Sixteen or more castaways are split between two or more "Tribes", are taken to a remote isolated location and are forced to live off the land with meager supplies for roughly 39 days. Frequent physical challenges are used to pit the tribes against each other for Rewards, such as food or luxuries, or for "Immunity", forcing the other tribe to attend "Tribal Council", where they must vote off one of their players. Once about half the players are remaining, the tribes are merged into a single tribe, and competitions are on an individual basis; winning Immunity prevents that player from being voted out, while several that are voted out at this stage form the game's "Jury". Once down to two or three people, a Final Tribal Council is held where the remaining players plead their case to the jury members. The jury then votes for which player should be considered the "Sole Survivor" and win the $1 million prize. Survivor has introduced numerous modifications, or "twists", on the core rules in order to keep the players on their toes and to prevent players from relying on strategies that succeeded in prior seasons. These changes have included tribal switches, seasons starting with more than two tribes, the ability to exile a player from a tribe for a short time, Hidden Immunity Idols that players can use to save themselves at Tribal Council and a chance to return to regular gameplay after elimination through "Redemption Island".
Survivor: China features a cast of 16 Americans who will begin the series amid the bustle downtown Shanghai before moving to Huangpu Mountain's Mio Tuo Temple for a Buddhist ceremony where they will be instructed to leave all of their worldly possessions behind. The castaways will then be marooned with the clothes on their back at two separate islands on Zhelin Lake (translation: the Land of 1,000 Lakes) located in the Jiangxi Province.
The castaways get physical as mud flies and tops are ripped off in one of the most physical and dirtiest challenges in Survivor history. A vulnerable castaway believes she's received a gift from God. The second person is voted off the island.
After the Reward Challenge, the kidnapped castaway bonds with the other tribe and reveals their own tribe's shortcomings. One castaway overhears crude comments from their tribemates. The third person is voted off the island.
Sherea's work ethic, or lack thereof, is beginning to bother her tribemates. An ominous tree mail instructing both tribes to meet at Tribal Council prompts fireworks. The fourth person is voted off the island.
Jaime and Erik admit to a mutual attraction as a romance blossoms. A tribal switch leads to chaos, tears, fears and cracks in former alliances. The fifth person is voted off the island.
One castaway finds the Hidden Immunity Idol at their camp but a rival tribemate discovers they have it and cuts a deal to benefit them both. At the Reward Challenge, the castaways dine on unusual Chinese delicacies.
The tribes merge and the fierce hunt for Hidden Immunity Idols continues as private property is violated and one castaway falsely believes three Idols are in play. At Tribal Council, one castaway feels invincible and makes a shocking revelation.
While everyone is asleep, a castaway searches for the Hidden Immunity Idol, collecting random items in the desperate hope that one of them might be it. Overconfidence takes over the castaways, as seven of nine come to Tribal Council with no bags.
A new force to be reckoned with takes on the power players. One castaway sends affections to someone outside their alliance which bothers some. One vulnerable castaway may change their fate by using entertaining impersonations to charm others.
Revisit the first nine episodes and watch out for some never before seen footage.
One castaway threatens to change things up by blindsiding their best friend in the game. Simultaneously, an alliance considers blindsiding one of their own. And, all the castaways are blindsided by a surprise announcement from host Jeff Probst.
While most castaways shed tears of joy after receiving news from home, one sheds tears of sorrow...but some believe they are crocodile tears. After fulfilling a tribemate's dream, one castaway is infuriated when their kind gesture is not returned.
The winner of the Reward Challenge gets to go to The Great Wall of China (along with two other tribemates). A series of challenges from episodes past will determine who wins Immunity. One castaway is voted off, leaving four remaining.
The finale will contain three Tribal Councils over two hours and produce one ultimate Survivor.