The 40 Most Influential Survivors: Rob Cesternino

Rob Cesternino

The Amazon, All-Stars, Rob Has a Podcast

To celebrate the 40th season of Survivor, we’re counting down the 40 Most Influential Survivors to ever play the game. Because Survivor is a game, a tv show, and a rabid fandom, we’re taking all forms of influence into consideration for this list. Go here to view the criteria we are using to determine what qualifies for the list. Note: this list is presented in chronological order and there will be spoilers for various Survivor seasons.

Rob Cesternino is the 8th entry in this series.

Even as just the third-place finisher in Survivor: The Amazon, Rob Cesternino was likely to make this list. We don’t need to dwell on All-Stars, although props for predicting that Boston Rob and Amber would “do it” someday. But there’s a reason his All-Stars appearance was such a bummer – before Cirie Fields graced us with her presence, Rob (or “Slimy Rob” as my mom called him, to differentiate between Skater Robb and Boston Rob who preceded him), was considered by many (including Jeff Probst!) to be the best player to never win. He was also a delightful narrator, a skill that would come in handy in his future profession. But merely being a strong player or an entertaining presence is not the same as being an influence. For that, one needs to inspire change.

At this point in the show’s history, people have started to betray alliances (and “alliance” was no longer a dirty word). But while Stephen Fishbach may have coined the term “voting bloc” in season 31, it was Rob Cesternino who took part in this strategy way back in season six. After agreeing to flip and blindside Deena, Rob discovered (because Alex told him) that he was the clear fourth in the alliance between him, Jenna, and Heidi. What’s a guy to do? Bring in the stragglers and vote out Alex instead. Though he didn’t make final tribal council, he showed the ability to flip back and forth as long as you’re not doing it alone.

Serial killers can still be allies.

That wasn’t even his only influential move that season. After Alex was blindsided, Jenna and Heidi were pissed and tried to recruit Christy to their side. When Rob realized Christy was waffling and enjoying her power a little too much, he convinced his betrayed former allies that the best path to guaranteed safety was by booting the swing vote. Many a swing vote relishing their power have suffered the same fate, from Big Tom in All-Stars to Sarah Lacina in Cagayan. Even the combined tribal that saw Wendy get voted out is related to it being safer to just off the swing vote instead of going for a riskier, but more long-term win.

Game Changers origin story… does that retroactively ruin Cagayan?

Though he was one of the earlier strategic threats, that’s not the only way Rob influenced the show. He was the first real superfan cast. Sure, there was Mitchell in Australian Outback, but he didn’t have much influence going out premerge, and how much can you really be a superfan after one season? Rob, however, knew the first four seasons (they left during Thailand) inside and out. He talked openly about being a fan excited to play the game… something that may have been part of his downfall when he returned. The amount of superfans that are cast each season has ebbed and flowed over the years, and the way they have been presented has changed, but just about every fan to be cast owes something to Rob Cesternino, even if you ignore his strategy and confessional style.

Coming to you live, from Emma’s blog post, it’s Rob Has an Influence!

But, as important as his in-game contributions were to the evolution of strategy (wink wink), they pale in comparison to how he has impacted the Survivor fan community. It was 10 years ago that he launched RHAP and pretty much changed the landscape of the online fan community. He’s built the legacies of repeat guests such as Aras and Sophie, and made pre-merge boots into stars in our strange little world. Even if you don’t personally listen or subscribe, his reach is vast enough that it’s bound to hit your corner of the Survivor fandom. By providing a platform of discussion (even when not hosted by him), international players have huge fans across the globe who might not have known about these seasons otherwise. People have straight up gotten married after getting to know each other through Rob’s patron group. Half of the inside jokes in the fandom stem from Rob bits. Fans and former players alike have started podcasts because of his success. Sure, only one of those is any good, but that’s not his fault.

The podcast’s effect on fans would be enough to put Rob on this list, as would his gameplay. Yet the influence of RHAP goes beyond that, as listeners of his continue to be cast on the show, internalizing his lessons. While not every RHAP fan who plays has a ton of success, there have now been winners and season stars who were regular listeners before getting the call. Are they some of our favorite winners ever? Well… that just goes to show how hard it is to live up to the legend of Rob Cesternino.

Who else made the list?

You can see each entry on the list by clicking this link.