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Immunity in reality television is a concept that is widely used in weekly elimination-type reality television shows by which a contestant participating in such a show may not be "kicked off" or eliminated from competition in a particular time period. This device has been used in different ways in shows including The Apprentice, Big Brother, The Biggest Loser, Last Comic Standing, Project Runway, Survivor, Top Model (Australia, Spain, UK and US), and Top Chef.


Achieving immunity

Immunity is usually achieved through success in a challenge created by the show. In The Apprentice, immunity is given to the team leader of the winning team, who cannot then be fired from the team should they lose the next task. In Survivor, immunity is achieved by finding an "immunity idol" hidden somewhere in the locale of the game or winning an Immunity Challenge. In Top Chef, Last Comic Standing, and Australia's Next Top Model, immunity for a given episode is achieved in a 'mini' competition occurring at the beginning of the episode.

Use of immunity

The freedom that participants have to use their immunity differs from show to show. In Survivor, immunity can be passed to another player, while in shows like The Apprentice it can not, although it can be waived. In one Apprentice episode, a participant chose to waive his earned immunity, and was immediately "fired" by Donald Trump for giving up this powerful asset.[1] In all cases, however, at some point towards the end of the series, where there are few or only two remaining players, immunity is eliminated, and any player can be removed.

Function within the show

The existence of immunity operates as a gimmick which introduces an additional element to the dynamic of the show in which it is used. In The Apprentice, for example, immunity is given only to team leaders. The possibility of obtaining immunity provides an incentive for players to take on that position, which exposes them to a greater risk of elimination if their team should lose a given task. Team leaders who obtain immunity and can not be fired the following week have frequently been observed to "slack off" during the task in which they have immunity. In most reality shows, the recipient of immunity is immediately known to all participants. In Survivor, however, the player who achieves immunity through finding a hidden totem that bestows it can keep this fact a secret from some or all other players, increasing the complexity of the strategy of some participants trying to oust others. The immunity process in Survivor was conceived for exactly this purpose at the show's outset by Mark Burnett, who produced the American version of the series.[2]


  1. ^ Frank J. Landy, Jeffrey M. Conte, Work in the 21st Century: An Introduction to Industrial and Organizational Psychology (2009) p. 151.
  2. ^ Matthew J. Smith, Andrew F. Wood, Survivor Lessons: Essays on Communication and Reality Television‎ (2003), p. 33.


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