On Sunday, “Boston Rob” Mariano won a million dollars on — Survivor Redemption Island — and his win should be a cold shock to the rest of America as a morality cringe and pure evidence of a tasteless failure our societal values.

Rob played Survivor several times and lost.  This time around was planned by the producers to be his ultimate win, and his grand denouement — the crown jewel in his despicable method of playing a million dollar game.

Reading the news coverage of Rob’s win, you’d think he was a great guy and an honorable man.  He is not.  Rob Mariano is nothing but a liar and a cheat and a backstabber.  He manipulates people with lies.  He befriends tribemates only to duplicitously lie to their faces while simultaneously planning to vote them out.  I don’t buy the excuse “it’s only a game” argument because you are either moral and right in the entirety of your life or you are not.

During the jury questioning on the Survivor finale, one member of the jury stood up and actually argued Rob’s case:  You were all played by him.  You were his puppets.  He expertly manipulated you for his own million dollar interest and and you’re sitting there in the jury because he put you there.  So vote for him to win.  You’ve already done everything he told you to do, so give him the money, too.

Why is that sort of behavior something to celebrate?  Why do we honor and then adore people who are cruel and nasty and backhanded?  Is it because we think we deserve the sadism?  Are we so low, so hungry for attention, that we will roll over and let the Rob Marianos of the world puncture our bellies with their fists and then make us thank them later for our deaths?

We should be shunning Rob Mariano.  We must, as a society, brand him for his ability to corrupt the human condition and then ask him never step foot again in our public square.  Let him take his money and run — far away from us.

I don’t buy the argument that Survivor is a social game and you have to know how to manipulate people to win.  You have to lie to win.  You have to be an inhuman person to win.  I understand the best liars often win the game — and that begs a larger question of why we watch shows like Survivor that celebrate the absolute worst of us.  Why don’t we refuse to buy into the idea that betrayal and scheming and cocksure cleverness are the ways we should treat each other in order to get ahead in society?

The lesson Rob Mariano leaves us with is to never be like him, to ignore people like him, and to stop watching Survivor altogether if we ever hope to escape our Möbius strip morality that violates all of us with each, non-evolutionary, circle.

3 Comments

    1. That’s a good point, Gordon. Villains do run Survivor — and maybe that’s why so many people watch: To see the Bad Guy get demolished by the goodness of the tribe. Rob’s wife, Amber, beat him for the million on the All-Star version of the show — so that loss was definitely one of goodness winning over evil. Unfortunately, he married the goodness out of her. He wanted the million that bad.

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