30 from 30: #28 – Russell Hantz Loses. Again.

The Moment:

Russell Hantz loses Heroes vs Villains after losing Samoa, forcing viewers to rethink what success in Survivor really looks like.

We’re counting down the 30 Moments That Shaped Survivor, events that happened on the show that helped create and evolve the game and the series that we know and love. Go here to view the criteria we are using to determine what qualifies for the list. And since these posts are covering the first thirty seasons of Survivor, there will be spoilers for various Survivor seasons.

Why it Matters:

For the second time in a row, Russell Hantz bulldozed his way through a season of Survivor, aggressively battling his way to the end, leaving a trail of broken jury members in his wake. For the second time in a row, Russell Hantz hand-picked a person to go up against in the final three that he had no respect for, thinking that no jury would give her their vote. For the second time in a row, Russell Hantz was wrong. Very, very wrong.


"But I don't know about tha-at".
“But I don’t know about tha-at”.

The first time Russell was at a live reunion, he lost seven votes to his two (with zero votes for third place Mick), reacting to the news by pleading with winner Natalie White to sell him the title of Sole Survivor while fighting back tears.

(As an aside, did Russell play all of Heroes vs Villains thinking that he had WON Samoa? He gives an oddly edited confessional in the HvV finale where he says his first time around, he brought two people to the finals that he thought he could beat and it didn’t work, but if he did know, how? The Samoa reunion and vote reveal hadn’t happened yet. Was it obvious from the jury? Did they tell him how they voted in the two weeks between Samoa ending and HvV starting? Did production let him know as a favour for going back-to-back (perhaps the same production person who supposedly tipped Parvati off that she should team with Russell)? Or was this a clever editing trick? If he did know, why does he seem to be processing this information for the first time during the Samoa reunion?)

Does this look like a man who's known for months that he lost?
Does this look like a man who’s known for months that he lost?

With Heroes vs Villains, Russell knew long before the votes were read that he hadn’t won. The man may frequently be delusional about his own import in the game, but even he could clue in to the mood of the jury when their only questions for him were “You are a disgusting human being”, “Why are you a disgusting human being?”, and “Do you have any regrets about being a disgusting human being?”

Seriously, when Danielle DiLorenzo is explaining jury management to you, things are not going your way. PS- Danielle has as many lifetime final jury votes as Russell.
Seriously, when Danielle DiLorenzo is explaining jury management to you, things are not going your way.
(P.S. Danielle has as many lifetime final jury votes as Russell.)

So instead of red eyes and plans to buy what he couldn’t win, Russell Hantz came into the Heroes vs Villains reunion with a different plan of attack: to question the game of Survivor itself. It wasn’t Russell who was at fault for his back-to-back losses. Oh no no no… you see, “the game is flawed”.

Look at everyone in this shot not wearing a stupid hat. They are all, in one way or another, sharing a single thought: “This. Fucking. Guy”.

If juries couldn’t see how amazing Russell Hantz is, then they shouldn’t get to pick the winner of Survivor. AMERICA should have a say. After all, America isn’t made up of bitter losers who can’t stand to lose to true masterminds like Russell Hantz. No, they are impartial observers who get all the information they need to make a decision of worthiness based on 42 minutes a week given to them of a three day period. Sure, the nine people who were there each decided that Russell was worthy of a grand total of none of their votes, but America knows.

BTW, Rupert LOVES the idea of letting America vote. He could use another million for not actually winning Survivor.
Rupert LOVES the idea of letting America vote.
He could use another million for not actually winning Survivor.

The Impact:

As ridiculous as Russell’s comments were, he was merely giving voice to what had previously been a widely held opinion among Survivor fans: bitter juries frequently crowned undeserving winners. I’m not proud to admit that there may have been a time or two when I felt that way myself (The Australian Outback, All-Stars). This was absolutely the dominant belief coming off of Samoa when Russell lost the first time: that Russell deserved to win, Natalie did nothing, but that jury was too bitter to admit it. (Although there were those who rejected that line of thinking, including NPR’s Linda Holmes, former recapper of Survivor for Television Without Pity, who published an article following the Samoa finale that helped solidify what I had already come to believe: the person who deserves to win Survivor is the person who wins Survivor).

Which is why it’s Russell losing Heroes vs Villains that makes our list, not Russell losing Samoa. Fans of the show, even future players of the show, could dismiss the Samoa result as unjust. They could even be forgiven for doing so given the way Russell dominated the edit, with the show going out of its way to frame every decision as Russell’s when they clearly weren’t. But for him to go out a second time, play the exact same way- against the greatest collection of characters and players the show has ever assembled- and get the same result (worse, really)? No serious observer of the show could view that rejection and come to any other conclusion- the problem lies with Russell. Not the jury. Not the game.

Sit there and take it, you bandy-legged troll.

What we learned watching Russell get soundly rejected for a second time is that the jury isn’t a capricious, inconvenient part of the game: they are the freaking scoreboard of the game! There’s no such thing as being great at Survivor while being bad at juries. If you can’t create conditions where a jury will vote for you, then you are playing Survivor wrong. Full stop.

Credit where credit is due: Russell Hantz may very well be the most effective tactician in Survivor history (or at least was at the time of Heroes vs Villains. He may have been surpassed by someone I’ll be writing about very soon). In Heroes vs Villains especially, if Russell Hantz wanted someone gone, they typically were in short order. But tactics aren’t strategy. And any strategy that disregards the feelings and opinions on the people who will be deciding the victor of the game is a bad strategy.

Say what?

The important thing to remember about Russell is that he didn’t just beat people in Survivor: he rubbed their faces in it. He was awful to them until he could get rid of them, and then even worse once he did. He wasn’t just a cutthroat player, he was an awful person to be around. He made at least one member of the jury cry on her way out due to his treatment (Danielle). They didn’t know it, but he even spent the Rites of Passage trashing them for the benefit of Sandra and Parvati and their families watching at home.

Now think to yourself: how quick would you be to reward someone like that? Pretend you were in charge of who got promotions and raises at your job. You have a co-worker who sure does bring in a lot of business, maybe even the most, but makes every day at your job a living hell and undermines you and all your friends at every turn. You’re even pretty sure he steals your lunch from the fridge and hides your things. Do you vote him employee of the year? Give him a million dollar bonus? If the answer is yes, you’re fucking lying.

Stop. Just stop.
Stop. Just stop.

Among serious fans, this is no longer a discussion. Russell Hantz lost Survivor because he fundamentally misunderstands what Survivor is. You can’t be a good strategist but a poor social player, because being a poor social player is a bad fucking strategy. The social game isn’t a part of Survivor, it is Survivor.

We get that now. Russell sitting at a reunion blathering on about a “flaw in the game” taught us that. It forced us to immediately dismiss players who were clearly alienating future jurors as serious threats to win (Note from personal experience: You should probably wait until more than one episode has aired to make this assessment. Just a tip). It also forced us to go back and re-assess winners from the past and what they did well (like Tina, Amber, or even Natalie White).

Moreover, instead of giving future players a roadmap of how to dominate Survivor by causing chaos Russell-style, his back-to-back jury rejections ensured that the name “Russell Hantz” would become synonymous with players as “someone who could never win in front of jury”. As in, “I don’t want to be viewed as another Russell Hantz”. Amanda Kimmel may have lost in two straight final tribal councils, but she lost at final tribal council. Russell lost long before he got there.

Jury management has always been an essential part of Survivor. By being thoroughly rejected by a jury, Russell Hantz ensured that everyone knew it.


What Else Made the List?

You can view all our 30 from 30 content by clicking here.

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Co-host of the Purple Rock Survivor Podcast and the Canadian of the group, Andy has been watching Survivor continuously since the very beginning and likes to treat that as some kind of virtue to lord over others.

Favourite seasons: Heroes vs Villains, Cook Islands, Palau, The Amazon, Cagayan
Favourite players: Boston Rob, Kim Spradlin, Tony Vlachos, Cirie Fields, Yul Kwon, Rob Cesternino
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23 thoughts on “30 from 30: #28 – Russell Hantz Loses. Again.

  1. I like the comparison of Russell to Pyrrhus (who is the classic won every battle, but lost the war general)

    1. Way to go Russell, you split up Parvati and Danielle! #pyrrhicvictory

      You sure did put Rupert in his place, Russell. #pyrrhicvictory

      Way to convince Amanda and Candace you were on their side right before you voted them out, Russell! #pyrrhicvictory

  2. You can count me among the people that changed the way they thought about the game after Russell. I had some sympathy for him after Samoa (though I was never one of the furious “bitter jury” people). After HvV, a lot of rewatching old seasons, and Survivor Historians listening, I have come to almost completely reject the entire concept of a “bitter jury”. As you point out very well, even if I disagree with a jury, I have to admit that the people who were actually there have a much better idea of who this player was than I do.

    1. Ha me too. I admit I was kind of rooting for him to win Samoa because he was so damn entertaining (especially compared to the rest of the final 3). But in a game full of twists, the fact that the jury (not ‘Murica) chooses the winner was never one of them. By the time Heroes vs. Villains aired, I couldn’t root for the guy anymore.

      1. yep Russell in Samoa is actually what got me back into the show and by the end of HvV I had come around entirely just as DrVanNostrand described

    2. I think a “bitter jury” can be a thing but it’s not an indictment of the jury and that is how the phrase is used by fans.

      1. Absolutely! Juries can be bitter, but that’s an integral part of the game, not some strange bug. Whining about a bitter jury is like whining about being “beat by a bunch of rules”.

        1. As the article says Russell lost because of an intrinsic lack of understanding of the game. He played it wrong. His game is a 38 day game and he will always lose on day 39, much like Amanda really, she also has no ability to play day 39 just for very different reasons.

        1. If you can’t read and manage the jury then you deserve to lose. One of the reasons Todd is held up as a great winner was he managed to go into that FTC and give enough people the answer they needed to get him the win. If there was no FTC and the Jury just voted straight after the final 4 vote out I think Amanda wins but she didn’t because she gave the jury exactly what turned them off her game.

  3. I feel like if you split Russell’s personality into its dominant halves, the strategic hustler and the socially toxic, you get Tony and Kass. Maybe a Kass/Will hybrid. But that he failed to rein in/develop an awareness for that shitty side of his persona. I want to know, is he mad that he lost, full stop? Or is he disrespected because he lost to his goat? Either way, he’s an antisocial narcissist and it makes sense that he’s an oil baron.

    1. The problem is you can’t really split the two. Russell’s stategic moves always includes an element of his toxic glee at hurting people.

  4. my first real experience commenting on Survivor was back in the Gabon-HvV era on IGN’s Survivor reviews (yes, even back then, I informed the writers of factual errors as often as I do to the people here). During HvH, I was one of maybe 8 open Sandra backers in a field of rabidly pro-Russell fans. I got the last laugh.

  5. I’m pretty sure they edited his comments to make it seem like he knew he lost. This isn’t like Amanda, who realized she lost when the rest of the Micronesia group consisted of losers.

    1. I’ve heard they had him film two conflicting confessionals and then used the accurate one. I don’t know what the source for that is though.

      1. That would make sense. That way, when he lost Samoa and they knew that he was going to lose HvV, the editors had the perfect footage to “humiliate” him.

  6. And yet, Richard Hatch knew it immediately. See Moment #2.5 [Hatch deliberately fails in Final Immunity, knowing it’s the only way he can win the game.]

  7. Russell actually have a chance to win Samoa, even if he has a bad personality. If only he brought Mick and Shambo, he can actually win.
    His behavior put off the Samoa jury, but I think what made it worse is that Shambo was campaigning for him, and “lecturing” the jury to vote for Russell. As if Russell isn’t off-putting enough, the jury hated Shambo too!

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