"Boston" Rob Mariano is recognized as one of the most brilliant Survivor players ever — and the most famous, thanks to his real-life romance and marriage to fellow contestant Amber Brkich, with whom he now has a daughter, Lucia, 8 months. But the Villains leader was taken down by wishy-washy teammates who were easily manipulated by newest bad guy, Russell. "I had a foolproof plan; it didn’t work," Rob tells In Touch. "At the end of the day, I can’t make anybody do anything. I can try to influence, I can give them incentive and show them how it’s going to work, but everybody makes their own decisions. You can bring a horse to water, but you can't always make them drink."
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Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains
Eliminated April 1: Rob Mariano
What could you have done differently?
I don’t know that there was too much I could have done at that point. I did
everything I could for the team. I helped them as much as I could in the
challenges and around camp, had the alliance strong. Tyson blew it but he’s
since regretting that. After that, I still had an opportunity with Coach and Jerri. Jerri decided to go her way and Coach made the decision that he made and the writing was on the wall.
So you weren’t surprised?
No, I wasn’t, unfortunately.
You’ve since watched Russell’s season, right?
I have. When we got home from filming, it started a few days later. He was
very entertaining. I enjoyed watching him and then realized he was pulling
that same stuff when he was out there with us.
But you called it – you didn’t trust him.
No I didn’t, not from the beginning. I mean, you’ve got 20 people who have
played the game before. They got Heroes vs. Villains and you’ve got 300
people to choose from. Here's some guy who was on the show this very last
season? He must have done something so outlandish to put him on and pass on
other people. So from the outset you’ve got to feel like he’s a threat. And
then as soon as you meet him you realize you can’t trust him. But nobody can trust anybody. It’s Survivor; it’s a game. The object is to get rid of your biggest threats. So he and I from day one were at each other. And with me, you’re either with me or against me and he was against me.
Did Coach disappoint you the most?
Yeah, he had an opportunity to do what he says he’s always going to do: be
honorable, be loyal and back up what he proclaims. And he took the easy way
out. He has to live with that, not me.
This season really highlighted the difference between the old-school vs. new school style of playing.
That’s where the line is really drawn in the sand. There is a complete
different mentality between the old school and new school players. Before,
if you were a strategic or physical threat and were good around camp, that
would be a reason to vote you out. But now it seems like you’re a threat to
someone’s air time, they want you gone! The new-school players don’t value
Survivor at its core, what it used to be. Maybe the game has evolved, but it doesn’t seem to be about the adventure anymore and cohabitating at the beach and building this island life. It’s more about, get to the alliance. Even when I played in All-Stars in Marquesas, I realized that’s a big part of the game, but it seems to almost have enveloped it at this point.
You last did this six years ago in Marquesas. How was it different for you physically?
I’m a little older, a little fatter. I’m not the strongest or quickest
anymore, but I think I did alright. I held my own!
Jeff Probst has said you were much sicker that viewers really saw after you passed out early on.
It was pretty intense. I don’t remember much about passing out. Jeff called
me after I got home and said he was really worried for me at the time.
Watching it was pretty scary.
Did you tell Amber about it?
Oh yeah, I told her. I said, “I don’t know what happened or how dramatic
they’re going to make it, but I’m sitting here right now and I’m fine, so
don’t be worried.” I think she still was a little though.
What did she think of how you did?
She was very proud. She supported me going out there and I did my best. I
did the most I could do. I think I more disheartened that I didn’t go
further and didn’t win. I’m a competitor. I have that drive, but you can
only do so much. I gave it everything I have, like I always do. And it
didn’t work out.
Who are you rooting for now?
Let me tell you something: I’ve played this game three times. When you’re
out, you don’t root for anybody else! Anybody that tells you they’re rooting for their alliance, they’re full of it. You root for yourself. I couldn’t really care less what happens.
There was a shout-out to you on a recent episode of "30 Rock" about the best things to come out of Boston -- what did you think?
It was very cool. Especially because it’s on NBC, right? Tina Fey or someone over there in the writers’ department must be a fan.
Would you do Survivor again?
It’s so hard to say no! Let’s put it this way: I’m content and I’m
fulfilled. However, if Mark [Burnett, executive producer] calls tomorrow and they want to go again, given the right circumstances and situation I’d be hard-pressed to turn them down. Especially since Mark and CBS have been so good to me over the years. I feel like I owe it to them.
Jeff also says he wants a Rob vs. Russell show.
That I’d do. Bring that on.
What’s next for you?
Just enjoying our time with our daughter. She’s doing great. She’s nine
months on Sunday. She’s crawling around the house, she’s up, walking around. And you should see Amber as a mom – she’s beyond awesome. It’s definitely the most gratifying and fulfilling thing that I’ve ever experienced.