On ''Survivor,'' Danielle's balancing and fire-making skills let her choose between Terry and Aras for the final two, and the jury gives Aras the million bucks
Credit: Aras Baskauskas: Jeffrey R. Staab

”Survivor”: Danielle picks the winner

Good evening, Survivor fans. It is I, Whitney Pastorek, filling in for the un-fill-in-able Dalton Ross, who is out whooping it up tonight with Probst, Aras, Danielle, Cirie, Shane, and the crazy xylophone guys at the live finale show. (I’ve never been invited to the live Apprentice finale, by the way.) (This could be because I am really nasty to that show.) So while Dalton downs a couple Exile-tinis, I will type up this snore of a finale, which saw young Aras Baskauskas crowned sole survivor. Yeah, I said it: Tonight was a snore. And Probst didn’t even have to use a machete to get home.

Let’s look at where things went off the rails. Last week, they left us hanging on the cusp of the most intense fire challenge ever. Back in season 10, Steph and Bobby Jon had to make fire fast to see who would be the last remaining member of the doomed Koror tribe; in that battle, both parties were worthy, and it could have gone either way. But this season, it came down to useless Danielle vs. goddess Cirie, quite possibly the most sympathetic contestant in the history of this show, a woman who had overcome her entire existence to not only hang in there with the leaders but actually mentally dominate most of them, and had she made it through that elimination, I truly believe she would have won the whole shebang. Sadly, it was not to be: Danielle’s slow and steady fire won the race as I sat on my couch screaming, ”Sticks, Cirie! You must use sticks!” Cirie was sent packing, and suddenly, I found myself struggling to care who would win.

In a final three of Aras, Danielle, and Terry, I’m not sure where popular opinion goes. Prior to a couple episodes ago, I would have said Terry — not since Firefighter Tom has there been a more dominant player — but lately he had been acting like a total tool. At the reward challenge (another super-complicated Rube Goldberg contraption with pegs and mazes and combination lock things and a wall and flags and gerbils and cheese and a parrot that will bite through the rope if you pull the right feather and…), when Terry edged out Aras, he immediately grabbed Aras to declare, ”You are the ultimate competitor!” Ah, shut up, dude.

Meanwhile, Aras has just been awfully sure of himself and his fauxhawk and has always seemed a little shiny and wet behind the ears to me. And then his actions at the final immunity challenge just confirmed his slightly cocky attitude: The challenge was to balance on increasingly small foam lily pads in the water, but on lily pad No. 3, Terry lost his balance and hit the water, and then Aras gave Danielle a nod and Danielle gave him a nod back, and Aras jumped off. Dude, I cannot respect someone who puts his destiny in the hands of someone else like that. If you fall, you fall. But you don’t jump. And you don’t hang your shot at a million bucks on the nonverbal promise of a girl with the decision-making skills of a squirrel.

Fitting, though, that the one immunity challenge Danielle won was the one that required her to remain completely motionless for the longest amount of time.

So, even though Danielle had made a loose arrangement with Terry last week to save her own ass, she knew he’d kick her ass in the final two, and thus she went ahead and chose Aras — who was also going to kick her ass, but at least he came from Casaya, and hey, if you’re going to promise each other to stay loyal to the end, I guess you stay loyal to the end. Her excuse to Terry was ”Do you think it’s fair for me to take someone who can beat me?” Sweetie, I actually think Shane could have beaten you. Sorry. Yes, yes, I know there are those among you who probably applaud Danielle’s ability to fly under the radar or whatever, but she had no shot to win. All she was good for was handing a million dollars to the other guy. An Aras-Terry final two would at least have been a toss-up.

Massive props to Aras for getting sort of wasted on mimosas at the final breakfast and slipping on the rocks with a bottle of champagne and getting glass lodged in his back and requiring eight stitches on his back and hand; that spiced it up a bit. And massive props to the jury for keeping their hostility at being voted off to a minimum and just asking really nice calm reasoned que…wait, what am I talking about? Boo, jury! Boo! That, too, contributed to the dullness this evening: With the exception of Shane (and sort of Courtney, but God only knows what that woman is saying when she talks), everyone seemed just very respectful and quiet. I want snakes and rats! I want hellfire and brimstone! I want spitting! Even Shane wasn’t anywhere near as unhinged as he should have been, mostly just calling Danielle useless and Aras a betrayer and then making them pick a number between 1 and 1,000,000. Danielle eventually got his vote (and Bruce’s; Bruce loooooves her) before Aras picked up his four, and his million. Which should get him out of his dad’s basement, so long as he follows Probst’s advice and pays his taxes.

On a high note, America picked Cirie to get the car, which was nice, and her fellow contestants gave her a fish trophy, which was adorable and proved to me, again, that if only the woman could have made fire, she would have won, and America would be crying tears of joy right now. It’s also a shame that after all his hard work (and despite his tool-ness), Terry is walking away with nothing more than a car, but then, that keeps the car curse alive and well and waiting for the ominously numbered Survivor 13: Cook Islands. Despite — or maybe because of — tonight’s lack of fireworks, I can’t wait.

What do you think? Was anyone rooting for Aras? Who did you want to win? And which of this season’s contestants deserve to be in a future all-stars edition?