Survivor: Panama – Exile Island Finale

Danielle won the final Immunity Challenge to find herself in a lose-lose situation. Her gut convinced her to pick Aras as her final two opponent — instead of the seemingly unbeatable Terry — and she lost anyway. Survivor: Panama – Exile Island’s $1 million grand prize went to the 24-year-old yoga instructor, Aras.

The finale picked up where the last episode left off, with Cirie and Danielle squared off in a tiebreaker Immunity Challenge. Both watched their fires burn out several times, but Danielle eventually figured out how to keep hers going, while placing a pyramid of wood around it to build it higher. Cirie was eliminated, and with her went some of Aras’ hopes for reaching the final two.

Based on a previous arrangement with Danielle, Terry felt good about his odds of making it to the final two — so long as he or Danielle won the next Immunity Challenge. He spent the morning after Tribal Council rubbing his easy path to victory in Aras’ face.

Later on day 37, Terry, Aras, and Danielle showed up for what they thought was their final Immunity Challenge. Instead, it was a Reward Challenge designed to give the winner an edge on the competition.

Survivors solved a couple simple puzzles in order to receive four metal pegs. These pegs were then used to help climb a three-story wall. At the top, the competitors needed to put all four pegs in specific slots in order to raise a flag. The winner received a healthy meal and a cot, pillow, and blanket to use at camp.

Aras took the early lead, devising a quick strategy to reach the top. But when he got there, he had trouble fitting the pegs in the appropriate holes. Terry took advantage of Aras’s troubles and won yet another challenge.

But no comfy cot or nutritious meal could have made the next day’s Immunity Challenge any easier for Terry. As it often is, the final challenge was a test of balance, a factor that almost always favors women. Danielle, significantly lighter than the men, and with a lower center of gravity, would have to screw up in order to lose.

Each competitor had to balance on a floating, hexagonal platform. Every 15 minutes, the castaways moved to smaller platforms, making it harder to stay upright. When they stepped on the first platforms, Danielle’s floated noticeably higher in the water than did Aras’s or Terry’s.

After 15 minutes, they all crawled to their next platforms and were allowed one minute to regain their balance. This was the only time that their hands were permitted to touch the platform; after that, only their feet could touch.

It wasn’t until they moved to the third platforms that the situation became dire for Terry and Aras. Both spent most of their allotted minute trying to climb out of the water onto their platforms, while Danielle crouched comfortably on hers.

Once the third round began, it didn’t take long for Terry to fall into the water and out of the challenge. A wobbly Aras looked over at Danielle, who nodded at him. He took this as a sign that she’d be taking him to the final two, and jumped off. Jeff Probst put the Immunity Necklace around Danielle’s neck, providing the kind of cleavage-coverage that her tube top could not offer.

Danielle talked with both of the men about the trouble she was having deciding who to take with her to the finale. Terry opted not to pressure her, stating only that the jury was dominated by her former Casaya tribemates, who were unlikely to vote for him.

Aras took the opposite approach, trying to intimidate Danielle into picking him. He matter of factly said that, if she picked Terry, Aras wouldn’t vote for her, and neither would Cirie. Assuming that La Mina members Austin and Sally would vote for Terry, she would lose.

Intimidation triumphed, and Terry was stunned to be eliminated. He believed that Danielle planned to honor her agreement with him. Terry regretted losing the Immunity Challenge and the loss of control over his own fate.

Survivors had another brush with the medical team the next morning. Aras and Danielle were taking a walk following a celebratory Day 39 breakfast when Aras slipped on some rocks. The bottle of champagne he was holding shattered, lodging broken glass in his back and slicing his hand.

The medical crew arrived and gave Aras eight stitches in all. Worse than the cuts was the serious bruising to his ego. Slipping on rocks after drinking too much doesn’t scream “Master of the Elements.”

At Tribal Council that night, Aras and Danielle were in for more pain. Aras tried to make the case that he deserved the $1 million because he was sincere and a hard worker. Danielle pointed to the fact that she made strategic moves when she needed to.

During the jury questions, both finalists agreed that Cirie played a big part in getting them there, and that they hoped that their performance on the show would inspire others. Courtney took the opportunity to ramble abstractly about the life lessons she learned, none of which were concrete enough to be comprehensible.

Not surprisingly, Shane went a little crazy in his remarks. He chided Danielle for being lazy, but felt personally betrayed by Aras. Shane went on the offensive against Aras: “You’re broke, you’re homeless, and you freeload off your dad.”

Then, Shane asked the finalists to pick a number between 1 and 1,000,000. Whoever was closest would get Shane’s vote. Aras chose four — which was dumb. All Danielle had to do was pick five (as any good The Price is Right fan would have), and Aras would’ve had a .0004% of winning Shane’s vote. Danielle picked ten, which helped Aras’s odds, but not by much.

During her closing remarks, Danielle asked the jury to vote for her because, “I’ve got a lot going on in my life, and this could really help me.” Aras countered that he needed the money even more, because, echoing Shane’s sentiments, “I’m homeless and I freeload off my dad.”

Bruce was shown casting his vote for Danielle, and Terry voted for Aras. As Jeff Probst read the votes live, it was obvious who cast some of the other votes. Sally drew smiley faces on her vote for Aras, and at the top of a vote for Danielle, Shane had written “the number was 999,999.” The remaining votes — from Austin, Courtney, and Cirie — went to Aras.

The reunion show featured the best-looking cast in several seasons. No one fell prey to the bad hairdos and garish makeup that have dominated reunion shows from recent seasons (although, Stephenie La Grossa was the prime offender during two of those shows).

Survivor fans had voted online for their favorite contestant of the season, and they chose to reward Cirie with a new car. As one of two breakout stars of the season, it will be interesting to watch what kinds of offers come Cirie’s way. Surely, some networks have considered a Cirie Fields travel or talk show.

This season’s other star, Shane, was composed and well-groomed, if you ignored his outrageously flared shirt cuffs. He recounted a favorite Norman Rockwell-type moment from watching the series with his son. Boston asked, “Dad, did you just make a death threat on national television?” Shane replied calmly, “Yes, son. I’m afraid I just did.”