As it turns out, the fourth time wasn’t the charm.
In his three previous seasons, Rupert Boneham has done well on Survivor, always making it deep into the game. But the current season, Survivor: Blood vs. Water, pits contestants against their loved ones.
Due to a twist in the game, Boneham ended up the first to go.
On day one, Boneham and his wife, Laura, were placed on different tribes. When Laura’s tribe voted her out, Rupert volunteered to take her place on Redemption Island. After losing one challenge, he was sent home.
Boneham, 49, tells PEOPLE about the disappointment, and how Survivor has strengthened his marriage.
Rupert, you were the first to go!
[Growls]. I know! I thought, “This can’t be happening.” I thought this was my time, that I could win this. [Laughs]. But this is the game I signed up for. Anything can happen.
What do you think happened?
The other tribe voted Laura out to weaken me. It’s that simple. They knew I would take her place.
Why did you? You could have stayed in the game.
Laura has never had the Survivor experience. I have. So there was no question in my mind that I would let her play the game. And look at her. She’s doing really well out there.
You didn’t even get a single vote against you.
My tribe wanted me to stay.
It seemed that way. Tina [Wesson] asked you not to leave.
She did! And I had voted her out in All-Stars! There is no question in my mind I could have made the merge. I stayed in Heroes vs. Villains when I broke three bones in my toe. There was no way I would ever quit the game, but my wife is my weakness, and that was how the other players could get me.
But you had to know that was a possibility. Why did you agree to play the game with your wife?
For 10 years, I have been “Rupert from Survivor.” I felt like it was Laura’s chance to really play the game, to see what it was like. I wanted her to have the opportunity that most people don’t get. It was a gift I could give her.
But it’s a brutal game.
Laura is doing well. She’s being strong for her tribe. She’s the best camper I know; she’ll be fine.
What’s the worst thing about going out like you did?
It was devastating. I didn’t get a chance to build a shelter or catch any fish. I didn’t get to bond with a tribe. All the things I love about Survivor, I didn’t get to do.
The whole point of Survivor is to isolate you from your loved ones and put you on an island with strangers.
On one hand, yes, but it’s a different isolation. You don’t have control over whether your loved one is being voted out, or how she’s being treated. So it actually makes the experience a lot harder. If we had both made it to the merge, I would have had someone who I could have trusted completely, which would have been nice.
What did this do for your marriage?
Survivor brought us closer. Now she has been able to experience it firsthand. Survivor has been nothing but good for us.
You’ve played the game four times. How has it changed?
They give us too much stuff now. They used to just put you on the beach and let you fend for yourself. I’m so glad I got to play the game back when it was like that.
So, this journey has ended for you.
No, it hasn’t. I can still make Survivor history if I win fan favorite. I’ll be the first person to win it who was voted off first!
I am just so glad I got to play the game I love so much. I love Survivor.
So, no regrets?