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Q&A with “Boston Rob” Mariano of Around the World in 80 Ways

To me, “Boston Rob” Mariano, of several seasons of Survivor and two of The Amazing Race, has to be the best strategist ever in reality television. If you’ve watched him on the series he’s been in, his strategy evolves. He’s constantly adapting and learning. He’s a master at the social game, and while he fell short in his first season, he learned and made it to the end in All Stars. The next time around the immunity idol interrupted his game, leading us to know it wouldn’t happen when he came back for his fourth spin at this game, and in fact he went on to win.

Boston Rob recently took part in a conference call to promote his new series on HISTORY, Around the World in 80 Days. In the 10-part series, Rob and his cohost Dennis Anderson (creator of the monster truck Gravedigger), travel around the world in eighty different forms of transportation. I don’t know if I could even name ten forms, let alone find and use eighty. They don’t compete against each other, per se, but sometimes it appears to be a case of “old habits die hard” for Rob.

I wondered how this different type of adrenaline rush would change things for Rob. Since learning and adapting was such a big part of his game on Survivor and The Amazing Race, I was curious as to what he learned on 80 Ways. He replied that I “hit the nail on the head,” and mentioned that it was “pretty much the way I live my life.” He and Dennis had to adapt and learn new things often, such as with their communication, or when trying to get certain type of transportation.

Rob and Dennis also ended up challenging each other, even though that isn’t a necessary element of the show. He noted that they’re both competitive guys, so they began challenging each other to get to their destinations faster, despite there being no prize on the line, just “pride.” Being able to adapt to their situations and think outside the box then became critical for they way they were going about it. It wasn’t where they were going, but how they were going to get there.

Since Rob and Dennis ended up competing some of the time, even though it wasn’t necessary, I wondered if he ever wished he was back on Survivor or The Amazing Race so that he could really compete and start formulating some type of strategy. With the competing they did do, Rob made Dennis pay, since he was such a “fish out of the water.” Regardless, he was impressed with his cohost’s ability to adapt, and figured part of that was because of the time Dennis spent watching him.

The two were together twenty-four hours a day for ten-and-a-half weeks, as Rob noted he doesn’t even spend that much time with his wife. Rob described the relationship between himself and his cohost to be somewhat of a love-hate relationship. If he was on Survivor with him, he figures, “His ass would have been voted off first,” as he’s very opinionated.

Yet Rob wasn’t wishing he was back in a competition. He was happy to get away from being a contestant towards being a host, something closer to the production aspect of television. He sees that as a natural progression for his career. He’d like to continue hosting and feels fortunate to have worked with some of the best television producers in Mark Burnett and Thom Beers, and has learned “compelling storytelling is what makes great television, and reality television in particular.” He and Amber have even discussed starting their own production company.

This means don’t go looking for Rob to be back on Survivor … as a contestant. He’s accomplished everything he wanted to … as a contestant. This brought up the obvious question, if he’d entertain being on Survivor in a different aspect. He was asked if Jeff Probst stepped down as host, if he’d consider replacing him. Rob could only say that would be something that Jeff would have to call and ask him to do. interestingly enough, he wasn’t ruling it out.

Rob jumped at the chance to do 80 Ways once he found out Beers was involved, knowing that he makes television that Rob in particular enjoys, such as Deadliest Catch and Ice Road Truckers. Without the big money prize at the end, this show became more about the journey and interaction with Dennis, along with a celebration of different forms of transportation. They got to do exciting travel such as hot air ballooning over the Serengeti and heli-skiing, which is being dropped on a mountain by a helicopter, then skiing down. They tried to stay indigenous to the area, such as racing donkeys in Botswana and racing Ferraris and speedboats in Dubai.

Thom Beers definitely knew what he was doing bringing Rob into the fold for this show. Not only did he get someone whose adrenaline would be pumping at the mere mention of competition, no matter how slight, he also got someone who will bring automatic name recognition to the series. You can catch Rob on Around the World in 80 Ways on Sunday, October 2, at 10 PM ET on HISTORY.

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