Exit interview: Survivor’s Russell Hantz

Fire up the Tiki torch and pass the Doritos. Russell Hantz is dying to come to Canada. “I’m trying to go to Canada but nobody wants me to go there,” the Survivor warrior told me Wednesday on a call set up by Global and CBS. “I hear that I have more fans in Canada than anywhere…I want to go to some casino, bar or radio station and have some fun.”
In the interview below, the 38-year-old Texas businessman also says he had a plan to win if he had made it again to the final three, that he almost did The Apprentice this time instead of Survivor and–perhaps jokingly–that he’s going to appear on Jersey Shore!
Love him or hate him, Hantz has almost single-handedly re-energized the long-running Survivor franchise. (The series resumes Wednesday night at 8 p.m. on CBS and Global.) He’s played three times in less than two years and ratings in Canada–where the series beats American Idol Wednesdays head-to-head among 18-49-year-old viewers–are as robust as ever.
The bad news is that Hantz was tossed off Survivor: Redemption Island last Wednesday, spoiling an epic tribal merge confrontation between Hantz and arch rival “Boston” Rob Mariano, both brought in this season to inject a double whammy of star power as the series headed toward a weekly Idol showdown.
I told Hantz he was the reason I was watching Survivor again with my 18-year-old son. This seemed to please the dude no end. “People might think I’m this big villain and all, but I have four kids who I love more than life. Give me the opportunity to die for one of my kids, that’s how I want to die, for something that matters. As for when I hear that I bring families together to watch this show–that’s amazing to me.”

When you lost last week’s Redemption Island challenge and were tossed out of the game, you said you’d never play Survivor again. Any change of heart on that?
Right now I’d have to say no. You will be seeing me on TV again, I have something in the works, depends on how that works out.
I am going to be on Jersey Shore…That would be funny, wouldn’t it? Wouldn’t that be something? Russell Hantz as the new member on Jersey Shore.

Now there’s a Situation!
I would be fighting these meat heads every single day. Whether they beat me or I beat them.

The Redemption Island challenge seemed so anti-climactic. Do you think that final exit challenge should be more than a puzzle?
Mine should have been different, man. Mine was geared for a quicker, smaller guy. When you’re bigger and hit the ropes the dominoes fall. [Matt Elrod, 22] is a lot quicker and younger than me. I’m not saying they did it just for him, I just wish it had been a different challenge. I wish it had been the first challenge Francesca got.

Do you think Redemption Island adds or detracts from the game?
Usually you get voted out right away, your tribe has spoken they put your torch out and you leave. I was able to speak my mind,. It was good for me. Maybe not some people, but for me, It kind of redeemed me. You notice how I played, it didn’t degrade the girls like I used to do, promise them anything. I tried to do the right thing this time. It almost happened for me.

Did you have a different plan to win it if you had made it again to the final three?
My Speech would have definitely been different. ‘Hey guys, you all played a wonderful game…’ Guess what, that still wouldn’t have worked for me. No matter what I did. When Russell takes you out, you just cry like a little 12 year old boy.

Who’s the best player still left in the game?
It`s Rob by far. Rob is controlling his tribe. Rob is really, really good in the game. The only person that could have took Rob out is me, the only person that could have taken me out was Rob at the merge. Say its 5-5 at the merge, it would have been Hell! That episode would have been the biggest episodes ever.

Do you think ratings will fall now that you’re out?
Somebody sent me an email saying, “CBS, can you hear this? This is the sound of millions of people changing their channel…” Don’t believe that, I’m hearing it’s one of the best Survivor’s ever.

How has all the fame and attention of being on Survivor impacted your business?
My company has doubled in size. I get to go all over the world, I get to have fun.
I`m trying to go to Canada but nobody wants me to go there. I’m trying to get a meet-and-greet in Canada, radio stations, go to some bar…I hear that I have more fans in Canada than anywhere. I want to go to some casino, bar, radio station and have some fun.

Would you like to see Canadian contestants on Survivor?
You know what would be really cool? If they have the five best survivors from Canada, five best survivors from America, five best survivors from Israel, you know, get it all together. That would be craziness.

You say you don’t do other reality shows but what about The Apprentice?
I think I could win Apprentice. I wouldn’t be the one sitting there, ‘I’m sorry Mr. Trump.’ I wouldn’t be the one doing that. I would be saying, ‘If you want me to apologise to you, how many people do you apologise to, and you`re a billionaire? You speak your mind and if that’s what it takes to vote me out of here than vote me out. But guess what I’m still going to be successful, I don’t need you and you don’t need me.’
I heard I was going to go on this next Apprentice instead of Richard if I hadn’t gone on Survivor. Yeah and that sucks but…I’m glad I went, I met some great people.

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