'Survivor: Heroes Vs. Villains:' Why Russell will not win

His social skills may have been severely lacking, but strategically speaking, Russell Hantz owned the game of Survivor like never before his first time out. The question now is: Can he do it again in Heroes Vs. Villains? And against much better competition? Well, he does have one enormous advantage that no returning player has ever had before: None of his fellow all-stars had seen him play or had any idea who he was when he showed up for a second go ’round. Russell is not the first player to partake in back to back seasons. Rupert appeared in both Pearl Islands and All-Stars, and Amanda and James did China and Micronesia, but in both those cases about half of their first season had already aired when the second one started filming. (Stephenie and Bobby Jon, meanwhile, appeared back to back in Palau and Guatemala, but their full season had aired before they returned for a non all-stars round 2.) The other players may not have known how Rupert, Amanda, and James finished their first time out, but they at least had some sort of idea who they were up against. Not so with Russell. In an effort to cut costs, Survivor seasons are now being shot back to back at the same location with about three weeks of downtime in between as opposed to three months. That means Heroes Vs. Villains started filming at the start of August (before Samoa began airing) instead of the start of November. [The evidence that proves Russell will not win, plus a video chat between Russell and Jenna Morasca after the jump.]

That unfamiliarity gives Russell a huge edge in that no one saw him searching out hidden immunity idols from day one; no one saw him making and breaking alliances with every single female on his tribe; no one saw him coming up with phoney baloney backstories and burning socks. As Russell told Jenna Morasca in Los Angels before the game: “I have a huge advantage, because they don’t know who I am. If they knew who I was, I guarantee you, I’d be first gone.” He’s right, too. You’d have to be a grade A moron to see how Russell played in Samoa and not want him off the island immediately. Instead, in my pre-game interviews the only person who seemed even remotely worried about Russell and knowing so little about him was Colby, who referred to him as a “stranger danger.”(Incidentally, Russell is the only player I was unable to interview on location before the game began because CBS put him on a press lockdown since his first season had not already aired. It’s probably for the best since Jenna is a lot nicer to look at than I am. Check the video below to see for yourself.)

And judging by what I saw at the Villains camp on day two, Russell was already up to his old tricks. I saw him and Danielle spend a lot of time together talking on a bridge, and then later again down on the beach. He appeared to be working her the exact same way he worked Natalie, Ashley, Marissa, and Betsy early on in Samoa. Taking all of this into consideration, there is no reason to think Russell can’t have another nice long run on Heroes Vs. Villains. But he won’t win. That became painfully obvious by his demeanor at the Samoa finale. The guy looked like someone had shot his dog (the same dog he left to die in the post-Hurricane Katrina flooding, perhaps). The fact that he was so despondent over his loss to Natalie tells me that he considered that to be his one true shot to win the coveted (at least by him) title of Sole Survivor, and that things didn’t work out as well in Heroes Vs. Villains. Either Russell is an actor of Robert De Niro proportions or he’s telling us not-so-subtly that he already missed his big chance.

Of course, he knows that now that the game is over, but before Heroes Vs. Villains kicked off he was as cocky as ever, going on about how he was gonna play Boston Rob like a fiddle. “Boston Rob is gonna think that I’m riding his coattails,” he told Jenna, “and then I’ll get rid of him whenever I want to get rid of him. I’m gonna let him think the way I want him to think. I’m the one controlling his mind. He ain’t even controlling it!”  Maybe Russell will control a good part of the game, maybe he won’t. But the guess here judging by his post-game body language is that he will not win it.

To see whom Russell was planning to align with once the game started, check out the video below. (And to enjoy interviews with all the Heroes and Villains, head over to our action packed Survivor video hub.) This is the 10th in a series of daily profiles. If you missed our first nine, there are links to all those players below the video. Up next on Monday: Stephenie LaGrossa. Oh, and for Survivor scoop delivered directly to your virtual door, follow me on Twitter @EWDaltonRoss. Okay, take it away, Russell…

[ewbrightcove “29888952001”, “60011061001”, “525”, “470”]

Cirie says she’ll win because “I’m a gangsta in an Oprah suit.”

Shocker! Boston Rob says, “I don’t see how I can lose.”

Sugar wants a showmance with J.T.

Randy claims it’s “under the radar time”

Amanda insists “I’m gonna be a bulldog this time. No apologies, bitches.”

Why the hell is Tom Westman back?

Is Danielle Russell’s new Natalie?

Can anyone take Coach seriously?

Candice says that “being a hero is kinda cheesy”

Image Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS

Comments (111 total) Add your comment
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  • Kristi

    That’s what I thought about when I saw Russell so upset at the last finale. I was like, ‘Oh, man. There’s no way he’d be this upset there, if he made it to the end in Heroes vs. Villians… But then the hopefully part of me thinks he’s that upset because he played just as well, bringing Danielle to the end with him and will lose out 2x just like Amanda did!

    • NC

      Russell couldn’t even hint that he is a S20 contestant (his brother told that to the Houston Chronicle early in S19)

      S19 final tribal council was July 19, S20 E01 shooting started on August 9 and went until September 16. S19 premiered September 17. The ‘pregame interviews’ you see with Russell were shot after after the game, all the other ones (AFAIK) were shot pregame.

      TV Magic!

  • Kim

    I thought the same thing watching him on the reunion show. He wouldn’t have been so bummed if he had done well on Heroes v. Villains. I was looking forward to seeing him try again, but since it’s already obvious it doesn’t go well, I’m not so excited about it.

  • “Why Russell Won’t Win”

    That dumb hat for starters…

    • Football Mom

      I like his hat!

      • James

        And he likes your daughter ;)-

      • Anna

        I’ve met Football Mom’s daughter, she’d mop the floor with him and leave what was left of his carcas out for Puppy Dog’s Yorkies to gnaw on.

      • Football Mom

        Wow Anna, you hit the nail on the head………yep, my daughter is pretty tough…..

      • Anna

        not to mention beefy

  • orville

    I got the same feeling from the Samoa finale–he seemed too desperate to get the “sole Survivor” title. That makes me think that he might not even make it to the jury this time around.

    I think it might have been as much a disadvantage to Russell himself that no one saw any of his season before filming began on this one. It seems to me that if Russell himself had seen some of his own season, that he would have scaled back the boasting. He would have seen that it did him absolutely no favors with the other players on Samoa, but I have a feeling that he’s going to run his mouth just as much on Heroes/Villains.

  • Football Mom

    Maybe he was just so emotional because the stress of playing back to back??? I doubt, but I can hope! Can’t wait to see him playing again!

  • swaoosa

    dont worry russell will go a long long way in heroes vs villains trust me. spoiler alert! but unfair that no one saw him play before hand.

    • Juneau

      He does have an advantage that no one saw him play, but the mere fact that he was placed on the VILLAINS tribe has got to raise red flags with everyone on H vs V. So not as much of an unfair advantage as one might think.

    • Lee

      I doubt Russell will go far in S20 because unlike S19, he won’t be playing with a bunch of idiots.

    • Suomi

      oh he’s gunna goto the end

      • Cody


  • Josh

    I’m right with you Dalton. My thoughts exactly. I bet he makes the jury but doesn’t make it to the end, otherwise he wouldn’t have been trying to buy the “Sole Survivor” title, if he’d known he had another chance at it.

  • ef

    I was thinking that he had put too much weight back on to have just come off a second 40 day stint of surviving. Sure, those who were in his season were back to “normal”, but if he was going through the same conditions for another season I would have thought he’d be thinner on the finale.

    • Minnie

      Good point ef.

    • G

      ef, Heroes vs. Villains filmed from August-September/October, and the finale was in December. That’s pretty much 2 whole months to put weight back on. It’s a lot easier to put weight on than it is to take it off.

    • Anna

      I was thinking the exact same thing. Russell looked way too well fed for someone just coming back from two back to back Survivors. On the other hand…. if All Stars started filming in early August they would have been finished by late September/early October giving him at least two and a half months to eat himself back to normal. If he goes after eating with the same singular attention as he does to hardball game play it’s entirely possible he managed to pack it all back on.
      Meanwhile, in other opinions….
      I like the hat. I still have fond memories and fantasies of Maurice Gibb and his hat. But at least Maurice could sing, Russell probably wears his hat to keep his head from getting sunburned and so that people won’t be able to look into his eyes and see what’s really going on in that twisty little mind of his.
      Russell is utterly incapable of any form of subtlety. He will not be able to rein himself in and that’s what will end up costing him. Again. If he hadn’t been such an insufferable smirking little prick every single minute he was out there on Samoa he might have actually gone on to win the thing.
      And finally, I’m no Russell fan but I do hope he makes it at least as far as the jury. I’d be very interested to see what he’s like outside of the game at Ponderosa. Is he even capable of letting the game go? How does he interact with the others? Or, does he by and large keep to himself? Does he even possess an “off” button? And finally, are we going to be able to get a look at the real Russell? You know, the one he’s always talking about, the nice one. February 11th can’t come fast enough.

      • SurvivorFreak

        Good post Anna. Apparently, you didn’t see Russell in post-game interviews. Still full of himself and dissing everyone else. I was glad he lost; however, he definitely deserves to come back as a villain. Personally, I hope he outlasts all those THREE TIMERS, even though some are my favorite. I dont think anyone should be allowed to come back for a third time when so many others haven’t had a second shot.

      • Anna

        Thank you SurvivorFreak. No, I didn’t get to see Russell the next morning on whatever show it is they do on CBS. From what I heard and read after the fact he didn’t carry himself with a great deal of grace or dignity in the face of his loss. I can only say it must have been a very grouchy Christmas in the Bayou. He may live in Texas now but his accent, (which just edges the hat out as the least objectionable thing about the man), is pure Bayou.
        I so agree with you about the three timers. Totally unnecessary and utterly unimaginative on the part of the producers. After 19 seasons I don’t know why they couldn’t have created an eligability pool and left it up to the fans with a phone in vote to determine the first 12 survivors and then left 4 wild card spaces open for their own choices. That way Russell could have still made the cut. A season of heroes vs villians would have been totally pointless without Russell, like apple pie without ice cream, we always would have felt like we were missing out on something.

  • Football Mom

    good point! maybe he made it to the jury and got to eat?

  • Chichi

    I would let Russel hit it like the angry fist of God!

    • Nobody

      Hit what? Your little sister? Your mother?

      • Chichi

        How about you for your cluelessness.

  • AA

    This may have been asked and answered already (so, sorry in advance): do the teams know they have been grouped as Heroes and Villians? Or is it something they deduce during the game?

    • John

      They get informed what they have been grouped as in the first episode. Should make for some interesting reactions!

      • AA

        Thanks! My hope is that the Villians chew up and spit out all of the Heroes, and we can have a verrrrry interesting season of Survivor!

  • John

    Russell is basically Amanda 2.0, he’s a good strategical player, but he’s horrible at closing the deal and getting the votes required to win.

    There’s nothing wrong with backstabbing and being “villanous” in Survivor, but insulting people for no reason has never helped anyone. If he could have swallowed his pride at the FTC and apologized to people, maybe he could have gotten more votes. If I was playing, I’d definitely want to take him to the end, unless he’s changed his game since s19, pretty much everyone will beat him in the finals.

    With that said, I actually am looking forward to seeing him play again and interact with other cutthroat players. Hopefully they won’t devote half the screentime to him like in Samoa though.

    • Mikey

      You don’t win Survivor by apologizing to the jury. Russell gave the best speech he could have given. The jury was just full of morons.

      • Joe

        No, look at Chris from Vanuatu. He apologized and he got the votes. Even JT from Tocantins turned on the southern charm to win him votes from those he’d backstabbed. He may have given a speech that best represented his case, but if the only person agreeing is a wing nut named Shambo, then you’re not really going anywhere to plead your case. And about that jury, they were looking for someone who played with honor rather than with deceit, so Nat fit the bill well.

  • Damion

    I didn’t even think about the fact that this new season had already been recorded prior to the last reunion show…THANKS EVERYONE! I hope your speculation is correct and he indeed gets voted off REALLY quickly. This being an “all-stars” edition, hopefully the competitors will be smart enough to get rid of Russell from the get-go than the idiots last season that let him stick around…geesh. He didn’t deserve to win last season and thus, certainly does not deserve to make it far this coming season either. Man, I hope that sadness was not just a put-on for dramatic reasons and he truly gets humiliated even further this year! And then, let’s hope we never have to see his idiotic face again. I am not a fan off these “greatest hits” seasons, but Russell playing AGAIN is a real drawback to it this year, so I really hope he doesn’t stick around too long and that “spoiler alert” above is from someone who is just ignorant ;)

    • davey

      Perhaps a drawback for you, although ALOT of people including myself REALLY want to see Russell again – and play as hard as he did the first time! He deserves to be on an All-Stars season. He’s played one of the best games out there so far…why not have him back? Because you don’t like him? LOL.

      • Esme

        Obviously, no, he hasn’t “played one of the best games out there” since he’s failed both times to win. Geez.

    • Lars

      He’s gonna be an early boot IMO. He looked too disappointed at the S19 finale to have made it far in HvsV. And like the point before, he looked like he put back some weight on which proves he had time to eat and recuperate from the game. He’ll play too hard to fast, and it will bite him in the butt. Probably Boston Rob is the one who gets him out.

  • Gregor

    Russell also, like Amanda in Micronesia, has the disadvantage of not seeing how things worked out in his previous season. Amanda went to the final TC with the same strategy both times, not knowing that it had failed miserably the first. Russell’s in the same boat, should he make it to the end.

    • davey

      Never thought about it that way before. Very good point!

  • Aaron

    Most overrated player ever.

    • Esme

      Wow, I so agree. I sooo hope this speculation is true since it will finally put paid to the ridiculous conception that he’s such a fantastic strategical player–LOOOOSSSSER!

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