could probably give you a 50,000 word essay on what went down between
me and Hantz Nation, but here is the short(er) version. Note that
I didn't say "short version" because I am incapable of ever writing a
1. When Samoa aired on TV, America was
transfixed by this new player named Russell Hantz, who was
already being billed as "the greatest villain in Survivor
history." Note that he wasn't being billed as "the greatest
player in Survivor history." He was only being billed as "the
greatest villain." This will become important later.
the season went along, and it became clearer and clearer that
Russell was going to make it to the final 3, all of a sudden you got
this really blatant fissure (tm Rory) among the fans. All of
a sudden, the Survivor fan base sort of got split into two.
People who were new to Survivor, and had only started
watching it recently, saw Russell as the greatest thing since sliced
bread. They saw Russell as a new and revolutionary player, who
was doing things that nobody had ever done before, and who was
obviously the best player in Samoa and deserved to win.
Meanwhile, on the other side, you had people like me. You
had the old school fans who have watched every episode of
Survivor since it aired, and have read and written countless
essays about the show over the years, and who knew full well that
people who play like assholes (aka Russell) are never going to win a
jury vote. They never have, they never do, and there is no chance
they ever will, because Survivor just doesn't work that way.
So anyway, Russell didn't win Samoa. It really wasn't
a surprise if you knew your Survivor history (hell, I had once
even written a book about this subject - about how assholes can't win),
but wow, the reaction from the fan base was pretty intense. I had
never seen anything like it. It was like you only had two schools
of thought among the Survivor audience. You suddenly had the pro
Russell side, and then you had the anti Russell side. And you
couldn't stay neutral, you pretty much had to have an opinion. Do
you think that Russell Hantz deserved to win Samoa? Yes or no?
By the way, when I said "I had never seen anything like it", that is
not entirely true. I should point out that the exact same thing
happened after All-Stars, when the Survivor audience fractured into pro
Boston Rob or anti Boston Rob camps. So it's not like the Russell
split was really all that unique at all. The only thing unique
about it is that it involved a bunch of new fans who didn't know their
5. Since I was a pretty well known Survivor
writer by this time, people would constantly ask me what I thought
about the whole Russell controversy. Did I think he deserved to
win Samoa? Did I agree with Russell and the Russell fans that
there was an inherent flaw in the game? What did I think of
Russell as a player? Well you can pretty much guess what my
opinion was. If anyone ever asked me about Russell, I always said
that he was fun to watch but that he was pretty much just "a 38 day
player." That is a term I have used for years to describe a
player that is good, but who can never win Survivor because they just
don't do the jury part right. If you want another good example of
a 38 day player, check out Twila. Or Dreamz.
asked me what I meant by a 38 day player, and that's when I remembered
the book I had written about Survivor. About four years before
Samoa, I had written three chapters for a book called The Psychology of Survivor.
I had sort of forgotten about my chapters, because the book never
really sold all that well, but I remembered that one of
my chapters had been called "The Psychology of a Survivor Jury."
I had written all about Survivor juries and why they vote the way
that they do. And how you can't win a jury vote if the jury
doesn't want you to win, how this has been proven in 12+ seasons of
Survivor, yadda yadda yadda.
7. Sometime between Samoa and
Heroes vs. Villains, the "Russell got screwed" rhetoric started to get
really intense. All of a sudden, there was this growing belief
that Russell was right. People were claiming that Survivor really
-was- broken, and that bitter juries were starting to ruin the game,
and that it needed to be fixed. I remember hearing this over and
over and over in the months between Samoa and Heroes vs. Villains.
And as an old school fan who had actually written essays about
this subject, it started to piss me off. Um, really?
Survivor is broken now? Russell would have won Survivor if
he had been on an earlier season? Really? That is what we
are trying to claim now? We have somehow gone from "Russell is
the greatest villain of all time" to "Russell was a Survivor mastermind
just like Richard"? We have somehow made that leap in our
arguments now? Really?
8. The rhetoric got so strong
around this point, and I started to get so fed up with it, that I
decided it was time to dig my old Psychology of a Jury chapter out of
retirement. So I transcribed it onto my archives page, and I
decided to post a link to it on Survivor Sucks (which has always been
the #1 Survivor website). I figured if anyone was interested in
reading why Russell was not good at Survivor, and why he could never
actually win Survivor, there you go. That is all the proof they
9. Now what happened next was something I didn't
expect. I expected that my column would get a reaction out of
people. What I didn't expect was that I still had something like
10,000 readers (left over from my All-Star story days). I thought
that people had sort of forgotten about me since I hadn't written
anything about Survivor since the original Funny 115. But I was
wrong. The minute my Psychology of a Jury chapter went up on the
internet, suddenly it was everywhere. People were taking it and
cross posting it everywhere. It showed up on the imdb discussion
board, it showed up on cbs.com, it showed up in AOL groups, it
showed up in every single Survivor Facebook group. Hell, it even
showed up on Russell Hantz's Facebook wall. People were posting
it directly on Russell's wall. They were daring him to write some
sort of a response to me.
10. Well, as you can guess, this
is where things sort of got out of control. Suddenly my email
inbox started to get flooded. People were so passionate about the
Russell Hantz issue (on both sides) that I was suddenly getting
hundreds of emails a day. 90% of them were negative, of course
(trust me, Russell has some passionate fans), and some of them were so
nasty that it really started to get a little bit personal. And
all of a sudden, things quickly morphed from me being annoyed and
amused by the Russell Phenomenon, to me wanting to be the guy who
brings it crashing down to Earth and exposing it for the fraud that it
is. I wanted to be the guy who points out that the Emperor has no clothes.
And so, anyway, that was the next six months of my life. I
amped up my attack on how Russell doesn't even understand how Survivor
works, and how his fans are a cult, and the backlash towards me was
just as severe. In fact at one point even Russell and Boo (they
are friends in real life) started responding to my posts. And
then of course if Russell ever responded to me personally, the Mario
Fan Club would flood his wall taunting him and calling him a crybaby,
and it would just make everything worse.
So there you go.
Now you know the history between me and Hantz Nation. It really
was a lightning rod at the time. Although I am pleased to say
that Russell's performances in Heroes vs Villains and Redemption Island
have sort of proven me correct. #gloating #winning.
am also pleased to say that I actually got my picture taken with
Russell a few months ago, and that he is a nice guy in real life.
My problem isn't really with him, it is more with his fan club.
Oh yeah, and I had the exact same problem with the Boston Rob Fan
Club back in 2003, so it's not like this is new for me. I tend to
get in lots of fights with Survivor cults. But more about that some other time. :)