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'Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains': Rupert explains why the heck he was chopping wood past dark

May 14, 2010 |  2:40 pm

98305_D07262 On past seasons of "Survivor," Rupert Boneham has been a fan favorite. He's been called a "lovable pirate," one who continually wears tie-dye clothes and sports an unruly beard. But this season, viewers saw a different side of Rupert. He was tougher, less friendly -- even "grumpy," according to host Jeff Probst. We got a chance to talk to Rupert on Friday after he was voted out; he blamed his surly attitude on his painful broken toes and explained his logic behind chopping piles of wood in the middle of the night.

You seemed really surprised to be sent home last night. Were you truly holding out hope that you might have a shot at the million?

That’s what I think hurt so much, was I let myself believe ever since the rock in my pocket. But oh my gosh, I wouldn’t be able to actually manipulate this to make it to the final three. When the three girls all went out on their reward challenge and left Russell with us, I talked to him and said, “These girls are going to get you, Russell; the only way you can guarantee getting to the final three is with Colby and I.” And I meant it. I would have loved to have taken Russell to the final three.

Well, of course you would have, because you would have had a real shot. But do you really think Russell would have been dumb enough to believe he could beat two heroes?

That’s why I say it was a last-ditch effort. The lie and the rock in my pocket wasn’t working anymore, and I couldn’t get anybody to stand on my side.

In an interview with our paper, Jeff Probst called you “grumpy” and said you were suffering from reading too much of your own press. Do you agree with that assessment?

You know, Jeff -- I don’t know what to say about Jeff. He called me out in tribal council and said what a silly player I was and said I’d never win the game if I didn’t become more conniverish. And I looked at him and said I’d win the same way I won last time.

So you don’t think you were a grump?

I was also going through the game with broken toes. I was the first person to ever go through the game like that. Going through that was so much pain. Every time you took a step on something uneven, you’d feel the pain spike all the way through your foot up into your head. Even my daughter looked at me after one of the episodes and said, “Oh, Daddy, you looked a little mean.” I said, “baby, I am in pain.”

We didn’t really see that. So you did a good job of hiding the pain?

On day two when my tribe looked at me and sat me out of an immunity challenge, looking at me [and] saying Cirie is tougher than you are, I thought there was no way of sitting out of another challenge. My team is not ever going to see me as weak. I stopped talking and thinking about my toe, but unfortunately it didn’t stop hurting.

Let’s talk about the wood-chopping incident. Didn’t you think chopping wood all night long was going to piss everyone off?

If I was chopping wood all night long, I would have had to have a whole lot more wood than a couple of logs. The tribe was a bunch of lazy people that did very little work. I would gather wood all day, and they would burn it up all day long. After I chopped up the wood at night, the next day, not one person ever said a word about me bothering them at night. They all came to me in the middle of the night and kept warm and thanked me for having fire. I think Jerri just needed someone to vent at.

Is there a lot of that kind of passive-aggressive behavior on the island?

In “Survivor,” you have different forms of aggression. You have different game-playing out there -- where somebody like Russell is manipulating everybody around him and making them insanely mad and somebody like Parvati is doing the exact same thing but no one’s mad at her. It’s all in how you do it and what you do. But yes, every person out there is looking at everyone else thinking how they can get them out. It’s a lot of passive-aggressive playing.

Let’s talk about the rock in your pocket. How did you get the idea to pull that off?

After a few hours of search for the idol and I saw nobody -- everybody was still out looking and nobody had said that they had found it. So when two or three hours had gone by, I wanted to make sure that I had some kind of protection to go to tribal council. That’s when I said, this is my last chance. I’ll grab a hold of a rock, I’ll touch it in my pocket.

How obvious did you make it?

I always made sure that I had my bag with me or empty, in case they were trying to search my stuff. I would touch it every once in a while in my pocket, like you do with your cellphone to make sure you still have it. And then I looked at Russell and said, “I feel comfortable now, I’m gonna take a nap.” I would never have napped in “Survivor.”

How long did the facade work?

I think until after that first tribal council when I went through and Jeff said, “play your idol” and I fiddled around and crossed my legs. When I got back to camp, they started asking me, and I looked right at them and said, “I’m glad I didn’t waste an immunity idol.” I never said I had one, I just said I was glad I didn’t waste one. After Danielle was voted out, I think Sandra told Parvati.

Do you really see yourself as a hero?

In my world, I like being considered one of the good guys. Even after I won the million bucks, I gave most of it away. I like showing that it counts how you play the game.

So that philosophy is basically diametrically opposed to Russell’s then, right?

My philosophy and Russell’s philosophies are about as extremely opposite as you can possibly imagine. He thinks about what he can get out of people and how he can benefit from them, and I look at people as how we can help them be better and help them improve their whole world. Being around Russell -- such an evil, arrogant person -- it took a little bit to hold my tongue.

It seems like his negativity is going to prove to be an obstacle to him winning the game.

I use that in my mentoring program -- when you use and abuse and manipulate people, you can’t turn around and think anybody is going to respect you. If you do, you are sadly mistaken because that is not the way of this world. Russell understand half of the game, but he doesn’t understand the social game.

Meanwhile, Colby is the only hero left. But he doesn’t stand a chance, right?

Colby is our last hero standing. I hope he can make it to the end and convince those ladies to keep him instead of Russell, but the odds are against him.

He hasn’t performed that well this season, would you agree?

I say it all the time: If James hadn’t been hurt, Colby would never had made it so far.

Looking at the remaining contestants, whose game do you respect?

I respect Parvati’s game because Parvati and Sandra both are playing a very manipulative, socially acceptable game and both of them have been targeted from the start.

--Amy Kaufman (follow me on Twitter @AmyKinLA)

Photo: Rupert Boneham was voted out this week on "Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains." Credit: CBS

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