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Survivor: The Amazon - Why Rob Lostby David Bloomberg -- 05/12/2003
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When I met Rob Cesternino at the post-finale party, he told me that he read all of my articles before heading out to the Amazon. He even bought and read the book, What Would Machiavelli Do? on my recommendation in earlier versions of What Amazonian Survivors Should Have Learned. (You can click here to read my review of the book.) He said he made a few missteps along the way, but tried to follow the rules in that article, once even saying on camera that he was "scheming and plotting [his] butt off," a reference to the first rule.
However, he wanted to know something - why did he lose? Frankly, that's a good question, and one of course that we will try to answer here.
Rob obviously followed the first rule. As Jeff Probst noted several times in the reunion, Rob may have been the best player who never won. Rob did an excellent job of figuring out where he stood at all times, and jumping to a majority alliance when he thought he was in danger. While I have disagreed with some of his votes (such as when he got rid of Deena), he was able to stay on his toes throughout and make it to the final three. Rich Hatch was, of course, the first alliance-builder, but I have to wonder if even he could have kept track of all the different shifting alliances and counter-alliances here. Brian Heidik played his way into a win last season by convincing a series of people that he was their link to the finals. Rob played a different game - more like Will from Big Brother 2 - in which he made no secret of the fact that he was playing the game, and playing it hard. Yet as he told us in a confessional moment, the other players still trusted him. That is truly a rare gift.
So, it might seem at first glance that Rob lost because he schemed and plotted too much. Indeed, I have received numerous e-mails saying he is the poster-boy for violation of the second rule. It certainly is the easy answer, but is it the right answer? I tend to think it isn't. While I thought at the time that he stabbed Deena in the back before it was necessary, it ended up working in his favor (though it might have still worked out - perhaps better for him - if she had stuck around). In rule 2, I do note that if you try to scheme and plot with everybody, they will all know what you are up to. Indeed, the others generally did know that Rob was up to something. They just always seemed to fool themselves into thinking it was the other guy (or girl) who was going to get screwed.
Almost all of those voted off post-merge had been double-crossed in at least some way by Rob while he stuck around. Roger, Dave, Deena, Alex, Christy, and Heidi (not precisely when she was voted off, but earlier) were all sent packing in large part because of Rob. It's hard for me to say he schemed and plotted too much when he played such a large role in getting other players booted and still managed to stick around so long himself. Furthermore, that is simply not the reason he lost.
So what about the third rule? Rob did an excellent job of pretending to be nice. He recognized that this is a game and that meant playing it - and playing other people. When others were pissed off at Roger, Rob kissed up and did whatever he was told. He pretended to be nice but worked behind the scenes to eliminate him. The same is true of Dave. For all the times we heard Rob talk about Dave, until he saw the show, Dave really never knew about it.
The perfect example, of course, is how he dealt with Jenna, Heidi, and Alex. They were convinced he was a friend for life. Who knows, he might end up being one now that the game is over. But he never let it color his vision of the game. He tossed Alex as soon as it became obvious that the alliance was a threat to him. He withstood a vicious verbal attack from Jenna and Heidi about how he doesn't treat people well. He got along with them when he needed to after that, but then called them both half-wits in his speech voting off Heidi. His private moments were the most revealing - but his skill in dealing with people was shown when he was in public with them.1 2 Next-->
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