Monday, May 15, 2006
'Survivor: Panama - Exile Island' Finale and Reflections on the Season
Sniffle...this will be the last time I get to use my cool revolving Survivor/Jackie logo made by Zoetawny. She rocks, y'know!
Well, last night was the big night, the season finale. As I thought, the commercials deliberately misled viewers to thinking that Cirie would win the fire-making tiebreaker challenge against Danielle. As an observer of the show and its promos since its inception, I know the editors tend to do that sort of thing. So I wasn't surprised when when the Final Three turned out to be Danielle, Aras and Terry. I was a bit surprised at who won the final Immunity Challenge, but that's getting a wee bit ahead of things at this time.
I want to focus just a little on Cirie at this time. Here's a city born and bred woman, coming up from Jersey City, New Jersey. She didn't know woods, critters, fishing, camping, or anything else of the outdoor life going into the show. She knew her couch, TV and stuff of the city. I'm sure if someone asked her how to catch the PATH train into lower Manhattan, she'd answer with ease. But ask her to make a fire with flint, catch a fish or make a camp? No way! It was amazing to watch her grow through the season. Apparently, her couch-sitting ways made for decent people-skills and strategical planning. She vastly improved her outdoors skills while she was the true manipulator of people on the show. Her buddy Aras wasn't the leader - Cirie had him wrapped around her finger. Hats off to Cirie and I'm glad she won the Yukon SUV voted on by show fans. She added a lot to this season.
Back to the finale show...I was leery of Danielle turning on Terry once again with good reason. Once the three returned to camp, Terry brought out the shrunken-head Immunity Idol from Exile Island so that Danielle and Aras could check it out. Right then and there, it was evident that her alliance was still with Aras, not Terry. She made a few comments about the macho thing between Aras and Terry, but seemed to think Terry was gloating.
Instead of the expected Immunity Challenge, the three had an opportunity to play for Reward - a power meal, cot and pillow which might help the winner be in better shape for the final Immunity Challenge. It entailed finding pegs in bags on spinning wheels and then using the pegs to climb a three-story wall. It was only seconds between Terry and Aras at the end, with a Terry win and Danielle way out of the running. But will it work? Will Terry come back refreshed and ready? Will Aras' determination push him into high gear for the win? Oh...and what about Danielle? She hasn't won anything all season.
As inevitable as the season recap which took up the first ten or more minutes of the show, we had the Memory Walk to endure. I watched as each previous castaway had his or her blurb and the three remaining said basically kind words about them. Eh. The only rather neat thing about this segment was they used the torches to set the huge bamboo skull on Exile Island afire. Alas, it was a very smoky fire; the material must have been damp from all the rain. It was all very symbolic and all that stuff nonetheless.
Well, Immunity was back up for grabs for the last time. In this one, it's a mix between endurance and balance as the castaways had to stand on floating "lily pads" and move to smaller ones in 15-minute intervals. Uh-oh. This one is a challenge geared for a woman to win. After all, women have a lower center of gravity. In a shocker, Terry couldn't get up and stay up on the third pad and was out of the running. Then a wobbly Aras took Danielle's nod for a jump-off and Danielle won her first challenge ever in the show - the most important Individual Immunity of the season. She's guaranteed to be in the Final Two and it's her choice to pick the other half of the Final Two.
Aras immediately got a bit threatening when talking to her about her choice. "If you don't choose me, you'll lose both my vote and Cirie's vote!" Terry was a bit more laidback about things, but almost killed her with fairness. It's a tough decision for her, indeed. But, my own thoughts? I don't think she stands a chance to win against either of them. Now, if she were up against Shane in the Final Two, she may win. Terry or Aras? Nope, both of them have played so well and so hard that she'd be doomed to second place. Her choice? Aras. It doesn't matter; her fate is sealed anyway. All it really does is enforce the Survivor Winner of the Car Curse - no player has ever won a car and gone onto the million dollars. Terry, of course, won a car a few episodes back.
Tribal Council was rather uneventful and almost "nice" compared to some of the past finales. Who can forget Sue's speech about rats and snakes and not giving a drink of water to Richard (or was it Kelly for that - one was a snake while the other was a rat) dying of thirst in the desert? Shane got a bit odd, but he's Shane. He's angry that they did better than he did and both betrayed him in the game. In the end, like mimicking Greg (Season 1) with the Blackberry bit (Greg had the coconut phone), he told them to choose a number and the closest would get his vote. Courtney was still a bit of a space cadet in her comments and I just wanted her to stop talking. What the heck was her point?
As I guessed, Aras won. I had a message board bet elsewhere that he would win, but that was just on the pre-season bio information. Too bad it was just a cyber-bet, eh? The vote was 5-2 with just Shane and Bruce voting for Danielle (I believe - correct me if I'm wrong on that). They didn't show the last vote, but 4 was enough for Aras to win. In the reunion show, through a show of hands, Terry would have won against Danielle with roughly the same count - only Bruce and Cirie would have voted for her. So, she would have lost either way.
To me, this season was the best in a long time. My favorite Survivor season remains the first one when all was fresh and new. I picked Richard Hatch for the win on that one and he was instrumental in starting the alliances which have continued throughout the show's run. I wasn't happy with Vanuatu and Africa didn't rank too highly on my list either, although I liked Ethan (the winner). I felt last season in Guatemala was tainted with the gimmicky return of Bobby Jon and Stephenie from the previous season. They had their chance; I don't want previous castaways returning. I want fresh meat. Um...players! If there ever is to be another rehash of castaways (I don't like All-Star versions, either), let it be those we never got to know - perhaps those castaways voted off in the first show each season. The person voted off first is usually an unknown entity in game play and all but forgotten as the season goes on. Bring them back if someone must come back!
In this season, we had Super Terry who did a fantastic job. We had wacky Shane who's still wacky though cleaned up for the Reunion Show. We had Cirie who possibly backstabbed others more than anyone else, yet came away with them all liking her. I give this season an A for its entertainment value to me. Good casting, nice location and a different twist with Exile Island and the hidden Immunity Idol. Although the idol itself was never used, it certainly played a huge role in the show just by folks figuring Terry had it.
Next season it will be Survivor: Cook Islands and it's to have an Exile Island with a new twist. I'll be there! Well, not on the show, but watching it!