Russell Hantz will never win “Survivor” because he has no social game.
Gordon Holmes will never play first base for the St. Louis Cardinals because he can’t hit a major league curveball…or fastball…or change up…
Both of the above statements are true, but you’re not going to see me lobbying Major League Baseball to have them put the ball on a tee.
That’s what drives people crazy about Russell. He’s never wrong, the circumstances and the people around him are wrong. If he can’t win “Survivor” (which for years has been considered a large social experiment) without a social game, then the rules should be changed so what he excels at is rewarded.
I had a chance to chat with the man many consider to be the biggest villain in “Survivor” history to discuss how he’d like to see the game change, which player he thinks might be better than him, and why Sandra burning his hat was different than when Russell burned Jaison’s socks.
Gordon Holmes: Good morning, Mr Hantz.
Russell Hantz: Hey, how you doing?
Gordon: Good, how are you?
Russell: I’m fine.
Gordon: You’re in a much better mood then when I talked to you after “Survivor: Samoa.”
Russell: Oh, I’m still pissed off now. It might seem like I’m in a better mood, but I’m more awake now.
Gordon: It seems like you’re more at peace with what happened this season as opposed to last season.
Russell: Well, I’m not at peace with Sandra winning. Even Jeff asked me, he said, “What if Parvati had won?” I would have been OK with that. But, like I said at the live show, “There’s a flaw in the system.” And not only do I say that, but America says that. Cause they give me the vote at the end of the day. I lie, cheat, and steal to get to the end of the game. That’s how I play. I play aggressive and America loves it. How many people have such aggressive play as me and get fan favorite at the end of the day?
Gordon: You have back-to-back Player of the Season awards now. Since that award is voted on by the audience, does that mean more to you than the title of Sole Survivor?
Russell: It does to me because it makes my point. Mark Burnett and Jeff? I’m trying to make a point to them.
Gordon: But “Survivor” was designed to be a social game.
Russell: The only reason they said, “You don’t have a social game” is because it’s a weak jury. There’s three criteria on the sign; it’s outwit, outlast, and outplay. And in my opinion, the reason people talk about the social game is they have to give themselves a reason not to vote for me. But they didn’t vote for me because I hurt their feelings, because I kicked you when you were down. And if you can’t deal with it, then you shouldn’t even play the game. What can I do?
Gordon: If you had the opportunity to play this game from scratch, because obviously you can never play “Survivor” again because people will be gunning for you. But if you could go back, and nobody knew who Russell Hantz was, would you pay more attention to the social aspects?
Russell: No! I will play the game the same every time. Well, not exactly the same, but I’m going to play aggressive. And how can people say my social game is bad when everyone does what I tell them to do? Even in 19 (“Survivor: Samoa”) I had them all eating out of the palm of my hand. In 20 (“Survivor: Heroes Vs. Villains”) I looked at Jerri like I was the mob boss and said “Danielle,” and she voted for her! What is that? Is that a bad social game? No, it was so good that when she got to Ponderosa, (where jury members wait for the next tribal council) that she realized what happened and she got her feelings hurt. You’re dealing with weak people. And hopefully in Season 21, I hope I changed the game for the better, I hope it’s like the first season where they voted for Richard Hatch. I hope that they vote for the person that played the game the hardest.
Gordon: You and Rupert had a fight where you called him “The second coming.”
Gordon: In hindsight, what purpose does something like that serve?
Russell: Everybody asks me, “Would you change something? Why did you do that to Rupert? Why are you that mean?” You know what? America likes the way I play. I play aggressive. I’m not going to change the way I play for nobody. It serves my purpose. Everybody’s like, “Oh…you need to be nicer. Maybe just push them down. Why do you need to knock them out and then kick them?”
Russell: (Laughs) To be honest, man. In Samoa it was easy. It was easy. It’s almost laughable that Natalie won, that’s a joke. This season was amazing. The people were strategic players. Everybody. Even people that didn’t make the jury. It was tough.
Gordon: Speaking of strong players, Parvati really stepped up.
Russell: She competes with me. She is probably better than me, only because there is that social aspect. Now, I hope that I’ve changed that. I didn’t get one vote this year, but I got the Player of the Year vote. But Parvati’s social game is as strong as my strategic game. Her social game is by far the best in the game. She can make things happen socially. I make things happen strategically. When we aligned it was like the dream team. It looked like we fought all the time, but she’d calm me down. I’d be pissed off and she’d be like “Russell, calm down.” I didn’t play two times, I played one time, but I played for 80 days.
Editor’s Note: “Survivor: Heroes Vs. Villains” was filmed shortly after “Survivor: Samoa.”
Gordon: I was going to ask you that. What kind of toll did that take on you both mentally and physically.
Russell: If I had two back-to-back seasons like “Samoa” it would have been easy. But doing “Samoa” then doing “Heroes Vs. Villains” to play with these people that were that strategic, that were that good, I was mentally exhausted. I was whipped. And for me to say I was whipped, it’s pretty amazing. I’m a strong guy, and I don’t think I can get beat down by anybody. I just can’t. I never thought I could. But this game is tough. And hey, I did my best. And I was losing it at the end, I was making bad decisions.
Gordon: It seemed like it was easier for people to get under your skin toward the end, like with the dissension between you and Parvati.
Russell: It looked like I was getting rid of her, and she was getting rid of me, but I was so messed up that it was too my advantage cause she helped me stay in the game.
Gordon: Did working with Parvati make you think that maybe a better social game is a good way to not only get to the end, but to win over the jury?
Russell: For sure, but the thing is, and me and you are talking about Parvati right now, but we didn’t win. Sandra did, remember her?
Gordon: Indeed I do. Did you know Sandra was gunning for you?
Russell: I knew she was gunning for me and I kept telling her, “Why are you doing that? Just play with me!” It was weird to me because I wanted to play with her and she didn’t want to play with me. This is a fact, I played twice. And guess what? When I write someone’s name down, they go home. Every time.
Gordon: What’s your relationship with Sandra like now? It seemed like there was some animosity last night.
Russell: The game’s over, she’s a wonderful lady. She has a wonderful family, I’ve met them all. It’s a game, we played the game, and it’s over. It’s a tough game and now it’s over. For me it’s over. They can still be pissed at me. I don’t know how Sandra feels toward me, she was after me the whole time. I thought if I brought her there I’d win cause she’s a weak player…which she was. Same thing happened in season 19. Maybe I’ll never win.
Gordon: During “Survivor: Samoa” you mentioned a few times how you wanted to square off against the best players in “Survivor” history.
Russell: I know who the best players are because I played with them, we’re on the same (expletive deleted) tribe. I don’t know if I can say that.
Gordon: Say whatever you want. Go crazy.
Russell: And that’s rough. It was just me and Parvati against the world. Trust me when I say I didn’t think I could do anything.
Gordon: You had your back to the wall, down three to six against the Boston Rob alliance.
Russell: At one point I said to her, “I don’t think I can save you.” That’s when I made the move to Tyson to save her. But then I gave her an idol to save her. And people ask if I had a romantic fling with her, and no I didn’t. I was trying to save my alliance. I’m trying to save my people. I don’t care if it’s…James or Randy, I have to save my people. In Season 19 I brought Foa Foa to the finals; me, Mick, and Natalie.
Gordon: If someone had gotten the best of you and sent you to the jury, would you be able to vote for them to win the million?
Russell: I’m the kind of guy, you can stab me in the back, and in the end I’m going to vote for you.
Gordon: I’m excited, we didn’t get to do word association last time because we were under a bit of a time crunch. So, let’s start with Parvati.
Russell: She’s charming.
Russell: Jerri was trustworthy out there.
Russell: Colby is a baby.
Russell: Rupert is crazy.
Russell: Coach is honorable, and he really is.
Russell: Tyson is just a jokester.
Russell: Courtney is a sweetie. She’s just amazing. She’s a sweet little girl.
Russell: JT… (Laughs) Like I like to call it, my dumb-a– girl alliance.
Russell: Sandra was weak.
Gordon: Boston Rob?
Russell: A hell of a player.
Gordon: Do you appreciate the irony of Sandra burning your hat in light of what you did to Jaison’s socks?
Russell: That was pretty…uh…you see the thing is when you look at it Russell burned Jaison’s socks and now Sandra is burning Russell’s hat. But I burned Jaison’s socks as a strategic play because I knew if I could control the way he felt I could control the way he thought. Well, she burned my hat when the game was over. It was just me, her, and Parvati going to the finals. The game was over. That only shows me that she’s a vindictive person.
Gordon: Have you spoken to Jaison recently?
Russell: Aw no…Jaison’s pissed.
Russell: I need to get some Fruit of the Loom sponsors to send him a box of socks or something. But who’s Jaison really? Jaison?