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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.

Welcome back to Survivor Exile Files! This week we were shown that, while Survivor is a game of alliances and backstabbing, if you can’t hack it out in the wild, you won’t win the game. As far as voting at tribal council is concerned, this was not a very interesting episode, but from a strategic alliance point of view, well, we couldn’t have asked for much more. This weeks strategy all revolved around the reward challenge. A challenge which would expose sub-alliances inside the already strong Casaya six. The challenge was a question and answer style game where, if you answer correctly, you would get to cut one of three ropes keeping torches from other players dolls. It’s the same as the “break their plates” challenge of seasons past. Needless to say, this game is always trotted out sometime around this point of the game in order to expose the true pecking order in the tribe.

An Army of One
Who the heck could I be talking about here? Why, Terry of course! He is an island unto himself now that Sally is gone, and he really didn’t factor into the reward challenge at all. In fact, it probably would have suited him better if he hadn’t answered the first question correctly, and everyone just eliminated him from the get go. All the better for him to be out of this challenge, sit back, and watch the fireworks ensue while the other Casayans showed Bruce where he truly stands in their alliance. And boy did they. Bruce was out of the challenge almost as quickly as Terry. Unfortunately for Terry and his hidden immunity idol, Bruce was also out of the game before episodes end. Not by way of voting, but by way of Survivor medic boat. Bruce, in my opinion, was Terry’s last shot at having an automatic alliance and someone to help him use the hidden idol to it’s fullest should Terry not win immunity. I think Bruce already knew that he was the first out whenever Casaya had eliminated La Mina, and that if it came down to a vote for an immunity-less Terry or to get rid of someone Terry selected, he would go with Terry. Bruce is the only Casaya member that seems to know for certain that Terry has the idol. Now that Bruce is gone, Terry has to really fight hard for immunity every time. And if he doesn’t win immunity, he has to be a master politician to put the fear of the idol into everyone, making them think that if they vote him out, the idol is going to end up getting them eliminated.

Birds of a Feather
Inside the Casaya six was where the real action happened this week. Cirie won the reward challenge, choosing to eliminate Shane before Aras, and then further rubbing salt in his wounds by choosing to bring Aras and Danielle on the reward over him. Shane wasn’t the only one hurt emotionally by the challenge. Courtney also had a lot of wounds to lick after finding out she is not only the chattiest in camp, but also the most annoying (and I’m betting that was a landslide vote). Back at camp, the two nutters—Courtney and Shane—continued their constant bickering, and somehow cemented their demented alliance even further. I think Aras, Danielle and Cirie were all correct in thinking that Courtney has some sort of psychotic crush on Shane. These two are always at each other’s throats, but they remain loyal to each other. I can only think that mental unbalance is the glue in this relationship. Shane also pointed out something really interesting about Courtney—she is the perfect final 2 opponent. And so is he. They are both so insane that everyone looks good standing next to them.

To The Victor Go The Spoils
Somewhere within helicopter distance of challenge beach, Cirie, Aras, and Danielle all frolicked in the splendors of mud massages and gourmet dinners. However, Cirie is afraid that winning this reward could very well backfire on her, and rightfully so. Unstable Shane has been full of venom for Cirie since she not only eliminated him, but also denied him the pleasures of reward. Shane believed the top 3 alliance to be Aras, Cirie, and him, but Cirie put a lot of doubt in his mind by picking Danielle over him. And a pissed off Shane is a divisive Shane. I think Cirie is in a pretty good place, though, since everyone in Casaya seems to like her despite the game of Survivor, and she is not deemed a physical threat, so why not keep her around?

Danielle is increasingly frustrating to analyze. She really just seems to be along for the ride. I see no ambition from her to play the game to remain until the final 2. She hasn’t been a physical threat, and although she may have an alliance to get to the top three, it was just exposed to everyone. Her game plan is just not readily apparent, and that might just be because her true game plan was to simply get public exposure.

Aras, on the other hand, is always fighting for his life. He knows that, as a physical threat and as the apparent leader of the Casayans, he is always in jeopardy. In his mind, if Terry has the idol, he is gone the second Terry doesn’t win immunity. And the same holds true if he doesn’t win immunity, Terry doesn’t have the idol, and Terry doesn’t win immunity. He is strong, and everyone knows it. The thing I don’t understand is why Aras and Terry haven’t already formed some sort of alliance to get themselves further. Just once I would like to see the strong players align and let the best man win as far as immunity goes in the final four and the final three. If Aras fears being eliminated by Terry playing the idol, why not form a secret alliance with the only person who could possibly hold that idol? Aras has the most game to play, politically, so he really needs to stay sharp and play well.

Final 2: At Odds With Myself
Here’s my odds for each remaining player to make the final 2. Please keep in mind that I have never worked in Vegas as an odds maker, nor have I ever really understood odds fully.

After this week’s reward challenge, I really think Courtney is the one to bring to the final 2. She has annoyed everyone with her constant talking and her petty bickering. She is unlikely to win many votes. 3-1

Shane is so unbalanced! He freaks out easily, and everyone sees that. He makes impetuous promises on his son’s life, and then takes them back in the heat of an argument. He is also a good person to bring with you to the final 2, and would likely not receive many votes. 3-1

Terry has the physicality to keep winning immunity, and if he doesn’t, he has the hidden idol to back him up. His political play is surely lacking, but when no one can challenge you physically, that doesn’t matter at all. 4-1

Barring Terry eliminating Aras via hidden immunity idol, I think Aras will be able to win any immunity challenge that Terry doesn’t. Plus Aras has the support of Danielle and Cirie, who are more likely to turn on each other than on Aras. 5-1

The only way I see Cirie in the final 2 is if she wins that final immunity challenge, which I’m not sure I even see her competing in. She is too well liked for this crew to want to keep her around very long. 8-1

The only reason I rank Danielle lower than Cirie is that Danielle just seems to have no gameplan. She is merely hanging around until someone snuffs her torch. She is more vanilla than a vanilla bean. If she goes on an immunity run, so be it, but that’s hard to imagine. 10-1

I’m really excited by the hidden immunity idol element of this game. There are so many ways to use it to your advantage, and so far Terry seems to be going with the most obvious one—keep it to yourself and use it when needed. I hope that it at least gets played at some point…and soon.

Mud massages and political intrigue…only on Survivor! mrdobolina@fansofrealitytv.com