Survivor Fan Friction – Boston Rob Mariano

It’s time for another edition of Fan Friction, a series of essays where one of our columnists writes an ode to one of their favorite Survivor players, while defending them against any potential naysayers (both real and imagined). This isn’t a place to be fair and balanced. This is a chance to let your fan freak flag fly. Shockingly, I chose to write about Boston Rob. Clear some time on your schedule.

Why He’s Great

Look. We all knew this was coming. It’s entirely possible that I only came up with the idea for this series as a flimsy excuse to lecture everyone about Boston Rob again. You know, it’d be nice that if after this I’ll feel like I’ve said my piece and move on and put a moratorium on all such matters. But I think we all know that’s not going to happen.

I’ll admit, when young douchebag Rob Mariano first graced our screens 15 years ago, I was decidedly NOT a fan. His cocksure-but-unearned arrogance rubbed me the wrong way as I hoped he would pay for foolishly voting out the only member of his tribe that was worth a damn (well, Gina was also cool). When I heard he was cast for All-Stars, I was a little surprised but figured they wanted another villain. I was again looking forward to seeing him fail.

Yung Douchebro

And then he didn’t. Instead, he thoroughly dominated the then-greatest assemblage of Survivor players the show had ever cast (minus Sandra and Brian Heidik).* His performance that season was what I’d been waiting for as the novelty of the show had worn away and a new evolution of game play was needed. I’d been watching for 8 seasons, waiting for somebody to seize control of the game, and frankly, was wondering if such a thing was even possible. There had certainly been players before him to evolve the game strategically, like Heidik or Rob Cesterino or the Rotu 4, but none of them did so as thoroughly and unapologetically as Rob was – against All-Stars no less!

The arrogance hadn’t gone away – and never has. But I don’t have an issue with arrogance if it feels earned. Especially if it feels more funny than mean-spirited (a bar that Rob admittedly does not always clear). And to my mind, Rob Mariano is not only the greatest Survivor of all-time; his unique combination of specialized skills, ability to manipulate people, and deep understanding of the demands of the genre make him the greatest competitive reality TV contestant of all-time. Any other time in history, his talents would never be recognized. But because he had the good fortune of being born when he was? Professional reality contestant was his destiny.

I think a key to being a Boston Rob fan is having seen him both on Survivor AND The Amazing Race. Because it was his appearance on the latter that clinched my high opinion of him. I hadn’t watched the show before and was blown away by how his ingenuity, creative athleticism, and devil-may-care attitude allowed him to dominate there as well. Plus, having Amber with him full-time really helps take the edge off his domineering personality. Their relationship (despite what many a hater believed at the time) is legit and charming.

Romber 4 Eva!

So he dominates on two shows spread across six seasons of television and does so in purposefully entertaining ways (he’s great in a variety of challenges, is a great narrator, makes exciting moves). What’s not to like?

Apparently, lots of things?

Haters Gonna Hate

Six seasons?!?

We can probably start with that last paragraph I just wrote. Boston Rob has been on six seasons of reality TV (let’s just not talk about weird shit that none of us ever watched like Rob and Amber: Against the Odds, Around the World in 80 Ways, or that Tontine thing that was never produced). There are people who think that’s far too much. That reality TV should be reserved for rank amateurs and that seeing someone who is clearly good at something too often is annoying. These people are communists.

Look, I understand that sometimes there are diminishing returns the more times players come back. I’m just a little unclear on how that applies to a guy whose last appearance on Survivor was a WINNING appearance (oh, don’t worry haters. We’ll get to that). It’s hard to say he got worse at being on the show as time passed, so the idea that they should’ve stopped bringing him back makes little sense. It only works if you simply don’t like the show going back to people they know are good at it. Which is an argument that will never work with me: I prefer watching people do things that they are good at that suffering through amateurs who aren’t (this is also why I can’t watch college sports, btw). It’s not the job of Survivor to give everyone who wants a chance to play it a shot. Their job is to make a good TV show. A good way* to do that is to cast people who have already proven to be good TV.

*Redemption Island proves this strategy to be imperfect

But it took him four tries to win

bUt iT ToOk hiM FoUr tRies tO Win

Are we really still doing this in the year of our lord 2017? IMMEDIATELY after one of the most beloved and universally-respected players in the history of the show FAILED to win on her fourth try (who, in fact, has never even come as close to winning as Rob did in his second season, btw). Ugh, fine. Let’s do this.

Do you know why it took Rob four times to win Survivor? (Well, besides Amber having a conversation with Shii Ann right before they booted her off that resulted in the deciding vote in All-Stars). Because winning Survivor is HARD and often the result of a random series of events coalescing in the right way or NOT coalescing in the wrong way. You can play an awesome game only for it to fall apart because your key ally and final jury goat ate too much meat at a reward, or you lose your concentration for a split second at a challenge while protecting your modesty, or you’re the only person of six at tribal council not to be immune, or your ally makes one of the dumbest decisions in the history of the game and essentially votes himself out. We know this. We know that Survivor is a high variance game. And if the player we’re evaluating doesn’t happen to be buds with Jeff Probst, we’re smart enough and fair enough to recognize that limiting our evaluation of “who is good at Survivor” to “those who won it on their first or second try” is asinine. Hell, if the player in question is a bit nerdy and references Harry Potter in her bio, we’ll make every excuse in the world for why she didn’t win.

Even if they’re ALSO from Boston!

Exactly one of the four people to have played four times has ever won. Hell, only one of the 22 people to have played three times won on their third try. For players that we like, we recognize that each time you return to Survivor, the target on you grows. We just watched a season that ruthlessly and systematically picked off anyone who came into the season with a resume, and we’re still gonna pretend that being a four-time returnee made it easier for Rob to win? Pretty fucking weird that he’s basically the only contestant in the history of the show that this has been true for.

But you know what? Even if that were true (it’s not), that doesn’t matter. I don’t NEED his fourth season to prove his greatness. His second and third already did that. He got a fourth season BECAUSE of his greatness, not the other way around. He dominated his second season before losing in front of the most personally-motivated jury of all-time by ONE FUCKING VOTE. People have tried to rewrite history to make his All-Stars loss a huge personal failing, even though we haven’t seen a vote that close in the past 13 seasons.

He got over it.

In his third season, among the greatest cast the show has ever produced, he was in a dominant position until his foolproof plan proved otherwise. Obviously, there was a lot of season left for that to change, but all you can do in Survivor is put yourself in the best position and hope things work out. He did. Because he’s fucking good at Survivor. (You know another player who put themselves in a pretty good position on their third season of Survivor only for it to fall apart due to things outside their control and thus failed to make the merge? Sandra Diaz-Twine).

His win was too easy

Don’t worry. I’ve heard you screaming at me through your computer screen ever since I started tearing down the four times argument by bringing up Cirie (and Ozzy a bit too, not that anyone cares about him). “She was playing against ALL-STARS (like Sierra Dawn Thomas, Brad Culpepper, Hali Ford, and Troy)”, Rob was against newbies! IT’S TOTALLY DIFFERENT!!!

Here’s a fun stat for you: number of returning players to win a season of Survivor against a full or half cast of other returning players: 7 (Amber, Parvati, Sandra, Cochran, Tyson, Jeremy, Sarah). Number of returning players to win a season of Survivor in a season of only 2-3 returning Survivors:

This guy.

Here’s what’s happened to the non-Rob-returnees to play in a newbie-majority season: Stephenie, Coach, and (Redacted) went to the finals only to be rejected by the jury. Russell and Penner were targeted early and often SPECIFICALLY because they were returning players (arguably, this also happened with Ozzy, although he may have been targeted in that situation anyway due to his challenge dominance, as he has been in the other two times he returned). Bobby Jon and Russ Swan gained no traction either way. So why exactly do people think it was easier for Rob to succeed in this situation? When has it EVER been easy to succeed in Survivor when you’re the biggest, most obvious threat?

Remove the Rob of it all: if you were watching a brand new season of Survivor, would you think the odds-on favourite to win was the alpha dude challenge threat thrust into the role of tribe leader? Or would you consider him to be a meat shield? If Malcolm were cast next year in a season against Andrea and a bunch of new players, would you think either of them would have an easy chance of winning?

This isn’t to say that there aren’t advantages that came with Rob’s significant experience gap that season. He knew more about the game than anyone else out there (including the other returnee. ESPECIALLY the other returnee). But that advantage also came with a disadvantage: he had the biggest target out there (well, maybe second biggest to that other returnee). This is a season where he was called out as a target before even getting to his camp by multiple players, one of whom would become the season’s first idol holder. This is a season where a tribe threw a challenge to get rid of a returnee. But, sure, let’s say it was an easier way to win. Narratives are easier than supporting evidence.

Redemption Island was set up for him to win

I don’t deal in tinfoil hat conspiracy theories, so if you honestly believe that the television show Survivor put not only their future existence but also their previous 21 season legacy in peril in order to help Rob Mariano get a win (and thus disincentivize him from appearing as a contestant again), you and I probably can’t have a serious discussion about things. Seriously, if it ever got out that they fixed a season, it’s game over – show cancelled, network fines, lawsuits everywhere. And it should be noted that this is not a show where info about it does not get out.

Now, there’s other ways to try and help a player out besides straight-up collusion (which I swear some people claim happened). The common refrain in this area is that they cast the season to help Rob win (but only Rob though, sorry Russell). And when you look at the less-than-stellar cast of Redemption Island, I can almost forgive you for thinking this. Except that it doesn’t explain the cast for season 21. Or 23. Or 24. Or, frankly, 17 and 19 either. Could it be that this was less a case of trying to help Probst’s buddy win a season and more a case that this was simply how Survivor was cast in this era? Maybe?

Just throwing that out there.

Now, I’m not going to suggest that the show wasn’t motivated to try and protect the two players they were planning on marketing the entire season around. Nor am I naive enough to suggest that they’re above trying to do something about it. In fact, they DID do something to try and protect Rob and Russell: redemption island. They introduced an entirely new game mechanic designed to artificially increase the number of days they could guarantee having their stars around (with a minimum of three episodes for one of them, four for both). I’m not sure why so much energy has been spent on coming up with conspiracy theories on what the show did for Rob when it’s right there in the title.

Interestingly, the very existence of redemption island helps squash the idea that the fix was in to help Rob. Because if a crew of hundreds and a cast of 19 other players really were all working together to help him win, or if every player was hand selected based on their love of Rob, why introduce redemption island into the mix? Doesn’t redemption island completely reek of production sitting around planning out their Rob vs Russell season when someone says “yeah, but… won’t the other players just vote them out right away?” And then someone says “but what if they couldn’t?”

Rob has a terrible social game

Swear to god people have written this to me about a guy who had such control over his tribe that they called them Rob’s Zombies. How it works is that Rob undoubtedly lost All-Stars due to faulty jury management. He admits as much. And that jury was PISSED at him (even someone like Kathy who voted for him was). So you look at a jury rejection like that, mix in a decade of not actually watching the season, and a bunch of other jury rejections and voila, you have “bad social player”.

Except for the pesky fact that he only lost by one vote. That wasn’t exactly a Hantzian defeat. If he’s a little nicer to Tom on his way out, this “poor social player” would have won a season where he had TWO tribes bending to his will and everyone wanting to be in his alliance. There’s a difference between people being pissed at you after you vote them out and not having a social game while they’re in it (in fact, sometimes having TOO strong a social game can burn you with the jury, as they take the rejection more personally). In All-Stars, they did the burn book challenge. You know what the players in the game thought of Rob? He was the plurality choice for “who would you trust with your life”. Poor social game indeed.

In Heroes vs. Villains, he was able to corral one of the most dysfunctional group of personalities ever into a dominant tribe. In Redemption Island, he successfully managed one of the most difficult goats in the history of the game (a trick whose difficulty is proven seemingly every season when we see lesser players try and fail at the same). Look, just because you don’t like the guy, doesn’t mean that people playing with him didn’t.

I don’t like him because Jeff Probst and the Casuals do

Well, at least you’re being honest.

This is a pretty common thing among hardcore fans of anything. After all, how can you properly represent the unique and refined taste you’ve achieved by being so passionate about something if you like the same things that everyone else does? It’s a particularly common impulse among those who spend a lot of time in the internet.

What’s interesting about Rob is that rejecting his greatness is probably a majority opinion among internet fans, which means that many Survivor fans have asserted their individuality by… agreeing with most of their peers. ICONOCLASTS!

He’s an obnoxious Masshole

I… I have no rebuttal for this one.

Embrace Debate

This is the part where I’m supposed to summarize my thoughts in a last ditch attempt to change your minds about Rob. But, frankly, I don’t really care if people like him or not. I’m guessing both sides of this debate are pretty entrenched at this point. Plus, we really don’t want to find out what I’d be like if I found out that I successfully changed people’s minds on this topic.

Instead, I’m hoping for one of two things: one, the haters find different arguments to explain their hate, since the old ones are tired and by and large hypocritical. I haven’t been harping on the Cirie point this year because of any problem I have with Cirie, who is one of my faves and an all-time great. It was to point out how stupid the four times argument is when it’s applied to someone who DOESN’T cheer for the Red Sox. Basically, if you wouldn’t apply your argument to any one who isn’t Rob, maybe it’s not a particularly good argument?

Or, if the haters can’t find new arguments, how about you just abandon any pretence of reasoning for your dislike and just admit that you’re a hater. Don’t try and dress it up in a silly “actually, Rob isn’t good at Survivor” bullshit and just say you don’t like the guy. That he’s an obnoxious Masshole. That Probst being right about someone would crush your worldview too much. The Red Sox fans are The. Worst. Any of those would be more acceptable than the weak shit people have been trying for years now.

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Co-host of the Purple Rock Survivor Podcast and the Canadian of the group, Andy has been watching Survivor continuously since the very beginning and likes to treat that as some kind of virtue to lord over others.

Favourite seasons: Heroes vs Villains, Cook Islands, Palau, The Amazon, Cagayan
Favourite players: Boston Rob, Kim Spradlin, Tony Vlachos, Cirie Fields, Yul Kwon, Rob Cesternino
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258 thoughts on “Survivor Fan Friction – Boston Rob Mariano

    1. You don’t remember him? The domineering meathead with the over-the-top Boston persona? He came, like, super close to winning the game and probably would have closed the deal if not for Mike’s immunity run.

      1. Oh sure, wasn’t he always going on about Tom Brady? I wish they could get someone from Boston on this show who actually knows what they’re doing.

  1. This was fun. I think Boston Rob is one of the greatest players and characters Survivor has ever had. Every season he’s been on had benefited from his presence. He is not without flaws. He is stubborn, arrogant and needs to be in control a little too much. He is charismatic enough to gather allies but is enough of a douche to turn him off. He has a brilliant strategic mind and is a challenge beast. He is an all around great player. He is most likable when Amber is around (All Stars/TAR 7) to cover up the massholeness. The four time player against the RI cast is a legit criticism but even with that it’s a top 5 winning game.

    But don’t think I didn’t noticed how you mentioned Cirie or Aubry, Andy. I feel like that was a preemptive defense against an argument I could have made and I’ll remember that.

    1. All things considered, BRob is one of the top five all-time castaways, and if Game Changers actually cast according to its name, Rob would have been the first one called. However, I think he’ll only be back for an All Winners season, which is a shame bc we get less of him.

      1. Who else would be in your top five? Off the top of my head, I would go with Boston Rob, Cirie, Parvati, Sandra and… this is future big ass project for me.

        1. Those four should be consensus picks. There’ll be some debate on the last one, but I think you’ll find that it’s Kourtney Moon (jk, y’all read my post, right?)

          1. I honestly want to say that the fifth is Malcolm, but that doesn’t feel right at all. There are a small number of players who have had success across at least two seasons, and not a lot of them feel like Top Five All-Time. Like, Ozzy is an extremely accomplished player over four seasons, and it feels like he barely makes Top 10. So if you make the top five into Top Four + the Field, I think that’s entirely fair.

          2. The difficulty comes in how much repeated success matters. Maybe a Kim or a Tom or a Tony were good enough in one season that the rest don’t matter.

            (Yes, Tony played one season).

          3. If you expand your list enough, some one-season superstars break through. But at five, I don’t think it happens. For example, the 7 years of Mike Trout’s career aren’t better than the entire careers of Beltran, Ichiro, Raines, etc. But if you expand your scope, you get someone like Vlad, where Trout would pass him with half of his playing time. Five is too restrictive to have non-returnees in.

            (also, I hope this doesn’t awaken something in me that compels me to develop WAR for Survivor)

          4. Yeah, like clearly Amanda did well objectively, but I just don’t see her as top tier.

          1. Kim and Tom both dominated their first seasons in such thorough fashions that they deserve tremendous praise.

        2. Most memorable? Coach, Fairplay, Rupert, Phillip Shepard, and… Debbie? Why aren’t there as many crazy female players as there are male players?

    2. I listened to his first RHAP interview not too long ago and he addressed the control thing. He knows that he has to play the game a certain way if he wants to win and being in control is part of it. That might be a flaw for him in real life (who knows?) but it wasn’t a flaw during the game.

      1. He is very good at playing in a leadership/control position. Credit to him for figuring out the best way to maximize his Survivor potential. I guess my point is that he needs to play that way to succeed. It’s probably a little nitpicky on my part. BR is one of the greatest though even with that bit of inflexibility.

        1. I think if you go through the list of Survivor winners, you won’t find many who can succeed playing multiple styles.

          1. Now, I don’t disagree that a little lightening of control in HvV may have let him hang around longer after the Tyson snafu. But it’s possible that once Jerri flipped, he was already fucked anyway. I always wanted him at the time to try and get Parvati out instead of Russell, to see if that would’ve kept Jerri and Coach in the fold.

          2. Rob almost said as much in the aforementioned RHAP podcast, you have to know yourself and how you can win and accept that’s how you as a person have to play.

        2. Yeah he’s very self aware. He knows he can’t play the under-the-radar game any more than a pushover could play his control freak game. He’s well aware that there’s no one way to win Survivor that works for everyone. Somebody mentioned it in another comment but the fact that he KNOWS he’s a bit of an arrogant control freak actually makes him a better player and more entertaining. There have been plenty of arrogant control freak Survivor players who weren’t that self aware who kind of sucked (and didn’t win). The only other player I can think of off the top of my head who was THAT self aware that he was a controlling dick was Brian Heidik, and hey, that guy played a dominant winning game too.

  2. This is exactly what I was hoping for. Fan Friction is a great concept but I haven’t been able to participate in the discussion due to the fact that I’ve still only seen 20/34 seasons of Survivor. I could have participated in the Rodney discussion but seriously, fuck Worlds Apart (except Shirin).

    However I HAVE seen all 4 seasons with Boston Rob. And I’ve been a fan from Day 1. I loved him in Marquesas, he gave us something different than we had seen up to that point, someone willing to stomp on the conventions of the game in order to get himself ahead. He failed but he certainly kick started what I think was some of the biggest evolutions in the strategy of the game (Seriously people, watch the first three seasons of Survivor again and then watch Marquesas, it was the biggest turning point in strategy until roughly around the time they introduced immunity idols). Read: Vecepia doesn’t win Marquesas without the groundwork laid out by Rob earlier in the season.

    Strategy aside I like to be entertained and Rob gave excellent confessionals and had the most important pre-merge story arc. Maybe I’m biased because I’m from New England but I was invested in the guy from the very first confessional.

    I was thrilled that he made the All Stars cast and I hoped he would go far. But I wasn’t happy when he did. The way he did it was not entertaining to me because of how he burned all of my other favorites. But I could not question his dominance, and thought he deserved to win over Amber. I would argue though that Rob could play the kind of game he did because he was in a unique situation – he didn’t have to win to win if you follow me. He knew he just needed to get himself and Amber to FTC and then he could sail off into the sunset, win or not. Nobody else has ever been in that position.

    I was off and on with Survivor for a long time, but whenever I heard Rob was back, I was in. Thank God too because HvV was awesome, and his turn there was legendary. I agree he played a good game there even though it was cut short. I rooted for him all the way through Redemption Island, but when he won I actually felt a little bit dirty, for many of the reasons you outlined. It took one of my favorites 4 tries and a pathetic cast to finally score a win. Felt like a pyrrhic victory. That and the fact that in the intervening years Rob has become this figure in Survivor history had turned me off for a while.

    Thanks for reminding me why I liked this player so much. Your points about the one vote differential in All Stars and the “Redemption-Island-was-far-from-a-sure-thing” run-through (seriously, there are people out there who think you can RIG a season of Survivor?) are important. Like him or not this guy deserves his rep.

    1. The “Redemption Island was rigged” stuff struck me as odd because the season was clearly designed as a Rob v. Russel showdown that never happened. If they’re rigging the show so that Rob will win, why would they let his primary nemesis and ratings draw be a pre-merge boot?

      1. On a season where an idol basically jumped out and attacked the person who was targeting Russell.

        I guess only half of the in camp producers were good at rigging things.

        1. Rewatching RI right now. If anything was rigged it was Ralphs idol find. Highly suspicious.
          FTR, the whole concept of Redemption Island still sucks. Whoever won the duel should have come back immediately. Good concept, poorly executed.

          1. I can’t imagine THAT was what they wanted. They set up an entire season’s concept that hinges on one thing happening – an epic post merge battle between Boston Rob and Russell – for it to be any good and fuck it up by intentionally give the idol to Ralph?

          2. Yeah, obviously not what they wanted, I’m not in camp ‘season was rigged’. If they were rigging shows, on just the last season, Tony would not have been voted out pre-merge, and Sandra or Malcolm would have made it further

  3. I finally watched Redemption Island this weekend. I have to say, as much as I didn’t like Rob before, that season really made me do a 180 on my opinion of him. I really liked him on that season. And as much as people claim that he was up against a bunch of amateurs (which he was) all they had to do was talk to each other and they would have figured out what he was doing. He arguably played the best game of Survivor ever.

    1. Dude had a regular, easy-to-flush idol but no one wanted to risk being his target if they turned on him, and his buddy system made them all paranoid of each other. There was plenty of talk about *wanting* him gone, he just played them so well that they were all too afraid of trying.

      Except Grant. Grant was a fucking dope.

      1. Grant was a dope, but also the kind of guy who needs the protection of a fellow meat shield. It’s a tough balance.

        1. I’ve never been entirely clear what Grant’s F3 plan was, but it apparently didn’t include Ashley and Phillip, which leads to the conclusion that he thought a) Rob would take him to F3 and b) he would beat Rob. That Rob convinced him of those things is impressive

          1. I’m guessing it was going to the end with Rob too.

            Now, interestingly, if you’re the kind of person who thinks Rob has a terrible social game and poor jury management (and you’re not, but others are), then it makes perfect sense to want to go to the end against Rob. Somehow, people will try to both argue that Rob only made it to the end of All-Stars because everyone wanted to sit next to him in front of the jury (easy win!) WHILE ALSO arguing that everyone in Redemption Island was dumb for wanting to sit next to him in front of the jury.

            Because Rob Mariano bring out hypocrisy like no other contestant in the history of this show.

          2. Maybe?

            I’m a pretty big Boston Rob fan. Don’t think I’m big enough to re-watch that season.

          3. Yes. I just watched it. I don’t remember the details. Amber was presented as a counterargument in support of the idea that Rob is a great and loyal ally to have. And hey, sometimes he is, if you’re the love of his life.

          4. Ethan’s took that about as happily as Lex did. Man it was fun watching Lex’s stupid ass get taken down.

          5. The difference is Lex never had an alliance with Ethan at any point while he did have one with Boston Rob pre-game (which is the former kept Amber around at final pre-merge vote).

          6. I agree that’s a difference. I also don’t think it changes the fact that a guy who had no issue saying earlier in the game that this was business, not friendship, ended the game crying about being sold out for a stack of greenbacks.

          7. You mean going to the end with Rob is always one thing regardless of whether the jury thinks he should be ashamed of his ruthless play or is kind of in awe of it?

          8. A better player wouldn’t have been so easily disposed of. I’m gonna blow your mind with this one: juries are prone to make silly decisions. The list of “the jury would’ve voted for this person had the got there” is often VERY embarrassing.

          9. According to rumor (deploy the @disqus_GpYJ355BVM:disqus signal!), in Cambodia, up until the final 6, the jury was seriously leaning towards voting for Kimmi as the winner because she was a single mom.

          10. Brandon Hantz would have won SoPa. Despite what you consider to be a legendary cast of gamers.

          11. Funny, I don’t remember ever saying that SoPa was a legendary cast of gamers. But why let facts get in the way?

          12. I’ve seen/heard before that it was but I’m not entirely convinced its not people just saying that after seeing the season. That said, barring an immunity run, no way in hell was Rob letting that happen

          13. Grant would have beaten Rob in the Final 3. Really the only Ometepe Grant might have lost to is Matt. Rob might have even lost to Ashley or Andrea. Rob did play a good game, bu the jury didnt like him, they grudgingly voted him over 2 embarassing goats.

        2. That’s why Rob teamed up with him, Tyson and Rupert. You become less threatening if there is another physical threat around (and one who is less cunning).

          1. Rob’s core alliance is always the same: him, another more abrasive/obvious guy (Sean, Rupert, Tyson, Grant) and a “weaker” female (Sarah, Amber, Sandra, Nat 10). Starting in All Stars, he starting adding some variation: he added a goofy guy (Big Tom, Coach, Phillip), but other than that, he has a pretty predictable core alliance. So, if you are not in that, then good luck to you.

      2. Grant was stupid but Natalie Tenerelli and Matt Elrod are even dumber.

        Natalie is so retarded she claimed in an interview 2 years ago she would have won if she were against Grant and Phillip in the finals instead, and probably wins over almost everyone but Rob. Dumb cunt probably even loses a final 2 to Phillip, she doesnt even know what a huge goat she was years after the fact. Not to mention she can barely speak.

        As for Matt Elrod returning and trusting Rob and all the others who voted him out first time, and telling Rob you were planning to vote him out but changed your mind, ROTFL! Impossible to get dumber than that.

        1. While admittedly Natalie didn’t have a great edit – owing to Rob being really good at this game and her being 19 at the time – I reckon I’m not comfortable with her being considered a “dumb cunt” if we’re being blunt here.

          1. Here interview where she claimed she wins a Final 3 with Grant and Phillip and that she beats a lot of people but Rob at the end was done less than 2 years ago when she was 24, not 19. If she is that stupid so long after being one of the biggest and most obvious goats ever she deserves the dumb cunt label.

  4. It was actually Boston Rob returning for Heroes v Villains that got me back into Survivor, after I quit somewhere around CI. I really enjoy watching an arrogant dickhead who knows what he’s doing walk all over a bunch of people, be they All-Stars or sheep. The big thing that separates Rob from most of the other arrogant dickheads is that he knows that he is and is funny about it

    1. Same, but with RI. I dropped out after Guatemala (damn you, Danni!) and didn’t come back until RI. Not knowing who Russel was made the season way more amusing because he was so obviously terrible at the game and it made no sense that they kept talking about how scary he was.

      1. I’m impressed you stuck with it after RI. Watching Russell on that season would certainly have you wondering why the fuck they brought him back to face off against Rob. Kind of like I couldn’t figure out why Sugar was on HvV

        1. I actually loved Redemption Island. I hadn’t seen this thing in so many years that the gameplay couldn’t be stale or boring. My naivety and just general enjoyment of really boring Survivor was a huge benefit during the Dark Era.

          1. This makes sense. There was also something to watching Rob romp all over them, which I think is only boring in hindsight

    2. Same here. I didn’t really quit intentionally after All Stars. Life just got in the way, and I didn’t have a DVR, so I only watched it very sporadically (not a good way to watch Survivor). Then I heard about HvV, and pirated it every week, and I was hooked again. Now I have a DVR.

  5. In Redemption Island, Rob pitched a perfect game against a AAA roster. It was masterful to watch, but not quite as impressive as what SDT did in HvV given the competition. And I attribute his losing in All-Stars to valuing love more than money — if he really, truly wanted to win, might he have made more of an argument at Final Tribal deriding Amber’s strategic play versus his own?

    In both seasons, the main brilliant in-game thing he did — and you touch on this — is convince a whole lot of people that they were the crucial third member of his Alliance, when none of them were. And outside of the game, only [Redacted], Penner, and Cochran are as good at being narrators of their own experience.

    Also, if you’ve never seen their first reason of TAR, do so: they exploited the rules like no other team before, and it was fantastically good tv.

      1. Really was a jolt in the Race concept. I wish other teams would’ve adopted that style but I’m not sure how interested TAR is in being that type of show.

        1. They haven’t been interested in being that kind of show for almost a decade — the transportation is more spoonfed, the Race much more organized and managed than it its early seasons when a team could gain a 24h+ lead.

          1. One of the things that always frustrated me about TAR before I gave it up was the fact that they constantly would do things, mainly flights, that would bring many/all the teams back to basically the same spot

          2. Some of that is due to the fact that the world became a less open place for travel as the series continued. Some of it is due to the fact that the show could only survive if it found a way to significant control costs.

          3. One of my favorite TAR memories was when the whining Grandmas team (the “Groanies”) flew from Brazil to South Africa via JFK *and* London while every other team went straight Brazil-London-South Africa. Put them a full day behind.

          4. One of my favorite TAR memories (and I’ve never watched the show) is when they had the season with families and one of the families was African American and their name was “Black” so the host was yelling “Come on, Black family!” and “The Black family is falling behind!”

    1. It is a testament to how convincing he is and how good his social game is that all these people he convinced were his third wheel never, ever got together and compared notes and came after him. Simply amazing.

      1. Especially in All-Stars. Jenna, Rupert, and Tom were all convinced they had a deal to go to Final 3. I just checked, and here’s what I wrote on my blog on the eve of the finale in 2004:

        “Rob M’s ruthless, brutal Pagonging of all but his core group of three has been something more to be admired than enjoyed, more like watching QB Tom Brady’s brutally efficient execution of the Patriots’ offense as opposed to a more entertaining Michael Vick (Rob C? Jonny Fairplay?) improvise his way out of danger.

        “He had a plan. It has worked. He hasn’t even had a single vote cast against him**, despite his not-exactly-hidden strategy. But in a way, it’s hard even to admire what he’s accomplished, just because those he’s playing against have played the game so poorly — whether Lex’s stupidly worrying about individual immunity challenges later rather than strong allies post-merge, or Shii-Ann’s inability to do anything more than complain, or Richard’s/Colby’s/Ethan’s total failure to stop the train charging at their heads.

        “Heck, he and Amber went away for the car/drive-thru reward, and leaving Tom/Rupert/Jenna together all night to plot still didn’t put him at risk. (See, contra, Fairplay and Burton last season.)

        “No one — not Shii Ann, not Kathy, not Lex, not Tom, said, at any point at a Tribal Council or another public setting: “Please raise your hand if Rob or Amber has promised you a trip to the final four,” nothing that would quickly and obviously make everyone realized they might be at risk. Nope. ”

        ** Until Final 4, it turns out.

        1. Alicia too, somehow. I’ve also never figured out how he managed to convince all these people that being in the F3 with him and Amber was something that they wanted

          1. Yes even someone like Tom who couldnt win immunity to save his life and yet wanted to go to F3 with a couple. Brilliant work by Romber (Amber deserves a lot of credit too, whether you agree with her win or not).

        2. This is a big reason why “Rob only beat a bunch of dummies” has never been a compelling argument for me: I’m old enough to remember him doing the same damn thing to All-Stars.

    2. Yeah, they played great in TAR…. besides certain completely STUPID move. Even if I won’t participate in the end, I WILL make sure to rant about it, even though it’s for sure not as a big of a deal as I make it out to be.

  6. Marquesas Rob: Kind of a below-average player. At the time I couldn’t think of anything that would make me want to see him return. (puts on tin-foil hat) And I still believe the rumor that the only reason he was brought back for All Stars is because they wanted Heidik but he demanded too much money and then Production remembered that they didn’t like him so they went with Rob instead.

    All Stars Rob: It felt like everyone else was out there to play the game with their friends, but Rob didn’t care about that. He wanted to win the game and didn’t care about anything else. His social game may have improved in later seasons, but how he treated the other players here, plus his total surprise when the jury expressed how poorly they felt about him, shows that his social game had blinders on this season (Amber liked him so he probably thought everyone liked him).

    HvV Rob: He may have made the Villains a strong tribe, but he seemed to be easily outplayed by a minority alliance that he refused to recognize as a threat, even when he knew they were a legitimate threat. Didn’t he refuse to look for the idol because he felt it was beneath him, or something like that? If he had never returned after this, I would have thought “pre-merge boot, and All Stars was likely a fluke”. Plus the bout of Crybabyitis was not a good look for him.

    RI Rob: Yes he is the only returning player to win on a season with only 2-3 returning players, but compare the new players on this season with the other corresponding seasons. The RI newbies make those other seasons’ newbies look like master strategists in comparison. (puts on tin-foil hat again) Survivor definitely went out of their way to get lower caliber new players for this season. Andrea is the only good one of the bunch, and by the time she smartened up it was too late. By the time it got to the merge, was anyone thinking that Rob wouldn’t win this season? Zzzzzz.

    To sum up, I’m not a fan. He feels more like a player you have to include in your top five when ranking best players ever because of his legacy, not because of how great a player he is thought of.

    1. “but compare the new players on this season with the other corresponding seasons. The RI newbies make those other seasons’ newbies look like master strategists in comparison.”

      I literally did that in this post. I think they are EXACTLY comparable to the newbies in South Pacific. Or all the newbies in Nicaragua. Or most of the newbies in One World. Or Gabon. Or Nicaragua.

      JFC Hornacek. I know this is a long-ass post, but…

      1. I was just comparing them to the other players from seasons with 2-3 returning players. Every seasons’ players look great compared with Gabon or One World.

        Give me the newbies from Guatemala, South Pacific, or Philippines over the newbies from RI every time.

        South Pacific had Cochran, Sophie, Albert, Dawn, Ozzy, even Jim Fucking Rice. RI had Andrea for 2-3 episodes and that’s it.

          1. Agree to disagree. But if we shall compare.

            Sophie = Francesca
            Dawn = Kristina Krell
            Ozzy = Matt Elrod, Grant
            Jim = David Murphy
            Brandon Hantz = Phillip
            Keith = Mike Chiesel
            Dopey, socially-awkward Cochran = who fucking cares
            ??? = Andrea
            ??? = Russell Hantz

            The bigger difference between the cast of RI and the cast of SoPa is that Coach didn’t systemically target and eliminate the threats to him before they could emerge the way Rob did.

          2. Sophie = Francesca
            Dawn = Kristina Krell

            I generally agree with your point, but these equal signs are killing me.

          3. Francesca was a legit player. She had no way of knowing that Phillip was nuts, and Rob correctly identified her as a potential threat to his game.

          4. Sophie got to be Sophie against Coach, not Boston Rob. Her strategy of “keeping things completely the same because they favour me” frankly isn’t that different than the strategy of Natalie Tenerelli, Andrea, or Ashley Underwood. And probably would not have worked out very well if she’d tried it on RI (which isn’t to say that she would have. She’s a bright woman; she may have adapted her game to a different challenge).

            I always remember an awesome burn Fishy once got on her on Twitter when they were play-arguing: “you’re just upset that the buffoon on my season was the mastermind on yours”.

          5. To be fair, Ashley was very close to winning and Andrea almost had a good situation set up for her to flip at the merge, both of which are better than where Franny ended up. Natalie I just don’t think could have ever won that season no matter what she did.

          6. What @disqus_uZu6brM5ff:disqus said. I think Francesca could have been good and even has the potential to win, but I also think Sophie is one of the sharpest players to have played and would know to keep her head down in the beginning. I do think Rob would know to take her out at some point, I just don’t know when.

          7. Yes, especially the first one. Sophie is a much better player. Francesca -and I like her- played the same way twice and got voted out. Sophie knew when to take a back seat and when to make a move – not Big Movez but a move.

          8. I don’t know if you’re being sarcastic or serious, but it’s an Arrested Development reference.

          9. I don’t know if you’re being sarcastic or serious, but “Judge Freaking Reinhold!” and “I don’t know who that is” is a Simpsons reference.

          10. Our references crossed streams there! Fortunately, we didn’t annihilate the universe (yet another reference!).

  7. *Throws laptop out the window, runs to the store to purchase new one, begins aggressive typing*
    I just ranted about this in a Big Brother thread the other day, because they brought back one returning player for this season and he is running the game and I hate it. So let’s review the history of seasons of Big Brother and Survivor with a minority of returning players in (not much, but a bit) more depth. I’m including Big Brother because I think the games are similar enough that the returning players effect is comparable. & more importantly, it helps my argument.
    Guatemala: Stephenie makes it to the final 2 in a power position, Bobby Jon is taken out post merge because he is in the minority alliance.
    South Pacific: People treat Coach like a joke, but Coach played a really good game in Boston Rob’s position and I don’t think Boston Rob had a Sophie-caliber player standing in his way. We also see Ozzy make it far and get taken out similarly to Bobby Jon (I’m ignoring his second return from RI, because it’d be a cheap argument)
    Philippines: Russell survives half his tribe, Penner goes deep and Skupin makes it to the end.
    BB11: Sole returnee Jesse runs the game and gets taken out by a huge twist that derails the whole season. He is generally considered to have been best positioned to win.
    BB14: With 4 returning players and 12 new players, returnee (and former winner) Dan Gheesling makes the final 2, running the whole season and playing everyone for fools. He takes out other returnee Britney, who was positioned very well to win the game.
    BB18:With 4 returning players and 12 new players, returnee Nicole wins the game. I don’t want to talk about it.

    The experience returning players have as a benefit is much larger than their bigger target being a hindrance. Statistically, a returning player should be unlikely to make it to the finals in these seasons. In Survivor, it happens 100% of the time even with this supposed target. Yes, Boston Rob pulled it out when these other players couldn’t (players that, for the most part, don’t have a lot of people championing them) and that makes him a good player. I don’t think it makes him one of the greatest though.

    Speaking of targets, Boston Rob in All Stars was basically the Sarah Lacina that didn’t win. I mean that as both a knock and a compliment, as they both played great games as two of the smallest targets. It’s too bad he couldn’t throw the final immunity challenge to Jenna Lewis.

          1. Really? She seemed very complimentary of Dan and his game and I think even criticized Frank’s attitude. She just adored Ian.

    1. Getting to the end of Survivor, like Skupin did, isn’t necessarily the sign of a superior player. Penner went deep due to two factors: A) he wasn’t on Matsing, and B) he had an idol. Are you really trying to suggest that his returnee status was NOT an obstacle to overcome? Wait… are you really trying to rewrite Russell Swan’s performance as a GOOD one?

      1. Returnee status is an obstacle*, but I think the experience negates and overrides it.
        Russell Swan failed because he was bad, but he DID survive half his tribe. That’s something.

        Penner wasn’t on Tandang either. And perhaps being a returning player made it easier for him to find an idol (I feel dumb typing this, but I think it’s somewhat fair.)

        *Sometimes. People also idolize returning players and think of them as someone to cut later, which can give them momentum until they are just another player.

        1. I largely agree with your points here, but I would contest the Russell Swan thing. He only stuck around because he was more useful in challenges than the three people that went before him.

      2. I guess I took as a point that whether you are good or not, you’re inherently going to have an advantage as a returnee playing with newbies. The same goes for my two all time favorite Survivor players in Cirie and Parvati. Admittedly, I could misrepresenting Max’s point so I don’t want to speak for him. That was my interpretation.

        1. I actually think that the half-returnee season is the easiest for the returnee. You basically get to take most of the first half of the season off.

  8. Rob and Amber on Amazing Race were delightful. They found loopholes and turned them into advantages. If anyone hasn’t watched them on Amazing Race, I highly recommend it.
    Rob on Survivor is entertaining in that chuffed up for tv way that lets you know he’s cognizant of how he’s putting on enough of an act to be an outsized version of himself. He was cast to play the smartass, and he’s going to play it to the hilt. However, he’s always careful to explain what it is he’s trying to accomplish. The wheels are always turning. Even in All-Stars, he’s playing the game on an entirely different level than the rest of the players, and those people were supposed to be good at this game!
    So yeah. A fan.

      1. Rewatch that season. Great stuff from Rob/Amber and that team you mentioned along with a few other teams.

          1. Third, except where is it available? (I may have bootleg DVDs somewhere.)

            I remember the meat challenge. It’s not the best overall TAR season (1, 2, and 3 all have their charms), but it’s a good one. To place it in time, it aired simultaneously with Survivor Palau.

          2. I have 3 of those!

            I’ve not really dived into TAR, mostly because i’m busy with conquering Survivor, but i’d probably join in.

          3. I sent them a message asking why I wasn’t getting ALL access for the money I pay. Please do the same.

          1. I’ve suggested multiple times as an official rewatch but I’ll be happy just discussing it off in comments somewhere.

          2. An official rewatch you say…

            Let’s see if more than three people would be into that.

            What say you, loyal commenters?

          3. I just cannot deal with the Paul worship show anymore. And Jess and Cody do not make good, rootable underdogs

          4. TAR 7. I’d need someone with access to things like Prime and Hulu to let us know if it’s available on such services (I’d just get a “not available in your region” notification… but can borrow DVDs).

          5. I’d be down, too. I haven’t watched the show in years and it might be a nice change of pace after Thrones ends.

          6. Considering TAR 7 is one of like 5 TAR seasons I watched, and probably the one I was most excited about when it was on, I might be down for this,

          7. I don’t like TAR but I also have nothing better to do with my life. Nothing. Quitting drinking is fucking boring.

          8. I would love to, but I watched it at the beginning of the year. I really liked it, so maybe I would in the end join, but if I had to say now, I think not.

          9. Of just that season? Or different seasons? I suppose I’d try and watch some for first time.

          10. That’s the only one I’d be interested in. Since it would at least tangentially be about Survivor.

    1. Completely agree – Rob and Ambuh peaked in All Stars and rode the wave to Amazing Race. Everything after that was redundant and unnecessary.

    2. A full ‘Survivor contestant’ season of Amazing Race would be amazing. Lets write a letter to Phil.

        1. However, an all Amazing Race season of Survivor would blow. Natalie worked out, but most Racers would crash and burn on Survivor. Theres very little strategy involved with TAR.

          1. While I agree with you on this point, I would say that most racers seem to have deluded themselves into believing that TAR requires far more strategy from a social aspect or a scheming aspect than it does.

          2. Agreed. I just don’t see the ‘alliances’ people form on that show having much of an impact. Except for the occasional double-u-turn, theres not much you can do to hurt another team.

  9. Great article Andy! Enjoyed the read.

    At this point, I’ve only seen 1 of Boston Rob’s seasons (I’m just a few episodes into All-Stars), so I can’t say I’ve developed a huge opinion of his game play. I don’t have much to argue against your points, doesn’t seem like I will have many arguments against them, but I’ll keep my eyes open just in case as I continue through his cannon.

    1. If you don’t enjoy Rob by the end of All Stars then I truly pity your first-time RI experience. It’s rough enough when you *do* like Rob, I can’t imagine slogging through that season if you’re mostly indifferent to him. Even Andrea is a footnote.

      1. Well, I think the remedy to that is that I’ll be watching Nicaragua before I watch Redemption Island.

        But also, after Africa-Marquesas-Thailand, I feel I’ve got the mettle to handle Survivor’s worst.

  10. Well who didn’t see this coming.

    In all honest, I would put Rob just behind the queen on the best players of all time. Although the season was not good (though I can see someone enjoying it), his Redemption Island game is in my opinion the best individual game of Survivor of all time. I rewatched All Stars a couple of years ago and was shocked at how identical it was to his winning game.

    He also boasts a high level of charisma and knows how to perform to the camera. You may not like him, but he gets people to passionately defend or attack him, which is producer gold.

    1. As someone who isn’t the biggest fan of Rob (Tyson or GTFO), I would say that he’s a much better player than Sandra.

  11. Rob’s biggest strength is building strong teams. Once he gets rid of the people who oppose him, he is able to create a dominant force who are of unquestionable loyalty.

  12. I love Boston Rob, and I didn’t even realize there was such a backlash against him. I even forced my guy to watch Redemption Island (even though watching Phillip again made me want to gouge my eyes out) just to see how amazing his dominance was after HvsV. I guess I’ll go read the comments now, but seriously, that you even needed to write this annoys me.

  13. I don’t like Rob because I have a basic need to see arrogance get humbled. So when Rob is arrogant and talking about how in control he is and that all the people playing with him are idiots, when that turns out to be true, it is really unsatisfying for me as a viewer.

    1. Have no counter-argument to this. I will always accept “I just don’t like the guy” when it comes to him. (And, frankly, a lot of players).

  14. Andy. Andy. I agree with a lot of this and I like Boston Rob a fair amount and I’m not a hater or whatever, but are you fucking innumerate? You can’t use the fact that returnees won all-returnee seasons to show that those are easier to win.

    Returnees have won all-returnee seasons every time (expected result and also the only possible result), half-returnee seasons every time (this lends credence to the idea that it’s easier for returnees to win against newbies, although it’s a small sample and a different situation), and majority-newbie seasons one in four times (still a hell of a lot more often than we’d expect if we picked winners for those seasons out of a hat). Returnees also place higher than average in those seasons if you want to squeeze more data out of this tiny sample. Don’t want to count RI? Returnees won majority-newbie seasons zero out of three times, which is simply the likeliest outcome given that they are a small minority of the possible winners.

    Things were going so well until you brought math into it. I haven’t been this annoyed since Cochran misused the Monty Hall problem.

    1. FWIW, I know I was fucking with the math there. It made me laugh, so I did it. Was wondering who would call me out on it.


        1. Well… I kind’ve was hoping that no one would notice.

          But I still am unsure if “it’s easier for returnees to beat newbies” is true. I just know that the statistical data on it is too small a sample size to make any conclusions on it. Especially since Rob is undoubtedly the best player they’ve brought back to play against newbies.

          More than that, I’m not sure how much the target really changes. Rob would pretty much be one of if not THE biggest target in any group of players you’d could assemble, returning or newbie. So the handicap he carries remains consistent. Maybe with newbies the advantage of experience at least gives him a fighting chance.

          1. Yeah the dataset for who wins Survivor isn’t that big even before you remove most seasons. And then how do you account for the fact that returning players are generally above-average in their first seasons? I’m inclined to think returnees do have it a bit easier against newbies, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

            Say, aren’t you the guy who thinks Micronesia is dumb because the returnees have such an insurmountable advantage?

  15. He’s definitely a Masshole, something I’ve come to understand (and dislike) more since I moved out here. I can’t even troll Andy here, though. I’m not sure I *like* Boston Rob, but he’s a great player, and one of the most entertaining characters the show has ever produced.

  16. So a while back, I jokingly blamed @purplerockjohn:disqus and @purplerockandy:disqus for killing off the AVC Survivor coverage, but boy, this Kinja switch is going to curb stomp the entire site out of existence. Someone should go back and rescue the old AVC people who never made the jump over here.

    On a more opportunistic note, this may be the perfect time for PRP coverage to expand and for the site to become the premier pop culture site with Disqus hosting! Chase that ambulance boys!

          1. My wife expressed interest in The Big Sick. That might be our first (only?) movie of 2017 if it becomes easily accessible on a service we have.

          2. I don’t think I’ve watched a movie the year it came out since I got married (in 2013)

          3. It’s a fantastic film and a great choice by your wife. Do an indie a favor and get out of the house/see it now.

          4. If it’s in the trailer, it’s not a spoiler. Also, every interview the stars have given about this movie has mentioned the coma.

          5. Oh, you’ve severely overestimated how much effort I’m willing to put into supporting the movie. We’ll watch it if it’s on Netflix/HBO/Amazon at some point in the future. We have kids; leaving the house is a whole ordeal.

          6. Was that the thing you didn’t do? Still inexcusable. Next you’ll be telling me you like to read or some nonsense like that.

        1. Not serious. But will feel SO BAD if it ends up being true.

          We’ve heard rumours that Disqus was planning on charging for use of its service, but no one has asked us for money yet, so we’re ignoring it. I suppose if it happens, we’d have to find another solution.

  17. I missed the part that talks about how Phillip Shephard was an instrumental, or at least contributing factor in Rob’s win. He gets an assist at minimum.

    1. An assist? Phillip was a tool of Rob’s win. His use of of Phillip is one of the most masterful things in the history of the show. He understood how to work with Phillip (give him the attention he craves while limiting his ability to affect the game). And by having the two essential parts of his alliance (Phillip on one side, Nat Ten/Ashley on the other) HATE each other, he minimized the chances of them ever working together against him.

      Phillip didn’t help Rob. Rob helped himself using Phillip.

      But if you’re looking for when I mentioned it, it was here:
      “In Redemption Island, he successfully managed one of the most difficult goats in the history of the game (a trick whose difficulty is proven seemingly every season when we see lesser players try and fail at the same).”

      1. Ok, fair enough missed that part.
        I still give Phillip a little credit for deflecting off of Rob early in the game. Rob certainly saw this happening and exploited it, but without Phillip there, Rob had a more narrow path to victory.

        1. I think you’ll find that there are very few, if any, wins where you can’t look at something within the game and say “if not for this thing, the winner’s path to victory would have been narrow/non-existant”.

          1. She 100% would have won if Jay didn’t give her bad advice at the merge. In which case you could obviously say, “if her ally Jay had given her some bad advice at the merge, well, her path to victory would have been narrow/non-existant.”

      2. I feel like Phillip was legit shooting for second place, though. He knows there’s s big payoff and he knows big personalities get asked to come back. I honestly think that Phillipat least had a strategy.

        1. Phillip said as much in aftershow interviews, but that could just be covering his ass in hindsight.

        2. I have no trouble that his schtick was a calculated attempt to return to the show. I suppose the only possible catch is that the show hadn’t done returnees as frequently then as it does now, so banking on returning at all might’ve been longer odds. But I still think there’s a good chance that’s what he was doing. Or at the very least, to maximize his screen time on his first go round.

          1. “I suppose the only possible catch is that the show hadn’t done returnees as frequently then as it does now”…

            It was Rob’s fourth time, dude.

        3. I was about to say the same thing. Phillip probably played the best runner up game ever, in that as soon as he hooked up with BR he was a lock to get to FTC but also had no chance to win. My only question is whether that was his strategy from the beginning or something Rob cultivated in him.
          It’s also noteworthy that he probably would have repeated the same performance in Caramoan if the 3 Amigos hadn’t targeted him on the Night of Too Many Immunities.

          1. To be taken with a grain of salt, because it’s Phillip, but he also said in exit interviews that he developed the ‘character’ on the island, seeing it as his best chance to make FTC. And Rob encouraged it.
            I didn’t mean to say Phillip getting an assist as a dig on Rob. A lesser player would have gotten rid of Phillip much earlier, rather than carry him to the end, it was a clever play by Rob.

  18. This was a great post Andy, and you gave many great arguments in favour of Rob.

    I don’t dislike Rob at all. He was very entertaining all his seasons, BUT he isn’t near being one of my favourites, probably not even in my top 50. The reason for that is probably because I REALLY don’t enjoy his gameplay. It’s not like his gameplay is bad, in contrary, his gameplay is really good, it’s just that it always makes the season worse if he manages to pull it off. It is always based around of him leading a group of people till the very end, with a young girl as a #1, and the only way to stop it is having a succesfull counter-alliance. And that’s probably why Marquesas Rob and TAR7 Rob are my favourite incarnations of him. In Marquesas his gameplay was clearly not polished enough, so his ‘godfather’ persona was in full display here, plus he’s as always really charismatic, and in TAR7 he has to play a different type of game, and was really good and entertaining in doing so (besides one STUPID move, which I will talk about if you all decide to rewatch it). But he was really a main reason why I’m really not a fan of All-Stars and Redemption Island, cause of his dull-ass gameplay, and why Redemption Island is my least favourite season. Him finally winning was NOT worth the entire season, IT WAS NOT WORTH IT. But to end in a positive note, I’m happy Rob and Amber found happiness together, and formed a big family, it’s always nice yo have these happy endings, so good for them…..

    …..but it doesn’t excuse him of robbing Ashley Underwood of her well-deserved win, SO I TAKE THAT BACK, FUCK HIM, HE SUCKS AT THIS GAME, HE TOOK 4 TRIES TO WIN, HIS SOCIAL GAME SUCKS, HE LOST TO AMBER, DID I SAY HE TOOK 4 TRIES TO WIN?!?!?!?!?

    1. Right. Rob is an amazing Survivor player, but his dominant play style makes the game boring as shit (see also: Kim) I have a feeling that if Rob’s side had won out in HvV, it would not be in our discussion for best season ever. Great players make for boring Survivor

      1. Watching Rob on RI was like if you had a team of little kids playing hockey, and you put a professional adult hockey player on the team. “Look, he’s skating circles around them. Well, duh!”

        1. LOL the first place my mind went with that analogy was not skating ability: “Look, that adult man just body slammed a 5 year old!”

          1. Our local hockey team has the kids team come out an play for 5 minutes during one of the intermissions. I just imagine Rob on RI like if one of the adult players stayed on the ice and played with all these kids – he’d have a goal scored before they even knew what was going on.

      2. Late reply, but there was a Special-ist factor in RI that kept Robs dominance from becoming boring that season.

    2. Diff’rent strokes and all that. For me, what I love about Rob IS his dominance. Survivor is a game where it’s a legit, even advisable, strategy to hide how good you are at it. And that can have some fun, cat and mouse fun to it, what gets me really excited (in part because it’s incredibly rare) is for someone to NOT hide their greatness and instead succeed at kicking ass.

      1. Yeah, and I’m not trying to argue that he isn’t a great player, far from it. Maybe I wouldn’t put him in the top 5, but he’s most definetely in the top 10. It’s just that I think I’ve seen everything I could from him now, and it’s not necessarily types of things I really want to see over and over, and that’s why, even though he probably should be in it and probably will be, I would like RI be his last season.

        1. I actually have little interest in seeing him play again, unless it was a season that DEMANDED his presence (for instance, if they were going to do an All Winners or “Legends” season, his absence from the roster would immediately signal that the season was not what it was pretending to be).

          1. I’m not even a big Rob fan and I agree completely. (I respect him as a great player, but he’s merely ok as entertainment for me. He’s Survivor’s Dongmin, for the 5 people that will get that reference.) If you’re trying to suggest your season is bringing back all-time greats, Rob would have to be included.

          2. Did not get the reference. Also, completely thought it said Survivor’s Digimon for a while and was VERY, VERY confused!

      2. Ashley was the high point of that season other than Rob though and the only one who really threatened his win at the end. It is a shame she hasnt been brought. I would rather her than Andrea who gets too many chances IMO.

    3. 100% agree that RI is Rob’s worst over all season in terms of entertainment value, because he dominates so thoroughly (among other things). But in terms of Rob as a character, I think he still manages to be funny and charmingly arrogant (at least in confessionals) that season.
      And I’m sure it surprises no one that I’d rank HvV as the best, even though Rob’s performance is not stellar.
      Where I probably differ from others on this site is that I actually like All Stars better than Marquesas. I think All Stars is peak Rob – all the cockiness but at least with the dominance to back it up, plus the romance story line with Ambuh and ultimately his comeuppance at the end because he failed to fully account for the emotional element of the game. There are definitely a few stinker episodes (Jenna’s quit and the extremely unpleasant Rich/Sue incident) but all in all it’s definitely a top half, maybe top third season for me. I think that’s because it’s a dominant game but ultimately an imperfect one, so in some ways there is this sense that Rob is playing a different game than everyone else (similar to the feeling I get watching him in TAR7).

      1. I do agree that he was still pretty entertaining in Ri, but he isn’t a type of character that can make up for the weak backdrop characters, and to be fair probably most of people can’t.

        Probably I would have to rewatch All-Stars to form a full opinion of it. To be honest, I wouldn’t put All-Stars in the bottom 5 right after finishing it (well, I would put it there cause I only saw 8 seasons there, but you get what I’m saying), but my opinion of it just kept dropping and dropping. It probably comes down to the fact that it wasn’t THE All-Stars season we wanted, and in the end every “big threat” was voted out sestimatically, and Rob and Amber really benefited from being not super big names (they still played great to fullly make it).

        These are probably petty reasons, and I own that, but that’s just how I feel about it.

  19. C’mon…you don’t think it was an advantage for a four time player to compete against newbies?

    The Ometepe tribe was one of the most pathetic tribes of all time and Rob was also lucky that there wasn’t a tribe swap. Rob is smart guy but his win isn’t that impressive when you consider his abysmal competition.

    1. What I’m saying is that being so obviously better than people at Survivor has rarely ever proven to be an advantage in Survivor. No matter how good you are at it, you still only get one vote (barring an advantage) while all the people you’re better than can combine with more votes.

      Has being better at challenges helped Ozzy or Joe out? Was being the best player out there in Game Changers advantageous to Sandra? Did Jeremy have an easier time playing Survivor against the knuckleheads in SJDS or the all-stars of Cambodia?

      When you’re looking at cast assessments in the pre-season, how often are your picks to win the season the most obvious threat? Did you pick Sandra to win last season? Or Cirie?

      How much did experience help Russell Hantz in THAT EXACT SAME SEASON?

  20. Awesome, awesome piece Andy. Sums up all of my thoughts but, most importantly, is irrefutably logical and well reasoned. This is my first exposure to Purple Rock after being a wholeheartedly devoted fan of the show since HvV, and I am already hooked. Can’t wait to make the most of this community once the new season starts!

  21. “When I heard he was cast for All-Stars, I was a little surprised but figured they wanted another villain.
    He thoroughly dominated the then-greatest assemblage of Survivor players the show had ever cast.”

    Boston Rob was a UTR player coming into All-Stars which is why he went far into the season as almost of the big-time players left before the merge (except Lex & Kathy), not to forget he also had a pregame alliance with those two plus Big Tom. He didn’t have a target on his back unlike the other male picks.

    He wouldn’t have been even picked for All-Stars had production kept at 16 contestants as he was never going to be picked ahead of the first 8 male choices. In fact, there were better alternate male choices than him that made sense for the season (S1 Gervase, S2 Rodger, S4 John C. & Sean R. , S7 Fairplay).

    1. I agree that Rob came in an under the radar player to All-Stars. I’d also say that he ceased to be under the radar pretty quickly that season. Probably right after he easily dispatched Rob Cesternino.

      1. Not really…Rob C. was dead-meat before he even arrived in Panama. He was the biggest target (yes, even more so than any of the winners) and had less than zero percent of surviving past his first tribal council. No one was ever going to align with him in All-Stars (BRob was also highly jealous of Rob C’s legacy).

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