Brandon Hantz: My family hated my crying the most on 'Survivor'
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 12/22/2011
Brandon Hantz was all set to make it to the Final 4 and possibly even the Final 3 once he had won the Individual Immunity Challenge during the thirteenth episode of Survivor: South Pacific.
However, Brandon realized his "best friend" and fellow castaway Albert Destrade was in trouble of getting voting off, so he promised to come to his defense and remain loyal to him. As a result, Brandon ended up giving Albert his immunity necklace at Tribal Council in the hopes his alliance was strong enough to keep him safe although he was no longer protected by the idol. But unbeknownst to Brandon, his tribemates wanted him gone before they even truly considered sending Albert to Redemption Island.
Survivor: South Pacific champion Sophie Clarke, runner-up "Coach" Benjamin Wade and Rick Nelson then decided to betray and vote off Brandon as originally planned since Albert had successfully convinced Brandon to keep him around. Brandon then had a shot to beat Ozzy Lusth in the final Redemption Island duel and return to the game to resume competing for the $1 million grand prize, but failed to do so -- resulting in his permanent elimination from the game, becoming the seventh member of the jury.
During a Monday conference call with reporters, Brandon, a 19-year-old oil tanker crewman from Katy, TX, talked to Reality TV World about his Survivor: South Pacific experience -- including why his family wasn't supportive of his gameplay, what he thought his family's biggest issue was when it came to how he had behaved throughout the season, and whether he felt Coach had used religion to manipulate him.
Reality TV World: During the reunion show, you mentioned your family hasn't been very supportive. Could you elaborate on that a little bit more?
Brandon Hantz: You know, I don't want to call my parents out. They weren't able to be here for other reasons, but it was more directed towards Russell and a couple of family members that, you know, they just weren't -- when you have an experience like that, it's merely physically and spiritually just draining.
And when you get back home, you don't want to be told you did bad. You don't want to be told anything really negative about the way you played, because nobody really understands unless they've played it. So, it was a lot of negativity, man, just to cut to the chase.
It was really, really hard for me to come home and want to do something so great for my family and want to be the person that's told, "Brandon, I'm proud of you. I'm proud of you." I really never got that much admiration growing up as a kid. So, it kind of felt like I was a kid again. I could never really do enough for my family to be proud of me.
I know it sounds bad, but that's just how it is. And I realized throughout this whole thing that it really doesn't matter. I shouldn't have to -- I'm responsible for me and my family now. So, it doesn't matter how my family views me or how -- what they think -- because at the end of the day, I get to be happy with what I did myself.
Reality TV World: You had several issues come up throughout the course of the season. You originally went out there seeking to "redeem" the Hantz family name and in addition, you had several very emotional moments out there. Earlier in the season, you also had your controversial comments about [Mikayla Wingle] who you called "Delilah" and "a temptress." Was there anything in particular you think your family had the biggest problem with?
Brandon Hantz: Honestly, it was probably the crying thing the most. My family just -- you've seen [my uncle Russell Hantz] play. He didn't really have that much emotion until he got voted out the last time he played. My family's real tough. The Hantz family is filled with these tough guys that show no emotion -- any kind of emotion is weakness, and that's kind of what they capitalize on.
They're calling me an emotional person and really embarrassing the fact that I'm a Hantz man, and it hurt my feelings. It really did. And you know, that's what they were more disappointed in. As far as Mikayla was concerned, that was really petty. I shouldn't have said those things about Mikayla, but that whole thing is completely squashed. It's really not even worth talking about.
Reality TV World: So what was your family's reaction when [they learned] you gave up the hidden Immunity Idol? It sounds like that wasn't one of the key issues that caused conflict -- even though when your Dad came to visit on the show during the hometown visits, he seemed to really stress doing whatever it took you to win the million.
Brandon Hantz: Yeah, it was a really unnecessary thing that I did, making that commitment to Albert. That's the only thing I regret, was actually making that commitment, now -- following through with what I said. I'm very, very appreciative that I had enough strength to do that while I was out there.
But yeah, man. That's really hard to swallow. That could have been my chance of making it to the Final 3. You never know, and it's just that I did what I said I was going to do. I'm a man of my word. It means a lot to me and that's pretty much all I have to say about that.
Reality TV World: Who did you end up voting for and why?
Brandon Hantz: Sophie, out of bitterness, dude. I am serious, that's just the straight up truth, man. I did not want Coach to win, man. After seeing all that and kind of putting two and two together, I realized that Sophie -- the reason I wanted to vote for her was because she didn't say, "Hey look guys."
There was never one time when she played the religion card. There was never one time when she told me, "Hey." She really didn't lie to me. She actually really didn't talk at all, so she was the one that was straight forward. Coach and Albert both equally lied to me and it was just based truly off it -- and it's wrong.
I should have voted for the person who played the best game, but you could argue that Sophie did play the better game. But anyways, my personal vote was because I was upset that -- it was a bitter thing -- and it is what it is.
Reality TV World: So from your perspective then, just to clarify, you think Coach really used religion to manipulate you? You don't think he was sincere?
Reality TV World: I did, but I also already talked to Coach earlier and he denied that was the case. (Laughs)
Brandon Hantz: Oh, well, hey. That's why he didn't have a million dollars in his pocket, so that's the best I can answer that question.
Also during the conference call, Brandon told reporters whether he was happy that Sophie won, what his relationship with Russell was like before competing on the show and how that dynamic has since changed, and whether he would consider giving Survivor another shot if given the opportunity.
Are you happy with your experience on Survivor: South Pacific and the results of the jury vote? It seems like a lot of the castaways, including Sophie Clarke, had a lot of nice things to say about you.
Brandon Hantz: That's awesome man. Yeah, Sophie's really cool. But yeah man, I can't complain at all. It ended perfectly. You're always going to have good and bad and I'm trying to be optimistic about everything, so it's just been a really good experience and I think CBS did a really great job by bringing -- everything that I dealt with was legitimate.
I go through those things on a daily basis just not to that level. I don't cry and trip out everyday, but you know, it's real life, man. You're playing with real people and even though you're in a game situation, you still -- it just gets real emotional sometimes. I know a lot of the cast would agree with me. It's pretty rough emotionally, but I do think they showcased me real well. I was appreciative of that.
There's been talk about you possibly returning to Survivor and competing with Russell. If you were to give the competition another shot, what would you do differently?
Brandon Hantz: Oh man. I would be me, you know? I would be more exciting and fun. I was so nervous. I was trying to fill them big shoes of Russell. He had -- it was a lot of pressure and I wanted to go out there and redeem the Hantz family name, and it wasn't even necessary. I didn't have to do that.
All I had to be was me. All I had to do was what I do and I'm a lot more exciting and fun to be around. [Ozzy Lusth] can tell you and the cast can tell you. A lot of that -- the only thing that I do regret is that you didn't really see me laugh a lot. You didn't see me -- I smiled every once in awhile, but you didn't get to see the real Brandon.
I can be strategic if I want, man. I would definitely -- we're just going to have to wait and see, man. I can't tell you that. My mind changes day to day. So, we'll see what happens... They're not ready for that though, man. I don't think they're ready for the real Brandon!
Your tribe prided itself on being loyal, having integrity, and playing an honorable game, but it didn't end up that way in the end. Why do you think so many people, including yourself, had trouble realizing it was just part of the game? Because you all seemed to take it very personally.
Brandon Hantz: Oh man, I gotta remember this myself -- that it's just a game. It really is and people change. Like Ozzy was saying earlier, people change in the game and your intentions are everything but they don't mean anything. It's all about what you do and honestly, I don't take offense to anybody personally or anything like that.
It's a game, they did it as a strategic move, and I appreciate that -- the strategic moves in the game. Some things went a little too far in my opinion, but that's just my belief. I'm not going to be mad at somebody for not believing what I believe. I'm just going to share my beliefs and they can believe if they want to believe or not.
So, again, I don't dislike anybody personally. During some of the season, I think some of my castmates involving -- to just cut to the chase, as far as Coach is concerned, he went a little too far with me as far as my personal relationship with Christ when I went to him and we prayed. We had such an intimate time that I felt like we had an intimate time with God together.
He really took ahold of that and this is the honest truth. Despite what Coach may say or not, and I spoke with him about it, he went too far, period. That's plain and dry. Again, that's why he doesn't have a million dollars right now, because we could deny it all day long. And I would have voted for Coach. I would have voted for Coach, but the last thing messed with me.
Again, he had a chance. He had a million dollars in his hands, man. He had the freaking money in his hands. All he had to do was say, "You know what? I'm sorry for what I did," but he was always beating around the bush. I don't respect that, but I do respect Coach as a person. As far as the game is concerned, he did my dirty and he suffered the consequences of that.
Could you give us some insight as to what your relationship was with Russell prior to being on the show? Were you close?
Brandon Hantz: Oh man, my uncle and me -- we had a lot in common, man. We were kind of the black sheep of the family -- a little bit crazier than the rest of them. I really enjoyed hanging out with Russell. We spent a lot of time together. I lived with him. We really had a good relationship. So, it was unfortunate the way things turned out.
He let the Survivor thing get to his head and all he thinks about now is Survivor. Like Ozzy said earlier, you have to leave it at the door and he still hasn't left it at the door yet. As a matter of fact, I think he's at the gas station playingSurvivor right now. (Laughs) So, he's kind of still in the game mode and it's unfortunate, but that's how it is.
Do you think your relationship with Russell could be repaired?
Brandon Hantz: Any day, any time he wants to talk to me and hang out, my arms are always wide open, man. It doesn't matter. As far as repairable is concerned, you gotta have two people that want to repair something, you know? Our relationship is on a one-way road, but I'm ready. And whenever he's ready to make amends and stuff like that, I'm right here, man.
If I have to apologize -- and I have numerous times for the bad things I said about him -- then I'll do it again. I love my uncle Russell. I love him with all my heart. He's my family and that's not going to change. We disagree a lot about a lot and you're not always going to agree with everybody, but we just happened to disagree a lot more than the normal uncle and nephew, I think.
Brandon Hantz: Yes, I would play again. It's an awesome experience, man. I want to take more of an Ozzy-outlook on it now and just appreciate what God is. He is everything around us, man. It's just that what was sad about it, was I didn't even get to experience where we were at. We were in freakin Samoa.
We were in one of the most beautiful places in the world and you were so tied up in this game, you were so tied up in what people were -- or I was -- about people were going to think about me, that I really didn't get to take a step back and say, "Hey, look. I'm going to play day by day. I'm going to enjoy -- I'm going to go fishing."
I regret not being able to fish with Ozzy, so I hope he does play again because he's going to teach me how to catch some fish in different ways. But yeah, I would love to play again. I'm going to play again.
I will, and it would be an honor to play with my uncle, man. He's a big name in the show and it would just be awesome to have two Hantz's out there, and ontop of that, I'm a pretty competitive guy, especially with my own family. So it'd be really exciting to see.
Do you think you would work against or with Russell if you two were to play with each other on the same season?
Brandon Hantz: Well, if I told you that, it wouldn't be too good, would it?
How did you feel during the last Tribal Council session when you found out your tribe had hidden the immunity idol from you once they had found it and lied about it?
Brandon Hantz: It sucked. Next question. (Laughs) I'm just kidding with you. No, I mean, how would you feel?
Brandon Hantz: Okay then, yeah. I was pretty betrayed. No, I just really -- I didn't like it. It was a bad feeling. It sucks to be shoved in the back, especially when you had -- you didn't do anything to deserve it, I don't think.
I messed up a couple times in the game, but I was loyal to who I said I was going to be loyal to and I didn't -- I don't think it was necessary. I don't see any strategic move to that. It was more or less, I don't know. I don't feel good about it at all.
In your opinion, what was your biggest mistake throughout the game?
Brandon Hantz: Like I said before, just not being me. I was trying so hard to be this guy that everybody wanted and liked and I just wanted to be liked and accepted. You know, but I realized it doesn't freakin matter, dude. It doesn't, dude. I can't -- I've tried it too many times and it's the same result.
You're always going to have somebody who's got something to say. It's like opinions and buttholes -- everybody has one -- everybody. And it's just ridiculous, dude. And it's sad, because sometimes it comes from families, and a lot of times, it comes from the people that you love the most. It's rough, dude. It's rough.
What did you think about how the immunity necklace fell off of Albert's neck after you got voted out?
Brandon Hantz: That was kind of cool, actually. He's notorious for just random stuff happening like that, but no. That was really cool man. It was actually pretty cool. Everything turned out perfectly, man. I really enjoyed seeing Sophie win a million dollars over those two guys. And again, it's nothing personal outside of the game.
I love them, man, and I forgive them like I said. But both of them really, really showed their rear-ends on the show as far as trying to use stuff that I really don't appreciate. But that's just the honest truth, bro.
It was poetic justice. That's what they got. All the manipulating and [scheming and conniving] and talking trash and trying to be this and trying to be that, that's all mean junk. Because guess who won the million dollars? Can you remind me? I forgot. (Laughs) Sophie won a million dollars and she didn't have to do none of that.