Not Rupert! Yes it is true: The four-time contestant, a Survivor Hall of Famer and arguably one of the most beloved favorites ever to play the game, Rupert Boneham was the first player to be eliminated from "Survivor: Blood vs. Water" on Wednesday night's episode (read the full episode recap here).
The tie-dye-wearing, gruff-voiced pirate faced an instant dilemma and was the first victim of the many new twists that Survivor introduced this season. Upon starting the game, he quickly learned that he would be competing against his wife, Laura, on a different tribe. Then he watched as Laura was instantly voted off of her tribe to begin the game. Given the chance to swap places with her, he immediately jumped at the opportunity, saving Laura for the time being but sending himself directly to Redemption Island.
He was joined initially by Candice and then Marissa. Even though he tried to conserve his energy at Redemption Island, it wasn't energy or endurance that was needed for the three-person Duel he would find himself competing in...instead it was a game of calmness and steadiness. Finishing in third place, he was eliminated from the game, before ever even having a chance to really play the game.
In my exclusive one-on-one chat with Rupert today, you will discover if Rupert has any regrets, what qualities he feels Laura has that will keep her in the game for a while and how being the first person out of this season will effect his legacy on Survivor. In typical Rupert fashion, he was polite, jovial and and a bit rambunctious, starting the interview off right away!
Rupert Boneham: Hey Tom! How are you, man?
Tom Santilli, Survivor Examiner: I'm great Rupert! How are you doing?
Rupert: I'm doing as good as you can after being thrown out of a darned game!
Tom Santilli: Who would have thought that you'd be the first person to leave the game?
Rupert: Oh my gosh, I would have never in a million years...I would have laid a million dollars on that bet saying there is no way in heck I would be the first one out. Now look at me. But it was it my choice and it was my decision and I would never do anything different.
Tom Santilli: That's where I wanted to begin with you...having now played the game four times and being such a proud person and a proud player...I know you don't have any regrets, but do you have a sense of disappointment or even embarrassment in being the first one out?
Rupert: You know, when I'm standing there telling Jeff this is what I want to do and I'm standing there at Redemption Island leaving, it was so hard to hold back the tears. I would never have made any other choice, but gosh, being the first one out...losing to Marissa and Candice because I just couldn't calm myself down. It is a little bit of a let down. But I'm OK with who I am and I did the best I could. I helped my wife get back into the game and she's still got a chance at winning a million bucks.
Tom Santilli: Absolutely. Tell me about your time with her on the island. It must have been such a quick roller coaster ride for you, to be so excited to be out there with your wife but then not even getting the chance to really play the game with her at all.
Rupert: When they first dropped us off on the island as a couple, Laura and I got to spend the first night together. Oh my gosh, how wonderful that was. I remember talking to her and telling her, we're going to be doing this for the next 39 days! Then when Jeff walks in and is like, why are you all so smiley and happy? You're going against your loved ones! Oh my gosh, my heart started sinking. And then he says we're voting someone out right now.
Tom Santilli: Why do you think Laura was targeted first?
Rupert: I realized that none of the new players knew who each other were, but they all knew Laura, because they've seen her on TV coming out to loved ones visits. And they all know that she's my significant other. Voting her out would be a strike against me. That was tough. Even though we didn't know we'd get the chance to trade, they knew that it would mess with my mental game.
Tom Santilli: Having the opportunity to swap with Laura - which we didn't see - before the Duel, do you feel that Laura may have been better equipped than you for that particular Duel challenge?
Rupert: In that Duel, I knew at Redemption Island, the challenges weren't going to play to my strengths. They weren't going to be a battle, or a physical contest. It's going to be a gentle something where both men and women can be more evenly matched. Now as I get older, darn, my balance and my eye sight gets worse. Those were two valuable qualities in that darned challenge. So I know Laura would have been better. But that's OK. I sure didn't want Laura to have to go through that time and time again.
Tom Santilli: Had you played the game, which of the returning players were you excited to get the chance to play with and which of them do you think you would have aligned with?
Rupert: Ever since Heroes vs. Villains, when I was up against Tyson...Tyson and I, even though we were on opposing tribes, we always enjoyed each other's company and I would have loved to bond with Tyson. I would have loved to bond with Gervase, being on that very first Survivor, oh my gosh. When I saw Tina walk out, Tina and I are friends. But I thought, I was one that wrote her name down in All-Stars to vote her out first, and maybe she would always have that in the back of her mind. I would have loved to have played with Aras, I had never even met Aras before. That would have been kind of neat.
Tom Santilli: You of course know your wife better than anyone and definitely more than any of us watching her on TV. What qualities does Laura possess that will give her a good chance to go far and possibly win this game?
Rupert: She's a great swimmer, she's a great runner and she's great at puzzles. And now, just as I was telling her when I left and I whispered in her ear, let them know that now you are a free agent. You can be that pawn, you'll write anyone's name down. I watched Sandra win the game twice with that strategy.
Tom Santilli: Having played the game now four times and now being the first to leave, do you in any way feel like this season has tarnished your Survivor legacy?
Rupert: If anything, I think that it reconfirms with people just who I am. I mean I love the game. When I played in Heroes vs. Villains and the medical staff tried to take me out with broken bones in my foot and I wouldn't let them! Pain is not going to keep me from this game, deprevation is not going to keep me from this game. I love the challenge of the game, the body, mind and soul that you have to have to play that game. Now I did walk out on my own power, but I did it because I love my wife. So anybody who wants to be mad at that, that's OK, they can be mad.
Tom Santilli: Well I'm a huge fan of yours as many people out there are, but there are those that also say, Rupert has played four times now! There are many other former players that are deserving to play again and that have never even played twice. How would you respond to that criticism and further, would you play again if asked for a record fifth time?
Rupert: Years ago I fell in love with the darned game. I would play the game every time if they'd let me! I even offered to CBS to be a prize, just let me go out for a few days, let the two tribes battle and for reward give them some fishing gear and me for a few days! I know there are a lot of former players out there...and new people that would like to play the game. I do really believe that that is the most pure, having all new people dropped on an island that have no idea who anyone is. But as long as CBS keeps asking me back, you're darned right I'm coming back!
For even more, be sure to watch Rupert's day after interview to the left of this column. Also be sure to subscribe to this column (above by my name) to receive email alerts of new postings and you'll want to follow me on Twitter too, @tomsantilli, and at tomsantilli.com as well!
Also, make sure you check out one of my favorite Survivor sites, Survivor Fever.