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I need you to be more specific in your question(s) if you could. When we answer general ones like "what can I do" "what are my rights" or "what are my options" we have to give general answers and, invariably, the customer responds with "I already knew that". This type of forum works better if you ask specific questions so we know exactly what you are looking for.
I can't answer as to what they're thinking and why.
Generally, there is no specific point at which a vehicle must be considered a total loss. It is largely a decision made by the adjuster and the office personnel. From my experience, at this point they are so far into the repairs that it is no longer economically feasible for them to total the vehicle.
If the vehicle isn't repaired at this time then the course of action is to file a lawsuit against the repair shop and the insurance company. You can allege collusion, but the primary cause of action would be negligence and then breach of contract/warranty, plus a claim for your attorney's fees.
The insurance company is almost certainly going to try and escape liability by blaming the body shop and your attorney will have to do extensive discovery to show that the vehicle should have been totaled at first.
You will want to look for an attorney who does Consumer Law. You can find one at www.lawyers.com.