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HOME > Survivor > Survivor: Redemption Island

'Survivor' winner Rob Mariano: I feel Julie Wolfe totally crossed the line


By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 05/16/2011 

"Boston" Rob Mariano can now share Survivor bragging rights with his wife, former Survivor: All-Stars winner Amber Brkich.

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After 117 days of gameplay, four Survivor seasons, and a 10-year quest to become "Sole Survivor," Mariano finally got the job done.  

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 after beating out Natalie Tenerelli and Phillip Sheppard in the season's final jury voting.

During a conference call with reporters on Monday, Reality TV World asked the 35-year-old Pensacola, FL resident about Julie Wolfe's biting final jury comments and whether he has really closed the book on Survivor returning to compete ever again. 

Also check back with Reality TV World the rest of this week for additional interviews with Natalie and Phillip, as well as fellow finale castaways Andrea Boehlke, Ashley Underwood, Grant Mattos, Matt Elrod, and Mike Chiesl.

Reality TV World: So Julie Wolfe accused you of sitting next to a "little girl" and a guy that "none of us respect" when she addressed you, and then she told Natalie that she had been your "servant" and urged you teach your daughters to grow up and become strong women and not let someone treat them the way you treated Natalie -- which made you make the unusual move of reaching out to comfort Natalie -- what were your thoughts and reactions when Julie was saying all that and exactly what wrong treatment does she think you gave Natalie? Did you ever get any details?

"Boston" Rob Mariano: I think that was a two-fold, actually. The first part of the question is I was going to say that I was definitely disappointed in Julie. I think she totally crossed the line. I mean, she's sitting there on her high horse trying to dictate how Natalie's parents should feel about her, how my wife and children should feel about me, and Phillip's family. And at the same time, it's like, "What kind of example are you setting for your own daughter?"

It's a little bit of an oxymoron there, and I think he regrets it. I hope she would, because it wasn't cool at the time. As far as anything inappropriate between Natalie and I? I mean, Natalie was like a sister to me out there, and here's the thing.

When you sit on the jury -- I've never sat on the jury, so I don't know first hand. Fortunately the four times that I've played the game, I was out right before the jury or I made it all the way to the end -- I can imagine that they're disappointed that they're not sitting where we're sitting.

So, they want to feel -- it takes a really strong person to do what, say David did, and stand up and say, "You know what? You guys played a good game. You beat me. Hats off to ya," whereas it's probably a lot easier to take a route she took and get one last jab in and feel like you're getting revenge. So, from my point of view, it was completely inappropriate and nothing inappropriate happened between Natalie and I. Like I said, she's like a sister to me.

Reality TV World: Russell Hantz already backed away from his claim that he will never play again. How about you? Are you sticking with yours?

"Boston" Rob Mariano: Yeah, at this point, I've accomplished everything that I ever wanted to accomplish with Survivor. My main goal was to win the show and I did that, and I'm happy to leave with the way I played and to go out at this point. I'm going to move on to the production end of things with this new show on the History Channel, and see where they go from there.

Also in the call, Mariano told reporters whether he felt he played a perfect game, when he first believed Natalie and Phillip were the best castaways to take with him to the end, why he felt Survivor: Redemption Island was difficult even though he made it look easy, and who he claimed were his biggest threats in the competition.

Many people, including Survivor host Jeff Probst, are claiming you played the perfect game. How do you feel about that? Do you think you played your perfect game?

"Boston" Rob Mariano: I mean, first of all, coming from Jeff, it's definitely a huge compliment considering he's seen every single episode of every season first hand. I feel like I played the game to the best of my ability. Having said that, there's been hundreds of people that have played Survivor and 22 different people have won the game -- or 21 different people have won the game -- up to this point.

So, different people have had different strategies and there's no clear cut strategy that works for everyone. I feel like the strategy that I employed worked best for me, and that's the only way I could play the game, which is an aggressive, right out there, strategic strategy that a lot of people couldn't pull off. So, I feel like I played to the best of my ability.

How do you think your perception has changed overtime throughout your Survivor journey, and what attributed to the change?

"Boston" Rob Mariano: Well, I think a lot has changed since I first played this game back in 2002 from Marquesas. I mean, I was 24-years-old. I was a single guy, and just my whole world perspective is different than it is now being 35 and married with two children. I have, obviously, a different way of seeing the world and seeing different people.

I think the number one thing I've learned is that Survivor is first and foremost a social game, and I was able to fine-tune my strategy to encompass that and really build relationships and make them work for me. I was able to exploit those relationships to the point where people didn't feel exploited necessarily to the point where they wouldn't give me their vote in the end, and I was fortunate where I did get their votes.

How early in the game did you see Natalie and Phillip as the two people you wanted to sit next to in the end?

"Boston" Rob Mariano: Natalie, very early on. I'd say the first day, and a lot of that comes from just the perception and a perceptive read that I had on her. Part of it was because of her situation. She's 19-years-old. She's at a point in her life where she's entering -- I tried to put myself in her position.

If I were 19 and coming into this game not knowing what I was doing, I would like someone to take me under [his or her] wing that's been there and that's done that. In return, I wanted her loyalty. I saw something in her that I saw similar in [his wife and Survivor: All Stars winner Amber Mariano], and the fact that I knew she would be loyal throughout the entire thing, and I can't explain it.

It's just something that I felt from the beginning because of the situation that she was in. Phillip was a little bit different. Phillip, in the beginning of the game, he was trying to get me out the entire time, and as time went on, I think he got kind of frustrated with that and almost adopted a "well if I can't beat him, I'll join him" type strategy.

Then he realized the antics that he was pulling, I was keeping him around because of them. So, he realized that as long as he kept it up, that I would keep him around. Either way, I think both of them thought at the end ultimately that they would be able to beat me, where in all actuality, I don't think I would have been able to beat anybody other than the two I was standing with at the end.

The season was hyped early on as the Rob versus Russell show. If he had stayed in the game, do you think there would ever be a chance you would join forces with him or would you just always view him as a primary target?

"Boston" Rob Mariano: You know what? Here's the thing. I don't think Russell and I play a similar game. I don't think that we're on the same level when it comes to strategy, but if the opportunity presented itself where I could work with Russell and I think it would be to my advantage, I would use him. Of course I would, but I don't think I could ever trust Russell.

That was just my read, and just coming from the early game interviews that we did, it just didn't seem to materialize. I was actually disappointed. I felt bad for Russell this time around. I think he needs some space from the game. He's played three times in a year-and-a-half, which is a lot.

I've played four times in the course of 10 years. It's a little bit different, and I was disappointed that he said he was going to change up his game and he went in with the exact same strategy.

There's no way that you can re-invent yourself in this game if you don't adapt to the changing situation, and I thought he would have been better at that. At the same time, I thought it was pretty classy that he stood up and shook my hand last night. I thought that was a cool move on his part.

You said playing the game this time around was hard, and that it wasn't as easy as it may have looked. Why was it difficult and was there ever a time when you thought you had it in the bag?

"Boston" Rob Mariano: Yeah, it wasn't really the physical aspect of it that was that difficult for me. It never has been. I pretty much know that you're going to be deprived and to be honest with you, the more I've done it over the years, I think the easier it's become only because I feel like I've become seasoned and I almost know what to expect.

The difficult part, and what I meant by that statement, was that the hard work that I did behind the scenes was the constant checking on the strategy, and making sure that my alliances felt like they were intact, and making sure everyone else was checking in with each other.

I would give them a tid bit of information that was inconsequential, that had nothing to do with anything game related. But if I felt like I was relaying some type of information, as mundane as it might be -- the sun is rising in the east today -- just so they felt like they were getting something from me.

And in return, you saw time and time again, they would come to me with information that was critical. So, it was a constant game of going back and forth and just making sure that the alliance was good, that everybody felt like they were going to the end with me, and that nobody was talking to each other.

Why did you feel like you had to come back for a fourth time on Survivor? Did you believe that your life basically wouldn't be complete unless you won a title?

"Boston" Rob Mariano: Well, the thing is, I'm a competitor and most of all, I love Survivor. I love the game. I love playing the game. I don't know, it's funny because one person's pain is another person's pleasure. But I love going out there and competing and you know what? It's something that I always wanted to accomplish.

I wanted to get to the top. I wanted to win because it was such a challenge. I mean, the ultimate game is to vote everybody off and then get them to vote for you in the end, and it's hard. A lot of things have to go right too.

There's a degree of luck that's involved, and man, there's a lot of different ways to win Survivor, but to do it the way I did it, I think is for me, really really satisfying. But the reason I came back to do it again was just my competitive nature and the fact that I love the show.

What would you say to your critics who suggest your game-playing wasn't that great in that you took candy from babies?

"Boston" Rob Mariano: I'd love to see them do it. (Laughs) There's always going to be people that have an opinion and they're entitled to their opinion. I know that going out there, that I had a huge target on my back, and I had to re-invent myself in the way that I played the game. I had to use my ability and my experience that I had in the past to try to help me at the same time realizing that maybe it's a hindrance.

I was able to do it, and I was able to last 39 days. At the end of it all, I was able to get all of them to vote for me. So, I mean, if they want to try to take something away from me, go ahead, but the check is in my account.

What were the challenges in trying to keep Phillip in check within your tribe and alliance so that he didn't fracture anything?

"Boston" Rob Mariano: Phillip was a constant challenge. I mean, to be honest, if the merge happened one day later or one Tribal Council later that we had to go to, Phillip wouldn't have lasted. That's because in the beginning, he was really an annoyance. He was tough to get along with, like to the point where he was disrupting the harmony of the group.

You don't always want harmony, but you still have to live together. The fact that we merged, all of a sudden, Phillip turned his antics on the Zapatera people and it was great! It was amusing, you know? We loved it because he's aggravating the crap out of these guys and it's comedy central for us at this point.

But as soon as the Zapatera were gone again, it was back on us. And at that point, even down to the final five when he pulled that stuff last week with Natalie and [Ashley Underwood], I'm looking at him going, "What are you doing? You're driving them closer together when we want to split them apart.

So I mean, with Phillip, there was never a dull moment and I always had to constantly watch out because from the beginning, like I said, I knew he was out to get me. Any opportunity I slip up, he's going to try to capitalize on it. So, I had to keep my eyes wide open.

How did you connect with Phillip as a person?

"Boston" Rob Mariano: I love Phillip. He's a great guy. I'm being serious. A lot of people laugh when they hear that, but he's just this guy that wanted some love, and wanted to be heard, and he wanted the time of day, and nobody was willing to do that.

At the end of it, look, he helped me win a million dollars. If it wasn't for Phillip and Natalie, I would have never gotten to the end and I don't think I would have won if I hadn't sat exactly with the two of them.

So, even though I had to do the dirty work, they had to take part in it. You know? unbeknownst to them, whether they knew it or not, they played in integral role in me winning a million bucks. So, how could I not love someone like that?

What did you take from the Survivor: All Stars jury and how did you prepare accordingly for this one?

"Boston" Rob Mariano: Yeah, I think I said it last night in the show that back in All Stars, the problem was I felt bad and I apologized to them when I should have told them to kiss my ass, I outplayed you. I wasn't going to make the same mistake this time. So, I made no apologies, and I just tried to present myself in a way that was humble.

Basically [I was] like, "Look, I played the best game I know how, but at the end of the day, you guys have the power to vote. You vote however you want. There's no rules. There's no criteria. But I feel like I positioned myself in the end with two people that I can beat and that's the name of the game.

I feel like I played a better game than them, and if you agree with me, then give me your vote. And if you don't, then hey, there's nothing I can do about it." But ultimately, it worked out for me, so I think it was a good plan.

Who do you think posed the biggest threat against you this season? Did you feel there was one specific person you had to vote out right away?

"Boston" Rob Mariano: You know what? In the beginning, I feel like I eliminated -- I did what I needed to do -- [Kristina Kell] was off looking for a [hidden Immunity Idol] the very first day. [Francesca Hogi] was plotting against me, and there was something that didn't jive there, and [Matt "Matty" Elrod] was a huge threat -- a triple threat.

He was likeable and he was strategic, so sending him to Redemption Island straight away on the third episode -- or maybe it was the second episode, I don't remember -- it was important for me to get rid of him right away. It may have looked like there was no method to the madness at that point, but there definitely was.

Were you shocked that Grant Mattos took the game so personally and got emotional when talk of your alliance with him came up in conversation during the live reunion show?

"Boston" Rob Mariano: Yeah, I was. It was disappointing to me. Coming from anybody, I thought Grant would be able to have a handle on it, more so than anyone else, especially having played competitive football in the NFL. I thought he would get the "it's just a game" mentality, but he got caught up in it, and you know what? I can't blame him for his emotions. He feels the way he feels.

I wish he didn't feel that way. I like Grant; I think he's a good guy. I wish he could see it the way I saw it, but at the end of the day, I can't lose sleep over it. I've reached out to him on numerous occasions. My door is still open on my end. If he wants to come around, then like I said, I think he's a really good guy.

Any final comments?

"Boston" Rob Mariano: Thank you to everybody and thank you to all the fans out there that voted for me for "Player of the Season." That really meant a lot to me.

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