Survivor: Legend Boston Rob is a slightly overrated player

Boston Rob Mariano - (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
Boston Rob Mariano - (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images) /

Survivor Boston Rob Mariano is a legend of the game, but he is slightly overrated?

No player in the game of Survivor has as much fame (or is it notoriety) than Boston Rob Mariano. Any fan of the game probably has a list of their favorite Boston Rob moments throughout the4 years.

He has been a presence in Survivor lore for nearly two decades and holds many records such as most total games played (152), most games played (five),  and most career individual challenges won (ten).

This doesn’t even include the 36 days he spent as a mentor to players during Survivor: Island of the Idols, season 39.

Boston Rob Mariano’s history on Survivor

We caught our first glimpse of Boston Rob in 2002, in season four, Survivor: Marquesas. He was just a brash, charming, The Godfather-quoting kid. He had slowly gained power in his initial tribe, but was upended by a swap. He wore his emotions on his sleeve, and his outspokenness turned off his new tribemates.

He never gained a genuine foothold in his new tribe, and he was voted off, finishing tenth, just off the jury.

In this early season, we saw some understanding of the game from Rob and the development of strategy.

In Survivor: All-Stars, his gameplay blossomed. He was not afraid to make and break alliances, alienate friends, manipulate players, and dominate physically. It was also the beginnings of his “buddy system.” While he had alliances within alliances, he kept his broader tribal partnership of six people, established on day 12 intact, until it was forced apart in the final seven.

Season eight, All-Stars, was still in the early days when juries carried their grudges to the final tribal council. Rob’s jury took things too personally, and the lying, back-stabbing style of play wasn’t yet accepted or respected. Rob was grilled hard in his final tribal, and he still came within one vote of winning.

He was uncharacteristically contrite at the final tribal council, maybe because he was playing with friends. He might have been better served to own his misdeeds and intense gameplay, rather than apologize.

Mariano’s third appearance was season twenty, Survivor: Heroes vs. Villans. Other players well knew his game by this time, and he was outplayed and knocked out early by Russell Hantz, in 13th place. The rivalry established in this season carried over not only through the reunion show but into the future.

Boston Rob secured his place in Survivor lore forever with his performance in season 22, Survivor: Redemption Island. He and Hantz joined a new cast, each on opposing tribes. Mariano got the last laugh. Not only was Hantz, the third person voted out, but Rob dominated the game and taking home his only Survivor victory. He was able to flush out his “buddy system,” keeping close people in his control.

His seemingly easy manipulation of other players harkened back to his All-Stars days. His legacy was sealed as an all-time great player with that win.

Rob spent season 39, Survivor: Island of the Idols, serving as a mentor along with Sandra Diaz-Twine. Some of his advice dealt with being able to adapt to all situations, and it would turn out to be advice he could not heed himself.

Season 40, Survivor: Winners at War, was a disaster for Boston Rob, once the hero-worship wore off among his tribemates, he was quickly chopped from the tribe, finishing in 16th place.

Mariano was unable to adapt to the fast-paced, modern-day gameplay. Recent winners, once their awe wore off, realized they wanted to play their own game, and not be Mariano’s “buddies.” Rob tried to intimidate and manipulate the players loosely in his alliance, but as fans of the game, they knew how Rob would try to play, and Boston Rob’s old school style just wasn’t going to work anymore.

On the Edge of Extinction, Rob had a couple of nice moments that reminded us of how he used to be, but for the most part, the was a non-factor.

Just how is Survivor legend Boston Rob overrated?

There is no doubt Boston Rob is an all-time great of the game, but he is certainly an old school player. The game changed over the years, but Rob (as well as most of the other old school players) were unprepared for the fluidity of Survivor in its current form.

The game now is more about voting blocks rather than long-term alliances. While players may pay lip service to alliances, few last past the merge. Back-stabbing and big moves are respected and rewarded by juries. Modern players worry about jury management and have to worry about multiple idols and advantages in play. No more sitting on the beach, lording it over inferior players. Everyone who plays the game knows the game and its history.

Boston Rob played five times. Yes, he won once and was runner-up once. He built up a much-deserved reputation in those seasons. The other three times he played, however, he finished 10th, 13th, and 16th, and was badly outplayed in a couple of seasons.

He has logged 152 days in the game, but those stats are padded by his time on the Edge, as was the case for many players. Even if you take out those 21 days, he has 131 days in the game, still the most non-exile days.

Season 40 was also the only jury on which Rob sat, and then only because everyone was on it (minus Sandra, who bailed). He was in the finals twice and didn’t even make the jury or the merge the other outings.

He was an early pioneer in strategy, player manipulation, and a beast at challenges. There is no doubt he is one of the best players ever, but in watching some of his early seasons, his bullying, intimidation tactics don’t sit as well in the modern era.

He played hard every time, and will always be a favorite, and deservedly so. The point is when you take his overall accomplishments, weighted with the numbers of times he’s played and how many days he’s seen within the game, should he still be considered one of the top two or three players ever?

Is he better than Tony Vlachos? Sarah Lacina? Jeremy Collins? Natalie Anderson? And that doesn’t even include the old school players like Parvati Shallow, Sandra, Tyson Apostal, and even Russell.

Next. Most Memorable Moments from Survivor: All-Stars. dark

Boston Rob Mariano was one of the first early superstars of the game. His popularity among fans can’t be denied. He will always be a Survivor legend, but his performance on Winners at War probably tarnished his legacy just a little.

We will probably not see Boston Rob play Survivor again (but never say never), and that may be for the best. Let’s remember him at his best.