'Survivor' postgame: Russell won't go back, unless ...
So that happened, as ESPN's Tony Reali would say. After making it to the end in back-to-back seasons, Russell Hantz was sent home from "Survivor." The first from his tribe and the second of the current "Redemption Island" season.
I talked to Russell Thursday morning on the phone and asked him if he really, honestly now felt that he'd never do the show again.
"It'd probably happen if you write me a check for a million dollars before it even happens," he said. "People go on there for money or fame, and I have that. I have no reason to play."
"I am sick of hearing about it. Anyone who knows me knows that's ... ," Russell colorfully said.
More on how he really felt about Ralph and his other Zapatera tribe mates (guess who he tried to align with first?), second chances and, yes, doing the show again.
When I asked if he was trying to bait Ralph after his emotional moment at the end, Russell said, "Definitely! 'Show it to me!' That ... showed it.
"All I needed was Julie to flip... that guy's a terrible player, crowing, trying to get his fame. I don't know who wins this game, but I'll give you $1 million if Ralph wins. You can record that."
I told Russell he seemed to play the game the same, picking his girls to align with and all, and asked if that was his plan all along.
"At first, I tried to align with Dave and Mike, and then I wanted to bring Stephanie along," he said. "I wished they'd show this, but I looked at the camera after talking to everyone and and said, 'They are full of crap.' "
He does still think Julie was seriously debating joining up with him and that it would've been the biggest move if she'd done so. More important, Russell said that, after watching himself on the past seasons, he didn't want to talk negatively about too many people — especially allies.
"It just felt really unnecessary, I felt bad," he said. "This season, you saw, I do nothing but praise Stephanie and Krista. I would've gone before them. I could've put Stephanie's name down. I knew they were splitting the vote... but I never blindside my alliance 'til you have to. The worst [one of my allies] has ever done is sixth."
"I could see it in Jeff's eyes, the cameramen... my kids back home think I'm Superman. It's like going to the Super Bowl and losing. That's why you see 350-pound men crying.... I'm that invested, with heart and soul."
Russell added that he'd have to be extremely invested to come back for a fourth attempt at the game, but there are other factors involved.
"If someone like Sandra's going there, I don't want to play with vindictive peoploe, just playing and hoping for the best," he said.
As far as who he thinks will win, Russell said he'd put money on Rob ("I see what he's doing over there"), but his heart says Krista or Stephanie ("My tribe's about to fall apart"). I ask why he says Krista's name first, when we've barely seen her featured on the show thus far.
"Krista did everything with all of us, and I don't know why they aren't showing her much," Russell said. "Krista's the nice, sweet girl from the South with a social game. And, you know, in Season 19, that a Southern girl with no social game won (Natalie, over Russell). Stephanie has what it takes to win too, though, because she'll make big moves."
Before we wrapped up, I asked Russell if he felt as much against going back to the show as he did before "Redemption Island," and why he did go back in the end.
"The only thing, I didn't want to lose what I had, but I think I earned some respect from people. People do see me as human. People like Johnny Fairplay are pure evil. That's not me. I'm just raw Russell."
— Anthony Williams
Photo: Russell, head down, and Matt after their "Redemption Island" duel. Credit: Monty Brinton / CBS.