Survivor glossary: What is jury management?

Still from Survivor: Cagayan episode 13. Image is a screengrab via CBS
Still from Survivor: Cagayan episode 13. Image is a screengrab via CBS /

Without a knack for jury management, winning a game of Survivor is incredibly difficult — but is it as simple as doing things at Final Tribal Council?

Reaching day 39 of Survivor is difficult, but even if you make it there, it’s not as though Jeff Probst has a few million-dollar checks just sitting in his back pocket for you and the other finalists. Instead, the jury has to chose a winner, and as Probst is fond of reminding players, the jury consists of other players of the game, most of whom have the finalists to blame for their being over there in the first place!

The idea of jury management is something that fans of the game tend to throw around when discussing the games of winners and losing finalists. It’s impossible to completely control the jury in Survivor — there’s a fair number of people in the jury, and you cannot speak to them; they’re sequestered when they don’t attend Tribal Councils.

But winning jury votes over is part of each and every Tribal Council as soon as Probst introduces that first person. It’s all about what you say and don’t say; whom you say it to and when you step in and get involved.

Sometimes, all that’s needed is a wry look shot towards a key member of the jury. Though its members do not get to speak until the Final Tribal Council, they do still laugh and mouth things to each other in earlier Tribal Councils. Of course, they listen, just as Probst says they’re there to do once the jurists start making their appearances. They pay attention to who says what and when even before they get to talk to the finalists.

When it does get to the Final Tribal Council, though, managing the jury’s emotions is key. It’s a mix of being able to speak up and apologize, of being able to put your game into words but also acknowledging that sometimes you might have hurt some feelings. There’s no complete winning formula.

Let’s face it, though: a lot of finalists (and winners) are particularly good at social games and getting a feel for the mood of the jury. If you give the wrong answers, though, that can help doom a game. At pretty much every Final Tribal Council, a viewer can spot a wrong answer. For example, Sarah’s defense of her game in Game Changers didn’t win over every single jury member — but who needs every single jury vote unless you’re shooting for the perfect game?

Next: The best winners of Survivor

As we go into Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers, pay attention to who’s paying attention to the jury. It might just tip you off to who’s about to make a winning case.