Survivor Redemption Island drew to a close last night, and unless you were living under a rock and somehow avoided the spoilers all around the web, Rob Mariano was the last man standing in this oddly entertaining season of Survivor.
Set in Nicaragua yet again, the show introduced two new twists to the game. The first was the introduction of Redemption Island, a place those who get voted out must go where they will get shots at re-entering the game as they had to duel the next person voted out, and so on. The next twist was what came off the helicopter after both teams met on the beach thinking they were starting the game as is. Off of one helicopter was one of the most popular Survivor contestants ever to play the game in Boston Rob Mariano, and the second helicopter revealed one of the biggest “villains” in the games history, Russell Hantz. Both players were set to re-join the game and given yet another chance to win it all (third time for Russell, fourth for Rob).
This resulted in initial strategies of the players quickly being changed on the fly with Ometepe basically clinging to Rob’s leadership skills, and six of Zapatera banding together to eliminate the common enemy in Russell, as they all knew how dangerous of a player he could be. The Zapatera six even went as far as throwing a challenge in order to eliminate him when they had the numbers before he was able to sway 1-2 more players into his alliance. A risky move at the time which clearly killed the momentum they had over Ometepe despite removing not only Russell, but his two sidekicks (Stephanie and Krista).
That was essentially the biggest shock (and move) of the game until the merge when formally eliminated Matt was able to return from Redemption Island to re-join both tribes and try to find his place in the game. The second big move of the game came the very next vote when Rob’s alliance of six banded together and quickly sent Matt back to Redemption Island before he could even unpack his bags.
Once that move happened, Boston Rob systematically eliminated any traces of Zapatera from the game in one of the best played games in the 22 seasons of the show – even admitted so by Jeff Probst at the reunion show. He had his six under complete lock-down which made for a dull yet highly fascinating show to watch this entire season. How one man could control five other players with one million dollars on the line like he did is truly a feat that will be forever remembered by those who follow the game.
Not to keep praising Boston Rob, but his game was so dominating, both players he took to the final three with him (Natalie and Phillip) spent their initial plea to the jury essentially crediting Rob for being there in the first place. One jury member (David) did not even question the players, but instead he went to his lawyer roots and addressed the jury like he was back in a court room and pleaded for Rob to win it all.
Phillip Sheppard was able to pick up a vote from Ralph for whatever reason, although possibly to put him in second place and give him the estimated $100k second place prize. In addition to winning the grand prize of $1,000,000, Rob Mariano was also voted fan favorite in a close vote over Matt, making his total prize money $1,100,000 for the season.
Winning Survivor Redemption Island was not all smooth sailing for Rob Mariano, here are some key moments in the game which helped shape the victory:
- Kristina’s Over-Aggressiveness – Early on in the game, Kristina was very aggressive in trying to find the hidden immunity idol, as well as form some type of alliance to eliminate the threat she saw in Rob. This allowed Rob to take some heat off of himself and make Kristina appear to be the target, which also helped Rob mold his initial alliance.
- Zapatera Throwing The Challenge – While players like Mike have defended the move to this day on his facebook page, throwing the challenge was a clear momentum shifter in the game after Ometepe had already lost two immunity challenges in a row to a much more fit Zapatera tribe. The move not only gave confidence to Ometepe, but it effectively alienated both Stephanie and Krista from the tribe.
- Andrea and Matt staying with Rob after the merge – This was likely the biggest difference in the second half of the game. After the merge, it was essentially five on five with both Andrea and Matt as the huge swing votes in the game. Had they remained together and went to Zapatera, it would have been Rob’s tribe that was systemically eliminated from the game. Being able to convince Andrea and Matt to stay with him basically wrote Rob the check for one million dollars right there.
- Rob’s “Cult-Like” control over his tribe post-merge – One Matt was re-eliminated, Rob made sure there would be no fraternizing with the enemy and forced his alliance to use the “buddy system” until they had numbers well in their favor knowing that it just took 1-2 of his members flipping to make the rest of the game very difficult.
- Rob Finding The Immunity Idol – While the idol did not directly save Rob at tribal council, during the reunion show it was discovered that both Ashley and Natalie knew he had it which greatly influenced their decision to vote Andrea out of the final five (why they didn’t team up to get Phillip is beyond me). Also, knowing he had possession of the remaining idol made voting much easier as his tribe didn’t need to split any votes which usually causes the occasional blindside at tribal.
- The Andrea Vote At The End – While I was watching the show, I was honestly shocked Natalie and Ashley did not align with Andrea to vote out the remaining guys (Rob then Phillip) to earn a final 3 spot. Like mentioned above, it was later explained they knew Rob had the idol, yet the girls chose to vote out Andrea instead of Phillip and taking their chances in the final challenge. Both Ashley and Andrea were very heavy competitors, and likely had a chance to beat Rob in the maze challenge.
Again, the fact that Rob had all that going against him, yet still had control over his tribe really proved that he was a men against boys and it was an almost unfair advantage to put someone like him against a bunch of rookies. Despite that, they are going to follow the same exact model next season in Survivor: South Pacific where not only will two former cast members will face off against rookies, but Redemption Island will also return. That will likely air in the fall, but I will keep you updated on any announcements related to the show as I hear them, so stay tuned!
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