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Last Year’s Survivor: Heroes vs Villains became one of the franchise’s finest, thanks to the tribal showdown between Russell Hantz, 38, and ”Boston” Rob Mariano, 35. Now prepare for round 2 as the heavyweights once again do battle — along with 16 new contestants — when Survivor: Redemption Island premieres Feb. 16 on CBS. EW went on location in Nicaragua for this exclusive joint interview the day before the game began (and before Russell was named by an online poster as the source who supplied spoilers for his previous two seasons). Game on!

Rob, last time you two were together at the Heroes vs Villains finale, you said you were going to kick Russell’s ass all over the island if you ever played again. That still hold true?
Rob Absolutely, it still holds true. Unless we can work together and find some common ground. In that case, then I don’t need to kick his ass. We’ll kick everybody else’s ass.

You’re telling me, then, that you could actually trust this guy?
Rob No. But look at the situation: It’s me and him up against everyone else.
Russell That’s the thing. I know he’s a strategic player. Me and him against everybody else.
Rob I’m gonna trust him more than I trust someone I don’t know.

I think you’re both full of crap. I think you’re just saying this for each other, like ”I’m going to make him think I’m with him.”
Russell I hear him, he hears me. I don’t trust him, he don’t trust me.

Are you both going to sit here and tell me there are no personal vendettas at all that you guys are bringing into this game?
Rob I’ve made my peace.
Russell A personal vendetta? That would be something personal that he’s done to me outside the game. That’s serious. But in-the-game vendettas? I beat him. So he would have the vendetta against me.

How would you guys react if you were new players and saw two former Survivors walking out?
Russell I would keep my mouth shut.
Rob Man, if I was out there playing for the first time and I saw him and me walk out, I would be scared like s- – -.

Rob, did Russell have an unfair advantage in Heroes vs Villains because no one had seen him play?
Rob He had an advantage, but it was our own stupidity. I knew he was an unknown quantity, and he had to have done something to get there, so what are we doing even giving him the benefit of the doubt? There’s no reason to. He was good enough to get people to give him the benefit of the doubt, and in the end…
Russell Two seasons, I take [other people] to the end and never win. Well, guess what? Take me to the end, Dalton. You can beat me.

I’m not taking you anywhere. Nice try. Rob, would you have voted for Russell to win had you been on the jury for either Samoa or Heroes vs Villains?
Rob I can’t really say Samoa because I didn’t play on that series. But if I had been on the jury in Heroes vs Villains, I would have voted for him to win. It’s hard for the jury to give it to the person that played the best, but I would have.

Russell, how can you win at the end this time?
Russell Those same people that watched me lose are the same people sitting on their couch throwing the remote at the TV saying, ”I wouldn’t have voted like that. He should have won.” You know what 99.9 percent of people tell me the first time they see me? ”You should have won.”

You know what they tell me? ”I hate that bastard.” That’s what they say to me when they talk about you. They say they hate you!
Russell Some say, ”I love to hate you.”

You do make the show entertaining.
Russell They like us because we play the game. Why should I stop that? Why should I stop the way I want to play the game? There’s one thing I won’t do for a million dollars: get on my knees and beg them to give me a million dollars.

Has that been your problem the last two times?
Russell They keep saying it’s a social game. It is not a social game, this is not The Bachelor! This is Survivor. We suffer out there. We play the game the hardest. Whoever does that, vote for that person. Don’t vote because they’re prettier than I am. I’m hoping that the people that’s out there [this season] are gonna respect the way you play the game. And I’m gonna be a little social this time. I’m gonna do things a little different. I’m not gonna burn socks.
Rob Don’t burn any of my s—. If you burn any of my s—, dude, I swear to God! And don’t touch my hat. I’ve had the hat for four seasons. Four seasons! Honestly, dude, I’ll be going out of Survivor by swinging. That’s how it will go.
Russell We could do that for sure. That would be right down my alley.

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