Welcome to the last installment of the Exile Files for this season. As it's the last show and we know the outcome, let's look back at the last four Survivors and how they finished where they did. What went wrong? What went right? What, if anything, could they have done differently and would it have mattered?
Whether or not you read the spoilers, it became obvious about 4-5 episodes ago that the ultimate showdown would be between Aras and Terry. Chances are you hated one and rooted for the other. You probably respected one for their competitive nature and found the other to be smug and arrogant. Despite the age difference, and much to their dismay, they likely shared as many qualities as those that separated them. It seemed inevitable that one of them would walk away the winner. Could anyone really have predicted that the winner would be determined, not by a jury, but by Danielle?
Before the vote that eventually sent packing, the editors gave us yet another parallel between Terry and Aras as each spent time coaching their closest ally as to how to build a fire. When Danielle bested Cirie, in many ways, it was another win for Terry. Cirie was Aras' closest friend and most loyal soldier. Her manipulations not only saved him, but helped protect Aras by targeting others that were more expendable. She didn't have to engineer Courtney and Shane's boots - she likely could have beat them in the final two. As tight as the Casaya alliance was, Aras' name came up many times and Cirie had a large part in helping keep him in the game.
The Downfall of Captain America
Terry dominated the physical part of the game. He won challenge after challenge, made it through several tours of duty on Exile Island and made his way to the final three without a solid ally since Sally was kicked off. He was nothing short of phemonenal. So what happened? How did he blow it? He was so confident.
Terry's first mistake, if you can call it a mistake, was not staying on the lilypad. Finally, he showed that he is indeed fallible. He couldn't win when he needed to most of all.
His second mistake was overestimating his influence. Time and time again he would turn to those he thought were on the fringe of Casaya only to be betrayed or watch them get their torch snuffed. Terry approached each situation as if he had power, when in reality, he contributed to their exits. Both Courtney and Shane were suspected of allying with Terry and that gave the rest of the alliance to send them home.
Terry could be abraisive, cocky and had a tendency to put his foot in his mouth. He might not have been liked, but he sure was respected. With Austin and Sally guaranteed to vote for him, a bitter Courtney and Shane on the jury, and a wild card in Bruce, Terry would be difficult to beat. Despite Danielle's pact, he had too many reasons to win. The only way Terry could have assured himself of a final two spot was the same way he had been keeping himself in the game; winning challenges.
Why Danielle Lost
It's easy to forget what Danielle accomplished during her stay on the island. Terry usually won the challenges with Aras as the runner up. Danielle was always in the hunt and never gave up. She was consistent in the challenges and often placed a solid third. She can't be accused of not trying.
Danielle's final immunity win was unexpected. Aras and Terry were convinced it would be between the two of them. After Terry went down, Aras immediately started struggling and Danielle, likely instinctively, gave Aras a knowing nod that seemed to mean he was safe and she'd take him with her to the final. Despite her earlier agreement to Terry, Danielle seemed to have unconciously made her decision. Ironically, she didn't need to fight for immunity. She was a lock to take to the final two. The fact that she hung in there is a testament to her competitive nature and she should be respected for that.
On some level, Danielle must have known that beating either Terry or Aras would have been tough. Truth be told, her decision was less about who she could beat and who she'd rather give the money to, should she lose the final vote. Jury, schmury, Danielle ultimately decided who would be the Ultimate Survivor.
Why Aras Won
Like Terry, the only way to guarantee a final two position was to win the final immunity. Like Terry, his fate was put into Danielle's hands. Danielle and Aras were allied early on and that connection, along with the fear she'd be regarded as a traitor, played a large role in her decision.
Also like Terry, Aras had a huge target on his back and a lot of people wanted to see him gone as soon as possible. Aras said it best when he said that Terry's immunity win streak played a role in keeping him around. Forcing the Hidden Immunity Idol out might have meant Aras' exit.
The two most bitter jury members; Shane and Danielle, voted against the person they felt wronged them the most. They split their vote and betrayal and hurt feelings, fortunately, didn't factor into the final decision. Personally, I'm relieved as I hate nothing more than to see someone voted against rather than voted for. Had the final two consisted of Aras and Terry, Terry might have pulled out a win. If the King is dethroned, the Prince assumed the throne. That seemed to be the general consensus among the jury.
Danielle mused that she was living with two men that hated each other. On a personal level, that might very well be true. After several episodes of bickering and sniping at each other, how nice was it to see the two men show some respect towards each other. Aras gave Terry a sincere apology for his inappropriate behaviour and Terry sincerely congratulated Aras on his well fought wins. For two strong competitors, it must have been satisying to be up against a worthy opponent. Isn't that what a classic rivalry is all about? It was a hard fought season and both men walked away with wins.