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Aras Baskauskas beats Danielle DiLorenzo to win 'Survivor: Panama'


By Reality TV World staff, 05/15/2006 

Benefiting from apparent jury dissatisfaction with what Survivor host Jeff Probst kindly termed the "quiet" and "subtle" manner in which his Final 2 opponent had played the game, Aras Baskauskas, a 24-year-old from Santa Monica, CA, defeated Danielle DiLorenzo, a 24-year-old currently residing in Pompano Beach, FL, to emerge as Survivor: Panama -- Exile Island's ultimate survivor and $1,000,000 winner during last night's season finale broadcast.

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Sunday night's CBS broadcast of Survivor: Panama -- Exile Island's finale began where Thursday's penultimate episode had left off -- with Survivor: Panama's four remaining castaways at their Night 36 Tribal Council and Danielle and Cirie Fields about to face off in a tiebreaking firestarting challenge in which the loser would be eliminated.

After receiving their final instructions from Jeff, the women began attempting to start a fire strong enough to burn through the rope that restrained their flags. Although Cirie was the first to make a small fire, she failed to grow the flames into a fire capable of burning through her rope. Meanwhile, Danielle also couldn't keep her initial fire going, resulting in a back and forth competition that ultimately ended with Danielle erecting a teepee-style fire that burned through her rope and made Cirie the thirteenth castaway eliminated from the game.

Once the three remaining castaways returned to their Gitanos camp, Terry Dietz, the tribal outsider with whom Danielle had formed a new Final 2 alliance in the days leading up to the Night 36 Tribal Council session, was thrilled that after spending most of the game as a longshot, Danielle's victory meant that the odds had finally swung in his favor. "I have been extremely happy since Tribal Council... Danielle and I have a pact so that if either one of us wins [the final Immunity Challenge] we'll take the other one to the final, so we have a 66% chance of getting to the final," Terry gushed. "I'm ecstatic right now, I'm so happy," an emotional spent Danielle confessed to the cameras.

The next day, Terry and Aras continued their ongoing rivalry, with Terry taking some enjoyment in finally showing off the hidden Immunity Idol that he had previously declined to confirm possessing and Aras countering back by outdoing Terry during their morning fishing attempts.

Later on Day 37, the three remaining castaways assembled for a Survivor first -- a Final 3 Reward Challenge that was specifically designed to give its winner a huge advantage in the next day's final Immunity Challenge. A quick three-part challenge, the challenge required the castaways to initially complete a table maze that would free two individually shaped pegs. After that, they would use a series of clues to rotate a spinning wheel and find two more individually shaped pegs. Then, after having retrieved all four of their pegs, the castaways would have to use them to scale a three-story climbing wall. The first castaway to climb the wall and insert each of their pegs into their assigned slots would win the challenge. As the challenge's victor, the winner would receive a "power meal" intended to recharge their body and an individual cot, pillow, and blanket intended to help them have a good night's sleep .

As the challenge began, Aras quickly completed the maze portion and jumped out to an early lead. However Terry rallied strongly, narrowing the gap significantly by the time Aras had completed the spinning wheel phase of the challenge. In the end, although Aras had managed to open up an 8-10 foot lead on the climbing wall, a big slip allowed Terry to close the gap and become the first one to correctly insert all four of his pegs into their assigned slots. After a quick victory dance, Terry -- in what appeared to be either some premature jury vote campaigning or an intentional reaction to Aras' previous "Terry's a sore loser" comments -- went out of his way to hug and console Aras. "You are the ultimate competitor... you bring your A-game every time man," Terry told Aras as he silently paced atop the climbing wall.

After returning back to camp, Aras admitted that while he was upset to have lost such a potentially significant reward to Terry, he and Danielle still had plenty of his remaining fish catch to feast upon. "Terry is probably eating something a little nicer, but you know what, this is food," he explained to the cameras. "Don't get me wrong, Terry's grubbing and he's happy about it and that's great for Terry, but this is great of Aras and Danielle right now." Aras also took Terry's absence as an opportunity to urge Danielle that "one of us has to win tomorrow if one of us wants to win a million dollars" -- Survivor viewers' first clue that despite the Final 2 alliance Danielle claimed to have made with Terry, Aras still believed that if Danielle won the final Immunity Challenge she might still opt to take Aras to the Final 2.

Later, after Terry returned from his meal and (at Aras' request) detailed it to Aras and Danielle, Aras attempted to convince himself that Terry's Reward Challenge win might also have some disadvantages. "There's absolutely an advantage to having a meal the day before the biggest Immunity Challenge of the game, [but] the thing of it is though, it can also be a psychological disadvantage," Aras postulated to the cameras. "Now the onus to win is really on you, I mean everyone expects you to win now, you're 'SuperDad' and you have all this food in your body -- that kinda puts the pressure on for Terry."

The next morning, the three remaining castaways retrieved a Tree Mail message telling them that a boat would be transporting them over to Exile Island, where they would gather the torches of their thirteen fallen comrades and, after placing the torches on Exile Island's giant skull structure, light the skull ablaze. After traveling to the island and doing as the message had instructed, the boat transported the threesome back to Challenge Beach, the site of Survivor: Panama's final Immunity Challenge.

A water based challenge, the final Immunity Challenge required the castaways to balance themselves on a series of floating platforms. Beginning with the largest lily pad platform, the castaways would have to remain upright for fifteen minutes. Every fifteen minutes afterward, the castaways would be given a minute to move to the next largest platform. If the contestants made it to the fourth and final platform, the competition would turn into a pure endurance test, with whichever castaway managed to remain upright the longest winning the challenge.

All three castaways easily made it through the first platform's fifteen minute round, seamlessly moving to the second platform after the initial fifteen minute round ended. When it came time to move to the third platform, both Aras and Terry struggled mightily, with Terry just barely managing to upright himself before the one minute window expired. However while he had managed to upright himself in time, Terry wasn't able to remain balanced for very long, falling into the water about 10 seconds into the third round.

As soon as Terry was eliminated, Aras instantly began glancing in Danielle's direction, looking for some assurance that now that Terry was eliminated, he could safely quit the challenge and still expect Danielle to take him to the Final 2 jury voting. Sure enough, while no words were spoken, Danielle did make eye contact and repeatedly nod in Aras' direction, resulting in Aras (who similar to Terry, also already appeared to be having significant difficultly attempting to balance his large frame on the just about fully submerged smaller platform) deciding to jump off his platform and give Danielle a victory in Survivor: Panama's final Immunity Challenge.

Almost immediately after returning to camp, Danielle began whining about the difficult position her Immunity Challenge victory had placed her in. "It's difficult because I told Terry when I was on Exile Island with him that if either of us won [the final Immunity Challenge] we'd take each other... [but] during the challenge, Aras, I gave him like a head nod, and so he jumped off thinking that I would take him to the finals," she explained during confessional. "[But] that doesn't mean anything right now because at this point there's a million dollars at stake and I'm not gonna take somebody because I made a promise to them, I'm gonna take someone who I think I have a better chance of beating."

Later, as they gathered water together, Danielle informed Terry that she had only agreed to their Final 2 pact because she had assumed that she would never win the final Immunity Challenge and have to live up to her end of the agreement. "I didn't expect to be in this position to be honest with you," Danielle explained to a somewhat flabbergasted Terry.

Then, after Terry declined to make it easy for her to back out of their deal by agreeing with her suggestion that were he in her shoes, he'd also be wondering if it was "fair" for her to take someone that she felt could beat her, Danielle attempted to blame Terry for her hesitation in following through with their agreement. "I did not expect to be in this position and if you had given me the hidden Immunity Idol [prior to our previous Tribal Council session] I would 100% take you without any question, it wouldn't even be an issue right now," she added, ignoring the fact that by all accounts, not only had her agreement with Terry only involved giving her the hidden idol if he'd won Episode 13's Immunity Challenge, but also that, had Terry not decided to align with Danielle and force a 2-2 Tribal Council tie vote, Danielle would have already been eliminated from the game.

"I'm not saying I'm not taking you, I'm just trying to go over everything in my head... if you were in my shoes, you'd do the same thing. You want to bring someone that [increases your chances of winning,]" Danielle explained. Then, in her very next sentence, she stated that she didn't believe that either Terry or Aras offered her a better chance to win -- which left viewers wondering, if true, exactly what was she anguishing over. "It's a toss-up, it's not like one of you is better to bring than the other -- so I'm just like freaking out... I just hope you'll respect whatever decision I make, I honestly haven't made a decision and I don't know what I'm going to do."

"Danielle's finding herself 'very confused' right now and ah... oh god, I hope she's not 'confused' when it comes to taking me to the finals," Terry -- suddenly vulnerable for the first time since the tribes merged -- lamented after his discussion with Danielle.

After returning to camp, Danielle had a similar conversation with Aras. However rather than adopting Terry's more laid back approach, Aras attempted to intimidate Danielle into taking him to the Final 2. "I would just feel so burned if like you voted for Terry instead of me and I my dumb ass [had intentionally] jumped off the lily pad because you'd said 'Ya,'" Aras explained. "If you do vote Terry, you lose me and Cirie anyways... D, you can't do this to me... and remember, you did give me your word when I was on that lily pad."

Ironically, Danielle that Aras -- and not she herself -- was suddenly guilty of making contradictory remarks. "Listening to Aras' sales pitch was just mindboggling," she later explained during confessional. "Aras [says he] is all about honesty and integrity but in the same sense he's contradicting himself because he's basically threatening me. Part of his sales pitch to me was that he would not vote for me if I took Terry, so I would lose his vote and Cirie's vote, which I think is completely messed up. Aras is very manipulative so that's why I'm kinda hesitant to take him or even to listen to what he says."

As the castaways left for Tribal Council, Danielle still claimed to be undecided about her decision. "I don't know what I'm doing yet... I'm so confused," she told Terry as the threesome left camp.

When the castaways arrived at Tribal Council, Danielle once again announced that she still wasn't sure whether she should keep Aras or Terry -- an announcement that probably didn't help convince any of her already skeptical former Casaya allies that they should vote for her instead of Aras. Finally, Danielle was forced to make a decision, and although she claimed to have been bothered by Aras' threatening approach, in the end she responded to it, deciding to vote Terry out and take Aras to the Final 2 jury voting.

The next day, Danielle and Aras received a basket full of breakfast food -- a reward that unexpectedly resulted in some more trauma when, after slipping on the rocks and falling on his shattered glass, Survivor's medical team had to bandage and apply eight stitches to Aras' finger, palm, and lower back. Then, after leaving camp for one last time later on Day 39, Danielle and Aras faced their final Tribal Council, a rather uneventful session during which the seven member jury had a chance to question them before voting to determine who would win the million dollar prize.

In the end, Aras' claim that he had played the game with "honesty and integrity" seemed to resonate better with the jury than Danielle's claim that "realistically," the game required "deceiving" one-time allies. When the votes were counted, Aras emerged as the easy victor, winning a 5-2 vote in which only Bruce Kanegai and Shane Powers (by virtue of Danielle having come closer to the random number he'd picked) cast their ballots for Danielle.

During the live reunion show that followed, Jeff asked the jury members how they would have voted if Danielle had taken Terry to the Final 2 instead of Aras. The result appeared to confirm Danielle's in-game comments that she didn't feel that either Final 2 competitor would have offered her a better chance to win the game -- according to the on-the-fly jury vote, she would have lost 5-2 to Terry as well. However Aras was apparently wrong about one thing -- had Danielle voted Aras off, it wouldn't have cost her Cirie's jury vote. Bruce -- the Casaya member with whom Terry actually thought he had the strongest relationship -- was the only other jury member to indicate that he would have voted for Danielle in a Danielle/Terry Final 2. "You were that close to a million dollars," Jeff needled Terry after polling the jury members."

Later in the reunion show broadcast, Jeff presented Cirie with the keys to a brand-new 2007 GMC Yukon -- her prize for winning CBS.com's audience voting giveaway.

(Photo credit CBS)


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