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'Survivor' host Jeff Probst: Russell Hantz was the victim of a bitter jury


By Christopher Rocchio, 12/22/2009 

You can count Survivor host Jeff Probst among those who believe Survivor: Samoa's jury members were voting against runner-up Russell Hantz more than for winner Natalie White.

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"I think Russell was the victim of a jury of bitter people. I am not taking anything away from Natalie, she clearly did a great job of reading the group dynamic of the jury and as a result she deserves the money," Probst wrote in his post-Survivor: Samoa blog entry for Entertainment Weekly.

"Oftentimes on Survivor, the vote does come down to a choice where a determining factor is 'how nice someone is' but that's usually when all other criteria being considered is equal. That doesn't hold up this season. This season was so lopsided in terms of one person (Russell) completely dominating the game that to not give him the money and the title is a bit silly."

"I do not believe the jury voted for Natalie, I believe the jury voted against Russell."

White defeated Hantz via a 7-2 jury vote during Survivor: Samoa's finale broadcast on Sunday night.

Hantz subsequently told Reality TV World that his loss was the "worst upset in reality TV history" and called the jury the "worst group of people in history" -- and to some extent, Probst agrees.

"If I were playing Survivor, no matter how much I despised someone, if they kicked my ass in the game I would give it to them. Period. Outwit. Outplay. Nobody outwitted or outplayed Russell. Not even close," wrote Probst.

Hantz has also continued to insist he played a better game than White, which Probst agrees with.

"I do not think that Natalie played a better game, but rather was the right person in the right position who made one very good strategic move and that was to stay out of Russell's way, and as a result she ended up with the money," he wrote.

"But to be fair -- a very good counter argument is that Natalie used her strengths, avoided her weaknesses and by taking this active approach to the game, she put herself in position to win the money and it paid off. It's a counter argument, but not one that I'm that fond of supporting."

In addition, Probst said he was "a bit surprised" by the jury statements made by Erik Cardona -- who lobbied for White.

"I think he certainly helped Natalie and definitely hurt Russell," wrote Probst.

"I also think that when Erik watches this season again in a few years he will regret not giving his vote to Russell. Erik is the kind of guy who I thought would respect a player like Russell. I think Erik was still smarting from the whole Galu disaster."

Probst noted that Hantz was "clearly upset" after White's victory was revealed.

"I think a lot of people understand why that would be.  He played a very risky and creative game and he wanted to be acknowledged," wrote Probst.

In addition, the Survivor host said the fact that Hantz subsequently won the "Survivor of the Season" text message vote by "an overwhelming 46%" to White's 7% "spoke quite loudly" about how home viewers felt.

"Not even close. I put myself in that same group. Again, I'm speaking as a fan, not as a host or a producer," wrote Probst. "But hey this is how it goes, it's why Survivor is so fun to watch, you can never predict the outcome."

Probst said it's a "tough" to consider Hantz as "the greatest player ever" since he was ultimately unable to win the title of "Sole Survivor," however he also said it's a "no-brainer."

"Survivor is a social game and to win you have to vote people out in a way that compels them to return and vote for you to win the game. It's extremely complicated and Russell did not achieve it, therefore he cannot be considered the greatest player to ever play," he wrote.

"On the other hand, I can't think of anybody who has ever played a game like Russell played. It was so dominating that I am still shaking my head that he didn't win."

Probst also ranked Hantz as "one of the greats" and said the only comparable castaway he could come up with is Rob Mariano (coincidently -- or not -- Hantz and Mariano are both rumored to be part of the show's Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains all-stars edition, which was filmed back-to-back with Survivor: Samoa in Samoa this summer and will premiere on February 11).

As for whether Hantz was a positive or negative for Survivor: Samoa, Probst said he sees both sides of the argument.

"Survivor: Samoa will rank as one of my favorite seasons and for one reason: Russell Hantz. He single handedly kept this show interesting week after week after week," he wrote.

"But I know some will argue that because it was 'The Russell Season' it lacked having more big characters and therefore does not rank as high. This is one that will be debated by Survivor fans for years to come."

(Photo credit CBS)


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