NEW YORK – It was a high-stakes battle that didn't have a clear-cut favorite — but, as always, in the end there was one "Survivor."
(Spoiler alert: Those still waiting to watch Sunday's season-ending "Survivor: Panama, Exile Island," you've been warned.)
Aras Baskauskas, a 24-year-old yoga instructor from Santa Monica, Calif., beat out Danielle DiLorenzo, a 24-year-old medical sales representative from Boston, to win the 12th edition of the CBS reality show — and the $1 million champion's payoff.
DiLorenzo, who host Jeff Probst said in an interview was one of "the weakest players who've ever played the game," won the final immunity challenge — a contest that involved balancing on a series of wobbly platforms on the ocean — to reach the final two.
The immunity win allowed her to eliminate one of the other two still remaining, Baskauskas or ex-Navy fighter pilot Terry Deitz. DiLorenzo chose to send Deitz packing, breaking the "alliance" agreement she'd made with him.
Baskauskas, who briefly played professional basketball in Lithuania, had an intense rivalry — a "macho" hostility, as DiLorenzo called it — with the 46-year-old Deitz, who won multiple immunity challenges during the 39-day-contest.
At the final council vote, however, when it came down to Baskauskas or DiLorenzo, Deitz voted in favor of Baskauskas.
"Out of the two of you, you were head and shoulders the winner," said Deitz in reference to his nemesis, flashing his vote card to the camera.
When he made his case at the final council to the jury of ex-"Survivor" castmates, Baskauskas said he deserved to win because he "worked hard at establishing real relationships."
Booted contestant/jury member Shane Powers blasted Baskauskas, however. DiLorenzo, Powers said, was "useless at camp" and that Deitz, not Baskauskas, should have landed in the final two.
Cirie Fields, a 35-year-old nurse from Walterboro, S.C., was the first of the final four to be voted out of the competition during Sunday night's two-hour finale.
The show from executive producer Mark Burnett, who also produces NBC's "The Apprentice," remains a top-level ratings performer.
After the final votes were cast at the tribal council in Panama, they were tallied on a live broadcast Sunday night from the Ed Sullivan Theater in Manhattan.