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Well, I can tell you we were glued to the TV last night, as the finals of Survivor began.

My all-time favorite player, Boston Rob Mariano was in the final four, with someone about to return from Redemption Island, bringing them back to five.

Then another challenge, a tribal council and on to the final challenge. The winner would be assured a spot in the final three and a final tribal council would eliminate the extra player.

We have had an on again, off again affair with Survivor. What has never wavered is our enjoyment of  Jeff Probst, the host. But over the years, the game has changed, appearing to “jump the shark” on more than one occasion, and bounced back with new twists and turns.

What had started some ten years ago as a “survival show” seeming to favor the physically fit, had quickly evolved into a game of alliances, blindsides, cheating and lying. It is a game of “out-play, out-wit, out-last.”

Mariano played in his first Survivor in 2002. He didn’t do very well, but was asked back in what became a common thing in the “reality competition” genre–returning players. He met his wife Amber in 2004 game, and together they went to the finals, became engaged and married.

Rob returned once again in a “villains vs heroes”. He was a hero and was booted quickly. Russell Hantz was the villain, and stuck around until the final where he lost once again. Russell, it should be noted, is a thoroughly nasty individual, who belittles all the other players and is the typical Napoleon dictator, threatening and ordering people around.

Rob got in Russell’s face at the finals the villains-heroes and suggested that given another chance he would kick old Russell around the island.

So CBS decided to form two teams around these two. And it was game on.

Russell was gone in a heart beat, his older more mature team mates not the least bit interested in his bullying. Rob found a way to avoid the obvious problem–you’ve had your chance, now it’s our turn.

He was able to be helpful, offering advice and guidance without being either pushy or threatening. He could play the “let me get you to the merger, and then of course get rid of me” card.

He did in fact guide his team to victory after victory after Russell was eliminated on the other side. He recognized a budding romance on his team and convinced his teammates to pick off a likeable Christian kid, Matt,  to protect the group.

When Matt, now set off to Redemption Island, continued to win his challenges against other booted players, the scene was set. Matt returned. But Matt made more fatal mistakes, toying with double-crossing his original team, then telling Rob that he wasn’t going to do it. Matt returned to Redemption Island after just a couple of days.

The merger having occurred, Rob’s team had a numerical advantage and he held his group together while masterminding a methodical picking off of the remnants of the other team. Now his team kept him to get to the “final six”. He instituted a never before seen “buddy system” to keep the other team’s members from trying to co-opt his team members when they were alone. Nobody was alone.

By the time they got to the final six, Rob had three of the remaining members firmly loyal to him. They no doubt thought that going to the final with Rob would assure them victory. One of those most loyal was sacrificed at the end, and a perennial dangerous woman who was winning challenges posed a real danger should she get to the finals.

 His was able in the end, by winning the final immunity to guarantee himself a place in the final three and convince loyal Natalie to vote to eliminate Ashley a stronger player, making the final three Natalie, Rob and Crazy Phillip.

While nothing is certain, Rob was in the best position he could be in to win. I’m not sure how divided the jury was, but the impassioned argument of one of their fellow jurors, David, may have done the trick. He claimed that Rob had simply run the game from start to finish, controlled everyone and everything. Nobody deserved to win but him.

And win he did. He had of the nine votes, at least five and I haven’t seen a total vote count. Jeff Probst, clearly a fan of Rob’s, said it may well have been the most  perfect game of Survivor ever played. I agree. Rob has given new life to a very tired concept. Only time will tell if enough new elements can be introduced to reinvigorate  the show.

In the end, of course it is a silly show, where lying, and backstabbing are rewarded with money. Strange concept of course. Yet having watched Rob throughout his four Survivors, I’ve seen a young kid of twenty -eight grow into a mature man. He’s been married for over six years to Amber, they have two daughters now, and he apparently is starting a new project with the History Channel.

I wish him and his family the best. They have both entertained us over the years.

 And yeah, I know a ton of you have never seen it, and could care less. LOL. Well there is always tomorrow and something new to talk about!