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".
From Pulau Tiga to the Pearl Islands, the most memorable players from the show's first seven editions compete for $1 million and bragging rights as the ultimate Survivor. The 18 castaways are divided into three tribes: Chapera; Saboga; and Mogo Mogo, named for islands off the coast of Panama where the latest game takes place. Among the contestants are four former winners (Richard Hatch, Tina Wesson, Ethan Zohn, Jenna Morasca) and one runner-up (Colby Donaldson).
Living conditions worsen, but a hero emerges for one tribe, and one castaway continually fails in efforts to contribute to camp life. A second player is voted off the islands.
Richard tangles with a shark while fishing; Rupert and Jerri have a heated argument; romance starts to bloom between two castaways; a crate of supplies is delivered via parachute to the winning tribe of the Reward Challenge; a third player is voted off the islands.
A tropical rain helps kindle a romance between Boston Rob and Amber; several players are hit and knocked down while blindfolded during the Immunity Challenge; a fourth castaway is voted off the islands.
A fifth castaway is voted off the islands.
A sixth castaway is voted off the islands.
A seventh castaway is voted off the islands.
The romance between Rob and Amber heats up; both tribes must send one of their own players to the opposing camp; an eighth castaway is voted off the islands.
Highlights of the first 24 days on the islands off the coast of Panama.
A ninth castaway is voted off the islands.
A 10th player is voted off the islands.
An 11th player is voted off the islands.
A 12th player is voted off the islands.
A 13th player is voted off the islands.
A 14th player is voted off the islands.
The ultimate bragging rights are bestowed upon a veteran player with the crowning of a winner. The Final Four castaways are whittled down to two and the seven-person jury votes for the champion.
The 18 castaways reunite at New York City's Madison Square Garden to discuss the eighth edition of the series. Jeff Probst is the host.
A second player is awarded $1 million, based on fan voting. Jeff Probst is the host.