It turned out to be one of the most gripping rivalries in Survivor history, but the big Russell-Rob feud finally reached its endgame last night with one Villain emerging victorious over the other. On one hand, there were no losers in this clash of the Survivor titans. But in another more accurate sense, the loser is the one who was voted out first, and that would be Boston Rob Mariano. The latest victim of Heroes vs Villains called in this morning to talk about his thoughts on Tyson’s moronic move, Coach switching sides, and his epic battle with the player viewers love to hate. [Read the entire interview after the jump.]
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Point blank: Did Russell outplay you?
ROB MARIANO: Did Russell outplay me? It seems as if Russell got the better of me. At the end of the day, he was able to convince Jerri to vote with him and Coach didn’t stand up and do what he said he was going to do, and therefore I’m sitting here talking to you. Russell — very entertaining, I give him credit. I wouldn’t want him on my team ever! I wanted him gone from the outset. But I’m the one here talking to you, so he got me.
Do you think you two play a lot alike? I think in some ways, yes, because you’re both very aggressive, and in other ways not so much.
I would agree with you. I think parts of our game are very similar, and parts are completely opposite. My approach to the camp life and team aspect of challenges is in stark contrast to his. But strategy-wise, he recognized me as a threat from the beginning, as I did with him, And with me it’s either you’re with me or you’re against me, and I think it’s the same with him. We were against each other from the outset, and rather than working together we decided we were gonna get each other off, and it didn’t work out too good for me.
How much of an advantage do you think he had with no one having seen him play before?
Well, it cuts both ways. He has an advantage in that people are gonna give him the benefit of the doubt. Myself, I realized that 20 seasons in, you have 10 people that are considered the most villainous to ever play the game, and here’s a guy from the most recent season, so he had to do something so outlandish to get picked over all those other contestants. So to me, it’s a no brainer. This kid, you got to keep an eye on him. And then when you look at him and he looks at you with those beady eyes and doesn’t blink, and can’t give you a straight answer — look, I played poker. I can read him. I knew he was bad for business. But at the end of the day, he got me, so I can’t give it to him too hard about it.
But Jerri’s whole thing for turning on you was that she remembered how you played in All-Stars. Had she seen Russell play in Samoa, do you think she would have still flipped?
Absolutely, he would have been gone. His reputation precedes him, as did mine. We watched Samoa when we got home, and I found him very entertaining. I really did. Some of the stuff he did was pretty out there. Having said that, some of his tactics, like sabotaging his team, poring out the water bottles, burning the socks — it’s not a road I would go. I don’t think there’s much to be gained in playing the game by hurting your own team.
How were you feeling entering Tribal Council? Did you think it was about 50-50 as far as still having Coach and Jerri?
I knew it was me. I knew Jerri was gone before we even left the beach, and I could just look in Coach’s eyes and tell he was gonna take the easy way out, It’s terrible, because Coach really wants to play with honor and integrity, and at the end of the day, he has the opportunity to do that and chooses another path. But that’s on him.
Coach actually appeared to take the easiest path possible in not voting for you, yet casting a vote that he knew ensured you going home. That seems like he was almost trying to not own up to his decision.
I think he’s a guy that was conflicted and he didn’t have it in him to do the right thing in this situation. So, it’s bad for me because it makes me go home, but he’s the one who has to live with it. Essentially, the turning point for me was not even that, it was the week before with Tyson switching his vote. Because here it is, Dalton: You lay out a foolproof plan, it can’t fail, there’s no way anybody in our alliance goes home, there’s no way Coach or Jerri are at risk, and you go another way for what reason? It doesn’t make any sense to me. Look, Russell took a shot. It was a gamble. It was a big gamble, it paid off and it makes him look great. It doesn’t necessarily mean that his play was correct. In poker, you can do the right thing and still lose. He did the wrong thing and ended up winning and looks like a genius, but in actuality it’s not a play I will ever make myself or applaud. But having said, that I’m the one sitting here and he’s still in the game, so I can’t take that away from him.
What’s the first thing you said to Tyson when you met up with him at Ponderosa?
I can’t say that. [Laughs.] Since then, we’re reconciled. For me, I just wanted to know why. It didn’t make any sense. It was the first time ever in the three times I played Survivor, even counting Marquesas when I went home — it was the first time I ever went to Tribal Council and things did not go the way I expected them to go, And to me, it was a total shock, because when I go to Tribal Council, I know what’s going to happen. The person going home is always the person I think is going home. So I wanted to know why, and to be honest, at the time, he didn’t really have an answer for me. He was basically like, “I screwed up.”
I wondered if your new daughter would be a distraction for you out there, and it certainly didn’t seem to be. How were you able to block that out?
I didn’t block it out. Once I made the decision to go and play Survivor you have to use it as a motivator and not a distraction, and I did. Every time I felt down I said, “You’re doing this for your wife and your daughter. Go out there and make them proud and give 110 percent of everything you do,” and that’s it. I just wanted to make them proud. I did the best I could. I didn’t come home with it but I tried my hardest.
We’ve been treated to this immense, intense battle between you and Russell these past few weeks. How are you two now outside of the game?
I have no ill will towards him. Russell did what he thought was best for him, And his strategy is not one that I would employ. I think we have a lot of similarities in our game, but we have a lot of things that are complete opposites. As a person, I don’t really know Russell much. I only know him in the game of Survivor, and in the game of Survivor, he’s someone I wouldn’t want on my team, ever. I would want him gone right away — partly because he is a threat strategically, and partly because his tactics, to steal a line from Coach, are not tactics that I would consider honorable.
Finally, have you given Coach that hug yet?
[Laughs] I have not, but I have to give it. Look, it’s a game, Dalton. I get that, always have, and I don’t harbor any ill will or resentment toward anyone. To their credit, they’re lucky they got me out when they did, because had they not, I would have gone a lot further, and probably won it.
To see a special pep talk that Boston Rob recorded for himself before the game started to cheer himself up should he get voted out, as well as an exclusive deleted scene from last night’s episode, then click onthe video below. And for more Survivor shenanigans, don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @EWDaltonRoss.
Image Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS