Jeff Probst once said that “Survivor: Palau’s” Tom Westman was the most dominant “Survivor” winner ever. He believed that the New York fireman’s victory would probably never be topped.
Well, last night “Boston” Rob Mariano topped it.
I had a chance to speak with Boston Rob the morning after his impressive victory to find out the best way to handle bitter jury members, if he and Grant have made peace, and what Federal Agent Phillip is really like…
Gordon Holmes: So, this smart-a–, know-it-all writer said there was no way Russell or Rob would get to the merge, much less win the million dollars. What would you say to a person like that?
‘Boston’ Rob Mariano: Who was that? Was that you, Gordon?
Gordon: Uh…it might have been.
Boston Rob: (Laughs) I would say, I’m often underestimated, and I love to be the underdog and have the deck stacked against me. That’s when I’m at my best.
Gordon: A group of players, who know who you are and who’ve seen you on TV, allowing you to play your game boggles my mind. Did that hold you back at all when they pitched the idea of you and Russell coming back?
Boston Rob: Literally there wasn’t a lot of time. I was in Las Vegas playing in the World Series of Poker when the phone rang and it was Mark Burnett. He basically said to me, “Hey, what are you doing in a few weeks? How would you like to go back? We want to do this with you and Russell.” And just being a competitor and someone who loves the game, it didn’t take long. All I had to do was get the OK from my wife. From the time he called to the time I was on a flight to Nicaragua was less than three weeks time. So, there are no guarantees in “Survivor.” It can or cannot go your way. Luck plays a part of it, but I also thought I had a good enough foundation, and if I was able to get my foot in the door and build relationships I’d be able to exploit those to my advantage.
Gordon: There were some bitter jury members last night, I’m thinking of Julie in particular. Is there anything at all you can say to somebody who can’t see that you just view “Survivor” as a game?
Boston Rob: It was sad at that point. I thought it was pretty pathetic, actually. I’m happy that Julie gave me her vote, but I didn’t like the way she ripped into Natalie. She said Natalie’s parents wouldn’t be proud of her, but at the same time, what kind of example are you setting for your daughter? It was pretty ironic, I thought. And with Grant, some people set their own pace. He’s gonna take longer than others. Some people never get over it. I view it as a game. I’m not going to draw a line in the sand and say I’m not going to cross it when I’m playing for a million dollars, cause all you’re doing is handicapping yourself.
Gordon: Do you think Julie went too far by telling you how to raise your daughters?
Boston Rob: At that point she could be fishing for me to give her a reaction. And I think the best reaction I can give her is no reaction. I’m smarter than that.
Gordon: Speaking of your daughters, there you have two young ladies who are being brought up by “Survivor” champions. Are they being raised to be “Survivor” machines?
Boston Rob: (Laughs) You know what? They love the show, we watch every Wednesday night. Who knows, if the show is still on in twenty years, Mr. Burnett may give them a spot on the show.
Gordon: Are they old enough to appreciate that Daddy’s on TV, or are they still too little?
Boston Rob: The older one, she knows. And the live show was exciting for her. She saw Daddy on stage. She hasn’t fully grasped it yet.
Gordon: You need to hold onto those DVDs for them.
Gordon: You mentioned your issue with Grant and in the past I know “Survivor: All Stars” created a rift between you and Lex Van den Berghe, was that bridge ever mended?
Boston Rob: The bridge with Lex was never mended. I reached out to Lex, I flew to California to have lunch with him, but it was something he wasn’t able to get past. Maybe he has gotten past it now, but our relationship was never mended and we don’t have any contact. As far as Grant goes I reached out to him on numerous occasions. I don’t know what to attribute it to. I feel like I did form a relationship with Grant, and out of everybody I thought he’d handle it the best. He’d be able to see it as just a game.
Gordon: That’s a shame. Hopefully you two will be able to make peace.
Boston Rob: Apparently it’s affected him on a personal level. Hopefully he’ll come around. I like Grant, I think he’s a good guy.
Gordon: On the opposite end of the spectrum, you seem to have won an advocate in David. What was going through your head during his jury speech?
Boston Rob: It was great. Good to have a lawyer in my corner! He definitely surprised me. I always knew David was an intelligent player. I was happy that he respected the game I played. I can’t thank him enough, it was great. I’d like to think I would have gotten the votes anyway, but it definitely didn’t hurt.
Gordon: It seemed like Mike or Matt could have slipped back into the game with a lot of friends in the jury. Did that concern you?
Boston Rob: Very concerned, it was a real possibility. If Mike or Matt gets back into the game they win hands down. I think the only situation in which I’m a winner is to have the final three exactly as they were. And to do that was a lot of work. It looked easy on TV, but I was constantly working and strategizing.
Gordon: Do you really think Ashley could have beaten you?
Boston Rob: I think Ashley had a good enough relationship with other people on Zapatera that they would have rather voted for her. So yes, I do.
Gordon: Obviously I wasn’t out there, but it seemed to me like Ashley would’ve been painted with the same “Coattail Rider” brush that Natalie was.
Boston Rob: Here’s the thing, I would agree with you, but at that point Ashley had won two immunity challenges, and if she had won the third she could say she was a competitor. If I’m in her situation, that’s the case I would make, I was saving it all for the end and I won the final three immunity challenges.
Gordon: Let’s do some word association here. We’ll start with Ashley.
Boston Rob: Ashley’s a sweetheart.
Boston Rob: A competitor and a hard worker.
Boston Rob: Grant was a friend.
Boston Rob: Funny.
Boston Rob: Julie was disappointing.
Boston Rob: A goodhearted guy.
Boston Rob: Natalie is like a sister to me.
Gordon: Alright, let’s finish this off with Sole Survivor “Boston” Rob Mariano.
Boston Rob: Thank God, it’s about time. Now I can rest.
Gordon: Is there more elation over the victory or more relief that you’re finally done with it?
Boston Rob: Let’s just say we’re on an even playing ground in my house.
Gordon: Was that being held over your head?
Boston Rob: (Laughs) Amber’s going to get the check anyway, I’m just happy to have the title. It’s something I’ve wanted for a long time.
Gordon: What side of Phillip didn’t we see?
Boston Rob: This guy just wants some love and he wants some attention. If you took a minute to listen to him, he came from a big family and had to do a lot on his own. And people were afraid to get close to him because he was abrasive. But, at the same time, he’s still a human being and I realized if I was able to give this guy some love that he would work for me. And I’m telling you, I get the whole he’s nuts, he’s crazy stuff, but at the same time, he’s a good guy. I don’t know how to explain it other than that.
Gordon: Jerri Manthey and I talked about a multi-season character arc where she went from being a young villain, to someone who had problems with her notoriety, to a woman who is finally happy with herself. You’ve gone through something similar with your transformation. If your “Survivor” journey is now complete, was last night the perfect ending?
Boston Rob: It’s everything I’ve ever wanted to do. I love the game of “Survivor.”
Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes