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Interview: Rupert Boneham talks 'Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains'
Fan favorite discusses his broken toes, dealing with Russell and being a Hero
Bearded, gravel-voiced, gregarious and reliably festooned in tie-dyes, Rupert Boneham was the right man at the right time for the pirate-themed "Survivor: Pearl Islands."
Rupert didn't win "Pearl Islands," but he was so popular that the show turned him right around for the subsequent "All-Stars" season. He didn't win that one either, but he did capture a fan vote that confirmed his status as one of the most popular "Survivor" contestants ever and earned him a million dollars.
The game drew Rupert back in for a third time in this "Heroes vs. Villains" installment, but for a good while, the shoe-stealing, challenge-dominating Goliath was missing-in-action. This season's Rupert was quieter, grumpier and less of a physical threat. Perhaps that had more than a little to do with the toes he broke in the season's very first challenge.
But in the past couple weeks, with his back against the wall, the Rupert fans adored returned. Facing a first inevitable elimination, Rupert turned an ordinary rock into the threat of an Immunity Idol and bluffed Candice out of the game. Facing a second inevitable elimination, Rupert worked to stir up discontent amongst the Villains and pushed Russell to turn on his allies and vote Danielle out. This Thursday (May 13), alas, time ran out for Rupert and he was unable to avoid having his torch snuffed at the last Tribal Council before the finale.
HitFix caught up with Rupert to discuss his injured feet, his disappointment with Sandra and why he was willing to try to align with Russell.
Click through for the full interview...
HitFix: To start with, how are your toes?
Rupert Boneham: Oh my gosh. When I finally got out... Finally? When the darned people put me out and I could finally go to the doctor and actually get an X-ray to see what's going on in my foot and not just feel these bones moving around in my foot every time I took a step, well we get the X-ray and... It's not just one broken bone, it's a spiral break in one bone and a break in the other bone that the makes the toe looking at me. Well, when I moved it straight and put it back in place, we taped it up to the toe next to it and that's also broken, but we didn't know that until I was out of the game. I wondered. I would talk to medical every once in a while and say, "There's something wrong with my foot. It's still moving. It's still breaking." We never could figure it out until I finally saw the X-rays. Oh, it was crazy. That's why I say that I like showing that I'm still one of the tough guys. I went through a game that most people have trouble going through in good health, I went through it with three broken bones.
HitFix: That happened on the first challenge of the entire season. What did that do to your game for the next month?
RB: Oh, I got hurt on the first hour of the first day. I went into the game, then, thinking, "How in the heck am I going to make it through this darned season?" After the second episode, my daughter looks at me after watching it on TV and says, "Well, dad. You looked a little upset. You can't be so mean. You can't be so short tempered." And I told my daughter, "It's not that I'm mad at anybody. It's not that I was angry. I'm in PAIN." Going through so much pain made it a lot harder to be calm in a game where you need that calmness, to be more aware and more alert of what's going on around you. And instead, I'm thinking of what's going on inside of me. I will say that I know it hurt my game.
HitFix: The physical limitations were obvious, but could you talk a bit more about how something like that impacts your mental game?
RB: I was sitting there repositioning my toe and I remember thinking, "Oh my God, I can't make it through 38 more days with this." Every time that I would take a step, every time that I would get away from my people, from my tribe, I would question, "Can I keep doing this or not?" I'd catch myself in the jungle, in the woods, out at sea questioning, "Can I do this or not?" Never in my life have I questioned if I can do something or not. I just go out and do it. This is the first time that my mind is starting to maybe believe that I can't. But we saw through that and we got our head right, but for the first few weeks? I thought I was going to walk out of the game any day.
HitFix: So making it as far as you did this season, that has to feel like an achievement, right?
RB: You know, I got to the point where I actually thought I might make it to the end. Before, after that Day One, I just wanted to make it to another day. That was always my goal, just make it another day, make it another day. I couldn't believe that I made it 36 days. I made it to my 100th day in "Survivor"!
HitFix: Going to the episode that aired last night... It seemed as if there was a choice you could have made where you could have stuck with Sandra and at least tried to vote Russell out, or else stick with your new alliance with Russell. Why did you decide to stay with Russell?
RB: Well, when I talked with Sandra and Parvati, they did not let me know what was going on with them. If they would have told me at all that they had any plan at all... They looked at me and laughed at me. So that's when I went over, the same thing I did with Russell and Danielle and Parvati, I went over to Russell and said, "Well, those girls are trying to get you." It was just what I did earlier with Parvati and Danielle, where I told Russell, "Well, those girls are trying to get you." And then I stepped back and let all heck break loose. It just didn't work this time. My whole role was to get the Villains fighting. I already knew Sandra wasn't going to stand with me and I pretty much knew wasn't either. The only one that I could really count on was Colby.
HitFix: What was your relationship with Sandra like coming into the game?
RB: Now before we went into the game, Sandra and I had been buddies. The only time I ever wrote Sandra's name down was to give her a million dollars. The only time, well there wasn't a time when Sandra ever wrote my name down. Sandra and I have been buddies forever, so it bothered me a lot the first time that Sandra came to me and said, "You know, Russell's lying to you. Don't believe him. Don't do what he's saying." And I believed Sandra and I tried to convince our tribe that Sandra was telling the truth. And then Sandra still sided with Russell.
HitFix: Because you hadn't seen his season, Russell was a bit of a mystery to you guys. Do you think you would have played differently around him if you knew the way he played in Samoa?
RB: I know that I wouldn't have. When you see my telling our tribe, "Russell was brought back for a reason. Russell is evil." I was the first person ever to be brought back the next season and I was brought back for being a good guy and I was a really good guy. So it was the same way that I told my tribe, "Russell has to be a really evil guy. For them to bring him back like this? There is a reason. The guy has to be evil." Nobody wanted to believe me.
HitFix: And yet there you were prepared to align with him last night...
RB: At the end, you know, when I have no other options... It's just like putting a rock in my pocket! Whatever I think I can maybe finagle, whatever I can do to keep me maybe on more day? Even grabbing Russell's hand and Colby's hand and saying "We three need to be the Final Three... We are Final Three. Russell, the only way you're going to be able to be Final Three is to side with Colby and I, those girls are trying to get you." And I was being honest! I would take Russell in a heartbeat with me to the Final Three. Sitting there with Russell, who is evil and Colby, who is kinda a wet noodle, I know I would have won.
HitFix: Some of the contestants I've talked to have tried telling me that really, at the end of the day, there wasn't much difference between the Heroes and the Villains, that it's all just perspective. But I'm guessing you think differently that there are actually clear Heroes and clear Villains.
RB: Well, I like showing that there's not one of us out there that is an angel, but every one of us out there decides what line you want to cross. And you can say that it's only perception, but when you manipulate and use... When you use somebody for your own gain and lie to them and manipulate and then as soon as you get what you want out of them, you throw them away? That is a Villain, to me. When you're lying to somebody pointblank and saying, "Oh, this is what I'm going to do for you" and knowing that you have no intention of doing that at all, that is a Villain. When you swear on your childrens' lives, that is a Villain. When you're like me, I go to them and I might say to Russell, "Oh, those girls are trying to get you" or I go to the girls, "Oh, Russell's trying to get you." That's just kind of the way I play it.
HitFix: Do you think that some of the Heroes were maybe miscategorized?
RB: Well, you know, I know for a fact that some of the Heroes probably should have been Villains and some of the Villains probably could have been Heroes...
HitFix: Don't leave me hanging here... Who should have been swapped?
RB: Well, Boston Rob and Sandra... I always liked Boston Rob. Even though he stood up and kind of manipulated in "All-Stars," like we all did, he was honest and straight-forward with me in "All-Stars." He helped me make it to the Final Four, just like Sandra in Pearl Islands stood up. Just like Amanda and JT running over to the Evil Side as soon as the Villains came over, or Tom and Stephenie getting so mad at us when we'd lose a challenge and blaming everyone around them except themselves. Yeah, there were a lot of Villains on the Heroes and a lot of Heroes on the Villains.
HitFix: And my last question: You've done this three times now. Would you do it again?
RB: Oh my gosh. I'd do it again in a second. If you'd asked me right after I got voted off, I probably would have said "No," but after a nap and a meal, you're darned right I want to do it again. I hope they ask me next season!