Save for longtime “Survivor” host Jeff Probst, there have been no participants who better define the CBS reality TV show than Sandra Diaz-Twine and Rob Mariano. Combined, these two players have appeared on a total of 11 seasons, including the current “Winners at War,” while Sandra still retains her record as the only two-time winner of the game.
Their strategic choices as castaways helped define how other players learned how to “outwit, outlast and outplay” as they voluntarily subjected themselves to the often harsh conditions of living in the wild. There is a reason why last season this pair was chosen to act as mentors to participants of “Island of the Idols,” even getting their their heads turned into giant tiki shrines.
But this time around, Sandra and Rob were pitted against fellow winners, and sometimes came up short against their wily competitors — especially those who had played more recently. Rob made the mistake of taking charge in physical challenges and trying to solve puzzles multiple times without success. Meanwhile, Sandra, who was never been a physical threat, voluntarily sat out challenge after challenge. Her downfall came when she underestimated Denise Stapley, who managed to use Sandra’s own immunity idol and one of her own to send her to the Edge of Extinction where the Queen chose to hoist the mast and sail away.
Meanwhile, Rob’s habit of calling the shots and bossing his tribe mates did little to erase the target on his back. But, unlike Sandra, when he was sent to the Edge after being voted out, Rob at least gave the twist his all. He managed to snatch up four fire tokens, including one owned by wife Amber Mariano. He spent one on an advantage to boost his chances during the “get-back-in” challenge for residents on the island limbo land. But it came down to the wire as he faced off with Tyson Apostol in the challenge and missed winning by mere seconds.
Rob and the rest of the players currently stranded on the Edge will have another chance to get back in the game before the finale. But, for now, he will appear as part of the jury during tribal councils.
In our poll results about how Sandra and Rob fared this season, apparently they still have quite a few fans out there, with 30% saying that the two players are the reason they still watch the show even in its 20th year.
However, that doesn’t mean more than a few voters were expecting much more from each them, as 24% thought Sandra seemed less cutthroat especially in dealings with Denise, who single-handedly got her voted out. However, 13% said they are always glad to see Sandra and no one yet comes close to the self-described Queen in her “Survivor” prime. They even didn’t mind that she sat out challenges so frequently that Jeff dubbed the bench used for non-participants as “the Sandra bench.”
As for Boston Rob, 13% admitted that he was mostly underwhelming at challenges and was awful at solving puzzles. But 20% said they didn’t mind that Rob pulled such tricks as making his tribe mates empty their bags to prove they did not have an immunity idol. These two super players will likely to continue to be the gold standard of winners, even if their performance on the show’s 40th anniversary season didn’t always work out. Sadly, someone else will tie Sandra’s record of two wins this season. But clearly she and Rob will maintain their status as “Survivor” royalty either way.
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