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Russell Hantz – Farewell to the (self-proclaimed) king

A look back at one of the most notorious players in 'Survivor' history and why I'm glad he's finally gone.

No more Russell on Survivor

For the first time in what seems like two very long years (or four seasons, if you will), Survivor will be Russell free. Even if he wasn’t on last season, it still feels like he’s never gone very far away; but I can’t tell you how thrilled I am that Russell is gone.

When Russell Hantz made his first foray into the Survivor jungle, he was definitely someone new and exciting to behold. He knew the game inside and out, he could play people against each other and, even when people realized what he was doing, they still went along with his plans. By the time of the merge, though, his game was getting stale and repetitive and sometimes downright mean. Everyone playing the game knew that keeping Russell around at that point was only going to benefit them at the final Tribal Council, because for all of his vast knowledge — like how to find hidden immunity idols without a proper clue — his one fatal flaw was that he did not know how to be social. It was a no-brainer to bring Russell to the finals, and the jury supported that decision by not rewarding Russell with even a single vote.

Russell was given a second chance to play the next season on Heroes vs. Villains. This time Russell was playing with a cast of seasoned veterans. Even though he (and we, the viewers) knew this cast of characters, they did not know him (or maybe Parvati had some inside information, depending on what rumors you choose to believe). He was able to play the same exact game he played during his first season, and it worked … to a point. Once his lack of personality became apparent to one and all, the post-merge game played out identical to his first season.

Russell’s disadvantage on Heroes vs. Villains was that he had no idea during production if he’d won or lost his first season. The show had not yet aired (the seasons are filmed back-to-back), so Russell just assumed his strategy had nabbed him a million bucks and would do so again. When he lost twice, he was less than gracious and even tried to buy the title of “Sole Survivor” from the winner!

After a season off, Russell came back for Redemption Island claiming he was there to challenge Boston Rob (on the opposing tribe) and play a new, different and improved game; but he didn’t. Granted, Russell was disadvantaged from the start by playing with a group of people who knew all of his tactics this time around. Russell would have to switch up his game, be more sociable with his tribe, try to catch the flies with honey instead of his usual vinegar, yet knowing that he had a huge target on his back. Russell still played the same exact game: zero in on a couple of the girls, make them all kinds of grand promises (that can be broken any time Russell feels betrayed), and laze about camp like he is the king of the island. Then he had to nerve to be upset and surprised when his tribe voted him out.

I have to admit that, in that moment when he lost the duel against Matt on Redemption Island and broke down, I got a tear in my eye. It seemed like such a genuine and monumental moment in Survivor history … and then Russell snatched that all away by showing what a sore loser he truly is, by calling out his tribe members and helping the opposing tribe learn more about Russell’s former teammates than they should have. And now Russell wants to sue the tribe members who voted him out for violating their contract by throwing the competition that resulted in them going to their first Tribal Council. Seriously, this is coming from a man who clearly did violate the rules when he burned people’s personal property, and is now involved in a lawsuit for allegedly leaking the weekly elimination results to a blogger during his first two seasons. And now there is even a movement online to have Russell cast on the next edition of Big Brother!

Some say Russell Hantz was one of the greatest players ever in the history of Survivor, and I can’t argue that the first half of his first season on the show went a long way to support that; but as it became more and more apparent that he was really more of a bully than a real game player, it was only a matter of time before he truly got outwitted, outlasted and outplayed. That he didn’t take it well only makes me feel even better that he’s finally gone.

Photo Credit: CBS

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5 Responses to “Russell Hantz – Farewell to the (self-proclaimed) king”

March 19, 2011 at 6:46 AM

I enjoyed reading your letter, and this is coming from a russell fan. I agree that he has flaws in his game, but he is the most entertaining person I have ever followed through survivor. I don’t care if he’s not the best, but he’s fun to watch. He has the best quotes and one liners, and it’s amazing how much he backed up what he said he was going to do during his first two seasons.

March 20, 2011 at 8:50 PM

Russell only survived in the first season because he “found” immunity idol after immunity idol. Then, in the heroes/villains thing, dipflip gave him another immunity idol. His game is only immunity idols. He is not one of the best players to play the game, because any time he has tried to actually play the game, he has come up short. He does not understand any of the social aspects of the game that everyone else has to play…everyone that doesn’t, ahemm, “find” 4 immunity idols in 1 season. And he doesn’t understand the dynamics required to get the solid vote in the end. Sorry, king he is not. just the foolish joker

March 29, 2011 at 7:00 AM

The show is just going to be boring without him. And how is he not interesting to watch? Biggest underdog story in Survivor history if he won the first season. Down 4-8 or something at the merge, come on. It requires some skill to pull that off.

Props to Russell. I’d love to play the game with him, or even just watch him play again. But the sad thing is his strategy won’t work a second time round, hence those dumbasses losing a challenge to vote him out on Redemption Island. Forming an alliance against him based off his previous reputation, not even given a chance to play the game is ridiculous,

March 29, 2011 at 12:15 PM

I gave Russell props for his game during the first part of his first season. But the only reason Russell stayed to the finale was because he was so hated that you couldn’t not take him with you. The fact that he got zero votes says a lot about how he actually played the game (as opposed to what the editors showed us). You say it’s sad that his strategy won’t work a second time because he got voted off … this is his third time playing. He used the same exact strategy during his second time playing (Heroes vs Villains) and the results were exactly the same as the first time – carried to final Tribal because everyone hated him, zero votes, the sorest of sore losers. I’m no fan of Boston Rob, but if Russell were to actually be a good game player he would adapt his game to the situation like Rob has. Rob had no use for hidden immunity idols the last time he played, but he’s learned the value of them and he’s learned how to work his tribe and let the crazy take the spotlight off of him. Russell’s game was always about Russell and it never changed. His tribe weren’t boneheads by voting him off – they knew Russell had not changed and he was playing the same exact game for the third time. Could they have continued to win challenges with him on the tribe? Who knows. But if Russell had adapted his game, saved all of his scheming for the merge and not alienated everyone else by coming in like he was the king of the island, he would probably still be there. Russell is the bonehead for not being able to play the social aspect of the game after seeing how miserably he failed at it the first two times.