Originally created 05/10/04

"Survivor" contestant loses game but gains a bride



NEW YORK -- It was "Survivor" meets "The Bachelor" at Madison Square Garden.

The country's most popular reality game was thrown a curve Sunday night when one of the final two "Survivor" contestants, "Boston Rob" Mariano, pulled out a ring and proposed to the other one, Amber Brkich.

Brkich, who wore a T-shirt proclaiming her love for Mariano, quickly accepted.

Then her night got even better when host Jeff Probst counted the votes from the all-star "Survivor" edition. Brkich, of Beaver, Pa., beat Mariano by a 4-3 margin. She wins $1 million.

It was a twist that seemed to take even Probst by surprise. Mariano said he had told his parents and Brkich's parents about the proposal.

The ending was heartening after an emotionally brutal game. In CBS's two-hour special on Sunday, Mariano and Brkich were left after voting off two other contestants, Rupert Boneham of Indianapolis and Jenna Lewis, from New Hampshire.

Mariano essentially won his fiancee the prize. In the second-to-last tribal council, he had a choice of voting off Brkich or Lewis, and chose to keep his girlfriend beside him.

Mariano's take-no-prisoners style during the game earned him his share of enemies. The final tribal council brought one contestant to tears as she described how he betrayed her, and led another to pull away his hand after offering a shake.

"You sold out your values, you sold out your character, you sold out your friends for a stack of greenbacks," one vanquished contestant, Lex van den Berghe, told Mariano. "I hope it was worth it."

Mariano, known for his swaggering demeanor and Boston Red Sox cap, called most of the shots in the game, which pitted some of the best and most memorable characters from the popular show. "Survivor" has remained a Top Ten show in the Nielsen Media Research ratings all season.