I 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 short version.

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.

2. As 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.

3. 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?

4. 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 Survivor history.

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.

6. Someone 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 would need.

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.

11.  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.

I 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.

P.S.  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.  :)