HitFix Interview: Russell Hantz talks ‘Survivor: Redemption Island’

Russell Hantz didn’t come to his third “Survivor” tour of duty as a changed man. 
No, he didn’t bury any machetes or burn any socks on “Survivor: Redemption Island,” but he immediately engendered hostility with his tribe’s other Alpha males, forged bonds with the youngest and cutest of his fellow castaways and if he’d just convinced one player to flip to his side, he could have been off on another long, probably fruitless run. 
But stubborn Julie didn’t flip. Not only did Russell fail to make it to the finale for the first time in his “Survivor” career, not only was he voted out of the game for the only time in his “Survivor” career, but he was the first player from his tribe eliminated. Ouch. Then, vowing revenge against his entire tribe, Big Evil Russell went to Redemption Island and was swiftly vanquished by Prince Valiant Matt. Ouch.
When I last talked to Russell, it was in the aftermath of “Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains” and the guy was rather bitter. Talking to him after this latest ouster, Russell was bitter, but also… logical. 
Check out my full interview after the break and tell me if the guy wasn’t making sense on a few key things… 
HitFix: How you doin’, Russell?
Russell Hantz: Well, as good as I can be, I guess.
HitFix: How inevitable was it to you, at least in some part of your mind, that you were going to be doing these exit interviews this early in the season?
RH: When I was out there, dude, I knew what was going on. I knew it was gonna be tough. But my point is that I wanted to just keep winning challenges, keep winning and keep winning to give me a little bit more time to work on the other people. But… You know… They were a bunch of losers who threw a challenge. I probably should sue every single one of them, because in the contract, it says you can’t throw challenges. I bet they’d be a little shaken then, because they can’t afford it and I can.
HitFix: Did you ever feel comfortable this season? From the time you got off the helicopter, did you ever feel like you had control for a single second?

RH: Yep. At one point, I told one of the producers that this might be the best game I ever played. The first people I talked to were Dave and Mike. That my alliance. Then I got with Stephanie and I told Dave and them, “Look. I talked to Stephanie. I want to make it clear everything I’m doing.” I said, “All I ask is that we keep her around for a vote.” Of course, that’s a strategic play, because I knew she was a strategic player and I would have needed her later on. They were like, “Hey man, that sounds good. That sounds good.” And then I didn’t believe ’em. I was like, “Man, I don’t believe these people.”
And then Krista didn’t like me. She thought I was gonna think of her like Natalie and she thought that I was gonna vote her off immediately. And I told the producer, I said, “Watch me make her like me.” And then I made her like me. She started liking me and we became an alliance. So now I had three votes. Now I knew there was a possibility, because I was gonna make them think I had an Idol. And why wouldn’t they think? Like Stephanie said, look at my resume. So you’d *better* split the votes. They had an Idol and they *still* split the votes. That’s the funny thing. They had the Idol. In the rules, you can read ’em, they’ve got the contract, in the rules it says only one Idol can be placed at one time. When that Idol is used, it can be replaced until five days left in the game. Trust me, I know the rules. So they had the Idol and I still made them split the votes. So I knew that all I needed was for one person to flip. And if she [Julie] would have flipped, that would have been it. I don’t know how far she goes in the game, but I can guarantee you this: She would have more strong of a possibility to win, because I would have gotten rid of Stephanie eventually, because she was such a good player, I would have kept Krista and I would have kept her, Julie. And then they ain’t gonna vote for Krista. They ain’t gonna vote for me. They’re gonna vote for the firefighter, the sad-story firefighter who saves lives. So unless she wins the game… I think she’ll be at home saying, “That was my mistake.” And you can’t make one mistake in “Survivor” or that’s it. Your game’s over.
HitFix: Let’s go back a bit. You mentioned that you had an alliance with Dave and Mike. We never saw a second of that. Could you say a bit more about what happened there?
RH: Yeah, no. You didn’t. What happened with it was I didn’t believe a word that was coming out of their mouths. I should be on the Jury, because I can tell when people are lying and when they’re not lying. They were so scared me, man. They were so shook up. I had the big ol’ football player shaking in his boots. The big ol’… Whatever his name was. I don’t remember their names. I didn’t wanna know their names. And Mike, the Iraq guy, used to getting shot at and he can’t even talk to me when I’m talking. He can’t even get the sentences out of his mouth when he talks to me. It was embarrassing. They were scared to death of me. And it wasn’t “Survivor.” It was called the “Get Rid of Russell Show.” I wonder how much money they won for that.
HitFix: You sound surprised, but you had to know it was gonna be the “Get Rid of Russell Show,” didn’t you?
RH: Yeah, but the thing is, why would you do this: Why wouldn’t you sit back and think, because I’m not gonna throw a challenge. I’m gonna give my all, so we can go to the Merge with numbers. You know Rob’s gonna wanna get rid of me at the Merge. So why don’t you do this: Get rid of one of my strategic players, Krista or Stephanie. You weaken me tremendously. And you control me. Then you can say, “We control Russell.” Then you keep me for challenges, because I’ll tell you right now: I think they’re in big trouble. 
HitFix: Though they did win the first challenge without you last night…
RH: Right. But I think they’re in biiiig trouble. If they go to the Merge with numbers, they’re in big trouble, because the only person who can take Rob out is me. Guess what? If Krista and Stephanie, if they go to the Merge? They’re gone. They’re going to Rob’s Tribe and he’ll take ’em in and he’ll vote them out eventually, but it’ll be everybody else first. 
HitFix: Have you been impressed with the game Rob has been playing so far?
RH: Rob’s a great player, man. Rob’s a great player. This is what I’m seeing: He’s controlling his tribe, he’s making them do things so they can’t actually strategically make something against him. He’s keeping everybody together. That’s why I didn’t like him in “Heroes vs. Villains.” He tried to do that crap to me. Doing yoga? While they’re off doing yoga or whatever it was they were doing, while they were doing that, I was finding the Idol. So he can’t play like that with me. But he can manipulate. He’s very good at it. That’s why he’s gonna be really hard to beat. The dude, he has it under 100 percent full control and they can’t win challenge without me. That challenge was a good challenge for them to win, but they’re getting so weak. Big boy? What *is* his name? Football player?
HitFix: Steve?
RH: Steve! Big boy Steve! He can’t hardly walk around camp anymore. He’s stumbling around. He’s done. And me? I can get like that and I’m still gonna give it my all. I don’t give up. He’s a professional football player. He told me his shoulder went out and that was it, he stopped playing ball. You know what that tells me? That he quits in life. He probably drives a Volvo and he’s got nothing and he’ll never have nothing cuz he quits in life. You can’t be a quitter.
HitFix: Watching the episodes, have you found yourself gaining any more respect for anybody from your tribe?
RH: I respect Krista and Stephanie. I think that Dave thinks that he made a huge mistake. I didn’t go talk to Dave. He’s the only one I didn’t go talk to try to get switched, because he and Stephanie were arguing. That’s the only bad thing about Stephanie. She *is* lippy. But that’s a good thing sometimes. They were arguing and screaming. I can’t believe they didn’t show it. They were cussing at each other like crazy. So I was like, “That’s it with him. He ain’t gonna come to us.” But I think in the long run… He’s a pretty brilliant guy. He’s the smartest one out there. I can’t eve believe he aligned with these idiots. I can’t believe he got himself involved… I would have thought he’s smart enough to know to come to me and we could do something together.
HitFix: Tell me a bit about how you got along with Matt out on Redemption Island.
RH: Man, Matt is legit. Matt is a good, good kid. That dude, he says he’s doing it for his Savior. He says he’s doing it straight-up. That’s a good boy. I was catching food for the kid. I was helping that kid. It wasn’t about me being the Evil Russell with Matt. He was just such a nice guy, I didn’t want to sabotage. Guess what? If I would won, I would have burnt down that tent. They would have been sleeping in the mud from then on. Redemption Island would have been hell. They would have quit. I would have had to take it myself until I got off of it, but it would have been some good stuff. 
HitFix: Do you think that in an actual game situation you could have actually aligned with somebody like Matt or would you have wanted to get him out immediately?
RH: Oh no no no. I would have aligned with him fast. I would have aligned with Phillip and I would have told Phillip, “This is what I need you for. You need you to tell me who’s lying to me and who’s not. I need you to do this covert mission and go talk to each and every person and come back to me and you tell me. You’ve been trained in this all your life.” I would have played that. I would have aligned with the three girls and Matt and Matt and Phillip. Those are the ones I’d have aligned with. Everybody hates  Phillip. You’ve gotta bring Phillip. If it’s me? Phillip’s gotta go to the end. I know what it feels like when they hate you.
HitFix: So you’re saying that if you’d been assigned to the other Tribe, you’d have lasted longer?
RH: I know for a fact that if I’d been assigned to that tribe, I would have gone far in the game. I know what Rob would have had to have dealt with on the other side. I was there. 
HitFix: You don’t think Rob’s game would have translated?
RH: I think would Rob would have aligned with Stephanie and Krista, just like I did. Nobody talks about Rob aligning with the pretty girls. They always talk about me. And lemme tell you why that is: They’ve got respect for Amber. I guess they don’t have respect for *my* wife. So they say, “Oh, Rob’s just doing it strategically. Russell *always* aligns with the pretty girls and turns them into a villain.”
HitFix: I’m running out of time, but as a last question: After you were eliminated on Wednesday, you said you were done, that you weren’t coming back to “Survivor.” You’ve had eight or nine months since there. Do you still feel the same way? [I had to repeat this question, because Rob temporarily got pulled away to another conversation.]
RH: Well, I’ve something really good about to happen to me. I’ve got other things on the line, happening as we speak. I’m gonna be part of the next “Jersey Shore” thing. [He pauses. For a long time. And laughs.] That would be funny. But that’s not it. 
HitFix: You could be telling the truth. What do I know? 
RH: Well, that would probably be pretty damn interesting, but I’d get too mad at them idiots for sure.

HitFix: But you’re saying you really and truly are done?
RH: You know, I’d have to say yes, man. Especially if I start moving up and doing other things. It would have to be extreme circumstances for me to come back. I would have to know… I don’t want to be surprised with nothing. They would have to do something they’ve never done before and they would have to let me know the concept before I go out there. I don’t want it to be like… I dunno… I mean, I love the game, but I’ll probably be the first person in history that says, “I’m not gonna play the game” and doesn’t.
HitFix: OK. I’ll hold you that, man.
RH: Make sure you record this. 

HitFix: I’ve got every word.
RH: You can play that back for me when I talk to you again
Previous “Survivor: Redemption Island” Exit Interviews: