In earlier seasons, though, some contestants smuggled in matches and a fishing hook. In Season 6, a female contestant smuggled in a muesli bar and caused a stir among the tribe.
In later seasons, producers checked the players' bags when they arrived on the island and made sure there was no smuggling going on that could give players an unfair advantage.
6 Players Get Transported To Challenges
Everyone thinks the contestants walk to challenges as it's filmed that way to make us believe they do. In actual fact, players get transported to challenges by a black window tinted car or boat. They're allowed to use transport as producers want to save time while filming. And, since locations are kept secret, players don't know where they are or where they're going.
They must stay in a waiting area until host Jeff Probst arrives for the challenge. Luckily, hungry and tired contestants don't have to walk very far!
5 No Physical Violence At Camp
Producers want to make sure all players are safe and there will be no physical harm caused to anyone. Some players will have arguments, of course, as not everyone gets along and this has happened in a lot of seasons. Arguing is okay but physical harm is not allowed. If physical conflict arises, the contestant who's guilty of it will be disqualified.
It did happen once. In Season 26, there was conflict between two contestants. It got out of hand and the one who caused the conflict was told to leave the show.
4 Contestants Can Quit If They Wish
Survivor is one of the toughest reality shows as people have to survive, starve, compete in challenges and play a social game. The weather conditions can be tough, especially when it comes to thunderstorms and the unrelenting heat on the island. The harsh conditions can be difficult to deal with and some contestants just can't handle the pressure. It's therefore good to know that if a player wants to quit, they can leave the game at any time.
If anyone quits during the jury part of the game, they're obviously excluded from being a jury member.
3 Sharing Information Restrictions
Production doesn't like it when former contestants speak out about certain things, especially if it's controversial as it can do damage to the show and could possibly cause low ratings in future. Survivor contestants aren't allowed to share anything about production and what they do - for three years after their appearance on the show! They don't always follow this rule, though.
As Poynter reports, former castaway Helen Glover from Season Five shared behind-the-scenes information in her column within the three-year timeframe and afterwards her column was pulled by the publication for which she was writing!
2 They Get Help With What To Eat
Survivor contestants only get a portion of rice from the show's producers which needs to last before they merge into one tribe. They can't just rely on rice, though. Therefore, they will need to scour the island for edible food. Contestants can eat plants or certain animals from the land and can catch fish from the ocean.
Production can help them with information regarding where they can find food for survival. Everyone is given a book which they're encouraged to read to help them figure out what they can eat and what's native to the land and best avoided.
1 Visiting The Other Tribe Is Off Limits
Before the merge even happens, there are normally two tribes and sometimes even a third one. Tribes are separated by islands as production doesn't want the different tribe members to interact with each other.
Contestants are asked to stay with their tribe at all times - they can't leave and go to the other one, as this is off limits. They can only leave their tribe if there's a swap or merge. In Season 11, this rule was actually broken when the one tribe invited the other tribe to their camp.