The Hidden Immunity Idol is a twist that features in almost every season of Survivor which do NOT feature the Back to Basics twist. The purpose of it is to, one way or another, give the holder immunity when they choose to play it. The idol has influenced many of the contestants' strategies, whether they utilize the object, or defuse its powers. The Hidden Immunity Idol made its début in the new generation seasons in the third season, Survivor: Brazil (the first season not to feature Back to Basics) and has featured in every season since.
The idea of the Hidden Idol is that the owner is able to get Individual Immunity without the need of winning an Individual Immunity Challenge. The idol, when played at Tribal Council after the votes are cast and counted but before the host reads the votes, negates the votes that the holder would receive from the votes that were cast prior to its play at Tribal Council. Despite its potential to make its owner survive longer in the game, it can only be used once (where the idol will be either re-hidden or discarded after its use). With this, owners should be careful about divulging information about possessing one and/or when to use it, because a player can still be eliminated with the idol, thus going home bringing his/her idol with him (dubbed as "flushing"). Another limitation is that, the idol is only valid until a given deadline, usually a few Tribal Councils before the FTC. It is possible for a player may hold more than one idol.
Similar to the Immunity Idol and the Immunity Necklace, the Hidden Immunity Idol is a small ornate talisman that is designed depending on the season's theme and/or location. Other idols are designed like small necklaces or bracelets.
To find Hidden Immunity Idols easier, clues are provided to castaways. As the season progresses, more clues will be provided, regardless if the idol has already been found or not. The way that clues are given and how the idol is found varies from season to season.
- In all standard idol seasons, only the tribe(s) that won the Immunity Challenge were granted access to a clue for the idol. The losing tribe heading to Tribal Council were excluded from this privilege.
- In Sri Lanka, due to the The Hitlist twist, no clues were given out. Instead, to receive an idol, players had to ensure their designated targets were voted out of the game before the merge.
- In Second Chances the Instant Idols twist changed the way you could receive idols. Now, at selected point(s) in the game, the castaways were offered the chance to get a free idol, but would receive a pre-set consequence for taking one.