The last person to leave the game, the person so close to the end they can taste the money but has their opportunity to plead their case taken away at the very last moment. That person becomes ingrained in their respective season as the final recipient of “The Tribe Has Spoken” and earns a place in a very special group in Survivor history: The Day 38 Club.
Inside Survivor contributor Ian Walker continues the countdown of the updated and revised Day 38 Club rankings. The list takes into account the strength of a player’s game, character, and the power of their story.
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No. 15 – Ian Rosenberger (Palau)
Ian Rosenberger has a unique spot in the Day 38 Club, as he’s the only person to join mostly of his own choosing. To say that it was a rocky ride to get to that point is an understatement, as Ian had one of the most emotionally turbulent journeys anybody has ever had on Survivor.
Throughout Survivor: Palau, Ian’s story became a great representation of when somebody so inherently good and likable tries to engage in the dark dealings that Survivor requires. His personality was not a good fit for the game and he found himself seeking redemption by the end of it all to set himself right.
The first half of the game couldn’t have started out any better for Ian. He was on the winningest tribe in Survivor history and had quickly slid into the goofy young kid role in the group, cracking jokes and making everybody smile. And despite all the silliness, Ian committed to playing the game, establishing a strong alliance with Tom Westman and Katie Gallagher.
In Tom, he had a stable ally he could always talk strategy with, while Katie was like the sister he could decompress with after a stressful day on the island. Tom and Ian were especially effective together, playing off one another like two war generals aligned towards the same cause, making it all the way to the final three.
Once at the final three, there was a gentlemen’s agreement of sorts in place, with the winner of the final Immunity challenge earning the right to take Katie with them to the finals, and presumably, win. As the end drew closer, however, the game became more difficult than anything Ian had experienced before.
Simply put, Ian was struggling with maintaining the duplicitous approach the game requires, with his actions almost blowing up his relationships with both Katie and Tom. At the final five, he reneged on a promise to Katie that he would take her on a reward, taking Tom instead, which annoyed Katie to no end.
After seeing how upset he had made Katie, Ian was practically on his knees begging her to forgive him, expressing genuine regret for breaking his promise. Not many players reach that level of hysterics in their forgiveness, so a moment like that should be a clear indication of where Ian’s emotional state was.
That broken promise, however, was nothing compared to the transgression he made against Tom. At the final four, he just made the mere suggestion that Tom possibly should go home if he didn’t win Immunity. Well, Tom did win Immunity that round, and Ian’s words made it back to him, making him so upset that he later wrote Ian’s name down at Tribal Council and forced him into a fire-making tiebreaker challenge. Emerging victorious, Ian knew that both Tom and Katie were severely disappointed in him, but he had one more move up his sleeve to make things right at the final challenge.
After almost 12 hours of competing in that final challenge against Tom, Ian proposed a deal: he would step down and forfeit Immunity to Tom and give up his spot in the final two in exchange for earning back Tom’s respect. Tom accepted and, just like that, Ian was a member of the Day 38 Club.
Ian ended his journey the same way he started, with that big, goofy smile on his face, after almost going to hell and back to get that smile back.
Stay tuned to Inside Survivor as the Day 38 Club rankings continue over the coming days. Check out the previous entries here.