Survivor: 50 For 50 – Ian Rosenberger

Who should be invited back for Survivor’s milestone season?


Welcome to Inside Survivor’s 50 For 50, a semi-regular feature highlighting 50 former castaways who we think should be considered for a spot on Survivor 50. In a snake draft, the Inside Survivor team selected ten players each, with the only rule being they couldn’t have played more than twice.


Name: Ian Rosenberger
Age: 42
Season: Palau, 2005
Finish: 3rd Place


At just 23 years old when he played Survivor for the first (and so far, only) time, Ian was a key player on Palau’s ultra-dominant Koror tribe and its youngest member. Thanks to his tribe’s overwhelming physical dominance, Ian had ample time to solidify his alliance with Tom Westman and Katie Gallagher, an alliance that would take him all the way to the final three.

If pre-merge and early merge of Palau were a breeze for Ian, the endgame was an entirely different story. After the Koror alliance decimated Ulong and began to devour itself, Ian found himself clashing with his close ally Katie and getting caught trying (and failing) to oust Tom.

At the Final Four, Ian defeated Jenn Lyon at firemaking, becoming the second-ever person to win this now-permanent fixture of the show after Stephenie LaGrossa first won it earlier in the season. Ian was just one challenge away from making it to the final tribal council, but his deteriorating relationships with Tom and Katie and failed betrayals were beginning to wear him down.

Palau final challenge

To the viewer, Ian’s actions in Palau were far from villainous: he just tried to do what he could to put himself in the best position to win, just as Tom and Katie had done all season long. However, in one of the cutthroat examples of emotional manipulation in Survivor history, Tom and Katie targeted Ian’s sincerity and loyalty to the point where they managed to truly convince Ian that he had gravely sinned against them.

Broken and ready to atone for his wrongdoings, Ian shockingly dropped from the grueling 11-hour and 55-minute final immunity challenge to give individual immunity to Tom in penance for his actions, a desperate last-ditch effort to salvage their friendship. In lieu of a formal vote, Ian allowed himself to be verbally voted out at the challenge, becoming the final juror and the first person ever to be eliminated in this way.


Survivor has always been—and always should be—more than just a game. It’s the Greatest Social Experiment ever broadcasted, a thrilling intersection of interpersonal drama and strategy, and a cutthroat battle for a life-changing amount of money.

I say all this because few Survivor players embody this “more than just a game” mentality than Ian does. He played the game, and it broke him to the point where he was willing to sacrifice a 50/50 shot at a million bucks to salvage a 38-day friendship and redeem himself from his perceived indignities. A return from Ian for this landmark season would serve as a reminder of the powerful, human side of this game we’ve been watching on our televisions for nearly a quarter century.


Ian has apparently been in the mix for casting as recently as Second Chance but declined, so it’s not at all out of the question that he could be considered for Survivor 50.  It wouldn’t surprise me if Ian were to decline a call to return once again. After all, his experience towards the end of Palau is one of the most brutal examples of a player being emotionally and physically decimated by the game and its players. Even all these years later, it would be more than understandable if he didn’t want to put himself through that again.

Even if Ian ultimately turns down the opportunity again, as he did for Cambodia, I hope Survivor at least gives him another call so that we have even the slightest chance of seeing him return.

Written by

Christine Pallon

Christine is a writer, musician, and lifelong Survivor nerd based out of Urbana, Illinois. When she’s not playing shows with her bands or working at her day job at a tech company, she spends her free time tweeting about bad horror movies, Kate Bush, and the filmography of Juliette Binoche. Christine writes Inside Survivor’s episode recaps for Survivor US.

3 responses to “Survivor: 50 For 50 – Ian Rosenberger”

  1. I hope he plays again. I do not think he should be a one-time player. He would be one of my top picks.

  2. No. It’s a competition to win money, not friendship. What he did was the equivalent of Sandra quitting. I want people who are there to win the game. Granted, I don’t like monsters. (People who will sell their own kids to win.) I just don’t want to see someone who would allow as**holes like Tom & Katie to manipulate them into becoming sniveling toerags. He did what he did, so he should have just owned up to it, moved on & won the game. If the other 2 didn’t “forgive” him, they weren’t real friends. Btw, Tom is one of my most detested Survivor winners. He’s a bad person & I don’t understand why he’s so popular. I’m a very good judge of character. None of the 3 (Ian, Tom, Katie) are good people & I never want to see any of them again.

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