Rob Mariano – the New Brian Heidik?
by David Bloomberg -- 04/14/04
Brian Heidik won Survivor: Thailand by a strategy involving secret sub-alliances with individuals who were all convinced they would be going to the end with him. David thought such a feat would never be reproduced, but in watching All-Stars, it seems that Rob Mariano has set himself up to do just that. David discusses exactly how it could work.
Early in Survivor: All-Stars, Rob Mariano indicated that Rob Cesternino was nothing more than a copycat who used Mariano’s tactics in his own game. Frankly, I think Mariano is simply a bit too egotistical if he truly thinks that, but one thing I have noticed is that Mariano himself appears to be copying from a previous Survivor winner who did not appear on All-Stars: Brian Heidik from Survivor: Thailand.
Brian, as you will recall, won by creating a tribal alliance and also by creating secret individual sub-alliances within the overall alliance. Each sub-alliance partner believed he or she was the true alliance and would be going with Brian to the Final 2. All but one were, of course, wrong.
First, Brian’s tribal alliance Pagonged the Sook Jai. Then, he told each of Clay, Ted, and Helen that they would be going to the Final 2 with him, and each of them believed him. Even as Brian was double-crossing others, each person who had a sub-alliance with him thought they were the real alliance. It was something like a woman who dates a man who is cheating on his wife or girlfriend. Even though she knows he cheats, she fools herself into thinking he is truly being loyal to her.
The same is happening now on All-Stars. Rob has a definite Final 2 alliance with Amber – that much he isn’t hiding. But beyond that, he had a Final 6 alliance with his former Chapera tribe (himself, Amber, Tom, Alicia, Rupert, Jenna). Within that alliance, he has a sub-alliance with Tom, a sub-alliance with Jenna and Rupert, and most recently a sub-alliance with Alicia. Each of them seem to think that when it gets down to the Final 5/4/3/whatever, they will be standing and it will be the others who have been sent packing. Each of them is fooling him/herself.
First, we will see Rob’s ex-Chapera alliance Pagong the ex-Mogo Mogos. Kathy and Shii Ann will be getting their torches snuffed soon enough, barring immunity wins.
Then, Rob will be forced to start picking off his own. Since Alicia was the most recent addition to his harem of alliance-mates, and since she doesn’t fit into the overall “Final 5” picture that Rob has apparently been painting for Rupert and Jenna, she will go first.
And yet the others will continue to believe.
At that point, things become dicier. If Rupert, Jenna, and Tom are smart, they will turn on Rob and Amber. However, I think Rob will actually pull it off, Brian Heidik-style. He will convince Tom that he is going to the Final 3. He will convince Jenna that she is going to the Final 3. Or he could convince both Rupert and Jenna together that they will still be Final 4. Depending on which way he goes, Tom or Rupert will be targeted – led like a lamb to slaughter. I tend to suspect Tom will go at this point because it would again be easier to send a singleton packing than to try to break up a pair.
And yet the others will continue to believe.
Rob may tell whomever is left that it is every person for him/herself in the Final 4. If so, he will be, of course, lying. He and Amber will continue to work together. They will tell both remaining players that they are taking them to the Final 3, and then choose one to go – likely the remaining male of Tom or Rupert – to slant the final immunity challenge in their direction.
At this point, if my prediction is true and Jenna is the last one left with Rob and Amber, she may finally see what was going on. If she does, it will be too late – just as she was too late in realizing her predicament in the first Survivor. Similarly, Jan likely knew that Brian was taking Clay to the Final 2 instead of her, but it was too late to do anything about it.
Love him or hate him (for it seems there is no in-between), Rob Mariano is a student of the game. He also has an uncanny ability to make people do what he wants them to do – even when it is completely against their own best interests. Although I’ve said that Brian’s trick would never work again, it seems Rob may be proving me wrong. He has all the pieces in place to keep things running smoothly for him. As long as nobody really compares notes and they continue to believe Rob instead of each other, Rob will glide into the Final 2 – just like Brian Heidik did.
The two are not identical, of course. Brian was much more subtle. But some of the obviousness that Rob has can actually work for him in much the way it worked for Dr. Will on Big Brother 2. One place that Rob has screwed up in game terms is in making it obvious that he is a team with Amber. He cannot promise anybody else that he will take them to the Final 2, because they would never believe him. However, he has accounted for that by making sure to never promise more than he can obviously give them. Thus, by promising Final 3, they might still believe they can win final immunity. Should his alliance partners realize that aligning with a duo is a bad idea? Yes. Have they? Not so far, and I’m predicting they won’t until it’s too late.
Will Rob win? That remains to be seen. Brian knew that Clay would have less chance of getting votes in the final jury, which is why Brian selected him. Rob, however, is taking Amber for personal, rather than game, reasons. He could make the case that she just rode his coattails. Or he might not care, figuring they will spend it together no matter who gets it. But if I were on the jury, I would sooner give it to player Rob than coattailer Amber. So he might just pull it out.
David Bloomberg is the Editor of RealityNewsOnline and can be reached at RNO@pobox.com