Russell Hantz has finally been voted out of Survivor, and although he promised, “This is my last time playing this game; that’s it,” Russell’s biggest fan, host Jeff Probst, thinks Russell will be back to play a horrible game again some day. And if the show’s executive producer and host thinks someone will return, you can bet he probably will.
In his recap on his web site, Jeff gives Russell the predictable hand job, calling him “a new kind of villain. … I wouldn’t want Russell to know where I live. … But within the world of Survivor, Russell is family. … Russell will go down in history as one of the most notorious contestants of all time. Maybe THE most notorious. For all he has given us, I have to take my hat off to him and say ‘thank you.’”
Jeff insists that by going after Ralph, “Russell flipped the game once again [...] That’s why he’s played three times and… despite his claims that he’s finished… that’s why he’ll probably end up playing yet again.”
Jeff repeats this in his video interview with Russell (which he bills as an exclusive, how precious!) and asks Russell if they can convince him to return (“I hope you’ll consider playing again”), but Russell remains at least a little reluctant. Jeff also mentioned it in his lame Q&A with EW, in which he blamed Russell’s loss on the “huge toll both emotionally and physically” he endured by playing three of four seasons in a row. Jeff adds, “I think given time to recover he could be convinced to come back and I think he has a great opportunity to turn over a new leaf and play a different way. That could happen, right?”
Wrong. It should have happened this time, but what Jeff and Russell’s fans are completely blind to is that Russell has proven himself to be a terrible player.
Even in his very first season, his strategy of being an asshole did manage to get him to the end, but it was because his tribemates carried him there, knowing he’d be easy to beat. That’s the only game Russell really has left. At best, Russell is a pawn others use to their advantage. But as his new tribe–the first group to encounter him after knowing how he plays–demonstrated, putting up with his obnoxiousness isn’t worth it, and it’s certainly not worth rewarding him with another $100,000.
Yes, Russell makes good television sometimes, from his early days as an idol hunter to his horrific shaved armpits, and the past two episodes have been incredible in part because I wanted to see him fall, and hard. (Thankfully, he delivered, tears and all.) So yes, Russell gets credit for that. But it would also be great television to put an accordion-playing orangutan on the tribe.
While I’m not a fan of bringing back the same people year after year, all you have to do is compare Russell to Rob Mariano to see why Russell is such a failure. Rob, who I didn’t really like in his early seasons, has grown and evolved and changed each of his four (!) times playing the game. Sure, he’s still arrogant sometimes, but he’s adapted his game play each time, and sometimes it works (like this season; his tribe doesn’t even seem to be considering getting rid of him) and sometimes it doesn’t (like HvV).
The other thing Rob has is self-awareness. Even last night, he pointed out that, if his tribe voted off Phillip, he’d know he wasn’t in control. Russell would never admit something like that; every time he loses, it’s always someone else’s fault. He cannot see through the veil of his own ego and stubbornness.
Give Russell credit for being consistent–and lately, repetitive and thus boring–entertainment, but not for being a good player. That credit goes all to Rob.