'Survivor: Blood vs. Water': Rupert Boneham on His Big Sacrifice and Losing at Redemption Island
The fan favorite talks to THR about swapping places with wife Laura, his disappointment at not making it further and the pre-game strategy he and Laura discussed.
Rupert Boneham made the ultimate Survivor sacrifice for his wife.
On this season of the show, returning players are competing against their loved ones. And, as seen in last week's premiere, Boneham's wife, Laura, was voted out before she even got a chance to play the game. But in a valiant move, the fan favorite (and four-time competitor) took her place at Redemption Island so that she would have her own opportunity to play Survivor.
However, at the Redemption Island duel, Boneham was beaten by Candice Cody and Marissa Peterson and was sent home -- without receiving a single vote against him.
Boneham, who won $1 million as the winner of the Survivor: All-Stars fan favorite vote, currently runs Rupert's Kids, an Indianapolis-based program serving at-risk youth. He's set to open another location just outside of Indianapolis, in Shelbyville, in January.
On Thursday, Boneham talked to The Hollywood Reporter about his disappointment at being the first person voted out and whether he has any regrets about his big decision to save his wife.
You've played four times now, but this is the first time you were the first one out of the game. How disappointed were you about the outcome?
You know, I was not only disappointed, but really sad that I was put in that position where I had to decide, "Which do you love more -- your wife or the game?" I love them both, but I love my wife more.
Do you regret swapping places with your wife?
I wish maybe I wouldn't have said, "I will play the game with Laura," and gave them my brother or cousin. But I have no regrets at all. I am thrilled I got to play the game again. I wish it had turned out a little different, but now my marriage is stronger than ever. She sees I would do anything for her.
After last week's episode, Jeff Probst gave an interview where he said he thought you were second-guessing your decision to swap places with Laura just after you had announced your intention to do that, but that it was too late for you to change your mind. Was that true?
Oh, gosh, no. He's reading way too much into that. I honestly was trying to hold back my tears last Wednesday and last night [in the episodes]. It's such an emotional time for me right now in that darn game, and I was right on the verge of breaking down. I was walking out of the game that I love, but it's to save my wife.
Did you think at the time that it put a target on her back, seeing as how she was the only loved one on the returning players tribe?
Not right at the moment, I didn't think about that at all. I knew she was in jeopardy standing there, when I heard her name being read for the third, the fourth, the fifth time. I started thinking maybe they were going to chopper her off the island; they've done that before. When we heard, no, she's getting thrown into Redemption Island, and I saw her face, I saw how she felt, and I would have done anything to make her feel better.
Why do you think her tribe voted for her? Was it because they considered you such a strong player?
I don't think it was a vote against Laura; it was a vote against me. Even though we didn't know at the time we'd have a chance to trade places, it was honestly a strike to try and make me a little weaker.
What was your reaction when you found out you would be on opposing tribes?
They took us out into the middle of nowhere, and we got to spend a night on the beach by ourselves. I thought, "This is gonna be wonderful, we're playing the game together, we're going to be set."
And we walk in, and Jeff says, "Why are all you guys smiling? It's time to separate." My heart started sinking, watching her to go the other tribe. I was trying to stay positive, then he says, "We're voting someone out right now." Oh my gosh. I didn't worry about myself. I knew my tribe, and I do so much work at camp. I know how to go out hunting, I catch everything, clean it and cook it, and wake you up to feed you. Seeing my wife, I had to. I had no choice.
You spent the entire time on Redemption Island. What was that like?
It was tough. It's amazing, the mental challenges you go through. I try and tell people all the time, but it's hard to see the pain on TV. But my gosh, there is. Even with only being there a few days on Redemption Island, I remember the pain.
So it sounds like Redemption Island is almost harder than just being on Survivor, even though you aren't having to worry about strategy?
I never got to go to camp or be on a tribe or really even get into the game. That was a terrible way to go to Redemption Island, and an even worse way to start out my fourth season of Survivor.
What was going through your head when you were eliminated?
I've never won an individual immunity challenge, and I walked into that arena thinking, "OK, this is not going to be playing to my strength. It's going to be a tough challenge." I walked into that arena so freaked out I couldn't even find my wife for the first few seconds. I thought, "Oh my gosh, they brought everybody but Laura. They're really messing with me." I calmed down and saw her. But what I wish I had done was not be so freaked out and stayed calm. That was my downfall. I was trying almost too hard and I didn't relax. I know from playing so many times that people who win are the ones that keep themselves calm, and I didn't.
We saw a little bit of what you told her while leaving the game. Anything that we didn’t see?
As we were hugging and kissing, I told how strong she is and is going to be, it's her turn to win Survivor, she's not going to be Rupert's wife anymore -- she's going to be Laura.
What kind of pointers did you give her, if any, before you got to the island?
We talked for weeks before we went out on the game, about the social side of the game, making alliances, but also fishing and hunting and the sustaining yourself. But it's hard to go through everything and teach someone how to play the game unless you've been out there. Now Laura sees. Our relationship is even stronger since she sees what I've gone through the last three times, and she realizes the pain of that. It's hard to plan for something like that.
She seemed to be struggling with the machete in last week's episode when she was trying to get the coconut open.
Watching her on TV, I thought, "Gosh, I hope she doesn't cut her finger off." I wish I had tried to find a machete and let her practice. But when we were first getting ready to go out, we were talking about playing together, and we didn't worry about that [survival part] as much. I thought Laura would help me [in terms of] not believing everybody, and I would help her on the survival side of it.
Did you talk about what might happen as the game went along and the possibility that you might have to write each other's names down?
We talked about, if we made it close to the end, and all the tribe was looking at me like they wanted to get me out of the game, only one of them can win. t\Then it was OK with me if Laura had to write my name down so she could make it to the final five, or four, or three. But I thought, "If I don't win, of course Laura is going to win." I told Laura I'd never write her name down, but I would totally understand if she had to write mine. She told me she'd never write it down except for a million dollars, but we're not going to have to play that scenario out. Nobody had to write my name down.
Why did you want to play again?
There are very few tests of body, mind and soul, and Survivor will test you to your core. I came close to winning [in previous seasons]. I'm the only guy who's been out there 100 days in three games, and I came close to winning every time. This time, I thought, "Of course I'm going to win the darn game."
Would you go back out there for a fifth shot at winning Survivor if asked?
I would play that darn game again in a second if they let me -- and hopefully not bring someone I'd give up the game for. When I first talked about who I'd bring, I was giving [producers] my brother, cousin, niece, nephew -- different people I love, but I don't think I would have given up the game for.
Survivor: Blood vs. Water airs at 8 p.m. Wednesdays on CBS.