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Survivor rules: the contract that details pay, tie-breakers, prohibited behavior, and more

Survivor rules: the contract that details pay, tie-breakers, prohibited behavior, and more

Like any game, Survivor has rules, but as viewers, we’ve never seen those rules. Until now.

The nine-page document below is part of the legal contracts and agreements Survivor contestants sign before they are interviewed in Los Angeles. Contestants told me it is the only rule book they receive.

(These rules may change from season to season, of course, never mind the clauses that say producers can change the rules whenever they want.)

The rules includes ones we’ve never heard of, and ones that have clearly been broken.

For example, quid pro quo is not permitted, nor may “one Contestant receive a benefit of some form of consideration” from another, but there was Yau-Man promising a truck in exchange for immunity.

There are also very clear rules against two things we saw Russell Hantz do during the last two seasons: communicating with members of the other tribe and taking and/or damaging personal property.

The document’s longest passage has to do with procedures to break ties, including the infamous purple rock, though its color is not specified. There are many permutations beyond that, however, that have apparently never been necessary.

It also includes clauses that haven’t been invoked before, but that could be, including allowing a medically evacuated contestant to return to the game.

Some of the other details about the game in the rules part of the contract, which is identified as Exhibit A of the “Applicant Agreement”:

  • details about consolation prizes, which aren’t guaranteed.
  • details about voting and being on the jury, and staying at Ponderosa and/or the travel location (where non-jury members go) post-season.
  • a rule about what is considered private property (only the luxury item and clothes brought to the location, which have to be pre-approved), and a clause that says “criminal damage” is grounds for expulsion.
  • a disclosure about the lack of privacy, and the fact that contestants may be filmed even when they don’t know they’re being filmed, even while naked.

There’s a lot more here, too. I have modified the document to conceal personal and identifying information, including some references to the particular season, using black boxes.

I’ve also eliminated stray marks, and highlighted interesting and newsworthy passages with arrows, but it is otherwise unmodified. (I suggest clicking on Full Screen in the reader below to read it).

And check out the full Survivor contract, too, along with other Survivor behind-the-scenes secrets.

Survivor rules: the rule book

Survivor 30 Jeff Probst and Mark Burnett at Paley Center
Jeff Probst and Mark Burnett at the Paley Center exhibit commemorating Survivor’s 30th season. (Photo by Sonja Flemming/CBS)

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.


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