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. 5 – Rudy Boesch (Borneo)
During the phenomenon that was the first season of Survivor, nobody popped out of that first group of 16 castaways quite like Rudy Boesch. In the sea of 20-and-30-somethings that populated the cast, Rudy stuck out as a 72-year old man who was just different than his fellow tribe members. But those differences made him endearing.
Rudy won the hearts of the viewing audience with his gruff but lovable demeanor and blunt remarks that came off as more comical than mean-spirited. An ex-Navy SEAL and a man of high honor, Rudy pioneered the strategy of being a loyal alliance member who was true to his word, expecting his allies to do the same. While that worked up to a point, near the very end, he got bested by a much more cunning player and ended his journey on Day 38.
That cunning player was Richard Hatch, the man who saw the game for what it was the moment he stepped foot on the island. Wanting to form a strong alliance from the beginning, the first person he sought for allegiance was Rudy.
Together, Rich and Rudy emerged as a highly efficient partnership, as Rudy provided the loyalty and honesty Richard needed in an ally, and in return, Richard protected Rudy from the vote. As Richard was writing the rule book for how to play the game, Rudy was establishing his guidelines on how to be an effective, trustworthy alliance member. To Rudy, being honest to Rich, who was running things, was enough game for him to play.
Rudy and Rich’s relationship also worked wonderfully as one of the major storylines of the season, as it represented the conflict and character interaction this ground-breaking show was capable of portraying. Here was Rudy, an ex-military man set in his ways, and his best friend on the island is a gay guy.
Despite Rudy’s off-color remarks, some of which are burned into the Survivor lexicon, his gradual approval of Rich and the friendship they formed together further endeared Rudy to the audience and became one of the defining elements of Survivor: Borneo.
Using the power of the alliance, Rudy and Rich were able to move through the game efficiently and soon found themselves in the final three, alongside Kelly Wiglesworth. Unfortunately, Rudy’s game would progress no further.
Knowing how big of a threat Rudy would be in the Final Tribal Council and that he was honor-bound to take him there, Rich brilliantly found a loophole that got him out of his deal. Rich intentionally dropped out of the final Immunity challenge and thus removed himself from that last big decision, and it worked out for him in the end. Rudy lost the challenge, allowing Kelly to do the job Richard didn’t want to do, and she promptly voted Rudy out of the game on Day 38.
Rudy came very close to winning the first Survivor season ever, and while that didn’t happen, his legacy endures as one of the most beloved and iconic people to ever be on the show, which is a legacy just as rich as a million dollars.
Stay tuned to Inside Survivor as the Day 38 Club rankings continue over the coming days. Check out the previous entries here.