Survivor Winners at War: How Boston Rob Mariano can win a second time

Photo: Timothy Kuratek/CBS Entertainment ©2019 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: Timothy Kuratek/CBS Entertainment ©2019 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved. /

The quintessential Survivor legend, Boston Rob Mariano is back for real this time, readying himself for take three at winning an all-returnee season.

Boston Rob Mariano now joins Ozzy Lusth and Cirie Fields as the only Survivor contestants to play in five seasons. If Survivor had its own Mount Rushmore, you can bet that Boston Rob would be on it. They already have the concept art done for him on the Island of the Idols. The fact that this icon is returning to the show is incredible enough, but can he really win with the reputation he has developed?

Rob Mariano has changed a lot since his first Survivor appearance over fifteen years ago. He was much more reckless and wasn’t as focused as he was in future seasons, but one thing has remained the same ever since Marquesas; Boston Rob knows how to gain control.

Back in season 4, Rob executed one of the most shocking pre-merge blindsides in Survivor history. Hunter Ellis was the alpha male on Rob’s tribe. He was athletic, strong-willed and loyal. The one thing Rob held against Hunter was that he couldn’t influence him. Instead of getting rid of the weakest physical link, Rob wanted to keep those types of players around because he knew that they would listen to him.

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Boston Rob took that concept and perfected it in All-Stars. He formed a revolutionary partnership with his future wife and they absolutely dominated Tribal Council after Tribal Council. A bitter jury prevented Rob from winning that season, but he took that as a lesson and adjusted his play. Rob lost the battle to Russell Hantz in Heroes vs Villains, but he won the war in Redemption Island.

In season 22, Boston Rob took his game to such a high level that even Russell was proud of. He formed a strong, unwavering alliance and plucked out the biggest threats one by one. This time Rob ensured that he would be sitting beside two people who had no chance of winning the game, basically guaranteeing him the title even with a bitter jury.

Almost ten years later and Rob is back with a far more skilled group of castaways than Redemption Island. The only connection between these two casts is that there’s someone named Natalie in both seasons. That’s it. So how does Boston Rob plan on progressing through a much more competitive atmosphere with an even bigger target? One word: adapting.

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From his interview with ET Canada to his CBS bio, Rob professed his willingness to adapt. It was interesting to hear that despite the friendships he has developed with several of the winners outside of the game, he’s not a fan of making pre-game alliances. Rob wants to see them play, he wants to assess their motives during the game to figure exactly who he can trust.

Boston Rob is aware of his insanely high threat level, especially with his wife in the game. He’s already come to terms with a chance that he might be voted out right out of the gate, but he believes that he just needs a slight opportunity to survive. Rob has thrown around ideas of working with big threats, namely Parvati, as well as trying to keep the older crew together.

There’s a strong possibility that Rob could benefit from his huge target. Having the innovator of the “meat shield”, Jeremy Collins on his tribe to start off the season is a significant asset. It presents the idea of moderate to high-level threats such as Jeremy, keeping the big superstars around to protect their own place in the game.

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Considering all the savvy and strategic players in Winners at War, I would be legitimately shocked if Boston Rob were to make it to Final Tribal Council. He has the skill and experience to win it all, but at some point, the players remaining will certainly try to get him out before it’s too late. He’ll either have to win his way back from the Edge of Extinction or play the greatest game ever to make it to the end.