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Sunday April 9, 2006 6:55 am

Survivor: Panama: The Power Of the Idol

After having narrowly escaped elimination at the recent Tribal Council, Austin was feeling great for having survived another day.  He was fully aware though that the incredibly stupid remarks he made could still cost him the game.  NOTE TO ASPIRING CONTESANTS:  Telling everyone that you purposely botched a challenge because you didn’t want to appear too strong is not something advised in the Survivor handbook.  Needless to say, the former members of Casaya thought Austin was a slimeball that could not be trusted.  They vowed early to on to vote him off at the next challenge.  Trying to keep the La Mina contingent alive, Terry and Sally realized that they needed to woo two people over to their side very quickly.  They believed that working on some of the ladies might be their best bet.

For the reward challenge of the week, the remaining nine contestants were (randomly?) divided into groups of three.  The teams were each given 100 coconuts that they were to get rid of at the very start by dumping them into their oppositions’ boats.  Once they were finished tossing the items, they would each jump into their own boat and paddle off shore.  The goal was to grab a positioned flag and net in the water.  Once the items were retrieved, the teams would row back to shore.  The team that could drag their coconuts and flag up the beach first would win.  Of course, how quickly they finished would be dependent upon the number of coconuts dumped by their competitors into their boat

The teams were divided as follows:  Shane/Terry/Austin, Bruce/Aras/Sally and Cirie/Danielle/Courtney.  On paper, it immediately seemed that team of three males would be the one to beat.  So during the competition, Aras suggested to the all-female team that they should combine their efforts and focus on the all-male trio.  Although the women did agree, they were so slow retrieving their coconuts that their contributions were minimal.  As it was, the women were so slow that they ended up having to dump the remaining items in their own boat because the other teams had already taken off into the water.  Despite Aras’ plan, the competition between his boat and the all-male group was reasonably stiff.  Ultimately, the Bruce/Aras/Sally team was able to eke out the win.  For their victory, the team would be rewarded with a bed and breakfast excursion.  But before they would depart on that trip, they were tasked with designating a member from each opposing team to go to Exile Island.  Austin and Danielle were the token unlucky ones for this week.  Especially unlucky because unbeknownst to them, the Immunity Idol was already gone.

The next day was a wet and miserable one for the winners and losers of the challenge.  Aras, Bruce and Sally arrived to their bed and breakfast retreat only to find their canopied bed soaked from all the Panamanian rain.  Thankfully, once they got some juice and bacon into their empty bellies, all was forgotten.  As for Danielle and Austin, life on Exile Island was a living hell.  The rain did not stop the whole time they were there.  They didn’t even have time to look for the idol because they were forced to commiserate in their misery.  After their grueling time together, both Danielle and Austin claimed they felt closer because of their experience. 

While most of the competitors were gone from camp, Terry decided to take advantage of that time to strategize.  He asked Shane point-blank who he believed would make it to the Final Four.  Shane predicted that it would be Cirie, Aras, Courtney and himself.  Terry, of course, took this to mean that Danielle and Bruce would be the first two members of Casaya to be voted off.  Terry brought this information to Sally and said that they needed to work on bringing over Bruce and Danielle.  Sally liked the idea but was worried that their plan could be jeopardized if either Danielle or Austin found the Immunity Idol.  Terry assured her that this would not happen since he already had it.  Terry, should you have given up that information so soon?

For the Immunity Challenge of the week, the contestants were put through a series of obstacle courses.  The number of survivors would be pared down after each leg of the race.  After the first stunt, the group of nine was cut down to six.  This was followed by a brain teaser and another obstacle which cut down the competitors down to three.  Then a balancing course slimmed it down to the Final Two:  Terry and Sally.  It was a nearly photo-finish finale, but Terry emerged the winner.  In case you’re losing count, this meant that Terry now had two Immunity Idols to play with.  One has to wonder now whether he should have given that last win over to Sally.

What transpired next at camp was not only confusing to the viewers at home, but to the contestants at camp.  Because there was extreme uncertainty as to who, if anyone, might have the Immunity Idol, the members of Casaya had to be prepared for any scenario.  If they chose incorrectly, the person they tried to vote off could whip ouf the idol at the last minute.  If the elimination process came down to a simple number of votes, either Aras or Shane could be voted off due to La Mina votes.  Aras and Courtney fought over who they should vote off first.  Aras thought that they should aim for Sally because she was probably the safest bet.  Courtney thought that they should stick with the original plan and vote off Austin, although there could be a chance that he was protected.  Meanwhile, Terry and crew worked hard to get Danielle and Bruce over to their side, letting them know Shane’s prediction for the Final Four.  Terry gave them his word and promised to help use his Immunity Idol to protect them…. or something like that.  I’m still not entirely sure if I understood Terry’s plan.

When they finally got to Tribal Council, the elimination came down to the alpha males:  Aras and Austin.  Unfortunately for Austin, not only did he not have Terry’s idol to save him, but he also did not get the backing from Danielle and Bruce that he had hoped for.  Seems Danielle didn’t bond with him as closely has he had hoped.  La Mina’s chance of surviving was now pretty much destroyed.  LOSER: Austin

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