Backstage Interview with 'Survivor: Samoa' Contestant Russell Hantz


Going into last night's Survivor Reunion show I wasn't certain how the fans were going to react. Would they boo Russell out of the building like a wrestling villain? Would they hail him as the conquering hero come home from war? Would they get behind someone else - Natalie, Brett or Jaison?


In reality CBS Studio City felt like a storm brewing, with warm and cold fronts of fan reactions meeting in the middle. Half the crowd erupted when Brett won the first immunity, and the other half responded in turn when Russell won the last. The split decision was fitting, since no one since Richard Hatch has generated such heated and contradictory emotions.


When I spoke with Russell an hour after he got the bad news that he wouldn't be winning Survivor: Samoa, his eyes were bright red from crying; he wore the expression of a sad puppy. He began the season as a giant but his face is now very gaunt and he is as thin as an office pencil pusher who needs to exercise more.


He told me how he had known for months he would lose, how his stories about Hurricane Katrina had gone over in New Orleans, and he offered advice to future players that was raw with hard-learned lessons.


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