How important is the Survivor Jury System?


Over the last few months we’ve been very busy in the Survivor Oz offices organising a variety of different things to bring to you. Therefore, you may have noticed that Feature Articles disappeared for a few months. Fear not! Feature articles are back so get ready for a whole lot of in-depth analysis of Survivor, ranging from a large variety of topics from our range of Ozlets! Every Monday (or whenever we feel like bringing you one), we’ll bring you a fresh new article about the world of Survivor for you to sink your teeth into. Whether you have strong opinions on the topic or not, our Ozlets will make sure they leave you questioning your opinions at the conclusion of every article, leaving you with a new debate to have with fans. This week, Heather Smith brings to you an argument about how important the Jury System of Survivor is. Read on, then comment with your opinions below!

The Jury has been a strong and very important part of the game since 2000. Every season, seven to nine former players voted out have one of the most important part of the game of Survivor, choosing the person in the Final Tribal Council who has outwitted, outplayed, and outlasted all of the other contestants. It is the final say of who played the better game, and Jury management is one of the most important things in the game as well as being one of the most under looked parts of the game of Survivor. It is always the deciding factor of the winner, ever since Richard Hatch won the million back in Borneo.

“You are voting for a winner. You want to see your name on that parchment”- Jeff Pobst

It is one of the few times that you want to see your name come up. Each of the Jury member’s has to figure out who to vote for. They are naming someone as the winner directly. Some vote for respect, some vote with spite, some just flip a coin, but all count for that person. A vote against a person is very much still a vote for someone to win. It never matters why for the finalist; they just need the needed amount of votes. They can be playing a under the radar game or it can be an over the top physical game, the fact remains is that whoever wins the final vote did something right to earn those votes.

“But you voted me out so why should I vote for you?”- Lydia Morales

Of course, there is the “bitter vote”. In Survivor: Africa, Brandon asks Kim and Ethan who they think was the least deserving person out of everyone there. Ethan named Brandon as that person. Brandon went on to vote for Kim largely because Ethan insulted him in his own question. There have been multiple times that winners have been chosen due to bitter vote. It’s a huge part of Survivor and it should never be overlooked by anyone.

Lydia of Survivor: Guatemala was a part of Stephenie’s alliance, she wasn’t the strongest person of the game, but she was beloved by just about everyone. The Final Four comes around, and Rafe, scared that Lydia could pull a surprise win like past contestants have, gets Stephenie to vote her out just missing out of the final three. Lydia felt betrayed by her alliance going back on their words; she asked Stephenie the question above in quotes. Stephenie said she’d rather have Danni by her, due to wanting to beat the best in the game. This is one of the main factors why Lydia votes for Danni to win the game.


The Survivor: Guatemala Jury

“This is the thing, I don’t think either one of you deserve the million dollars. I think the person who deserves the million dollars was the woman you voted out yesterday”- Tammy Leitner

The game of Survivor took a turn in the fact of Jury development in season thirteen, Cook Islands. First off, twenty survivors started out in the game. Second of all, and to a lot of people the most important part, was the change over to the Final Three. But what I think may be the most important part was the expanded Jury that started with the ninth person vote out, Brad. While the Final Three was considered to be unpopular to a lot of fans, the thing about it is that a lot of people believe that the third place person could have won. This was directly referenced in Tammy’s Jury speech in Survivor: Marquesas, saying that Kathy should have won the million over Vecepia and Neleh. The most common belief for this change was the fact that neither of the fan favorites of Exile Island, Terry and Cirie, made it to the Final Two over Aras and Danielle.

The Final Three later became the status quo, the Final Two only appearing again in Micronesia and Tocantins, both only switching back due to the evacuations of James and Joe respectively. This brought up the question of how well Cirie and Erinn would have done in a Final Three. Although a lot of fans have questioned the Final Three, the purpose was the same. Getting the most votes by auguring your case will not change no matter how many people sit before the Jury.

“…knowing that I was just a number and that was I was going to be voted off based on that, I still took the time to get to know both of you. But did you really bother to get to know who I am?”- Penny Ramsey

This is a part that I call the REAL Russell factor. (Since he wasn’t the first player to find the Hidden Immunity Idol without clues). If you do not build a good relationship with the people that you are spending twenty-four hours a day with, if you don’t know anything about them that is a good way to lose a Jury vote or two. A lot of people call bitter vote when they see this, but they are not out there, living with someone that doesn’t seem to give anyone respect in a game about lying and backstabbing. If someone isn’t a pleasant person, they will not get the required votes they need to win. One of Clay’s votes came from Penny, because he got to know her more as a person, rather than Brian who saw her more as a number. Even though Brian still won due to having a better grasp on the game, a social game is essential to Survivor, because people vote with feelings most of the time. It’s because these are really human beings, not the robots that some people perceive them as.

“And I would like to know why I should give you the respect of my vote when I don’t believe you respected me or my game”- Jenn Lyon

The Jury’s questions; this is why people lose out in the end. People don’t always vote based on game play, they vote based on who can answer the question the best, which does measure up the game play of the contestants. However, if someone doesn’t think that the Jury members respect them, it is up to that finalist to change their minds. Tom was able to convince Jenn to give him the vote, by answering the question she gave him, while Katie failed to answer it to Jenn’s standards. It is never about the finalists, it is about what will be the name that they put down on the parchment. Some people can overlook bitterness, and just give their vote to the person they thought answered their question the best. Answering questions without sounding wishy washy or unclear is they way to sway some votes to a different person. Usually that’s what it all comes down too, it how you answer the question.

“…perception is NOT reality! REALITY IS REALITY! And you are sitting there and that makes you just as dangerous as any one of those guys there.” Erik Cardona

The Survivor: Tocantins Jury

The reality of the Jury is to vote for the best player of the season. In twenty-six seasons, not a single undeserving person has won the game. No one has won the game on accident, and for as long as Survivor continues, that will never be changed. Amanda and Russell have gotten to the end twice, and they are zero wins for each of them. They were not screwed in anyway. You can argue that people like Rob C, Kathy, or Cirie were screwed, however if you got to the end, and didn’t win the Jury vote, there is no valid reason why you should have won. Survivor is a game where you have to build relations. If you can’t convince the Jury to award you the win, you have no business winning. The runner ups had their chance to take the win, and they didn’t get it for a reason. The downfall of many of them is severely underestimating the people they are sitting with at the end.

“But after hearing what all these people said – you’re not gonna get any votes. Nobody respects the way you played the game, Russell!” Danielle DiLorenzo

There is a term for the act of making sure the people on the Jury vote for a specific finalist, it’s a term called “Jury Management”. It is something that does get overlooked and has cost someone their game. It’s one of the reasons Twila lost and Chris won for example. If someone doesn’t respect the way a contestant plays, they can’t support that. A lot of people cry “bitter Jury” but that’s part of the game, human emotion. It’s been well known that a vote for someone can easily be a vote against the other finalists. It has even decided winners, (Remember Randy?), multiple times. Why someone won could easily be said that someone lost. One of my favourite sayings is that a winner doesn’t need to beat nineteen, eighteen, or so on players; they just need to beat one or two in that Final Tribal Council setting.

“I feel like all is fair in love and war, and in Survivor”,- Shii Ann Huang

No one, in all the seasons of Survivor, has stumbled in the finals and won. Every single winner won for a reason and all is fair with a Jury vote. In Survivor, I usually refer to the game as a free for all, most people are only looking out for themselves, and it just becomes this social game in that the players spend all of their time with these strangers on this random location. When it comes down to it, every winner of Survivor won for a reason, and they are easily the best players of their season. It’s all fair in the way to play Survivor. All bets are off when it comes to the Jury. It doesn’t matter who many flashy blindsides, not how many times you backstab others, it’s a full on social aspect, and should never be taken lightly. The real winner is the one whose name was written down the most at that Final Tribal Council, the one who claimed the check, and the only one that could be called the Sole Survivor of the season.


Do you agree or disagree with Heather? Leave a comment below to let us know your thoughts!

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12 Comments on How important is the Survivor Jury System?

  1. Boson Rob was clearly robbed in All Stars. That is the only clear case of an unfair bitter jury.

    • Can’t tell if trolling or just stupid…..

    • He shouldn’t have handled the vote outs so poorly. Plus he married the winner so he might as well won. Every jury is bitter, just like I’ll always say. Shame on Boston Rob for not being able to swing one vote his way over Amber, he didn’t deserve it that season.

    • What did Rob do that Amber didn’t other than have a penis, though?

      • Act like a total egomaniac alpha male?

      • Treated those he voted out with far less respect – unnescessarily so, sometimes he even talked about them in condescending and mean spirited ways even after they were voted (calling Lex a dumbass for example). As other people get voted out and go to ponderosa people can be told what Rob was saying about them. If they played the same game votingwise – Amber played the social game better.

  2. I dont think anyone is arguing your point, jury will vote how they want. Russel fans like myself are arguing that he did not have bad social interactions with the jury. I did not witness a scene were Russel was abrasive, rude or any of that sort in s19. That is what you guys overlook so far, I’d rather see your reply to where Russel had a bad social game after the merge. Was it his lying? Everybody lies. It’s more down to Galu was butthurt and they needed an escape goat. You could see Erik cheering for him all the way and turn against him after they had time to decide the winner on ponderosa.

  3. Great article, Heather. I completely agree with every single thing you said. The game of Survivor is designed so that the deserving person wins every season. If the Jury is bitter then they’re clearly bitter for a reason, the people sitting at the Final Tribal Council are to blame for the Jury having those negative feelings and they have to account for that when they speak during the Final Tribal Council.

  4. Great article. I often wonder about Kathy and Cirie, but in many ways, they won because they’re still-popular players. It would be interesting if jurors at Ponderosa couldn’t discuss what happens; I suspect some winners would have finished second or third.

  5. SesterSparrow // July 29, 2013 at 3:44 pm // Reply

    Thank you for writing this. Like Jeff said during the HvV reunion, Survivor is a properly defined game where the winner WILL be decided by jury votes. It doesn’t matter who won the most challenges, who had the best social game, who pissed everyone off, who was the most entertaining, etc2. The only thing that decided whether you win or not are jury votes, and the fact that the jury is SO unpredictable and so different every season makes this show awesome.

  6. The reality of the jury is not to vote for who played the game the best; it is that getting the votes is how a contestant knows (s)he played the best. Not necessarily about the size of the margin, it’s more about how the jury acts toward each finalist on that one night.

    No matter how well you played physically or strategically, there is still the end game, where social relationship skills come into play. And no matter how poor your physical game was or even if your strategic game was only bare-bones, your social game can more than make up for it.

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