The harder they come, the harder they’ll fall, the master philosopher Jimmy Cliff once said. Russell Hantz came into Survivor hard. Harder than anyone we’ve ever seen. He burned socks. He poured out water. He lied about being a Hurricane Katrina victim. He found Immunity Idol after Immunity Idol. And when he couldn’t find any more, he convinced people to give them to him. He didn’t just vote people out, he — in his own words — rubbed salt in their wounds. He humiliated them and told everyone how he, Russell Hantz, was the king. He came hard. And now he has fallen — hard. Not just by being eliminated, first by vote and then in losing his Redemption Island duel to Matt. We all saw an early exit coming the minute he showed up in Nicaragua. But the tears! Oh, good golly, Miss Molly — the tears! Here was the biggest badass in Survivor history covering his face with his hat, starting to sniffle, and then finding himself unable to even stand up straight while the waterworks flowed. This was a true Survivor moment for the ages, and one both Russell lovers and haters could enjoy.
If you love Russell, you love how passionately he played the game. Unlike a lot of other contestants that go out there just to be on TV — and trust me, there are a lot of those — Russell is a guy who wants, above all, to play the game. As a fan of the game, you respect that. And to see a guy whose sole dream is to win it, and have that dream extinguished yet again, for the third time in just over a year (Survivor: Samoa finished filming in July 2009, and Russell was eliminated here in August of 2010) you can understand and even appreciate why he would break down like that. Honestly, I’d rather have someone that cares that much about being eliminated over the people just happy to get to Ponderosa for a meal and a shower — and trust me, there are a lot of those too.
Don’t worry, Russell haters, I haven’t forgot about you. If you hate Russell, you also loved this moment because you got to see the big, bad bully finally get a taste of his own medicine. After he cared so little for the feelings of the people he discarded, how can we not enjoy the irony of watching Russell blubber like a baby upon being kicked out of the game himself? If Russell had seen someone else crying after being booted, he would have mocked them to high hell, so how can we be expected to feel sorry for him now?
Like I said, if you love Russell, you loved seeing the passion he brought, even to his elimination. If you despise Russell, you devoured the poetic justice being served on a silver platter. Either way, it made for riveting TV. And this was all before things went truly haywire at Redemption Island, but we’ll get to that in due time. First, let’s take it from the top.
The episode 4 festivities begin with Russell arriving at Redemption Island and finding Matt, instead of Francesca, as Steve had promised him. “I was pissed off. I wanted to bitch slap every single one of them,” Russell says of his ouster. He also claims that he is far from done in the game. (He’s right! Just look at the clock. He’s got, like, oh, 20 minutes or so to go.) “I’m gonna make ’em suffer. I’m gonna say, ‘sleep in the mud, fool.'” Who does he think he is, Mr. T? Does this mean we’re now going to be subjected to a Saturday morning cartoon where Russell trains an elite squad of crime solving gymnasts? Speaking of which, what the hell did Mr. T ever know about gymnastics? Or solving crimes, for that matter?
NEXT: Hanging out and flopping around