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The world's first "Survivor" strategist-for-hire

By Lynette Rice
Updated April 13, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT
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  • TV Show
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  • CBS
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Although her hormones had her zeroing in on Colby, the man Jerri really should have been cozying up to is J.R. Russell, a Nevada-based business and personal coach who claims he can help almost anyone (even bitchy wannabe actresses) get picked for Survivor — and take home the $1 million prize. A 21-year veteran of the Army — where he served as an enlisted man in military intelligence ”like Kel” — Russell launched his business as a Survivor consultant in February after watching how most of the Ogakor and Kucha tribesters behaved as if they were at Club Med. ”I was shocked at how they didn’t go in there and take care of their basic needs,” says Russell, who works part-time for a company that advises management at Nevada’s nuclear test sites. ”They were lying in the sun, but they were deriding the few who went out to catch fish and get firewood. I commented to my wife, ‘These people need a coach.’ So I started developing the program right there.” His regimen: He’ll assess your behavior (”When you are out in a field-type environment, you tend to react to stress in various ways. Jerri may not have realized that she’s coming on so strong…The tactless behavior would come out in her assessment. So we’d work on it”), help you put together a winning audition tape (e.g.,”You have to catch people’s attention in the first 20 to 30 seconds”), bring out your inner Eagle Scout (he’ll teach you how to make fire and find indigenous food), and help you play well with others (”Understand what’s driving other people and how you can motivate them”). Such advice doesn’t come cheap: Russell’s unlimited phone coaching costs a hefty $900 a month (so far, he’s clientless, but is doing some business with his Survivor-themed self-help tapes). ”What a coach does is help the client focus on specific tasks,” says Russell. ”Some need a little more guidance.” (Just don’t count on him to predict the outcome of Survivor 2: Russell expected Michael and Jeff to go the distance because they had such a good read of their fellow castaways.) So what does Survivor exec producer Mark Burnett think of Russell’s services? Not too much, actually. Says Burnett: ”If I were going to spend money for advice [on] how to succeed on Survivor, I’d seek out Richard Hatch.”

Survivor: The Australian Outback

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  • In Season
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  • CBS

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