If you think back at the list of some of the most-memorable men to ever play “Survivor,” we imagine that Rupert Boneham turns up somewhere within the top ten. Whether you love him or hate him, he’s an iconic guy who remains the only person to ever win a million bucks without ever actually winning the game.
Going into “Survivor: Blood vs. Water,” we were admittedly somewhat worried about the guy. He was the only four-time player of the bunch, and he is the sort of guy that is such a presence that he becomes an instant target. But, to think of a guy so memorable going out first on a season is still hard to wrap our head around. So we’re going to chat a little bit about Rupert’s time out on “Survivor” in our one-on-one interview below, including the motivation behind allowing his wife Laura take his spot on in the game while he went to Redemption Island. Not only that, but we’ll go into what he thinks about her game, and even how he feels like he was going to manage Colton had they been on the same tribe.
CarterMatt – So we’ll start with this. We know you’ve been talking to a lot of people today, and it’s probably been a crazy past 24 hours or so. What has the reaction been to you leaving?
Rupert Boneham – I have to say, for the most part people understand that even though I love the game, I do genuinely love my wife more, and they do understand that I put myself in jeopardy to help my wife. The few out there who do not understand it, I tell them ‘you must not be married.’
Well as someone who is both married and who has been on reality TV before, I get it. That sort of brings me to an interesting discussion point. Your wife has seen you go and play this game and be this character so many times, so was there a sort of thought in your head that it was okay for you to go, thinking that this was maybe her turn? Even if you did go home, did you think that she would at least carry on in your stead?
Being able to have a supportive wife [has been great]. Like you’ve said, I’ve gone out three times and left her at home. She’s always been Rupert’s wife. When CBS asked if we would go out and play the game together, I looked at her and said ‘this is your chance to not just be Rupert’s wife, but to be Laura.’ When they put her in that situation when they were ready to throw her into Redemption Island, I couldn’t leave that. There’s no way. Even with my tribe begging me not to trade places, I had to.
Obviously you made your decision, but just how frustrating was the situation for you? Tina said in the episode that she wanted you around, and the truth is that you catch fish, help out around camp, and you build shelter. I feel like you would have had at least a pretty good shot to last.
Honestly it sounds a little cocky or arrogant I guess, but I know that I would’ve at least made it to the merge and I probably would have made it far into the merge. I maybe even would’ve won the darn game. Every time I go back, I learn a little bit about it. I can be that provider without being that over-the-top; being able to build the shelter and make the fire and get the water and go out fishing and gather the fish [and] collect, catch, clean, and cook [them], and wake my tribe up to eat. 27 years in the mental health field I understand how to make people feel that they need you.
In terms of that, on Redemption Island you came up with a very different strategy in making Candice feel like you needed her. You’ve obviously played with her before, so what was that whole experience like?
When we were walking to Redemption Island, I kept going through my head (picture this in a Rupert voice) ‘uhhhh.’ We lived together on ‘Heroes vs. Villains’ and I watched the girl go against our tribe, I watched the girl flip-flop, I watched the girl just be mean, and I still took care of her and fed her on the tribe.
But in Redemption Island I looked right at her and I said ‘you know there’s only going to be one of us that gets out of here.’ I’m not taking care of everybody at Redemption Island; I’m taking care of myself.
This season is so different with Redemption Island and the way people can vote, and they can send people to Redemption Island to be threats to others. What was your feeling when Marissa was voted off? Did it feel like it was to hurt you? These challenges are obviously not things like carrying weight; they’re like carnival games or puzzles.
Exactly right. These are not going to be made for me. They’re not going to be physical strength, a battle, or any of my other strengths. They’re going to play to my weaknesses, and as I get worse my balance is worse. These are nice little quick games that you can play where you go back to the real game.
I also went back to Redemption Island thinking in my head that I’ve never won individual immunity. I’ve won a lot of challenges with a tribe and I’ve won rewards, but I’ve never won individual immunity. I told myself that this was going to be my first one and I hyped myself up so much, I couldn’t calm down during the darn thing.
This is something that I’ve always wondered. You’re obviously a well-known player, and really one of the most-popular ‘Survivor’ personalities around the world. Have you ever gotten a sense that you may be taken out maybe because someone else is thinking ‘with Rupert gone, maybe I can become the next great character’?
‘Survivor’ is a bunch of very big type-A personalities. I have been told many times ‘you’ve never won the game and you still won, how is that fair? I played the game and I played twice, but I didn’t get the million dollars.’ There is a little bit of jealousy out there I will say. I really believe that the reason that they targeted Laura was because they all knew her name, and they wanted to make a strike against me.
I know it’s hard to ask about other things when you’ve been out at Redemption Island the whole time, but what do you think about the game Laura is playing so far? How do you think that she’s doing?
Watching Laura go out there and knowing what returning players are like, I whispered in her ear just before I walked out of the arena ‘let them know that you will be a pawn. Let them know that you will side with them.’ The returning players, they want their egos stroked. I made sure that she knew that. She’s going to have a tough time only because of her inexperience … It’s going to be a test of how good she is socially to figure out her place in there. But I’ve got faith; she’s a pretty smart girl.
I have to tell you that I was shocked that Colton was not voted out right away. What did you think of him being out there, and the way that he’s playing the game so far?
When I saw Colton walk out with Caleb, I thought ‘oh my gosh, they’re bringing Colton back again?’, but the one vote that I was involved in when we were separated, I tried to look at Candice and Tyson and some of the others and say ‘let’s target Laura,’ because she was the one that bonded all the women together and messed up all of the guys in her tribe [in Samoa]. Colton really hadn’t even hit my radar because in my mentoring program I deal with a lot of 22 and 23-year olds that like that drama and that chaos. I knew that if I got on a tribe with him that I could keep him under control.
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