Sandra Diaz-Twine and Boston Rob Mariano are used to sizing up the competition. That’s been proven over their seven seasons (and three victories) on Survivor. So what did the mentors on Survivor: Island of the Idols (premiering Sept. 25 on CBS) make of the newbies who came to visit them in season 39?
In the third section of our five-part interview with the Survivor icons, Sandra and Boston Rob share their thoughts on the folks that visited, and how they handled the twist of being allowed to gamble and negotiate with the very people they were there to advise.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So, generally speaking, what did you make of the players who came to visit you guys?
SANDRA DIAZ-TWINE: I thought they were top-notch. I really did. I was impressed by every single person that came to visit us. It was like, you love the first person, then you love the second person, but then you start to love every single person that does come and visit you. The only thing that was hard was sometimes when they throw names at you, you don’t know who they’re talking about and you can’t remember. But for the most part, they come, they see those totems, and they see me and Rob and they’re like, “Oh, my God”
BOSTON ROB MARIANO: The players now are way smarter than the last time I played. They’re way smarter, they’re more savvy, they understand the game, all of them. There are no soft spots in the lineup. There was no one where you were like, “Oh, this one has no idea.”
SANDRA: We asked them about them. “I want to get to know you, tell me about your Survivor journey.” Then it just was all-natural where they start telling us about camp life, how they’re feeling about their tribe. Are they fitting in? Who they’re aligned with? It became very, very natural. It’s like you’re just talking to your neighbor or someone.
We would put them at ease like, “Listen, whatever you say here stays here.” We would never ever speak to anyone or let them know who came. We would never discuss anything that that person said to us with anyone else. We never verified anything. We never spoke about their encounter with us. So, for the most part it just was always very, very natural. “Look, we want to get to know. Start talking,” and they’d start talking, and we’d just keep going.
BOSTON ROB: And another interesting aspect of the island is our perspective from what we got. The only information we had was what we got from the contestants. So that presented am interesting dynamic from our point of view. It’s like when you watch it at home, you get to see the perspective of everybody as it’s presented to you through the production. But being on this island, we only have the viewpoint of whatever person is there now and whatever person may have come beforehand.
And if that person’s perception is not actual reality, it makes for interesting conversations and interesting viewpoints. If somebody shows up and they got the game figured out and this is going to happen, this is going to happen, this is going to happen, and then all of a sudden we find out from somebody else, that wasn’t what was going on. You’d come to find out later that maybe it was all a ruse.
SANDRA: We talked to them, and if they said, “Well, I know such and such came here,” then we’d be like, “Stop right there, because just like we told you, whatever you say here, stays here. We’re not going to talk about anybody else.” And we’d leave it and they get it, you know? And that’s how they opened up to us, because they knew we weren’t going to say anything or compare notes or anything of that nature.
BOSTON ROB: From a strategic point of view, Sandra and I both would sit there and try to figure out who actually was in charge, who actually knew what was going on, who was actually implementing what we were telling them and in which ways, and whether or not it was effective or not. So that was cool thing.
What do you think of the players having to make a choice whether to risk-taking you on in something to win an advantage, knowing they could lose something in the process if they lose?
BOSTON ROB: What was cool was, before it started, we had parameters that we had to work within, but it was completely up to us how we presented it and how far we took it each time with each contestant. It wasn’t always the same. And that psychological aspect of the game I’m fond of. And it was fun seeing the wheels of the different contestants work in different ways and seeing what we could get away with and which ones were savvy enough to push back and how it all worked out.
We had the ability to be creative within the parameters of what we were given. In that respect, we weren’t producers on the show, but it was kind of like we were producing this segment on this island. It was our island. Jeff wasn’t showing up telling us what to do. Nobody else ever said, “You can’t do this, you can’t do that.” It was like, “Okay, this is what you guys can do, it’s up to you, let’s see what you can do with it.” So that freedom and that trust was pretty awesome.
SANDRA: I would chime in here and there and I would give my opinion, but it always started with Boston Rob, and then it evolved from there. So my part I felt was always easy, and I’d always tell him like, “Damn, you did a good damn job.” And he’s like, “No, we both did.” I’m like, “Hell, no. You did a good job.” Because I knew and I felt that he did the majority of the work because that’s how Rob is. He takes over and I was just sitting back and I would just add to the conversation, you know? But it was always led by him and it was just easy to follow.
For more Survivor scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.
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