Rob Mariano didn’t win,
but he still ruled the game
Why didn't the other players gang up to vote out Rob Mariano when they had the numbers to do so? The world may never know.
By Kim Reed
Updated: 12:23 a.m. ET May 10, 2004Even though he lost, Boston Rob Mariano managed to control the game of “Survivor All-Stars” right up until the final moments.
Just before Amber Brkich was crowned the ultimate Survivor, Mariano proposed marriage, and she accepted, guaranteeing that Monday’s headline would not be “Brkich wins ‘Survivor All-Stars’,” but would instead be “Mariano Proposes.” That is not to say that Rob doesn’t genuinely love Amber, but still, it was a fitting end to a season largely controlled by Boston Rob.
How you felt watching the final episode of “Survivor All-Stars” is directly related to how you felt about Boston Rob throughout the season. If you thought Rob was a lying, manipulative genius, and each week you feared that he might be voted out, you were probably disappointed with Amber’s win. If you thought he was a lying, manipulative jerk, and each week you anticipated that he would be voted out, you finally got your wish in the final episode, and were perhaps satisfied. Then again, due to Amber’s alliance with Rob, her victory might be unsatisfying to Rob-haters as well.
No player has polarized the audience in this fashion since Richard Hatch in the first season, and even Richard didn’t completely dominate in the way that Rob did.
No player has polarized the audience in this fashion since Richard Hatch in the first season, and even Richard didn’t completely dominate in the way that Rob did. Even more remarkably, Richard didn’t have the challenge of trying to manipulate people who had already played the game once, and would presumably be perceptive enough to understand when they were being fooled and used.
Each week, viewers at home who were privy to Rob’s machinations and backstabbing couldn’t believe that the other players didn’t see through his ruse and band together while they still had superior numbers.
No one in his alliance (which seemed to include nearly every player at some points) seemed to realize that Rob excelled at nearly every type of challenge, and possibly could ride an immunity wave right into the final two. Instead of seizing the opportunity to knock Rob out, the other players talked about it from time to time, but never actually did it. Even in the final vote, when the jury members had a chance to deliver the killing blow, nearly half of them chose not to do so.
Week after week, Rob remained in the game, even when he didn’t win immunity. Last week, when it looked like Rupert or Big Tom might finally join forces, Rob pitted them against one another to distract them from their original goal. And it worked! Viewers at home were shocked (or amused) to see Rupert and Big Tom argue while Rob looked on grinning. He was the puppetmaster and they were his puppets.
Will they ever learn?
You'd think that, after two seasons, the players on this season of "Survivor" would have come to terms with the fact that the game is predicated on people lying, breaking promises, and scheming. However, this jury was the most bitter and nasty in “Survivor” history.
The only reason for spewing such bile is revenge, and the best revenge in this game is winning the money.
When will the players realize that the name of the game isn’t “Morality” or “Ethics” or even “Friendship”? Nearly every jury member used the opportunity to express their anger and sense of betrayal to the final two, and to what end? Surely, it’s not a means to determine their final vote; most of the jury members have already made that determination.
The only reason for spewing such bile is revenge, and the best revenge in this game is winning the money. Future players take note: being a bitter jury member just makes you look like a sore loser.
If you admired the way that Rob played the game, you were probably disappointed that he prostrated himself before the jury, and made all sorts of apologies. If you hated Rob, you probably thought that he was being insincere in his apology anyway, so it doesn’t matter.
All of Rob’s bravado seemed to disappear when he was questioned by the jury members, and it wasn’t clear whether he genuinely realized that there were hurt feelings, or if it was just another in his long line of strategic decisions.
When she walked over to cast her vote, Jenna Lewis implored both Rob and Amber to step up and admit that they were proud to be in the final two. While following their advice might have annoyed the members of the jury, it would have been a more fitting conclusion to the Robfather’s reign.
In the end, Rob Mariano didn’t get the money, but he did get the girl. He didn’t get the title of Ultimate Survivor, but he guaranteed that his name would always be mentioned whenever the All-Star season is discussed.
Future participants in the game of Survivor will have to consider the lessons learned from the way that Rob played the game.
Rob was the epitome of hard-nosed strategy, and always kept his eyes on the prize — but he was the same way on his first "Survivor" season, when he was not nearly as likable. In "All-Stars," his romance with Amber softened him, and made him more likable, both to viewers and to some of the jury members.
In the end, Rob couldn't quite find a way to balance the scheming and backstabbing necessary to stay in the game with the charm and charisma necessary to earn enough jury votes, but the next player who can has the game in the bag.
Kim Reed is a freelance writer in Upstate New York
© 2004 MSNBC Interactive