boston rob mariano 320 'Survivor' villain Boston Rob Mariano: Russell Hantz 'made the right move'“Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains” lost one of the most popular players of all time when villain Boston Rob Mariano went home. He talks to Zap2it about Russell, Amber and his new baby daughter and the Red Sox.

What made you want to do “Survivor” for a third time?

I love the game. I love the competition of it. Sometimes I feel like I was born to play it and when CBS and Mark Burnett called, it was an honor and a no-brainer. I mean, the game has given me so much over the years and it’d be crazy not to go back again.

Are you glad you did, now that it’s all over?

Absolutely. I had a phenomenal time. I had a lot of fun competing again and playing the game. It was a good experience.

Why do you think you and Russell were so against each other right off the bat? It seems to us that if you’d teamed up, you two could’ve gotten to the end together.
You know, in theory, I think you’re probably right. Had we teamed up we probably could have run the whole game. However, in reality, I don’t think that could happen because Russell and I, although we have strategically some very similar traits, I think fundamentally we’re different at the core. I think he had a similar attitude that you’re either with me or you’re against me and from the outset he was against me. The thing that he does fundamentally makes the tribe weak and those are tactics I wouldn’t explore. I would try to keep my team strong and strategically go about making my alliances in a different way than he does. I learned over the years, I got more experience than him. He got the better of me this time and I give him credit for that. There’s more to the game than getting to the end, though. The strategy that Russell’s playing right now may in fact get him far, but it’s gonna be really difficult for him to win. I ran into the same problem in All-Stars. I learned enough from that time to switch my strategy. I don’t think he’s necessarily learned that lesson yet.

[Ed. note: Russell did in fact get the end of his season but at the point of taping “Heroes vs. Villains,” he doesn’t know that Natalie beat him in the voting, so Rob is probably right about him not learning that lesson yet.]

Do you have hard feelings towards Russell outside the game?

I don’t have any hard feelings towards him at all. I get what he was trying to do. I won’t go so far as to say that I respect his game play, but I understand it. He made the right move to get me off because if he didn’t, it was gonna be his a**. I understand it and I get it and I don’t have any hard feelings. It’s a game. Going into it, one person’s gonna win. I’m playing to win and I’m giving 100% in every challenge. I play hard and it’s always all or nothing

We’ve sort of nicknamed this season Brawn vs Brains instead of Heroes vs. Villains. Do you think that’s a fair assessment?
It’s tough to categorize it. Even the monikers Heroes and Villains are blurred. You can’t really just say Brains vs. Brawn and say it’s just that. I would agree with elements of that but I wouldn’t generalize. We’ve had better luck in the puzzles and in the strategic part of the challenges. Physically they have bested us, but we’re not completely inept physically nor are they mentally.

Who are you rooting for?

I’m going fill you in on a little secret: when you’re voted off the show, you don’t root for anybody. When you’re gone, you’re not like, “Ooh, I hope this person wins.” Once I was gone, I didn’t care. Whoever wins wins, and that person would’ve played the game the best.

Can we get an update on Amber and your family?

Amber’s doing great. We watched the whole season together. She’s really proud of me, which meant a lot. Our daughter is unbelievable, she’s so much fun. She’ll be 9 months on Sunday, hopefully taking her first steps pretty soon. Definitely the most fulfilling thing that’s ever happened in my life. Her name’s Lucia Rosa, Lucia is Italian, it means “Light of God.” It was my grandmother’s name.

Opening Day is Monday (April 5), are the Red Sox gonna win the AL East this year?
[laughs] There’s no doubt about it. I have a pretty good feeling that they’re gonna win the World Series this year.

Any messages to your fans out there?
First of all, I gotta say the fans are the ones that make the show. The reason why “Survivor” has been on for 20 seasons and almost a decade is because of the fans. Without them the show would be nothing. I appreciate everybody that watches, whether they root for me or against me, I get it. It’s all good.

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Photo credit: CB

Posted by:Andrea Reiher

TV critic by way of law school, Andrea Reiher enjoys everything from highbrow drama to clever comedy to the best reality TV has to offer. Her TV heroes include CJ Cregg, Spencer Hastings, Diane Lockhart, Juliet O'Hara and Buffy Summers. TV words to live by: "I'm a slayer, ask me how."