In a Survivor finale shocker on Ian Rosenberger basically gave up his shot at a million dollars just to smooth things over with his alliance-mates Tom and Katie. He and Tom went head-to-head in an endurance challenge on a buoy, and after close to 12 hours of the watery balancing act, guilt overwhelmed Ian. The 23-year-old dolphin trainer said he'd step off the platform if Tom agreed to take Katie, not him, to the final tribal council. TVGuide.com rang up Ian to ask him what the heck he was thinking, and if he's regretting throwing the cash away.
TVGuide.com: Ian, I'm still in shock.
Ian Rosenberger: Aren't all of us? I'm still trying to decide if it was the right decision or not.
TVG: Please tell me that after almost 12 hours of standing up there, you were just delusional.
Ian: I wasn't. Unfortunately. I had to make a choice between the morals and the money. When I looked at it from the position of, gosh, I have an example to set for a little sister back home, and then remembering the people who brought you up and how you need to do them proud, I was ashamed. I didn't want the million ashamed. For me it was better not to win it all and walk out of the game with my head held high.
TVG: But it is Survivor! You must have known that you'd have to lie and scheme.
Ian: Oh, sure. I totally knew what was going to go on. But some of us are better at it than others, and I just ended up not being a very good liar. I think I am the worst liar in Survivor history. I am so bad at it.
TVG: So what did your family say?
Ian: They were proud. My sister, who is 13, said, "I can't believe you didn't win the million." But then right away she said, "I'm so glad that you did what you did. You made us proud." She's cool. I have a great family.
TVG: A lot of people are calling you crazy for giving up the money. Does that bother you?
Ian: Well, there are things in life that are more important than a million dollars.
TVG: What was your strategy going in?
Ian: My strategy going in was more "lie, cheat and steal," because it is part of the game. But the weird part about the whole thing is that you get close to these people, and you develop real relationships. I became so close to Tom and Katie and the rest of Koror and that ended up weighing on the game more than I thought it would. When the decision actually comes to stab somebody in the back, it makes it a little more difficult.
TVG: So you really have no regrets.
Ian: Absolutely none.
TVG: But I really think you would have had a good shot at the million dollars.
Ian: I couldn't have stood to win the million that way.
TVG: Tom at least owes you lunch or something.
Ian: [Laughs] I think Tom taking me to lunch would be a nice idea.
TVG: Well, you got a cool car.
Ian: I did, I got a Corvette. Unfortunately, I'm 6-foot-8, so about four inches of my forehead stick out over the top.
TVG: At least it doesn't have a roof.
Ian: That's true. It is great. I'm a lucky man, for sure.
TVG: Well there is that supposed curse, where the people who win the car on Survivor never win the game. Did that cross your mind?
Ian: There is that curse. When you win that car, you immediately think, what is the jury going to think about this? You know right away that they are going to find out, and is it going to hurt your chances? You need to scheme a little bit to figure out how to approach it so it has the least impact.
TVG: Was it hard for you at tribal council to pick between your friends Tom and Katie?
Ian: I decided to pick somebody who played the game like I did. I feel like Tom and I played a very similar game. His name went down because I think that is what he would have done.
TVG: Do you still think it was a good idea to vote off Gregg?
TVG: Really? That seemed like the beginning of the end for you.
Ian: No, I think the snowball that started the avalanche was not taking Katie on the reward challenge.
TVG: Would you take that back if you could?
Ian: I would have switched that decision. I would have taken Gregg out right away — great friend, great player, he just needed to go home.
TVG: I've got to know: How'd a guy from Pennsylvania get into dolphin training?
Ian: [Laughs] I know, there aren't many dolphins in the Ohio river. After school I was looking for something to do and thought, that would be cool. So I headed down to Key Largo and got the job, surprisingly, and ended up loving it and was Jimmy Buffett for a living for a long time. I had a little place on the water, a guitar, a dog and a boat and dolphins. I'd love to go back and do it again.
TVG: If you aren't there, what are you doing now?
Ian: I bought a truck, and I have that same dog and a surfboard and I think I'm going to head out to the West Coast now and play the same game. I'd love to get into television production, I'd love to direct, that's what I'd really want to do. I want to be behind the camera, but heck, I'd get in front of the camera for a while, too.
TVG: Would you do anything like this again?
Ian: I would do it in a second. If TVGuide.com were throwing a mock-Survivor for two days in the wilderness, I would go and do it. Any opportunity to do again, I would take. I do watch The Amazing Race, and I'm so glad that Uchenna and Joyce won. That was so awesome and I hope they can have a baby. They seem like really cool people.
TVG: Lastly, what was your best moment on the island?
Ian: Stepping off that platform. Other than that, I'd say that first immunity challenge when I jumped off the boat and won 10 minutes into the game. So the bookends — the first moment and the last moment for me.