I think Russell was the victim of a jury of bitter people. I am not taking anything away from Natalie, she clearly did a great job of reading the group dynamic of the jury and as a result she deserves the money.
Oftentimes on Survivor, the vote does come down to a choice where a determining factor is “how nice someone is” but that’s usually when all other criteria being considered is equal. That doesn’t hold up this season. This season was so lopsided in terms of one person (Russell) completely dominating the game that to not give him the money and the title is a bit silly.
If I were playing Survivor, no matter how much I despised someone, if they kicked my ass in the game I would give it to them. Period. Outwit. Outplay. Nobody outwitted or outplayed Russell. Not even close.
I was a bit surprised at Erik’s nod to Natalie during the final tribal council. I think he certainly helped Natalie and definitely hurt Russell. I also think that when Erik watches this season again in a few years he will regret not giving his vote to Russell. Erik is the kind of guy who I thought would respect a player like Russell. I think Erik was still smarting from the whole Galu disaster.
I do not believe the jury voted for Natalie, I believe the jury voted against Russell.
Russell was clearly upset last night and I think a lot of people understand why that would be. He played a very risky and creative game and he wanted to be acknowledged. As for the audience, they spoke quite loudly when they awarded him the $100,000 from Sprint by an overwhelming 46% Russell to 10% Shambo… and 7% Natalie. Not even close. I put myself in that same group. Again, I’m speaking as a fan, not as a host or a producer.
But hey this is how it goes, it’s why Survivor is so fun to watch, you can never predict the outcome. So…
A FEW QUESTIONS…
Q. Can you be considered the greatest player ever if you don’t win? Hmmm. It’s a tough question for me. On one hand, it’s a no-brainer, absolutely not. Survivor is a social game and to win you have to vote people out in a way that compels them to return and vote for you to win the game. It’s extremely complicated and Russell did not achieve it, therefore he cannot be considered the greatest player to ever play. On the other hand, I can’t think of anybody who has ever played a game like Russell played. It was so dominating that I am still shaking my head that he didn’t win. The only guy I could even see having the talent and guts to do something equally dominating would be Boston Rob. So I am on the fence on this one. But this much I am certain of – Russell is without any question ONE of the greats. No doubt about it.
Q. Did Natalie play a better game than Russell? For me, that’s a bit easier to answer. I do not think that Natalie played a better game, but rather was the right person in the right position who made one very good strategic move and that was to stay out of Russell’s way, and as a result she ended up with the money. But to be fair — a very good counter argument is that Natalie used her strengths, avoided her weaknesses and by taking this active approach to the game, she put herself in position to win the money and it paid off. It’s a counter argument, but not one that I’m that fond of supporting.
Q. Was this a great season or a lame season? For me, this is another easy question. Survivor: Samoa will rank as one of my favorite seasons and for one reason: Russell Hantz. He single handedly kept this show interesting week after week after week. But I know some will argue that because it was “The Russell Season” it lacked having more big characters and therefore does not rank as high. This is one that will be debated by Survivor fans for years to come.
LIFE GOES ON AND SO DOES SURVIVOR
I hope you’re all jazzed about Survivor: Heroes Vs. Villains. I think you are going to really enjoy it! We have an all-star cast returning. A lot of people you will expect and want to see and a couple of surprise choices that may leave you scratching your head, which we love, by the way.
LIVE FOR THE MOMENT
One last reminder — if you are looking for a show that offers adventure as well as a positive message about how to live your life to the fullest. Check out Live for the Moment Thursday, Jan. 28 at 8pm on CBS.
Happy Holidays Survivor fans – and Happy New Year.
Also on EW: