Monty Brinton/CBS
Steve Helling
November 13, 2013 11:45 AM

Rupert Boneham is one of Survivor‘s most iconic characters. When he returned for Survivor: Blood vs. Water, he competed with his wife, Laura.

But it fell apart two minutes into the game. Laura, 44, was immediately voted out of her tribe. Rupert chose to take her place on Redemption Island. After losing the first challenge, he finished the game in last place.

Laura managed to last longer than anyone expected, until she was blindsided by her tribe, sent to Redemption Island on Day 18, and left for good the next day. She talks to PEOPLE about her game – and emerging from her husband’s shadow.

Okay, I’ve got to ask. When you were voted off, what was Rupert’s reaction in Loser’s Lodge?
Oh, we cried! We both did! It’s an emotional game.

You were actually voted off within two minutes of the game starting. What did you think?
I took it very personally. I was like, “Are you freaking kidding me?” I knew I was a very strong competitor, but I knew they were trying to weaken Rupert’s game.

Were you surprised that Rupert took your place?
Absolutely not. He always wanted me to play Survivor. I had stepped out of my comfort zone to play. And taking my place was a gift he could give me.

And do you think of it as a gift?
Oh, absolutely. Survivor is Rupert’s thing; that’s what he’s known for. But it was nice to actually play the game and step out of his shadow for a little bit. I’m really grateful for the experience.

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It didn’t work out the way you wanted.
I just wanted to play with Rupert! We signed up to play together, to be in the wilderness together. We were hanging out in the jungle, waiting for it to begin, and I was so excited, and then we were split up. I think it was a mean thing to do, but Survivor is a mean game.

But surely you must have guessed that you’d be split up.
We had no idea what was going on. I figured they wanted to show the couples together, because they love the family visits. But in the back of my mind, I knew they would have to split us up at some point. But I didn’t know it would be at the very beginning of my game.

You ended up on a tribe with former players. Did you ever fit in?
They edited me as the odd girl out, but I really did bond with people. Laura Morrett and I pushed each other’s buttons, but generally, we all got along. I thought I was in an alliance with the guys and Tina. I guess not!

Yeah. You were voted off for telling Vytas that he was going to go. Any regrets?
Sure, but here’s the thing: you go out there and think, ‘This is a game for a million bucks and I’m not going to get emotionally involved.’ But then you do. There’s no way around it. You’re out there with nothing but all these other people, and you grow attached to them. I felt bad for voting people out.

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You’re like Rupert!
I used to give him such a hard time for being so emotional on the show! I thought I knew what it was all about, but when you play it, you see how many dimensions there really are. People have no idea how hard this game is!

Would you rather have played the game without Rupert?
No. If I had to play again, I would choose playing with my husband. I love him so much.

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