The last person to leave the game, the person so close to the end they can taste the money but has their opportunity to plead their case taken away at the very last moment. That person becomes ingrained in their respective season as the final recipient of “The Tribe Has Spoken” and earns a place in a very special group in Survivor history: The Day 38 Club.
Inside Survivor contributor Ian Walker continues the countdown of the updated and revised Day 38 Club rankings. The list takes into account the strength of a player’s game, character, and the power of their story.
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No. 2 – Rob Cesternino (The Amazon)
Part savvy strategist, part master confessional giver, Rob Cesternino impacted the game of Survivor unlike few ever have. One of the first true “students of the game,” Rob took what he learned from watching previous seasons and applied that to his own game, becoming the driving force of the craziest season up to that point. Flipping from one alliance to another on multiple occasions, Rob showed the value of being flexible in Survivor.
Not only did Rob up the strategic game, but he improved the confessional game too, as he fired off one-liner after one-liner, becoming one of the first contestants to play up being funny for the viewers at home. Rob was the right player at the right time, shooting a jolt of energy into the show by showing the game had so much more potential than previously known.
Rob’s knowledge of the game proved beneficial in the early going, knowing that just not standing out and keeping one’s head down, especially in the testosterone-fueled all-male tribe he was on, was the way to go. Using that mindset, he was able to make several key allies and soon found himself comfortably sitting in the majority after the merge.
Come the final seven, he was in a strong majority with himself, Alex Bell, Heidi Strobel, and Jenna Morasca, and he looked positioned to go all the way to final four. But after a fateful conversation with Alex that planted seeds of doubt that he was low man on the totem pole, Rob determined it was time to shake up the game.
In what would become his signature move, Rob turned to his protégé, Matthew von Ertfelda, to help recruit the other bottom feeders, Christy Smith and Butch Lockley, to help turn the tables on his former allies. At that episode’s Tribal Council, Alex was voted out, and Rob firmly placed himself in control of the game.
It was the first time anybody had single-handedly flipped the game in such a huge way. After watching the first major flip go down in Survivor: Marquesas, Rob knew a move like this was possible. He was able to execute it because, as he stated at the reunion show, he was aware that one of the basic tenets of Survivor is the importance of being friendly and keeping an open relationship with everybody.
That idea proved valid the very next round when Rob turned to Jenna and Heidi, who were pissed off at him for voting out Alex, and recruited them to vote out Christy, who had been waffling back and forth. Engineering two big flips back-to-back seemed unimaginable during the first couple seasons, but Rob made it happen because he had the knowledge and the tools to do it.
Over the course of the season, Rob played a groundbreaking game with a smile on his face, relishing the fact that he was playing Survivor . Every funny quip he would give to the camera came from a place of wanting to be the most entertaining version of himself he could be, simply because he wanted to make the best show possible for the viewers at home.
Through his gameplay and his TV presence, Rob became an integral figure in Survivor history during his 38 days in The Amazon, becoming one of the smartest players never to win the game.
Stay tuned to Inside Survivor as the Day 38 Club rankings continue over the coming days. Check out the previous entries here.