You can be forgiven if you didn’t know “Survivor” finalist Aubry Bracco is one of us. The 29-year-old social media marketer from Cambridge has thumbed her nose at one of the reality show’s most durable traditions, which says that if you’re from the Boston area, your tribe mates must know this about you before they’ve even landed on the beach. Generally there’ll be some sort of giveaway: a “Boston Strong” tank top, something with a Red Sox logo (tattoos count), an accent right out of “The Departed,” chest-thumping.
Across the show’s 32 seasons, “Survivor” contestants appear to come from only two places, Greater Boston and everywhere else. That’s because regional pride barely registers on the show unless you’re from here, in which case, look out world, you’re about to get schooled in what it means to grow up east of Worcester.
We can blame this mostly on “Boston Rob” Mariano, he of the ever-present Sox cap that seemed to symbolize a belief in his own geographically endowed specialness. He lasted only until week seven his first time in the game, way back in season four, but he made an impression, in that way that obnoxious loudmouths do. You could imagine “Survivor” executives saying to each other: Get me another one of those! Since then, other locals have played the you-don’t-eff-with-people-from-Boston card, but it was Mariano himself who made that case most forcefully — again and again, through four seasons in all. Not only was Boston Rob the biggest star to ever emerge from the show, over time he also turned into a guy you could root for: He was shrewd, self-aware, charismatic even. He and future wife Ambuh (a.k.a. Amber) Brkich became the game’s first power couple, and the reflected glow of her niceness made him seem a little less cutthroat. When Mariano finally won his million dollars in season 22, we felt a tingle of hometown pride.
The 617s and 978s from the most recent seasons have run the gamut. There was Trish Hegarty, identified as a pilates instructor in her bio but who you could have sworn had waited on you at Dunkin’ Donuts at least a hundred times. We would have been cheering on last season’s eventual “Survivor: Cambodia” winner, Jeremy Collins, even if we hadn’t known he was a Cambridge firefighter. Cool dude, family man, not a jerk. And then there was the lost Wahlberg brother, season 30’s Rodney Lavoie. He’d say things like: “When the game matters, I’m going to go full-fledge Tom Brady, fourth quarter.” He was a blue-collar bro, a chicken parm for lunch, poppin’ bottles at the club kind of guy, and don’t say nothing bad about his mother! There has never been a son of Boston (well, Saugus) more proud of his roots, but Rodney was so full of unearned swagger that you wished he’d get voted off just so the rest of the country wouldn’t think we were all like this.
Aubry, the brainiest (Phillips Exeter, Brown) of the Brains tribe, is a strong bet to win a million bucks in tonight’s “Survivor” finale. But with no accent or affectations, no strut in her step, she may as well be from Iowa. Her mottled blue blouse is just a blouse, not an Ortiz jersey. She’s outwitted, outplayed, outlasted without once citing our city’s nine world championships in 13 years or all-around awesomeness. With her Kendall Square vibe and gameplay reminiscent of her spiritual daddy, Harvard Law grad and season 26 champ John Cochran, she’s made it to the final four by quietly taking command of the tribe, maintaining her focus, adapting her strategy to unforeseen changes, and staying a step ahead of everyone else, all without a hint of hometown bravado. A cerebral Bostonian — apparently we have those, too.Hans Schulz can be reached at email@example.com.