SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols

With season 41 of Survivor delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, EW is reaching back into the reality show's past. We sent a Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire to a batch of former players to fill out with their thoughts about their time on the show as well as updates on what they've been up to since. Each weekday, EW will post the answers from a different player.

Ruth Marie Milliman did not have the luxury of easing into Survivor. Just minutes into the Survivor: Panama — Exile Island season, Ruth Marie had to compete for the Casaya (a.k.a. "Older Women") tribe in a reward challenge for flint, which she managed to procure for her team by beating Danielle DiLorenzo.

Little did Ruth Marie realize at the time that even after that opening race, there would be little time to catch her breath. Not only did Casaya lose the first immunity challenge, forcing her tribe to vote the first person out of the game, but a tribe swap on day 4 put Ruth Marie and the women on the new La Mina immediately down in numbers and on the outs. As a result, once the tribe started losing immunity challenges, Ruth Marie, who was 48 at the time, became vulnerable, and she ended up being voted out on day 11.

But Ruth Marie does not blame her age for her defeat. She says she entered the game more focused on how she would be portrayed on television than on going out and winning. She also says she's more fit and athletic now at 64 than she was then at 48 and wants another shot at the title! While she waits for that shot, Ruth Marie filled out a Quarantine Questionnaire, spilling secrets about what actually went down on the island while explaining why the most important aspect to the success of the show is the man who snuffed her torch.

Ruth Marie Milliman (Survivor: Panama  - season 12)
Ruth Marie Milliman on 'Survivor: Panama'
| Credit: CBS

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, give the update as to what you've been up to since appearing on Survivor.

RUTH MARIE MILLIMAN: Hey, Dalton! So, I got remarried 10 years ago (yep, that's #4). Between us, we have 5 grandchildren. The newest one was born this past Wednesday! I have continued to run and compete in road and trial races. Three years ago (age 61) I did my first ironman, Ironman Florida. I retired from real estate two years ago after 30 years in the business. Since then, I have been doing a bunch of stuff I have always wanted to do but didn't really have the time. For example, I am a civics junkie and have always loved being involved in politics. I participated in Mayor Pete's presidential campaign as a volunteer. What a great experience and what a talented young man!

What is your proudest moment ever from playing Survivor?

In general, it's not that I was really down on myself or not proud of myself, but I don't think I had my "A" game out there. I was so worried about looking embarrassing that I ended up looking really, really embarrassing!  So, along that train of thought, I am proud of my behavior, the way I treated others, etc….  But a note to future players: This probably is not a strategy!

What is your biggest regret from your Survivor experience?

I was way too guarded and not focused on winning enough! I really needed the money and, quite frankly, under-performed. But please understand regardless of the way I am answering this question and the previous one, the experience was amazing and I'm grateful to have been selected. Given another chance I would do things differently.  

What's something that will blow fans' minds that happened out there in your season but never made it to TV?

A few things come to mind: We had to be warned about an albino crocodile that lived just around the corner from our camp. We had to repeat a challenge when the other tribe caught the fact that they lost because they didn't have all the correct pieces, and yep, cocaine washed up on one of the beaches. 

How do you feel about the edit you got on the show?

THE EDIT!!!!!!! EEEEEEEE! Probably got nearly what I deserved, but I thought I was a whole lot more charming, talkative, and clever with my gameplay than what was shown. Of course, if you are voted off early, your edit is less relevant. Ugh!

What was it like coming back to regular society after being out there? Was there culture shock or an adjustment coming back?

You know, yes, a little bit. I was surprised. I remember not wanting to see friends right away. I think I needed a minute to get back to "reality!"

Ruth Marie Milliman on 'Survivor: Panama'
| Credit: Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS

Was there ever a point either during the game or after you got back where you regretted going on the show?


Whom do you still talk, text, or email with the most from your season?

Shane, Terry, Misty, Bobby, and Aras. Right after the show, Dan and Cirie. Bruce graciously hosted my daughter and myself at his home for the 10-year reunion party. For a while after the show, I traveled to many charity events and had the opportunity to be with castmates as well as folks from other seasons. The bond is pretty strong with my castmates because the experience is so strong! Blessed!!!!

Do you still watch Survivor, and, if so, what's your favorite season you were not on and why?

Yes, I still watch the show! Three years ago, I was in the audience for the finale of David vs Goliath. That was really fun. I'm gonna say the first season will probably always be my favorite. I still get chills thinking about it. I watched with my teenage children and knew I wanted to apply to be on the show.  

Who's one player from another Survivor season you wish you could have played with or against and why?

Sandra. What you see is what you get! The queen! I would play with her or against her.

If you could make one change to any aspect of Survivor, what would it be and why?

Can't think of anything to change. But the one thing that cannot change is Jeff. I realize it's a known fact that Jeff is involved in every aspect of the show, including the interviews and selection process. I think it's bigger than that. He brings the full range of emotion and energy and it has to be because he loves the project so much. He genuinely gets proud of us, frustrated with us, disappointed with us, and over the moon when a player achieves survivor magic. Those blue eyes and dimples don't hurt him either!

Finally, would you play again if asked?

Yes! And they should ask me. I will be 65 next year and I have a better fitness level than 15 years ago. I'm not as mentally tapped (I'm not working or raising two teenagers alone). I have a big chip on my shoulder and a lot to prove!

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SURVIVOR: Island of the Idols

Strangers starve themselves on an island for our amusement in the hopes of winning a million dollars, as host Jeff Probst implores them to "DIG DEEP!"

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