"Boston" Rob Mariano was a 23 year old construction worker when he competed on Survivor: Marquesas. I have been to the town of Canton, Massachussetts where he lived. It's a small residential town far removed from the action of the big city. There's a romantic touch of old New England about it, but the real estate is affordable, and it's still pretty salty. It's not where you go to strike it rich. It's where you go to have a family and a simple, low income life.
I bring this because today "Boston" Rob is, by his own admission, a very successful man. He's got a nice house in Florida with a beautiful wife, and they recently had a daughter. Despite the wild fantasies so many forgotten reality show castoffs have had about landing major movie deals and talk shows, not very many reality contestants have been as blessed by the experience as Rob and Amber have.
What's really special about Rob is that he doesn't seem ruined by the experience. He's not the same guy he was at 23. He has grown up over the years. But he's still honest, humble, and yet charmingly scandelous.
Despite his many successes, I could not possibly begrudge Rob if he were succesful on Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains. I'd be thoroughly excited about it.
I asked Rob about his path from construction worker to small time celebrity, and the role Survivor played. We talked Red Sox baseball and about Amber.
As a new father, does Johnny Fairplay's decision to (basically) quit in Micronesia make sense to you? Or does sitting at the loser lodge for 36 days accomplish nothing?
I can't really say what was going through Johnny's mind at the time but from my own personal circumstance I made a decision together with my wife to compete in Survivor for a third time. Once that decision was made that was it, I basically used my daughter as an extra motivator. Anyone that truly knows me, knows that I don't have any quit in me.
At the point you were picked for Marquesas, you must have pictured a very different life for yourself. Where did you think you'd be now?
That's a tough question, I have always kind of lived my life by the seat of my pants, I was born a risk taker and have always kind of lived in the moment. Just as I could not have predicted that my life would be the way it is now I really don't know where I would have ended up if it took a different path. The one thing that the can be pretty sure of no matter what way it could have gone I would have been living it on my terms.
Did you watch Survivor: The Australian Outback when it was broadcast? And did you have a crush on Amber as a viewer?
I tuned into Survivor towards the end of the season. I think Amber was voted off before I became an avid viewer of the show.
Were she not recently pregnant, would Amber have a greater chance of winning Heroes vs. Villains than yourself?
Man that's just wrong. There is not way I can answer this question without getting into trouble. Let me just say this. Amber is tough as nails and a fierce competitor. Believe me, I know. I live with her everyday. Lucky for me she was recently pregnant because I would not have wanted to play against her. I'm pretty sure they would have put us on opposite tribes.
Some fans have argued that no castaways should be getting a third chance before others have had their second or their first. How would you respond?
I can understand why some fans would want to see fresh faces each season, but look. At the end of the day what it comes down to is that some castaways make great dynamic television and others don't. It's not like the castaways that came back for a third time were propositioning CBS or Mark Burnett. They came to us and asked us if we wanted to play again.
As a Red Sox fan, would you rather have Jason Bay or John Lackey?
As a Red Sox fan I'd like to have both.
-Interview conducted by Henry Jenkins
(Photo courtesy of CBS)