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HOME > Survivor > Survivor: Redemption Island

'Survivor: Redemption Island' crowns "Boston" Rob Mariano champion


By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 05/16/2011 

Survivor: Redemption Island has lived up to its title.

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"Boston" Rob Mariano's four Survivor seasons, 117 days of gameplay, and 10-year quest to become "Sole Survivor" have finally paid off.

The former Survivor: Marquesas, Survivor: All-Stars and Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains castaway became the most experienced player in Survivor history to win, as he claimed Survivor: Redemption Island's $1 million grand prize during the live portion of Sunday night's finale broadcast from New York City.

"I've been out here for 117 days, basically 10 years on and off. I've been trying to climb this mountain and get to the top of it. It's almost a third of my life, but does Survivor define me? It's been a huge part of my life. It's been a huge chapter in my life, and it's a game that I love, but it doesn't," the 35-year-old from Canton, MA who now resides in Pensacola, FL, said during the game.

"At the end of the day, it's about my wife and my child. That's why I'm out here. I love this game, and ultimately I wanted to win it so I can bring something home so they have a better future."

Rob beat Natalie Tenerelli, a 19-year-old professional dancer from Acton, CA, and Phillip Sheppard, a 52-year-old technology executive and former federal agent from Santa Monica, CA in the season's final jury voting, Survivor host Jeff Probst revealed live during the broadcast.

Rob won in a landslide in the jury voting after he received eight votes and Phillip only received one vote.

During the subsequent live reunion show, Jeff also revealed that Rob had won an additional $100,000 as the winner of the season's "Player of the Season" home viewer vote.  He received 40% of the vote.

Survivor: Redemption Island's special two-hour finale broadcast began on Night 35 on Redemption Island. Grant Mattos, a 29-year-old yoga instructor and former NFL football player from West Hollywood, CA, was shocked he was eliminated during the game's fourteenth Tribal Council, but he didn't know for sure who it was that turned on him to spark the blindside. However, he wasn't that upset about it and claimed he was "A-OK."

Andrea Boehlke, a 21-year-old student from Random Lake, WI, said she didn't want Grant above all the remaining castaways to come to Redemption Island because knew she would be in trouble facing off against three tough guys in the upcoming four-person duel. Once he arrived, she knew she would be the "underdog" and would have to step up her game.

Meanwhile, at Murlonio's camp with the four remaining former Ometepe members -- Phillip; Natalie; Ashley Underwood, a 25-year-old nurse and former Miss Maine USA from Benton, ME; and Rob -- returning from the previous Tribal Council where they had blindsided Grant.

Rob said he missed his friend Grant and admitted he "had a heart in their somewhere" even though he initiated Grant's ouster. He just knew Grant was a huge threat and then said Ashley had to be the next to go even though someone was to return from Redemption Island within a short time.

On Day 36, the four castaways on Redemption Island -- Grant, Andrea, Matt Elrod, a 22-year-old pre-med student from Nashville, TN, and Mike Chiesl, a 31-year-old former U.S. Marine from Del Mar, CA -- received Tree Mail announcing the news of their final duel.

Matt -- who initially got sent to Redemption Island during the season's second episode, only to return to the place where he was originally exiled after being voted out and betrayed again by his own former Ometepe tribe at the season's eighth Tribal Council -- said he became at peace with Redemption Island and grew to love the place. He claimed it was a life changing experience.

Matt had previously won his right to re-enter the game by beating Sarita White in a duel after spending 15 days on Redemption Island already and winning six consecutive duels. Upon his return to Redemption Island, Matt subsequently participated in the game's seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth duels and also survived all four.

Mike said Redemption Island wrapping up was a bittersweet moment for him.

"Redemption Island purgatory is coming to an end," Mike said.

Matt then led the castaways in a prayer before the duel and subsequently noted he spent 29 days on Redemption Island, was allowed only seven actual days in the game, and would now be participating in his eleventh duel.

Afterward, Matt, Mike, Andrea, and Grant arrived at the arena for the game's eleventh duel, where all of Ometepe's former members also came to attend and watch the four-person battle.  

Jeff then explained the rules and the castaways learned they would be required to place one foot on one end of a balancing board, while a ceramic vase lied balanced at the other end of the board. Once their vases dropped, they would be out of the challenge.

The winner would rejoin the game's remaining castaways and resume competing for Survivor: Redemption Island's one million dollar grand prize, while the three people to lose the duel would automatically become the game's fifth, sixth and seventh members of the jury that will determine Survivor Redemption Island's winner.

Mike, Matt, Grant and Andrea then squared off in the duel and they all lasted the first 40 minutes. Grant was the first to lose his balance and his vase fell and smashed on the ground. He was then followed by Matt and then Mike. Andrea ended up winning the duel, trumping three strong and determined men.

One by one, Grant, Matt and Mike threw their buffs into the fire and exited the game.

"I fell a little short to Day 39, but you know what? There are gifts out here, and in any experience, if your eyes are open, you can see them. I feel I've accomplished that. I'm proud of the work I've done on myself, and I'm proud of the fact that I got to see those things. Mission accomplished," Grant said following his ouster.

"In 36 days in the game and 29 days on Redemption Island, God was with me every step of the way and I think his will was ultimately done. I praise his name for just letting me be a vessel for him. That's been my reward for all the struggle and all the strife that I've been through," Matt explained.

"Today's outcome was not what I wanted. I wanted to get back in the game and try to be the sole Survivor, but it wasn't meant to be and that's alright," Mike said.

Andrea was then asked if she felt part of the foursome she would face when returning to the game, and she said not really. She admitted she would have to do well in the upcoming challenges and knew she'd most likely have to fend for herself.

"I think that I need to really prove myself, and I need to do well at challenges. I mean, obviously I still need to try to work strategy and know what's going on, but right now I feel like it's a very individual game," Andrea said after her big win.

After the duel, Rob said he was going to vote out Ashley before Andrea, which was his original plan before Ashley had won individual immunity before the game's fourteenth Tribal Council session.

On Day 36, Andrea noticed that the former Ometepe members weren't very happy to see her.

"I didn't feel completely welcomed, but then again I was voted off, so why would I? I need to try everything, because if I sit back, I'll be the next to go," Andrea said.

Andrea then talked to the girls and told them the guys on Redemption Island were thinking about voting for Phillip, including Mike and Ralph.

Ashley, taking Andrea's advice into consideration, told Natalie she couldn't trust Rob as much as she thought. Ashley explained that Andrea probably wouldn't trust Rob again, which was reason enough to believe that she might have joined forces with Ashley and Natalie in voting out Rob for their own sake.

Natalie was unsure of what she wanted to do and put it off by telling Ashley she'd think about it and they'd talk later.

Meanwhile, Rob confessed that Ashley was driving him "nuts." He recognized Natalie as a sweet, young girl and said he hated seeing Ashley attempt to corrupt her.

"I can't wait to vote her ass out. It's been 39 days. My patience is finally wearing off and it's going to be that much sweeter," Rob said of Ashley.

On Day 37, the Murlonio tribe arrived for the Immunity Challenge and met Jeff who explained the rules to what would be their fifteenth Immunity Challenge and eighth individual Immunity Challenge.

Each castaway was instructed to race across a balance beam several times, collecting one of a series of bags containing numbered tiles each time, but if they were to fall off the beam, they would have to go back and start the run again. They would then be required to place the tiles in order from 1-100.

Ashley ended up winning immunity for the second time in a row, which ensured her safety from elimination at the subsequent Tribal Council. She knew it was a very important move, as the castaway voted out would not go to Redemption Island, but rather become the eighth member of the jury.

"I'm kind of at a loss for words. That was a big one, and I'm just really excited, Jeff," Ashley said after winning.

Andrea felt she was on the chopping block but said it was an opportunity for the girls to join together and vote off Rob, because he didn't win immunity. She said she hoped they would realize the chance they were presented and act on it.

After the Immunity Challenge, the castaways returned to camp and Ashley was thrilled about her victory.

Rob, knowing he could not vote out Ashley, said Andrea would definitely be the next player to go. He said she had a good relationship with the former Zapatera members and worked hard around camp. He said it made perfect sense to vote her out before the end. 

Rob also still held onto his hidden Immunity Idol that he had discovered and kept secret previously in the game. He acknowledged that the next Tribal Council would be the last time he could play the idol, but he confidently said he didn't even need it.

Although Ashley won immunity, she still worried about her place in the game since she knew Natalie and Rob were so close. Ashley made Natalie promise that she would 100% percent vote for her instead of Phillip next. Natalie agreed because she had formed a close friendship with Ashley throughout the game.

Phillip oversaw the girls talking nearby and began to fret about what they were discussing. He approached Rob and told him what happened, as he "gave him a report." Phillip told Rob the girls were talking for about 10-15 minutes.

"There's confusion going on right now and I don't know why," Rob said.

Andrea attempted to sway the minds of Ashley and Natalie again, as she insisted it made a lot more sense to vote for Phillip or Rob rather than her. She said everyone on Redemption Island would vote for Rob or Phillip if they made it to the final jury vote. Natalie then realized if she went against Rob in the end, she or whoever else probably wouldn't win. 

Rob was very happy with how his game was playing out and said he could predict what his fellow tribe members were going to say and do before they actually did it.

"I can still dictate this vote. I don't even need the idol as long as I have Natalie. I could take it home as a souvenir too. What can I say? I like to gamble. God, I'm sick! I'm so sick!" Rob expressed before Tribal Council.

That night, Survivor: Redemption Island's Murlonio castaways arrived for their eighth Tribal Council as a merged tribe and the season's fifteenth overall Tribal Council.

The jury -- consisting of David Murphy, Julie Wolfe, Steve Wright, Ralph Kiser, Grant, Matt, and Mike -- entered and watched Rob, Phillip, Ashley, and Natalie discuss the current situation at hand.

Rob told Jeff he asked Phillip to keep his eyes and ears open for him, and the girls knew how much of a threat Rob posed.

"He's Boston Rob. Who wouldn't want to take him out?" Ashley said.

Andrea then chimed in and explained the girls needed to make a strategic move in order to gain and earn any respect from the jury. Afterward, Rob gave his two cents about Andrea, claiming she also served as a huge threat and that no one would want to be sitting next to her in the end.

Before Jeff revealed the votes, he announced that if anyone wanted to play their hidden Immunity Idol, it was the time to do so. Rob, as a result, played his idol just in case.

"My mother always told me better be safe than sorry," Rob explained.

Jeff then showed the votes and four castaways voted to oust Andrea from Survivor: Redemption Island, while Andrea voted for Rob. Andrea's torch was then extinguished and she left the game to become the eighth member of the jury.

"Andrea, once again, the tribe has spoken. Time to go," Jeff told her.

"Alright," Andrea said.

On Night 37, the final four -- Rob, Ashley, Natalie, and Phillip -- returned from Tribal Council after voting out Andrea, and Phillip said he didn't know Rob had the hidden Immunity Idol but had suspected it all along. Phillip admitted Rob played the idol well.

Ashley was a little upset that Andrea tried to make it seem as if Ashley and Natalie had done very little strategic game-play throughout their time on the island when she said they had to earn respect from the jury. However, Ashley bragged that she was still in the game and Andrea wasn't, so she "got the last laugh."

Rob explained it was going to be himself with Ashley and Natalie in the final three when he approached the girls to talk. They agreed happily, as Rob said he was going to take them to the end.

On Day 38, the remaining Murlonio castaways arrived for Survivor: Redemption Island's final Immunity Challenge and met Jeff who explained the rules to what would be their sixteenth Immunity Challenge and ninth individual Immunity Challenge.

The castaways learned they would have to race through a giant maze in order to find and collect four bags of puzzles. They would then race to the top of a landing and use the pieces inside the bags to solve a four-word phrase.

The first person to figure out the word phrase would win individual immunity and be guaranteed a spot in the final Tribal Council, while the person to get voted out at the session would fall one day short of being able to state their case to the jury and attempt to win the $1 million grand prize.

Rob got to the top of the landing first, and he was then followed closely behind by Ashley. While the two were trying to solve their puzzles, Rob asked Ashley if she figured anything out looking for help. Ashley refused to offer up the two words she had discovered, but Rob also failed to give Ashley any hints on the one word he had figured out.

After they individually solved their own riddles, Rob won immunity and would be safe at the final Tribal Council session.

"It was [Rob's wife and former Survivor castaway and winner Amber Brkich] that encouraged me to come back and try again. She believed in me. It's because of her. Whatever happens now, I'm okay with it, even if I don't win -- which is ironic because the only reason I ever wanted to come back and play again was to win -- but I feel like I did my best," Rob explained.

"But I'm not done yet. First, I have to figure out which of these other three idiots to send home tonight, and then I'm going to convince the other people sitting on the jury to give me a million dollars after my wife already won once."

On Day 38, Rob said his strategy was going to make Ashley and Phillip both feel like they were going to stay in the game and be safe. However, he knew if he wanted to get rid of Ashley next, he would have to get Natalie onboard with him, which "was going to take some work" since the two girls had become best friends.

Rob told Ashley not to sweat, and Ashley knew her connection with Natalie was so strong that she thought Natalie would tell her if something was to happen that would detriment her position in the game. Natalie promised Ashley she'd tell her if she heard anything, and Natalie felt good about voting out Phillip.

Rob then told Phillip that Ashley thought Phillip was going to be the next castaway voted out. He also knew he had to convince Natalie to take his side, because he explained that Ashley had gotten too close with many Zapatera members. He worried the relationships Ashley formed with others would come back to haunt him.

"We have to vote off Ashley. She had way too many friggin' friends on the jury. I told you I would take you to the end, and this has to happen... you can do it. I know you can," Rob told Natalie.

Natalie said it would be "really tough" because Ashley trusted her and they bonded throughout the game.

"I didn't come out here to make friends, but I did," Natalie said. "Rob has been watching my back since day one. But right now, I  need to watch out for myself, and I would rather lose this game than lose a friend in Ashley."

That night, Survivor: Redemption Island's Murlonio castaways arrived for their ninth Tribal Council as a merged tribe and the season's sixteenth overall Tribal Council -- the penultimate Tribal Council session.

Natalie, Julie, Steve, Ralph, Grant, Matt, Mike, and Andrea arrived as the jury members to watch.

Ashley said she knew she had to win the previous Individual Immunity Challenge and it was "very disappointing" that she didn't.

Rob said he wanted to sit next to people he knew he could win against in the end. He said he was in that place before and it didn't work out, but he could only do what he could do.

Natalie said she belonged there in the finals and wanted Rob to take her to the end. However, Ashley stated a similar case and suggested she had remained loyal to Rob until the end and could have thrown him under the bus numerous times but never did.

When questioned by Jeff, Ashley then also admitted that she felt she'd probably win against Phillip or Natalie if she were to make the final three with them.

Jeff then revealed the votes and three castaways voted to oust Ashley from Survivor: Redemption Island, while Ashley voted for Phillip. In the end, Natalie listened to Rob and voted out Ashley on command.

Ashley was completely blindsided, her torch was extinguished, and she became the ninth and final member of the jury.

"I honestly didn't know I was going home. I was probably an idiot for thinking that because I was the biggest threat that Rob could have taken to the final three. As much as I would love to be sitting there in the final three, I have nothing to be hanging my head about, and I'm proud of how I played the game. I wouldn't change anything," Ashley said following her exit.

On Day 39, Phillip discussed a vision he had about making it to the end and he was so thankful for his journey of a lifetime in Survivor.

"I've learned that I can accept the good, the bad and the different," Phillip said, adding that he needed to put a little salt on the wound so that people wouldn't forget why he lasted so long and why the jury members didn't in comparison.

The final three then enjoyed a big breakfast.

Natalie said she overcame sadness, doubt and her fears by competing in Survivor, and that she would be motivated to get back in the world and do things she was never able to do before.

Rob said he spent 117 days total playing Survivor over the last 10 years, and after spending 39 days in Nicaragua for Survivor: Redemption Island, he was overwhelmed. He knew he was one step away from the top and just wanted to get there. Rob was giving Natalie pointers about how to address the jury and handle the final Tribal Council, but his intentions were actually to indirectly teach her what not to do. 

Phillip then burned his infamous "plum" underwear in a ceremony-like event.

"Like all good things, some things must come to an end," Phillip said.

Rob, Phillip and Natalie then arrived for their final Tribal Council session, which was the seventeenth Tribal Council of the season. The nine jury members entered, including Ashley, and Jeff explained that Natalie, Rob and Phillip would each be able make an opening statement and plead their case before the jury members would have an opportunity to either ask a question or make a statement of their own.

The Tribal Council then commenced and the three remaining castaways said their opening statements, followed by the jury firing questions at them.

Natalie told the jurors she made it 39 days with her major strength being her social skills. She said she allied with Rob from the beginning, stuck with it and remained loyal, and she deserved to be there and become the youngest female Survivor winner in the show's history.

Phillip explained that he implemented the idea of Ometepe joining forces to push for Zapatera's extinction. He said he was ultimately to thank for initiating Ometepe's strong permanent alliance, although Rob followed through with it. He also suggested he had maintained loyalty to Rob.

Rob then gave a much longer speech and discussed how he had won four Individual Immunity Challenges, had strategic alliances he put together and sub alliances throughout the game, was a hard worker around camp life, and waited 10 years on and off to become Survivor's champion. He also said he wanted to make a better life for his wife and children.

Andrea then asked Phillip who he really was. Phillip said they didn't know the real him because he was on the outside of Ometepe most of the time. Natalie told Andrea she stuck to Rob because she needed his help due to her lack of experience and his expertise.

Ashley asked Natalie why she didn't make the gesture when people were planning to vote her out. Natalie told Ashley it was a game and she was a huge threat. Ashley then told Rob she didn't want to know who he really was because he had betrayed a lot of people.

Rob told Grant he valued and trusted his alliance but just didn't want to go against him in the end, and Grant seemingly understood and accepted his explanation.

Matt then asked Rob where the line was drawn because he lied so much and spent so much time in the game. Rob said it was necessary to play the game they way he did. Rob explained it was important to make every member of his Ometepe alliance think they would make it to the end with him, although it would be utterly impossible to please everyone.

Julie told the final three that none of their parents would be proud of the way they played the game, and she felt that no one played with any respect. She also called Natalie a "servant" to Rob.

David then addressed the jury, not the final three in Rob's favor. He said Rob played the best strategic game Survivor had ever seen, and that there should be no choice when it came to voting for the winner. He said Phillip should be totally discounted, while Natalie only survived the whole time by riding on Rob's back to the end.

David assured the jury that Rob controlled everyone's thoughts and actions, blindsided each and every one of them, and that although his game was a little deceiving, it was "brilliant."

Afterward, the live portion of the broadcast commenced and Rob was revealed to be the winner of Survivor: Redemption Island.

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