Monty Brinton/CBS
April 05, 2010 12:00 AM

After two consecutive tribal councils in which Tyson blindsided himself and Coach threw away his vote, ‘Boston’ Rob Mariano found his majority alliance in tatters and was ousted from Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains. Mariano, who returned home to wife Amber, winner of Survivor: All-Stars and daughter Lucia Rose, talked to PEOPLE about fire, idols and, of course, Russell. … -Cynthia Wang

Why am I talking to you now?I’m sorry! I did my best!

So you started the game hot, literally, when you made fire, as Stephen says, ‘with your mind.’When I got the call to come back again I said to Amber, “Look it, I’m gonna learn to make a fire. Because this is ridiculous, in 20 seasons, 301 , nobody has ever made fire.” So I went out and practiced. My dad had a bamboo wind chime, I cut it apart, and in the middle of summer last year, in my garage at two o’clock in the morning, I made fire! The game is about strategy, alliance-making and challenges, but at some point way back when, when Survivor first started, there was an aspect of it that was about adventure and surviving and cohabitating on an island. That was a very awesome moment for me.

Would you say you were out-hustled by Russell?I don’t know that I was out-hustled more than a victim of stupidity! I did what I set out to do. I played hard and fought with everything that I had. I had two critical things happen that broke down my alliance: Tyson, for whatever reason, decided to go against the plan, which ended up biting him in the a– and sending him home, and Coach, for all his prophesying about loyalty, honesty and integrity, didn’t live up to his own words. If I came at Jerri in a more aggressive manner, all it would have done is seal my fate. I tried to do it in a way that Jerri would respond to. She doesn’t respond well to aggression.

Would it have affected anyone on your tribe if you had known more about Russell’s game play earlier?Of course it would’ve. He would have been the first one out. I mean, it’s obvious. Anybody that takes the approach that “I’m gonna sabotage my own team in order to get further” wouldn’t be well received by anybody that respects the game.

So do you respect Russell’s game?I don’t know if I would call it respect. There are things about his strategy that I do agree with and in a way I kind of found myself thinking along the same lines. At the same time, there are other things he does that are completely opposite of what I would do. I would never sabotage my own team. What good does it do to hide a machete and make your own team weak? I can’t take it away from him, though, because he seems to be doing well. Whether that’s a strategy that’s going to be effective for him all the way through the end? I highly doubt it. I wouldn’t say I respect his game but I appreciate the competition.

What did you think of Russell giving up his immunity to Parvati?The fact that he gave up his own immunity to protect her is ridiculous. People see that as a genius move and stuff? There’s nothing genius about it. It’s just stupidity that worked out for him and he got lucky.

In hindsight, would you have prevented Russell from looking for it?Here’s the thing with that whole scene with the hidden immunity idol … What happened was we got back to camp after we won that reward and we open the box and here’s this note that falls out … For a split second in my mind, I’m thinking I’m going to read off the paper but I’m not going to read what it says. I’m going to say something to the effect of, “Everybody at Sears wants to congratulate you for winning this reward. Please enjoy these tools.” And then stick it in my pocket and walk away. But I know that’s not going to fly with these guys. They’re too smart for that. Somebody’s going to say, “Let me see it,” and then all of a sudden they’re going to see what I did, and they are going to call me out and it’s going to be a huge target. So I decide the best thing is to be forthcoming and read it aloud. Sandra is the one who says, “Whoever goes and gets it is marked.” In my mind, I think that’s great, because here it is, I can’t get it on my own, what are we all going to do, run out together? If that happens, whoever finds it is automatically going to get flushed out. We’re going to flush this thing out one way or another, so why not say whoever is going to get it is going home. We knew he had the idol. There was never a doubt in my mind that he had it. I wish I found it under different circumstances.

Tell us: Are you sad or thrilled to see Boston Rob go?Monty Brinton/CBS

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