Inside Ponderosa, Survivor's Luxury Retreat for Eliminated Players

On Survivor, we get used to seeing the castaways’ every waking moment, and the show follows a pretty predictable filming schedule of reward challenges, immunity challenges, and tribals. But when a contestant gets voted out, it’s a little harder to know what happens next.

What viewers see is host Jeff Probst snuffing out the flame on their torch, and then the eliminated castaway usually offers some parting words to the remaining contestants. Then they walk away, never to be heard from again. Just kidding. After they walk away from tribal council, the contestant gets a medical and psychiatric evaluation, and then they head to a magical land called Ponderosa.

What is Survivor‘s Ponderosa?

Ponderosa is where contestants stay after getting voted out on Survivor. There are two groups of people who stay in Ponderosa: the people who get voted out pre-merge, and the people that get voted out post-merge. If you get voted out before the merge, you won’t be part of the jury. Because of this, once the merge happens, the pre-merge group leaves Ponderosa and goes on a cast vacation together. (If people went home before the season concluded filming, it would be obvious that they didn’t win, and the season would be spoiled.)

For post-merge players in Ponderosa, they have a decision to make about who they want to win the million dollar prize at the end of the game, and they’re still appearing on-camera at tribal council. Additionally, the final three stay at Ponderosa for one night before flying home. Hannah Shapiro, who is also a Men’s Health contributor, appeared on Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X. She made it to the final three, and she told Mic that being in Ponderosa is like being in the game, albeit in a different way:

What else happens at Ponderosa?

While being at Ponderosa can be a bit sad (I mean, you just lost a million dollars), the eliminated contestants get to enjoy everything they’ve been dreaming of since they landed on the island, including food, alcohol, beds, and blankets. Ponderosa residents still can’t use social media or go on the internet, but they reportedly have access to TV, cameras, and video game consoles.

Time at Ponderosa is also great for the mental health of the contestants. Sunday Burquest also competed on Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X, and she told Mic: “Ponderosa was a really good time to decompress. I think it would have been really difficult for me to be there a short amount of time and go right back home into my regular life. It was really good downtime for me emotionally and mentally … a forced opportunity to really think back on the experience you just had.”

Can we see what’s going on at Ponderosa?

It’s been possible in the past. “Life at Ponderosa” used to be available on the CBS website and YouTube channels, but it doesn’t seem to be on the CBS site currently. The online series showcased part of jury members’ stay at Ponderosa, and you can still see some episodes on fan-created YouTube channels.

This current season of Survivor doesn’t have a Ponderosa because all of the jury members are still living at Edge of Extinction, although it’s unclear where Keith and Wendy are. It also seems like after one (or more?) of the players at Edge of Extinction are officially eliminated from the game they’ll head to Ponderosa, but in this season of twists and turns, there’s no telling what might happen.

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