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''Survivor'': Mark Burnett's Wicked, Wicked Ways

By RD Heldenfels Published: May 11, 2006

Mark Burnett is a very successful and (generally) smart TV producer. He also has more than a little Barnum in him, and tonight's ''Survivor'' showed once again that he will happily play with the audience in order to keep it around a little longer.

Who's in the final three? We don't know. The tribal council vote came down to a tiebreaker between Cirie and Danielle, and the show ended before showing us who won the tiebreaker. Step right up, ladies and gentlemen -- and wait around until Sunday for the big finish.

The show had its moments. Seemingly unbeatable Terry lost both reward AND immunity to Aras, and the reward win came about in large measure because Cirie was able to block Terry's progress several times on the challenge course. The immunity loss was even more key because Terry had worked out a deal with Danielle where he could give her the immunity idol if he had immunity himself -- driving either Aras or Cirie out of the game.

And, for once, Terry played smart. Danielle tried to talk him into giving up the idol, since Aras/Cirie would assume he had it and vote for Danielle -- who could then block them with the idol and send either Aras or Cirie home. But Terry kept the idol for himself. And I am sure that, had he given the idol to Danielle, she would have cut a deal with Aras and Cirie and taken Terry out. So not only did we see Aras at last do something he had repeatedly failed at -- beat Terry -- we saw Terry do something he had done terribly -- figure out a strategy.

But that created the tie situation, Aras and Cirie voting for Danielle, Terry and Danielle voting for Cirie. One flaw in the show: Everyone on the island knows the game well enough that they figured the tiebreaker would be a fire-making challenge. Good time, then, to change the tiebreaker, as the show has done before. But we still had the fire challenge -- ONLY WE DON'T KNOW HOW IT TURNED OUT.

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