Jaison, Mick, and Brett say Russell couldn’t win; he was “too blatantly arrogant and mean-spirited”

Here are my post-game conversations with the final two Survivor Samoa jury members and the other finalist. They cover everything from Brett’s absence in the game to Mick’s blurred body, and also a lot of strategy. All three basically agree about what happened with Russell’s loss: he was too cocky and arrogant, and failed to make friends with the people who were going to give him $1 million.

Mick Trimming

Mick joins the ranks of final three members who received zero jury votes. Early this morning–he’d just woken up–he told me, “I honestly didn’t have any strong notions of actually winning the whole thing.”

He said that Natalie won instead of him because “she had some pretty compelling points during her speeches,” and “people appreciated that.” In addition, “she had a much stronger relationship with the girls.” As to his game, Mick said, “in hindsight, I wish we would have tried [voting out Russell] sooner. Part of the problem was Natalie was so loyal to him.” And Russell “had very strong alliances” such that even after “Russell was yelling at everyone, he got in Jaison’s face, he got in Natalie’s face,” “Jaison wouldn’t have anything to do with” blindsiding Russell.

During the final Tribal Council, Erik accused him of failing as a leader. Mick said “it’s hard to argue against” what Erik said because leader “was a pretty difficult role,” and “I think I could have handled it better.” But he said that he had no support, because Russell and Ben “we’re not going to be led or told what to do.” And in his tribe, “there wasn’t a lot of cohesion there.”

Interestingly, Mick said that, throughout the 39 days, “Russ was upfront that he wasn’t going to help out with anything around camp.” Mick said Russell was a little bit more toned down around us. As the game went on, his ego just got so ridiculously overblown.He couldn’t contain himself, really.” That, Mick said, “just turned people off. There’s a way to play that hard, but just make a couple friends along the way. Put a couple people on the jury who don’t despise you.”

I also asked Mick about his defining characteristic: the CBS blur that followed his crotch around. “I wish I had a better story,” Mick said, but “it’s not some crazy tattoo.” He said it was “just a testament” to the brutal conditions, because after losing a lot of weight–he went from 176 to 149–“I couldn’t keep my damn pants up without exposing the world to my buttcrack and crotch.” He added, “I kept trying to do things to keep those damn pants up” but nothing worked, so he gave up.

Jaison Robinson

Jaison told me that his eviction “was definitely a blindside, and they definitely did a good job,” but in retrospect, “I could see our tactics written all over it. We had done the same thing throughout the game. I was shocked, but I wasn’t that shocked. … My only regret is not being more me, myself, and I rather than being more team oriented.”

Notice the “we” and “our” in regards to Foa Foa’s strategy. Jaison told me, “What makes me more annoyed about this Russell than anything else, was the idea that it was all him and only him.” He said that along with Mick and Natalie, “we saved his butt as much as he moved us forward.” They “kind of rallied around and made sure” no one voted for Russell. Jaison said that it was smart strategy because “when I was thinking about my game plan, I knew I wanted Russell in the final three. People just did not like Russell at all.”

While Russell “came up with the most bold, devious moves,” on “the strategic, game-playing front I thought we were all even,” Jaison said. So during the final Tribal Council, “he got a couple negative points for taking all the credit” while “Natalie got a couple points for evolving during the game.” Jaison said the final jury vote “was between Mick and Natalie, and people weren’t sure who they were going to vote for,” so they voted “based on their answers.” Mick, Jaison said, “just didn’t wow anybody.”

Russell’s strategy, Jaison said, was “great for getting to the finals but not great for winning” because he was “too blatantly arrogant and mean-spirited. I never thought a majority of the people were going to vote for Russell,” because the jury “dismissed what he had to say” and waited “to hear what Mick and Natalie had to say.”

During the live reunion, Russell burned some socks that he was pretending to give to Jaison, and not surprisingly, Jaison said, “I knew about the socks thing before it happened” because “Russell was running around telling everybody he had all these great things for the live show.” Jaison said he may have sounded harsh because “I just wanted to get my words out before he pulled out the socks.” While they won’t be friends, Jaison said, “I don’t think he’s a horrible person outside of the game” and “I don’t anything against him; we’re just not going to exchange Christmas cards.”

Finally, I asked Jaison about his apparent fatigue throughout the game. He said that people’s reaction to that was surprising because “When I watch it, maybe because I know what was in my head. To me it was an expression with the elements or with losing. It would kill me more to quit than to lose. The idea of quitting never entered my head.” He also said, “I don’t think I complained more than anyone else.”

Brett Clouser

So the only real question I had for Brett was what he thought about being missing from the game for most of it. While he said he was “surprised,” he knows that “I wasn’t on TV because I wasn’t a big character. I chose to operate with a pretty heavy filter while I was there. I chose to not to engage in those matters. On a sheer entertainment perspective, I knew I wasn’t going to be the one who was going to be over-the-top ridiculous.”

While Brett understands that, he wishes the editors had shown more of his game play, because “I don’t think they effectively the communicated the dynamic in my former tribe.” Others had “a pretty tight bond with me” because “I positioned myself within my tribe very well. There were multiple people that would have taken me to the end,” Brett said.

As to his $1 million immunity challenge, Brett said it “I couldn’t directly say that thing fell because one thing specifically,” but noted how much the poles were curved and bent at that height.”

On the jury, Brett said, “honestly, I had no idea who I was going to vote for, and I think that was the case for most people.” He was “open to a compelling argument,” and while people “may perceive [Russell] as the best strategist,” “the way in which [Natalie] operated and the social game she played and the ability to make it to the end of the game with her integrity intact” led him to vote for her. Brett added that “the way she played the game isn’t as easily communicated to the television audience as someone like Russell.”

“During that final Tribal Council, each person had the opportunity to sell themselves. Russell communicated that he was the best player ever. Ultimately that led to his downfall,” he said. Still, Brett said, “I respect him” for his game play, and the way Russell was open about his desire to “lie, cheat, and steal my way to the top. Did he hurt himself through that process? I think he did.” Brett added, “I grew to like him out there” and “I really do like Russell, I like him, as a fellow entrepreneur, I give him so much respect.”

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.