Survivor glossary: What is a pagonging, and is it still done?

Screengrab via CBS
Screengrab via CBS /

Richard Hatch is largely responsible for how Survivor is played thanks to him and the Tagi tribe systematically taking out the Pagong tribe.

We would not be looking at the prospect of a 35th season of Survivor were it not for Richard Hatch and the Tagi tribe in Survivor Borneo. Making a pact with Sue Hawk, Kelly Wiglesworth and Rudy Boesch ahead of the merge, those core four members worked together to remove the weak members of their while promising to keep each other safe.

Making an alliance was unheard of in the game simply because nobody knew what Survivor was supposed to be. Production crafted Richard Hatch’s portrayal in the game as a villain, as he and his tribemates worked to systematically vote out every single member of the Pagong tribe in succession after the merge, no matter how much they deserved to continue playing the game.

A Pagonging is when one tribe with the majority votes makes it their intention to eliminate every single other member of the opposing tribe one after another. It all became clear as a strategy (to those paying attention) at the merge vote, as Gretchen Cordy was blindsided in a 4-1-1-1-1-1-1 vote.

While not named as such until Shii Ann mentioned the term in relation to her situation in Survivor All-Stars, it was pretty much the staple of the early seasons of the show. The Australian Outback, Africa, Marquesas, Thailand, Panama, China and Cook Islands were all examples of times in the first 15 seasons of the show where the plan went into effect, with none so rewarding as the Aitu Four’s comeback against the majority alliance’s eight.

More from Survivor History

In the big moves era of Survivor, though, Pagongings have become much more rare of an occurrence. The most recent, truest, example of this would be in One World. The Salani women did their best to remove the Manono men one after another when the merge came around, with just Kat Edorsson getting blindsided at the Final Seven before getting out the final man of the show, Tarzan.

That season is more than five years old now, with the chaos of Blood vs. Water’s rock draw and Redemption Island twist affecting the viability of a pure Pagonging strategy. The game now focuses on dynamic gameplay, as players are increasingly relying on smaller core alliances and flipping at strategic moments while not trying to get blood on your hands.

Next: Survivor glossary: What exactly does a purple edit mean?

With armies of Hidden Immunity Idols, secret advantages, fake idol kits, multiple tribe swaps and jury-eliminating bonuses part of the current gameplay, it may be a long time before we see a true Pagonging again.