And here's the larger than life Rupert, another three-peat Survivor and one of the last Heroes standing. Does Colby even count anymore? Read on in this conference call interview as the exuberant "Hero's Hero" gives his opinion on why the Heroes failed as a tribe and what he thinks of his fellow contestants...
First things first: what was going through your mind when your torch was snuffed last night?
After Jeff put my torch out and I turned around and I realized that both Russell and Sandra, who said that they were gonna side with me - which I knew neither one of them really would, both of them wrote my name down, lying to me, even right up until the end! - that look was more or less “Why in the heck do you still have to be Villains, why couldn’t you stand up when I gave you the chance to just tell me it’s me going home? Why couldn’t you do that? Nooo. It’s one thing to be a Villain, it’s another one to just be malicious.
How hard was it to get a read on Russell?
The hardest part about Russell was making others really believe what I knew. I was that first one that did back-to-back Survivors, and I remember what they would say to me when they brought me back, and how they talked about “Oh, people are gonna love you, that’s why we’re bringing you back, you were the greatest of the great, and this and that.” And I looked at that and thought in my head - Russell, going on the Villains side? The reason they brought him back is because he’s the greatest Villain ever! I went to my team and I tried to tell my team Russell is evil, they brought him back for a reason. My team didn’t want to hear it. Even after we had the merge and Sandra comes to me and says Russell didn’t use the hidden immunity idol, Russell is evil, Russell is evil! My team still did not want to believe it.
Walk me through the strategy if Parvati didn’t win immunity. How were the eliminations going to go?
On that last darn challenge, if Parvati hadn’t won immunity and I had - Russell says that he would have voted with us - I would have to still say Colby would have probably been the one out and I would have been scrambling to win immunity again. Even though the Villains say they’re against each other, they continually vote together, they continually talk together, even though they say they’re against each other...I watched Sandra and Russell fight, and I thought I had them fighting very well! They still voted together.
At the end, you said that maybe you were never meant to win Survivor. Did you mean that, or did Russell just completely screw up your plan?
You know, at the end, that was...when I turned around and mean mugged everybody, that was my anger releasing, that was me releasing, that was me yelling and screaming and grabbing my torch and beating the heck out of everyone. Except maybe Colby. When I got to my final, when you walk down the path of shame, you sit down in front of the camera and you look at the camera and you know, I really believed I was going to win. But you know, sometimes in this world...that was more just me being sad that night. I felt sometimes it’s hard for the good guy to win.
How much of a factor was your broken toe in the game?
You know, that was amazing how much of a factor that was in the game. In the first day, in the first hour, I looked down and my little toe that is supposed to be facing away from me, is facing me. And laying over my baby toe. When I dropped down to my knees and grabbed that toe and straightened it and pushed it back into my foot, I can barely remember anything else after that for gosh, almost a day. The pain that I was going through was insane! It had my patience level gone, it had my strategy level gone. I finally realized why it was so painful - the day after I got voted out, I was finally able to get my foot x-rayed. It wasn’t just one broken bone in one toe, there was two: there was a spiral break and a clean break in one toe, and the toe we were taping it off to was broken also.
Every time I took a step on anything uneven, I would feel those bones move. And it had me beside myself. The toe, even though I tried to show that I’m still tough and it didn’t really affect me, it affected me. It affected me outrageously. It messed up my game, I know.
In his interview, Rob said the game has changed so much. It’s not about working hard at camp anymore, it’s about finding hidden idols everywhere. Do you agree?
You know, the hidden immunity idols - I’m old school, like Boston Rob. And when we last played, there was no hidden immunity idols. There also was very little work at camp. I remember being on the Saboga tribe and being the only one that wanted to do any work, and that was six years ago. Having the hidden immunity idol thrown in the game adds just one more darn twist that makes it so that you have not got total control over what is going on. I still say, I love the game of Survivor even though it really hurt me, busted some bones in my body - darn right I would play next season if they let me!
Why do you think JT didn’t believe what you were trying to tell him, about what Sandra told you?
JT, just like that silly little boy, a twenty-five year old kid sitting on the beach saying “You know, I gotta help Rupert with his strategy.” Every step of the way, I would have things set up and JT would come behind us and screw it all up. Even the time when we were all fighting as a tribe and the Heroes were not getting along, and James was fighting, and Tom was fighting, and Stephenie was blaming everybody - JT just thought he was the king of them all. The Heroes tribe sometimes reminded me of a bunch of Villains. Showing JT that Sandra was trying to tell us the truth was so frustrating, I was ready to just beat JT. He even mentioned it one time, I remember him saying “Rupert, you gotta calm down, you’re shaking and sweating!” And I looked right at him and I said JT, man, I wanna grab you and shake you and make you understand! You’re not understanding the game.
So, we all have our own things, and what we want to believe...with trying to convince JT that Sandra was on our side, it wasn’t happening. And JT had enough people behind him that I couldn’t convince my tribe.
Off the wall question: how did the whole “getting on Survivor: Israel” thing happen as a reward?
[big laugh] Survivor plays in 60 other countries around the world, and there’s 30 countries that play their own form of Survivor. When Survivor: Israel got ahold of us, they got ahold of us in our office there in Indianapolis and asked me if I would be willing to go out and be a prize on Survivor: Israel, and they actually paid me and I’d get to go play around. In my mind, I’d consider that even still a really cool Survivor experience. Where the two tribes battle, and one tribe wins fishing gear and ME for three days. I got to go out and catch fish with my bare hands, make fire, and play around. Show you how you keep going in the game!
How does it feel to be the only guy that’s lasted 100 days so far?
Yes sir, I am, and I thank you for your acknowledgment! That is a tough one. You know, there are very few people out there that get to play twice, and even less that play the game three times...and even less that make it to 100 days! I like showing the good guy who everybody says will never win, has been the one that has made the most days out there in Survivor, has played the best game out there in Survivor. Yeah, I might not have won, but I still won the big prize. I still consider myself the winner.
Why do you think the Heroes fell apart so early in the game?
Our Hero tribe splintered almost right off the bat. We first voted Sugar out - that everybody agreed on - and then we could not agree on anything after that. The second immunity challenge, where my team looked at me as weak, even weaker than Cirie and sat me out - we struggled ever since then. We never really were able to get it together. Just like Tom and Stephenie are out there beating me up, saying I’m arrogant or whatever...we, on the Heroes side, all went out there with our own agendas. It was hard for us to work together and it took us to get down to that final five, that fantastic five, before we actually started merging and bonding as a tribe. It’s one of those things, the personalities, all of us didn’t really get along that well right at the start.
How was your relationship with Stephenie?
With Stephenie, I really appreciate Stephenie out there saying, and she said it even on TV - Rupert is a nice guy, he’s a good guy but he’s always got something to say. You know, I’m a mentor. I’ve been a mentor in the detention centers for 17 years, I’ve ran my own empowerment program for almost 20 years in the system. Every time that we would come back from a challenge that we lost, Stephenie would want to blame everybody. I would look right at her and say “You know, sometimes you have to look at yourself.” I never was really bad or mean to anybody, so I don’t understand some of the interviews out there, but it is hard sometimes to look at yourself. And I would make Tom and Stephenie look at themselves, as what they were doing and show them: that’s not the way Heroes are supposed to be.
So is that why some people are annoyed with you?
I’m 100% sure. I tried to be that one that built us all up, and didn’t let each of us blame others. I would stop James, I would stop Tom, I would stop Stephenie, I would stop any of them that were beating up on others and try and make them look at themselves. People don’t...some people don’t like that.
I thought one of the greatest moves was when you put the rock in your pocket, the fake idol...
[laughs] When we were out there and everybody was searching for the hidden immunity idol, nobody knew Sandra found it right off the bat! After a few hours I’m thinking, gosh, I gotta do something. If I don’t have immunity, I’m going home tonight! When I thought about it, I said okay. I’m not gonna tell no lies, I’m just going to put that doubt in everybody’s head. I stuck a rock in my pocket, I patted on it, and I walked myself back into camp. When I looked at Russell and I said “I stayed out there long enough to feel comfortable,” I patted on my little rock and I told Russell “Now I’m going to go take a nap.” It worked perfectly.
It did work last week - what happened in between?
Last night when I got voted out, when we were trying to flip Russell to Colby and I’s side, when we told him the girls are not going to take you to the final three, people were starting to believe that I didn’t have the hidden immunity idol. And I think maybe Sandra had already told Parvati, and Parvati had probably told Jerri, that she had the hidden immunity idol. Things were getting all busted apart. I thought we went in there with Russell going to side with us, and Sandra had told me that she was gonna side with us. Neither one of them did.
What were your thoughts on Russell while you were playing the game?
I tried to show my team the reason that they brought me back: I was the first person brought back that ever played back-to-back Survivors, and they brought me back because I was a Hero’s Hero! And I showed them, the reason that they brought Russell back - he’s on the Villains side, he has to be one outrageously good Villain! He has to be Jonny Fairplay ten times worse! And imagine that. He is.
Did you have any idea that all that wood chopping was annoying the other Survivors so much?
[big laugh] I have to say that if I was chopping wood all night, I would have to have had the entire camp gathering wood. I cut up one log and I busted with a rock, one log. I would say that was maybe half an hour, 45 minutes, and then the next five hours of feeding the fire and making sure we had fire that morning. Jerri, I think, just needed somebody to complain about, somebody to bitch at. And I was that person.
Was Colby really as checked out of the game as he appears to be?
You know, I really liked watching Colby play Australia. He was one tough competitor! When we were out there, I told Colby the only reason you are still here is because James got hurt. After we voted James out, Colby and I started talking. And we got to be pretty good friends. But I have to say - he was in the challenges, he was pretty worthless. You know, dropping out at fifteen seconds, and forty seconds in endurance challenges that even me with a broken foot lasted an hour and a half on the darn challenge. So, yeah. What you see is who we are.
It seemed like being a Hero was very important to you. Do you feel like dealing with Russell to keep yourself in the game tarnished that image at all?
Me personally, I don’t think so at all. It’s just like putting a rock in my pocket and not really saying that it’s the hidden immunity idol, but promoting that lie. I am no angel, there is not one angel out there in Survivor, there’s very few angels out there walking around. But being able to show that I’m willing to do what it takes to make it to the end. I was 100% honest when I looked right at Russell and said “You’re the only one I want to take to the final tribal council!” I would take Russell and Colby in a second, and when I grabbed Russell’s hand and Colby’s hand and said we are the final three, I really meant it. But I didn’t think Russell actually meant it.
Did you really believe Russell in that final three deal, or was there some hesitation in the back of your mind?
My wife will tell you, I’m a hopeless romantic when it comes to believing people. I want to believe that there is good in every one of us, and that we all want to be good. I knew Russell was probably not going to stand with me, but I thought I had him convinced the only way to make it was to start putting those girls out. The same way that I tried to manipulate him, he tried to manipulate me.
At the final tribal council, did you kind of forget about the idol that Sandra had?
[laughs] I wanted to forget about it. I was hopeful that it was not out there, that it wasn’t in play. I was hoping in that final tribal council when I got voted out that there would be a tie, three votes for Sandra, three votes for me. That would have been my best case scenario. And then we come back and give our speeches and talk and say why we deserve to stay. When Sandra stood up before Jeff could even get the words out of his mouth, I thought “Oh my gosh.”
That had to be a heartbreaking moment.
That was. I turned around and looked where my stuff was, I started getting bags. By the time they grabbed the second parchment, I had everything gathered up. I was ready to walk up and give Jeff my torch.
What did you really think of Jerri out there?
You know, I have to say Jerri is one of those thorns in my side. She has been a thorn in my side since we played All Stars together - she helped me build a shelter that she still blames me for six years later! I have to say, sometimes Jerri just likes to use me to complain about. It’s the same way with the darn breaking of wood and blaming it all on me or whatever. You know, I don’t ever want to say anything too bad about anybody, but Jerri is not the nicest person in the world and she sure loved giving me a hard time. We’ve been butting heads for years!
Why do you think the Villains let Parvati make it so far?
Parvati is an amazingly manipulative person herself. When Amanda gave her the information that we were gonna vote for Jerri or Sandra, and Parvati took those idols out and then gave one to Jerri and one to Sandra, she had them tied to her so tight we were never going to break that. Parvati is very good at subtly manipulating. She is the way that you can win Survivor. With watching Parvati play and watching Russell play, Parvati manipulates people in a positive way and not such an evil way. And doesn’t take advantage and is so mean to them! Russell manipulates people in an evil way and is evil about it. That’s why Parvati has won before and Russell has not.
What would have happened if Parvati was on your tribe? Would you have fallen for her tricks or would you have voted her out right away?
I have to say that I go more on what your actions are today, what’s going on today, just like with Tom and Stephenie. I really liked going into the game, but as we played the game more and more I saw a side to them that was not as positive or as motivational to us. That’s why I started targeting them. I will give anyone a chance til you show me with your actions that you don’t deserve that chance anymore.
In your bio, you said you wanted to prove to yourself that you could still do it. Do you feel you accomplished that?
I think I proved to myself even more than I thought I could, when I went through that game with not just one broken toe, but two, not one broken bone, but three - going through it making it to 36 days when I didn’t know if I could do three. Making it through challenges...people without broken toes were falling out before I was. People without broken toes were not able to go out and catch fish with their bare hands and bring clams in and bring food in, gather firewood and take care and do what I did. I like proving to myself, and that’s all that really matters is to show yourself who are.