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Exclusive: Russell Hantz talks about 'Survivor: Redemption Island'


By Reality TV World staff, 03/10/2011 

Russell Hantz's Survivor luck finally ran out.

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After making it to the final jury voting of both Survivor: Samoa and Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains but losing both votes, Russell had been hoping the third time would be the charm when he returned to compete on Survivor: Redemption Island. 

However Russell ended up being voted out at his tribe's first Tribal Council and then blew his chance to earn the right to eventually return to the game when he lost his subsequent Redemption Island duel to Matt Elrod -- resulting in his permanent ouster from the game during Wednesday night's broadcast of Survivor: Redemption Island's fourth episode.

On Thursday, the 38-year-old oil company owner from Dayton, TX talked to Reality TV World about his latest Survivor experience -- including why he really broke down crying after he lost his duel; what he believes makes someone a "true Survivor," if it's hypocritical for the Survivor sabotage king to be upset his tribe threw an Immunity Challenge, whether a three-time Survivor loser can really have "nothing left" to prove, if he's really done with Survivor for good, what he has up his sleeve next, and whether recently published emails that allegedly show him leaking spoilers about his first two Survivor editions are legit.

Reality TV World: What happened when you broke down crying after you lost the duel? Survivor host Jeff Probst asked you where the tears were coming from, but you didn't seem to give him an explanation and just rallied back into "arrogant Russell" mode instead.

Russell Hantz: Yeah, people think -- I mean, I don't know how, especially if you know me -- it's not because I was voted out. There's no way I would cry because I'm getting voted out of the game. It was all about me letting people down -- my millions of fans, me letting my kids down -- my kids think that I'm going to win everything. They think Daddy's just perfect, and I failed.

It hurt because when I look at Jeff, when it happened I looked at Jeff, and he looked down into the ground and he was like, 'Give me a second.' It broke my heart when he did that. I mean, he really started it. And then I feel like I let him down, I let [Survivor producer] Mark Burnett down, I let the cast, camera crew, and sounds guys down -- all of them -- production and everyone that takes care of us after the fact.

I let everybody down. And then they can say all they want, because they do say that, but I know I did, because I was supposed to go further in that game. It's what I'm supposed to do, and it's really not fair for me because it's not that easy to do that. Even with a target on my back, they think I'm still going to go all the way to the end.

Reality TV World: Your critics have always claimed that the only reason you got as far as you did in Heroes vs. Villains was because no one else out there had seen your first Survivor season [at the time because the seasons were filmed back-to-back and Samoa hadn't aired] yet. Given what happened when you went out there this time once everyone actually knew about you, do you think that's true?

Russell Hantz: No, the thing is, this is how you judge a player -- It's common sense. Anybody could say this -- You judge a true player if you want to say who is the best Survivor of all time, some people might say it's the winners. Some people might say it's me. Some people might say it's [Rob "Boston Rob" Mariano], but the only ways to judge a true player is the very first time they play, when nobody knows their playbook, that's a true Survivor.

That's when you don't have any animosity about you, nobody knows you, you don't got friends on the other side, you don't have three alliances that you called on the phone before the game, you have nothing. You go out there and you play, and guess what, I went out there and played twice when nobody knew who I was.

I guarantee you they're all buddy-buddy at these parties they go to and this and that. I've got the deck stacked against me there too, because they're friends. They probably have alliances together before they got on the show as far as I know.

So, the way you judge a true player is by the first time they play when the playbook's not there, and I dominated my first season, dominated my second season, and now of course they know my playbook, and still I was inches away from making it again. All I needed was [tribemate Julie Wolfe] to switch her vote. That's all I needed.

Reality TV World: After your elimination, you also said you have "nothing else to prove," which seemed odd given you've still never won the game, always previously made it clear that winning was your goal, and had actually bragged that proving how "easy" it was to win Survivor was your initial reason for competing.  Do you really feel you have nothing left to prove anymore, and if so why?

Russell Hantz: Well, the thing is, I've -- the Redemption part of it -- it's the craziest name, Redemption Island, because I've been redeemed myself. I was true, even though they didn't show a lot of stuff, people would ask me -- Julie asked me, 'You going to take me to the very end like you did [Parvati Shallow]?' and I said, 'No.' -- I said, 'No, I'm not.'

I said, 'I can promise you that if I'm still in this game, you will be in the final five, but I'm not going to promise you something anymore in this game.' I was really trying to play -- I wish they would have edited that a little bit more -- but I was really trying to do things a little differently.

And they just felt that by proving something, you gotta win the game, but I already proved Season 19 was a joke that I didn't win. That was a joke -- everybody says it, everybody knows it.

Season 20 -- that's, you know, maybe, [Sandra Diaz-Twine] should have won, maybe Parvati should have won that one. But I went all the way. I did my best. I played my best and at Redemption Island, I don't even regret going, because it shows on a totally different level of who I am.

I could have stayed in that game longer. All I had to do -- I knew what they were going to do -- I knew they were splitting the votes because I made them think I had an Idol.

When they had an Idol in their hand, they still thought I had an Idol, and all I had to do was throw my vote off on [Stephanie Valencia] and I would have stayed in the game. You know what, that's not how I play that game. I take my alliance to the end no matter what.

Reality TV World: You were the Survivor castaway who basically invented the idea of sabotaging your tribe for your own personal benefit, so a lot of viewers are wondering how can you now complain about your tribe doing the same thing and sabotaging a challenge for their own benefit. Aren't you being hypocritical, and if not, why not?

Russell Hantz: Okay, what I did was strategic. I sabotaged my tribe to make them weaker because then you can control the way they feel and you can control the way they think. Let me tell you, that's strategic play.

Reality TV World: You don't think that [doing things like dumping out your tribe's water supply and hiding the machete they used to prepare food and help them survive] also had the effect of making them weaker in the challenges?

Russell Hantz: Let me finish your question... Now when they sabotaged the challenge, what they do is they weaken their team. Now, all they had to do was take out Stephanie and [Krista Klumpp] and they weaken me. Am I that powerful of a man where I can look at you in the eyes and I can change the way you think? No. You weaken my teammates, because I'm not going to throw a challenge because then you can control me.

Now, this is what would have happened. Number one, we was up two [castaways on the other tribe]. If they wouldn't have thrown that challenge, we would have been up three. They won the next challenge. If we won the next challenge, we would have been up four. Now, that makes strategic sense.

Then, throw a challenge and get rid of me.

Reality TV World: After you were eliminated, you said that this was going to be your last time playing Survivor. Should viewers expect you to stick to that statement or could that suddenly change if the show wants to give you a fourth chance like Boston Rob in another year or two?

Russell Hantz: Well, if Rob is going to call me out, I wouldn't play.

Reality TV World: I just meant this is Rob's fourth time [so another chance for you wouldn't be unprecedented].

Russell Hantz: Oh, I see, yes. I got some good stuff happening right now that I can't really talk about right now, but it is in the works, and I think it's going to be a totally big, great thing for me.

Yeah, I'm not saying I'm moving up because I believe Survivor's a great thing, but I'm moving away from The Amazing Race, Big Brother, Survivor type world.

Reality TV World: I want to ask you about the recent reports that you were allegedly the one who leaked the results of your first two Survivor seasons.  I know you've previously denied the allegations, but TMZ recently published several email exchanges [your accuser] Jim Early claims to have had with you, so I'm wondering if you have any comment on those emails -- are you saying they're fake, or what's your explanation?

Russell Hantz: I'm saying that same person who released those emails is the same person that released the pictures of me and [Jersey Shore star Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi] in a limousine that posted her on there.

So, yes, the credibility of the guy -- I'm getting so sick of trying to defend myself on this matter because all we're doing here is trying to give this guy what he wants -- whoever he is. You know? It's stupid.

If anyone knows me, they know I'm not like that. So, I don't even like to talk about it anymore. That guy's name will never come out of my mouth, because he wants it to.

Reality TV World: Were you surprised Julie didn't vote with your alliance at the Tribal Council where you were voted out, or had you already gone into that sensing you were going to be the one getting voted out?

Russell Hantz: I saw maybe -- I thought that she was debating it -- and I knew she was. I thought it was a very tough decision for her, but what she did, she made the wrong decision because she had numbers. She had six -- six to three -- She couldn't comprehend the aspect of what I could do after I got back from Tribal Council with four votes and a fake Idol. They think I have an Idol.

Reality TV World: When the game began, you had told your tribe you were going to play Survivor differently this time but you seemed to revert to your old ways -- right down to quickly repeating your prior "dumbass girl alliance" strategy -- right away. Do you think you might have lasted longer in the game if you'd really tried a different approach and not started pulling pages out of the old Russell playbook so quickly?

Russell Hantz: I did try to play different. I talked to [Mike Chiesl] and I talked to [Dave Murphy] first, and I knew that they weren't going to play with me. I mean, you've seen the first episode, they all wanted me gone. I talked to Stephanie and then she did want to. I talked to Krista, and that's the last thing they wanted, to be the "dumbass" girls.

So, I did play extremely different. You never heard me once bash my girls. You heard me bash the other team, because they were so stupid, but I didn't talk bad about my girls, I was always there for them, I would have done anything, I would have gave the game up for my alliance.

That's how I played the game, and that's the difference between me and Rob. He wouldn't do that. Rob wouldn't give up his chance to win with a bold move even though that bold move can get you even further into the game. I'm not just going to give you my game, but I'll make a bold move that will send me home if I don't do it.

Reality TV World: Did you really feel that [Sarita White] was the leader of Zapatera? Because viewers haven't seen much to suggest that on the show so far.

Russell Hantz: It's crazy, but she was! She's the one that got everybody together. She's the one that was talking and she was by far the leader, and everybody knew it. I would even tell them, 'You're letting my girl tell you all what to do?' It was split. They were split. Then it was just like I said. It was Mike and Dave.

Sarita had [Ralph Kiser] under her little ugly thumbprint and she had everybody eating out of the palm of her hand, which I don't know how. If they're going to eat out of the palm of somebody's hand it might as well be Krista.

Reality TV World: You just suggested Stephanie and Krista are pretty smart, but one thing that surprised viewers last night was how they continued to remain loyal to you and alienate themselves from the rest of their tribe even after you were voted out of the tribe and lost your duel with Matt. Did that surprise you? What are your thoughts about that, and how do you think you would have handled that situation -- because from watching at home, it's not coming across as a very smart strategy.

Russell Hantz: No, the thing is, they know they're in big trouble and we talked about it before I left. The only shot that they have is to cause chaos right now and they would have -- and yeah, I'm gone -- that's how tight of an alliance we had. I mean, you can't get that.

That's why if somebody would have slipped and came to this alliance, we would have been the surest alliance maybe ever in the game -- ever played -- and they still are upset about the situation.

So now, what they're going to do as you have seen in the last preview, is cause chaos, because all you got now is to make the tribe mad at the other tribe and have everybody hollering at everybody else.

Reality TV World: It seemed like that watering hole conversation in which Mike, Ralph and Dave confronted you about not sharing the hidden Immunity Idol clue [and you lied] pretty much sealed your fate. Looking back, do you think that was the case, and if so do you regret not handling the situation differently?

Russell Hantz: Hell no! That's not community property! If I would have handed them that Idol, that clue, then everybody would have said, 'Russell's losing it.' And you would too. That would be the question. 'Why in the world did you give them where the clue was?' I'm trying to save myself and my tribe. I knew I was in trouble already.

I knew it was three against six. So, I wanted them to know that I had it. We made them think we had it by acting like it was in Stephanie's bag and then they weren't really sure. That's why they split the vote.

Reality TV World: You seemed to clash with Ralph right from the beginning of the game. Why do you think that was?

Russell Hantz: Because we clashed when he came at me like that, and then that was it. He's just not too smart of a guy.

Reality TV World: After you got eliminated, you boasted that were getting to live on in the game through [Phillip Sheppard] and [Kristina Kell]. Now that you've gotten to see what was going on in their tribe, how do you think that's going to work out -- do you think either one of them have a chance of ending up going deep into the game at this point?

Russell Hantz: I do. Yes I do. I think if it was me playing in that game, I'd have to -- I know when people don't like somebody -- that's what I mean, like [when] you don't like me, I'm the perfect one to take [to the jury vote]. What do they call it? The goat? I don't know.

(Photo credit CBS)


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