On Monday, Russell talked to Reality TV World about why he took Sandra and Parvati Shallow to the Final 3; if he ever had contact with Parvati before the season started; how the quick turn-around from Samoa to Heroes vs. Villains didn't give him any time to reflect; and which castaway he felt was the only one he could have beat in a jury vote.
Reality TV World: Jeff Probst asked you several times during the reunion show if you take jury votes into consideration when playing the game and you answered by claiming you "don't care" about the jury. Seeing as how that strategy has now prevented you from winning two seasons in a row, don't you think it's an unwise stance to take?
Russell Hantz: Well, you would say that. But did you not see that I got millions of votes from the fans that love the way I play the game? The thing is, with my game -- the reason I'm loved -- is because I don't waver from the way I play.
I might not win it in the end, but I'm not going to say what [Jerri Manthey] wants me to say. I'm not going to say what [Colby Donaldson] wants me to say. I'm going to do what I want to do. That's how I am as a person. When it comes to me making decisions -- even with my company -- I make the decisions.
Reality TV World: Last night's episode showed you telling Parvati that the fact that you were sure you would have Jerri's jury vote was why you were going to vote her off at the Final 4, so was that a lie or do you at least start thinking about jury votes near the end of the game?
Russell Hantz: It goes through my mind. People say I don't have a social game. Well you know what? When you're able to switch people's votes at Tribal Council just by looking at them and saying, "[Danielle DiLorenzo]," that means that I am pretty powerful out there. That means that they very, very trust me.
They don't show my social game, but trust me. Did you see [James "J.T." Thomas] saying, "Yeah, he is a good ole' boy." That's because my social game is so good I was fooling them all. But then when they get to Ponderosa, they say, "Oh no! He fooled me." They get their feelings hurt. So what can you do?
Reality TV World: Parvati had tried to warn you that Sandra would get at least three votes if you made it to the end but you didn't seem to believe her, why was that?
Russell Hantz: I didn't think Sandra would get them because she's a terrible player. I give credit where credit is due, trust me dude. Parvati is a great player. If we were having this conversation [and Parvati had won], the only thing I would be saying is, "She couldn't have done it without me but she's a wonderful player. When she had to make a move, she made the move." That's why she's so good.
Sandra, she's terrible in all aspects of the game -- the physical game, the social game and the strategic game. Her strategic game was to get rid of me -- the entire game -- and she couldn't accomplish that! I told them both, I'm like, "Listen ladies. Every time I wrote somebody's name down in two seasons, when I put their name down they went home." That's pretty impressive.
Reality TV World: What made you decide to take Parvati to the end instead of Jerri? I mean if you felt Sandra wouldn't get any votes at the end, wouldn't the same thinking have applied to Jerri as well?
Russell Hantz: Well I started thinking [Sandra and Parvati] are two winners. I started thinking they're my best option because nobody likes Parvati because they're jealous for some reason -- she's a pretty girl, the girls all like her because she's young and they're jealous or the guys don't like her because she whipped them in the challenges or whatever. Sandra, she won the game and she had no game when it came to that game at all.
I figured that was my best option. I thought that by bringing Jerri it would be like brining another [Survivor: Samoa winner Natalie White].
Reality TV World: There's been a lot of talk about whether it was fair or not for you to get to play the game without anyone having gotten to seen your season first. Do you think you would have had any chance of making it so far if the other castaways had all seen your Samoa season before Heroes vs. Villains was filmed?
Russell Hantz: It has its good and bad. I lost 50 pounds from Season 19 and I go back out there 10 days later -- I'm sick, weak and tired and I don't know anybody. Everybody else knows everybody. They're friends, they go to events. They're buddies. They probably talked to each other before they even went out there. I'm just out there not knowing anybody. That's a horrible position for me to be in, and being a Villain. "Why's he a Villain? He did something wrong."
Reality TV World: During her exit interviews, [Jessica "Sugar" Kiper] made some comments that have sparked a lot of speculation and rumors that Parvati somehow knew about you or had some contact with you before the game started. Was that the case?
Russell Hantz: I didn't even know Parvati. I'd seen her on TV. That's all I knew about her. And in 10 days I was back on the island. I didn't have time to take a crap! (laughing) I didn't know Parvati. I heard that myself. That's bull crap.
Reality TV World: So you're saying that even though you reportedly co-own a bar with former Survivor: Fiji castaway "Boo" Bernis, he didn't put you in touch with Parvati before the game or anything like that?
Reality TV World: Last night's episode showed you making a comment that suggested you knew you had lost Survivor: Samoa even though Samoa hadn't aired yet. Was that just a reference to what you had told me when I interviewed you after Samoa -- that you knew you weren't going to win Survivor: Samoa based on how the jury questioning had gone -- or was there more to it?
Russell Hantz: When you're sitting there at Tribal, you read people. You know what's going on. If you're pretty good at reading people -- which I am -- I knew it. You can see it in the questions they asked and the way they looked at you. It's easy to read bitter people.
Reality TV World: During the reunion show, you insisted that since you played back-to-back without getting to see your initial season air first, you've only actually played Survivor one time. But when you were asked if you would change anything, you insisted you wouldn't have. If that's the case, then what's the point of insisting you only played once, not twice?
Russell Hantz: I could say I might change... If I would have been seeing my season and if I would have had time to reflect on it, then I might have done smaller things a little differently. But they're going to be my decisions. I'm going to make the moves, it's my strategic game. I'd try to get votes at the jury... somehow.
Reality TV World: Do you think you underestimated Sandra's game play at least a little bit?
Reality TV World: Is it because you think that would have only allowed Parvati to win instead of Sandra?
Russell Hantz: You know you go over it in your head over and over, "How could I have won?" The only thing I think I could have won with is if it had been a Final 2 and it would have been me and [Candice Woodcock].
Reality TV World: You discussed how America should have a final Tribal vote and called the fact that they don't a "flaw" in the game. However seeing as how you got zero percent of the jury votes and Sandra got two-thirds of them, that really wouldn't have changed the result, right?
Russell Hantz: I think it's something they need to talk about. I think it's something they need to discuss. I still probably wouldn't have won... I wouldn't have won because I didn't get any votes from the jury. I don't know how they could do it, but at least it holds them accountable and they don't want to look stupid and America gives me 100% of the vote and the jury only gives me nothing! It holds them accountable for their actions.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Despite Russell's comment, he didn't receive 100% of the Player of the Season home viewer votes. During the reunion show, Jeff stated it "came down to a two-person race between" Russell and Rupert. "Less than 2,000 votes separated the two," according to Probst's post-finale blog.]