Boston Rob Mariano has the distinction of being the first Survivor player to compete in four seasons and the only player to compete five times. In honor of his 45th birthday on Christmas Day 2020, we wanted to take a look back at his gameplay over the years and rank the seasons based solely on Mariano’s performance.
Note: He has appeared on six seasons in total, but this ranking does not include “Island of the Idols” because Mariano did not play in that season, he only acted as a mentor.
No. 5 Heroes vs. Villains
This has to absolutely be Mariano’s worst season because he came in with two former seasons under his belt and should have been poisoned to rule the roost in the Villains tribe.
However, a total unknown named Russell Hantz — remember, when they filmed “Heroes vs. Villains,” nobody knew Hantz because he has just finished filming “Samoa” and that season had not aired yet — came in and kind of ate Mariano’s lunch. Mariano dominated early on, but he did not keep Tyson Apostol under control and he lost his right-hand man, then Hantz convinced Jerry Manthey to change allegiances and Mariano was sent packing.
A very disappointing end after a promising start.
No. 4 Marquesas
Mariano was just a scrawny 25-year-old when he filmed Survivor: Marquesas and his relative youth definitely showed. He did make it to the merge but was the first person voted out of the new Soliantu tribe because neither his old tribe of Maraamu nor his new tribe of Rotu trusted him.
But he made his mark as an entertaining character and was invited back for all-stars, which definitely said something about him as a person and a personality. You’ll notice he’s one of only two people from the fourth season of Survivor to ever be invited back to play again (and Kathy Vavrick-O’Brien hasn’t been seen since season eight).
No. 3 Redemption Island
You might think the season Mariano won would be No. 1 with a bullet, right? You would be wrong. This season was clearly engineered to get Mariano the win he so desperately wanted. He was placed in the game with a bunch of fanboys and fangirls who were so dazzled by being in the presence of Boston Rob that he absolutely steamrolled them.
The only possible threat Mariano might have had in this season was Hantz — it seemed like production was really billing this season as the Hantz vs. Mariano showdown part 2 and then one of two iconic players would get his first victory. But the Zapatera tribe recognized how detrimental Hantz was to keep around and actually threw a challenge to oust him. Mariano skated to the win. It was fun to watch at times, but it definitely wasn’t Mariano’s A-game — because he didn’t need it to be.
No. 2 Winners at War
There was something really satisfying about watching Mariano return at age 44 with his wife, Amber Brkich Mariano, whom he met on the show. Of course, despite being on separate tribes, the Marianos had HUGE targets on their back because they were absolutely the one pair that everyone knew they would never be able to get to turn on one another.
What was so impressive about this season was that despite going to Redemption Island incredibly early on, the Marianos toughed it out for weeks in the hope of getting back in the game. It was so inspiring to watch Mariano in particular — he himself admitting that he was not in the shape he once was — grinding out challenges on the Edge of Extinction for a chance to get back in the game. It may not have been Mariano’s best strategic game, but it really brought everything full circle.
No. 1 All-Stars
There’s no doubt this is Mariano’s best season and it’s not even close. It’s really a shame that he and Brkich couldn’t both win all-stars because they played the game together and they absolutely dominated it. Honestly, Mariano probably should have won that season, but Brkich played a good game in her own right — and as we’ve seen over the years, burning too many bridges will not get you the money at the end.
Mariano’s big downfall was betraying both Lex van den Berghe, Alicia Calaway, and Big Tom Buchanan. He was tight with each of them and then blindsided them, and they were too angry about that to vote for him at the end.
There is no word yet on when Survivor will be back on the air. There is talk about the production team filming three seasons this spring so that they can air one in the summer of 2021, one in the fall, and then one in the spring of 2022.