Survivor: The Amazon - Why Rob Lostby David Bloomberg -- 05/12/2003
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.
This segues nicely into the fourth rule, which is to not let your emotions control you. He didn't like Roger, but that didn't force him into doing something he would be sorry for later. He had been verbally attacked by Jenna and Heidi, but when he saw that Christy's vote was unreliable, he had no problem approaching them with a new plan. Whether he liked a person or disliked a person did not really matter - he went with what he felt was the best gameplan to move him forward.
In the fifth rule, Rob did fairly well. We saw him working when he needed to - such as when Roger still thought he was in charge. On the other hand, we saw him lying around when the other members of his alliance were doing the same. It seemed that he molded his behavior to the circumstances, which worked out well. Generally, it has been assumed that workers would be better liked than lazy players. However, we have seen several times before when the lazier players took control because they didn't really want to work, and the workers were voted out (remember Hunter in the Marquesas). By doing what the rest of his alliance was doing, Rob avoided setting himself apart from them (not to mention he avoided leaving them alone for long periods of time when they could have plotted against him).
So, did Jenna do the right thing by voting off Rob instead of Matt? Looking at the final voting result and what the jury members said after, the answer is obviously a resounding "yes!" But if we step back to before the vote, did she know? It appears that she did, indeed. While we saw a storyline that led us to believe the others would dislike Rob for his backstabbing and might feel favorable to Matt as just the weird but kind of nice guy, Jenna said that she knew Rob would beat her. She said several times that she wanted to take real competition to the final two, which led us to believe she thought she could beat Rob easily. But she later said it was all a ploy and knew that the jury would favor her over Matt, but Rob over her. This was not a jury of vindictive people as we have seen in some previous games (such as Survivor: Marquesas). These players seemed to realize it was a game and needed to be played. If there are any doubts about that, we only need to look at Christy's vote for Jenna as support.
In the section about voting people off, I note, "After the stragglers are gone, you need to refocus on the strong. In this case, the strong are those who… threaten your chance in the end, either because they can win the immunity challenges or because they are popular with the future jury." Jenna saw this factor and knew Rob had to go.
Frankly, at that point I'm not sure there was anything Rob could have done differently. Maybe he could have joined with Butch and voted against Matt. That would have put Jenna into an untenable position of having to face two people who were likely popular with the jury. But would Butch have gone into such an alliance when he thought he had something going with Jenna? Who knows. Obviously, we can move further and further back in time and provide what-ifs, but the further back we go, the murkier it gets, especially in this series, where alliances seemed to change by the day!
Certainly, Rob could have won if he had stayed on the beam longer in the final immunity challenge. However, let us remember that Jenna is a model. While I don't know for certain about Jenna's background, it seems that most models would be trained to have poise and balance. They may have to be in uncomfortable positions while being photographed, for example. And they may have to stand in one place for a while. In other words, Jenna had a bit of an advantage in this particular challenge.
So then, we've been through this all. Why did Rob lose? He fell off the beam. He had played too well leading up to that point and therefore was a threat to Jenna in the end. And, most importantly, Jenna knew it. She pulled through when it mattered most and won the last two immunity challenges. She got rid of her popular opponents, one of whom was Rob. And while it might not be the most satisfying answer, that is why Rob lost.
David Bloomberg is the Editor of RealityNewsOnline and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be sure to sign up for our e-mail update so you can stay informed about new articles on the site! And take a look at the rest of the site. You can find all of our recent Survivor articles at the Survivor: The Amazon page and take a look at our sections on Joe Millionaire and The Osbournes. You can even buy reality show stuff at our Reality TV Store!