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Survivor: The Greatest of All Time – #1 Rob Marianoby Jenn Brasler & Christian Williams -- 02/14/2012
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Before you begin reading this article, you should make sure you’ve already read Survivor: The Greatest of All Time – An Introduction, which we posted yesterday. It explains this multi-part article and provides all the background. If you’ve already read it, on with our number one choice!
1. Rob Mariano
(92 / 100 points, Five First-Place votes, Ten Top 10 Votes, Average Rank 1.8)
Our top ranked player of all time won with a complete landslide. He was the only player to appear on all of the ballots, receiving five first-place votes, as well as three second-place votes. Rob is clearly the player we find most deserving of the title of the best ever, receiving 92 out of a possible 100 points. Jenn Brasler gets to present the argument for why Rob takes home the title:
Rob is a master manipulator. Who would have expected the blue-collar worker with the Boston accent to prove one of the smartest players Survivor has ever seen? Rob’s first manipulation was to let people see him that way. In reality, Rob has a psychology degree from Boston University. He’s far from dumb. But when you make your opponents think you’re just a normal guy who might not be as bright as they are, you’re already on your way to outsmarting them.
From the moment his first season began, Rob was observant, trying to keep an eye on what everyone else was doing so he could figure out how to control them. If there’s anything we’ve learned about Rob from his four seasons, it’s that he likes to be in charge. If he doesn’t know what’s going on – and if he can’t have a say in what’s going on – he’s not comfortable. By keeping a close watch on the people vying against him for the million-dollar prize, Rob was able to see the steps they might take that would keep him from getting his money.
Rob also recognized the value of alliances, and the reality that winning the game trumps loyalty. He knew that, as much as he wanted to get to the end on his own, he needed other people to help him along the way. Rob also knew that only one person can ever win, and sometimes deals have to be broken. Lex learned this the hard way. Rob held on to alliances that would get him far, but had no problem turning his back on allies who would hold him back. Rob was able to know who would help him and who would hurt him simply because he was able to see multiple moves into the future of the game.
There’s a fine balance to playing the social game in Survivor – if you’re friendly, you’ll have people watching your back, but they won’t want to take you to the end. If you’re not friendly, you could be taken to the end, but you could also be jettisoned early on or passed over for any alliances. Rob has always excelled at the social aspect of the game, making alliances and calling shots without seeming overbearing. When your ally is physically strong and strategically savvy, like Rob, you want to keep him around.
We’re told over and over thatSurvivor is about outwitting, outplaying, and outlasting. Rob has always been able to outwit his competitors. His physical strengths have always served him well, but it’s really his mental strengths that allowed him to rack up more days of game play than any other Survivor player. Once Rob had the “outwit” and “outplay” parts down, it was just a simple matter of outlasting the other players.
-- Jenn Brasler
Christian’s Counterpoint: Jenn makes a great argument for why Rob deserves his place at the top of the list. Particularly the fact that Rob lulls people into thinking he’s a simple, blue-collar, Boston native... When he’s actually far more savvy than most people give him credit for. However, surely there’s a dissenting argument that the Robfather isn’t the Greatest Player of All Time? Though everyone had him on their lists, and I myself rated him as the best, I’m also tasked with presenting the dissenting argument:
I come here today not to honor the Robfather, but to bury him. No one can deny that Rob has left his fingerprints on how the modern game of Survivor is played. Nor can we deny that when he finally won on Survivor: Redemption Island it was a well-deserved victory. On the other hand, let’s remember that it took Rob four tries to win the game and that his final victory came against some of the weakest players to ever play the game of Survivor. I won’t deny that Rob is charismatic. He is definitely a charmer, popular with the home audience, Jeff Probst, and Mark Burnett. This is, after all, why he has had so many chances to play the game. I also won’t deny that he’s smart, because Rob has continually refined his game in order to make it to the finals. But in each of his first three attempts, he made a key mistake that cost him the million dollars.
In Rob’s first season, he made the same mistake that Matt made in this most recent season. He made it far too obvious to the other players that he was a) a game player, and b) not to be trusted. This resulted in Robb’s eviction by the majority alliance the episode before that alliance made its own massive strategic mistake. Early in the game, Robb had maintained control of his tribe, but he wasn’t able to adjust to the shifts in the game and his resulting discomfort sabotaged his game play. Ironically, his moves at that point in the game directly planted the seeds for the destruction of the “Rotu 4.”
In his second season, Rob made it all the way to the finals by combining his strategic play with Amber’s smooth social game. While Rob won the girl, he lost the vote. It’s easy to point out that the All-Starsjury was particularly bitter, with several members of the jury taking hypocritical stands about Rob being a bad person for betraying them before they could betray him. But we criticize Russell for his inability to play the game without players feeling pissed off and betrayed, so in fairness we have to critique Rob for his All-Stars play for the same reason. Rob’s game play was nowhere near as bad as Russell’s, but the criteria for a master player is that they can convince even bitter juries to vote for them. On the other hand, Rob and Amber are happily married with two kids, so maybe coming in second place worked out alright for him there.
Rob’s defeat in Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains was based on a trio of factors, some of which were beyond his control: the immunity idol, the idiocy of Tyson, and the diplomatic play of Parvati. While the immunity idol threw off Robb’s game, his alliance was primarily undone because Rob trusted his alliance members to make the right moves. His failure to observe the primary rule “always check-in with everyone,” resulted in Russell planting a Russell-seed and getting Tyson to make a critical voting mistake. After that tribal council he left it to Jerri to make “the right decision” regarding her loyalty to either Rob or Russell and she, based in part on her experience with Rob to that point, chose Russell.
Rob finally put in place a good social, strategic, and physical game on Survivor: Redemption Island, but it was due to-* the lessons he learned along the way. The primary lesson he learned? Keeping his arrogance out of his game play, and hidden from everyone but the audience at home. It was Rob’s arrogance that drove him to make a too-public play on Survivor: Marquesas, led him to gloat a little too much on All-Stars, and led him to be a little too complacent on Heroes vs. Villains. Certainly Rob adapted other elements of his game play as he went along, but it took him four tries at playing the game to bring his arrogance in check... Does that seem deserving of the title “Greatest of All Time?”
(To be honest, yes it does. Rob should have won All-Stars and that jury was the largest collection of cry-babies I’ve seen since nursery school... but that’s another story.)
-- Christian Williams
Jenn Brasler, an associate editor of Reality News Online and a writer/book enthusiast/secret spy from Falls Church, Virginia, has e-mail (email@example.com), Twitter (@jennb47), and a blog about ‘90s YA books and TV shows (‘90s Flashback). Christian has been reading Reality News Online for a very long time, but joined the writing staff a little over a year ago. A reality television junkie who still wishes Anderson Cooper would come back to host one more season of The Mole, he’s almost always willing to argue about Survivor, Big Brother, The Amazing Race, and about a dozen different Food-Channel shows. He and his writing partner Shane share a twitter account (@howwejudgeit), and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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