Season 12: Episode 14 - THE VERDICT IS IN: Aras Named Sole Survivor
Posted on Jul 14, 2011 11:30am

Thirty-nine days, sixteen Survivors, four tribes, isolation on Exile Island, alliances and lies, a medical evacuation, an incredible rivalry and finally, one Sole Survivor. Aras Baskauskas, the 24-year-old yoga instructor from Santa Monica, California, made proper alliances and proves a major force around camp to secure the Jury vote that names him Sole Survivor of SURVIVOR: PANAMA--EXILE ISLAND and winner of the $1 million prize. Aras was a leader from the beginning, making power moves openly and behind the scenes. Being viewed as the only hope to defeat the seemingly unstoppable Terry Deitz in Challenges put Aras within striking distance of the Finale.

At Tribal Council on night 36, Danielle and Cirie each sit before fire pits, set to square off in the tiebreaker Challenge that will decide their fate in the game. On host Jeff Probst's "go", the two women hastily begin scraping magnesium from the flint into their fire pits. Cirie is first to produce a healthy flame, but it's short-lived and winks out almost as soon as it appears. Not to be outdone, Danielle follows with an impressive flame of her own, but that too dies out quickly. Changing her strategy, Danielle begins to build a teepee of kindling to protect a small flame burning at the center. Cirie rallies another small flame and nurtures it to a healthy size. But in the end, Danielle's strategy wins out when her kindling ignites, setting flame to the rope and releasing her flag, sending Cirie out of the competition and onto the Jury. As her torch is snuffed, Cirie becomes the thirteenth castaway voted out of SURVIVOR: PANAMA--EXILE ISLAND.

Returning to camp after Tribal Council, Danielle is riding high on her sudden-death victory over Cirie. But Danielle is not the only one ecstatic about Tribal Council's outcome. Terry, feeling secure in his new-formed alliance with Danielle, appears to have a numbers advantage for the first time in the game. "I've been extremely happy since Tribal Council when Danielle won," he explains. "Danielle and I have a pact, so that if either one of us wins, we'll take the other one to the final. So we have a 66 percent chance of getting to the final. Danielle and I are going to take it to Aras, and we're going to go to the finals."

Rising on the morning of day 37, Terry is eager to show off his now-obsolete (formerly) hidden Immunity Idol. When Terry beams that he's had the idol hidden in his shorts pocket the entire time, Aras seems unimpressed. When the two fierce rivals venture out to catch fish for the day's first meal, the expedition seems to be driven just as much by competition as by hunger. Terry is first back to camp with a sack of five small fish, while Aras returns with a sack of three rather large ones. Danielle, who's been observing the two alpha dogs, offers this summation: "Terry and Aras? Deep down inside, we all know that they don't like each other. [Because] Aras has beat out Terry in the past two Challenges, Terry's ready for revenge. I can see it. So, Aras better give him a run for his money at the Immunity Challenge, or else Aras will be going home."

Aras, Danielle and Terry convene with Jeff Probst, who explains that for this Reward Challenge, the Survivors must race to the top of a three-story climbing wall using four individually-shaped pegs. First, they must make their way through a table maze. Once at the end of the maze, each will release a bag containing their first two pegs and move to a spinning wheel. Reading the clues, each must spin the wheel clockwise, counter-clockwise, and clockwise again like a combination lock to find the one bag that contains their final two pegs. With the help of the pegs, the players must get to the top of the wall and place their pegs in the proper slots, which will raise a flag. The first person to raise their flag wins the Reward: a high-protein meal and a cot to take back to camp. This Reward will give the winner a huge advantage in the upcoming Immunity Challenge.

The game begins with Aras, Danielle and Terry pushing through the maze. Aras flies through the brainteaser to release his pegs and move on to the spinning wheel, while Danielle and Terry hit dead ends and have to backtrack to the beginning. Terry works quickly to make up ground, reaching the end of the maze and releasing his first set of pegs. Aras methodically works the spinning wheel to find his second set of pegs and move onto the climbing wall, with Terry hot on his heels. Danielle struggles with the spinning wheel, putting her virtually out of the Challenge, while Terry has found a hidden reserve to pull even with Aras on the climbing wall. Terry pulls off a miraculous come-from-behind victory as he speedily places his four pegs in their slots to release his flag and win the Reward.

While Terry is eating his high-protein Reward, Aras and Danielle are back at camp preparing fish from the morning's catch. Aras is quick to make light of Terry's Reward, but when Terry returns to camp with his cot slung over his shoulder and reveals the details of his Reward meal, it is clear that both Aras and Danielle are envious. Always looking for an edge, Aras has this to say about Terry's apparent dominance: "There's absolutely an advantage to having a meal the day before the biggest Immunity Challenge of the game. The thing of it is, though, it can also be a psychological disadvantage. Now the onus to win is really on you. Everybody expects you to win now. You're Super Dad, and you've got all this food in your body. That kind of puts the pressure on Terry."

After receiving an early morning Tree Mail, the Final Three were instructed to pay tribute to their fallen tribemates. Taking one last trip to Exile Island, Aras, Terry and Danielle take an emotional journey across the once-dreaded isle, where they find the torches of their former tribemates. After reflecting on their 38 days in Panama, Danielle, Aras and Terry place the torches on Exile Skull before setting it ablaze. The Final Three say their final goodbyes to Exile Island, where they'd all spent time in solitude, before heading to the Final Immunity Challenge.

The Final Three convene with Jeff Probst one last time to hear him explain that the Final Immunity Challenge will be a test of balance. Starting on the largest of a series of floating platforms, every fifteen minutes the Final Three will move to the next smaller platform. As the platforms get smaller, it will get tougher for the Survivors to maintain their balance. Only their feet can touch the platform. If their hands touch the platform or they fall off, they are eliminated. The last person standing wins Immunity and a guaranteed slot in the Final Two.

As the Challenge begins, all three Survivors calmly balance themselves with Zen-like stillness. After fifteen minutes, it's on to the next platform, and with a little teetering, all three are able to maintain their balance. After another fifteen minutes, it's time to move on to an even smaller platform. With only a minute to regain their balance, Terry and Aras struggle, while Danielle is steady as a rock. Aras is able to find his balance, but Terry is clearly struggling. With seconds remaining on the minute, Terry pulls himself to his feet. Shaky but balanced, he holds on with everything he's got. Unfortunately, it's not enough, and Terry loses his balance, making him the first eliminated from the Final Immunity Challenge. Aras, teetering as well, but balanced nonetheless, holds on, while former gymnast Danielle easily maintains her balance. Suddenly, Danielle gives Aras a meaningful nod, and he deliberately jumps off the platform into the water, handing Danielle the victory, Immunity in the next Tribal Council and safe passage to the Final Two.

Returning to camp from the Final Immunity Challenge, Danielle is courted heavily by both Terry and Aras. While on a trip to the water well, Terry pleads his case with Danielle, telling her that he would definitely be taking her to the Final Two had he won Immunity. Terry points to the Casaya-dominated Jury as being pro-Danielle, while Danielle expresses worry that Casaya would see it as a betrayal if she took Terry to the Final Two. When Terry ventures out on a fishing expedition, Aras makes his move aggressively, telling Danielle that if she doesn't take him, she will lose not only his vote, but Cirie's as well. He also reminds Danielle that he threw the Final Immunity Challenge based on her head nod. "Aras is very manipulative," Danielle laments. "That's why I'm hesitant to take him or even listen to what he says, because I want the million dollars. I'm not going to base my losing the million dollars to, 'oh, I told Aras I would take him.' I'm going to go with what I think. This is how I've played the game so far, and I believe that's why I am where I am right now."

Faced with the difficult choice between Terry and Aras, Danielle struggles to make the right decision, but in the end, Casaya loyalty wins out, and she votes Terry out of the game. When his torch is snuffed, Terry becomes the seventh member of the Jury and the fourteenth person voted out of SURVIVOR: PANAMA--EXILE ISLAND. Moments after being voted out, Terry admits that letting someone else choose his fate was the biggest mistake he's made in the game.

On the morning of day 39, Danielle and Aras awake to find a breakfast feast waiting for them at Tree Mail. Eggs, bacon, pancake batter, fruit, orange juice and champagne are a sight for sore eyes for the Final Two. After their hearty breakfast, Danielle and Aras venture out onto the rock jetty with the bottle of champagne and glasses in hand to toast the Final Two. With bottle in one hand and a glass in the other as he navigates the rocky terrain, Aras falters, slips and falls, sending shards of glass into his back and hand. With Danielle's help, Aras makes his way back to camp and waits for the medical team to arrive. Despite taking several stitches in his back and hand, Aras maintains a sense of humor throughout: "I got my butt kicked out here by the elements. I got my butt kicked by Terry Deitz a lot of the time. I got my butt kicked by my own shortsightedness, falling down on the rocks. Despite the fact that I made it 39 days, I feel like my ego has been crushed."

With the sun waning on the horizon, Danielle and Aras pause to reflect before making the trek to Tribal Council. The Jury decision weighing heavily on his mind, Aras remarks, "Falling down and hurting myself today reminded me just how human I am, and reminded me just how much of a game this is. What that is saying, look Aras, you don't have to be a Superman. You don't have to be a superhero, and you'll be okay. And so with that perspective coming into Tribal Council, maybe I'll be able to connect with people at a deeper level. That's the hope."

Danielle, on the other hand, has a different perspective, noting confidently, "I can't really say there's one thing that I've learned about myself coming into this. It just drew a clearer picture for me. It let me know I'm strong. I'm a strong, independent woman, and I knew I could get through it, and I did it. I'm so proud of myself. I just hope people dig deep tonight on the jury. I hope they pick the right person." As the sun sets in the West, the Final Two trek to their last Tribal Council.

As the Final Two take a seat at Tribal Council, the Jury assembles to ask the questions that will help them decide who will win the million dollars and the title of Sole Survivor. After the opening statements, each Jury member has the chance to address Danielle and Aras. The questions touch on honor, pride, regret and game-play. Danielle says she has no regrets and played the best game she could. Aras is also proud of the way he played. Both Danielle and Aras answer the questions honestly and openly.

Following a final statement by both Aras and Danielle, the Jury casts their final vote and awards Aras the $1 million and the title of Sole Survivor of SURVIVOR: PANAMA--EXILE ISLAND.

GMC® Yukon invites you to join the Final Four on their exciting journey around NYC before, during and after the season finale events. Watch now.