(Registered members may comment here)

Exile Files is a weekly look at the political intrigue and alliance related trends occurring on the Panamanian beaches and on Exile Island. Who is wheeling? Who is dealing? And of course, who is reeling? This article is a purely subjective analysis, and we cannot be held accountable for your rankings in your office Survivor pool.

You have to hand it to Mark Burnett & Co. They’ve done their best to shake up the game and keep it interesting. Many Survivors this season have been given many chances to change their fate. Few have capitalized on it. My question is why.

There’s No Terry In Team
Last week, Nick got voted out. The remaining members of La Mina have no one to blame but themselves, specifically Terry. Given all that that Terry has said about teamwork and solidarity, he clearly doesn’t believe in practicing what he preaches. In a tough immunity challenge, where he was competing with his two closest allies at the end, he refused to give up. He should have. With the hidden immunity idol in his back pocket, literally, he wasn’t going anywhere that week. He also had the biggest target on his back and at that point, no one suspected he had it. Yes, he would have likely had to use it and yes, it meant insurance for him as an individual player, but he’s not doing himself any favours by allowing his closest allies to get voted off one by one. Had he let Nick or Austin take immunity, the tribe would have voted for Terry. Once he produced the idol, Shane, who had the next highest amount of votes in this situation, would have been voted out. The numbers would have been 5-4 Casaya, with the old members of La Mina only needing one person to swing in their direction. But Terry failed to capitalize on this power move and it’s bye-bye Nick. Stupid.

Random Ties That Bind
This week’s reward challenge was brilliantly created and brilliantly timed. The tribe was randomly divided into three teams with the winning tribe awarded breakfast away from camp. The winning tribe would also select one person from each of the losing teams to go to Exile Island. That meant a random team was off on breakfast, a random pair off on Exile Island and the remaining 4 Survivors back at camp. It set the stage for all sorts of wheeling and dealing. Did fireworks ensure? Well, no. And it’s really too bad.

The reward challenge itself really showed where Terry’s head is at. He decided to strategically place more of the coconuts in the all female team. Why? I’m guessing it’s because he knew that he could beat them and like always, Austin followed his lead. They didn’t focus on the other team, consisting of Aras, Sally & Bruce, who went on to win. Physically, Shane, Austin & Terry should have won the challenge and could have won perhaps, had they concentrated more on loading their boat down with coconuts.

Aras took the initiative on behalf of Sally and Bruce and decided to send Austin to Exile Island along with Danielle. Austin had run his mouth at Tribal Council, so it was an easy decision, but he had to select one of his allies and went with Danielle.

At breakfast in the rain, Sally, Bruce and Aras did nothing but eat and complain about how rainy and cold it was. Aras is obviously the core of the Casaya alliance, Bruce is a fringe member of the alliance and Sally is an outsider. It’s an interesting combination, but no one chose to talk strategy that we saw. Maybe Sally figured it was useless and Bruce felt insecure about his own position. Aras is in the catbird’s seat, so he really had nothing to gain. However, an opportunity was created for discussion and bonding and nothing came of it.

Meanwhile at Exile Island, Danielle and Austin spent the majority of the time huddled together in the rain. While it’s not clear if they talked strategy, both admitted they formed a strong bond. Danielle was clearly upset with Aras’ choice to send her to Exile Island, but was it enough for her to turn on her alliance?

Back at Gitanos, Terry works Shane for information on the alliance. Shane quickly volunteers that it’s likely Shane, Aras, Courtney & Cirie in the final four. Really Shane? Shane is many things, but stupid isn’t necessarily one of them. It’s a strong possibility that Shane was feeding him a line, but Terry gobbles it up like it’s the gospel truth. Naively, Terry decides to run with this information. After all, no one would lie to Terry, right?

Believe It Or Not, He’s Walking On Air (of his ego)
Before the immunity challenge, Terry confesses to Sally that he has the hidden immunity idol. Well, confesses isn’t the right word. Brags, gloats, beats his chest… all would be better descriptions. Sally marvels in his superpowers for a few minutes and then it’s off to the challenge where immunity comes down to… Sally and Terry. Again, Terry is put in a position where he could allow Casaya to come after him and indirectly manipulate the boot. Again, he decides to give himself more insurance and risk a teammate being voted out. If Sally was frustrated or angry, she didn’t show it.

Apparently, Terry’s logic is that his charm will allow him to win over some of the fringe alliance members, who he believes to be Bruce and Danielle. He first goes to Bruce, who likes Terry and doesn’t feel safe within his own alliance. Knowing that Bruce would feel more comfortable if another member were to flip, Terry heads to Danielle, where he tells her he has the immunity idol and offers it to her. Does Danielle need it right now? Why would she gain from this? And is Terry so stupid that he actually thinks Danielle might not go to the rest of her alliance and share this with him?

Aras, suspecting that either Terry or Austin might have the immunity idol, suggests they target Sally as she’s the only ‘safe’ choice. Well, it’s nice to see that Aras, at least, is weighing the other options. Courtney thinks this is a stupid decision, for some reason, and throws a first class tantrum. At Tribal Council, Austin ends up getting the boot. Had Terry offered up the immunity idol to Austin, just in case, Aras would have been booted. Another missed opportunity.

Power Rankings
The power in the tribe, in my opinion, is as follows:

Aras – From my point of view, he’s the only player in the game that is always thinking. He keeps a calm head and seems to weigh all his options at all times. While he can be arrogant, he seemingly has a good relationship with everyone and hasn’t made too many promises. He’s focused on the final two while working on how to get there. He’s also strong physically and is more than capable of winning immunity. He’s unquestionably in the strongest position at this moment, and that can only solidify since no one seems especially anxious to get rid of him.

Danielle – Danielle might seem like a strange choice for second place, but she’s more than capable of strong performances in the challenges and engineering strategic moves. Remember how she manipulated Bobby’s boot? La Mina thinks she’s on the outside, but unlike wild cards Courtney & Shane, who have an uncanny ability to annoy, she’s likely firmly entrenched in the Casaya alliance.

Shane – Shane flirts with vulnerability in this game. He needs to work on his people skills, for sure, and yet he seems to have developed strong ties with everyone in his alliance. They hate him, they love him, they need him. He’s a competitor and probably one of the most loyal in the bunch. And loyalty, in a game where everyone is paranoid, counts for a lot. It doesn’t hurt that he’s Aras’ strongest ally.

Cirie - I don’t know how she does it, but she hangs in there. Like Shane, she’s seemingly loyal. Unlike Shane, she knows when to shut her mouth. At this point, her performances in the challenges haven’t been very strong, but she’s been an excellent third to both pairs of Aras & Shane and Danielle & Courtney.

Terry – Not half as brilliant as he thinks he is, Terry’s only this high because he has the immunity idol. He’s won two of the individual immunities, so he’s going to be tough to beat. That target on his back isn’t going to disappear anytime soon, unlike his allies. Eventually his luck will run out. Yes, the immunity idol is an excellent bargaining chip, but offering it to people that aren’t in immediate danger isn’t the smartest move.

Courtney – Bruce called her one of the three most annoying people alive, and he’s about as Zen as they come. She’s had problems with both Aras and Shane in the past and has a big mouth. Her alliance, save Danielle, might consider her expendable.

Bruce – The only reason Bruce ranks lower than Courtney is because of his friendship with Terry. His alliance likely considers Bruce the weakest link in terms of loyalty, and rightly so, given that Danielle knows he was considering turning on them. Unless Terry hands over his immunity idol to Bruce, which is highly unlikely, he’s very high on the pecking order.

Sally – Sally is one of the most frustrating players to ever be on Survivor. While on La Mina, Terry was constantly targeting her, yet she remains blindly loyal. Terry could have easily allowed her to win immunity, yet he didn’t, despite the fact that she knew he had the immunity idol. Sally was also on a tribe with Danielle and Courtney and has so far, made no attempts at getting in with them. She is in an excellent position to make a move, but she needs to do it soon, otherwise she will follow Terry to her own execution.