The third time was not the charm for Survivor legend Russell Hantz. After making it to the final Tribal Council back-to-back in Samoa and Heroes vs. Villains, the 38-year-old oil tycoon failed to last until the merge, let alone the jury vote, and was voted out by his all-too-suspicious Zapatera tribemates in just the third episode of Redemption Island. Die-hard series fans thought Russell would have the perseverance to beat Matt Elrod in the final duel, but his dominos fell short and one of the game's most notorious players left on a surprisingly emotional note.
Russell talked with TVGuide.com about his teary send-off, why he's still no fan "Boston Rob" Mariano and why he felt like John Gotti on the island. Plus: He discusses those "completely false" reports that he leaked show spoilers.
TVGuide.com: How was it to watch the episode Wednesday night?
It's funny because my wife called and said that my [twin girls] started tearing up while they were watching it because they hadn't ever seen Daddy cry before. I try to be a tough man, but when somebody loses a Super Bowl and you see these big guys crying, why do you think they're crying? Because they put their heart and soul into what they do. I give everything to play. I forget about what's happening in the real world, I forget about my company, I forget about everything. I go 100 percent.
I'm dedicated to the game so when I get voted off and I see the disappointment in everybody's eyes, that's the first thing that broke my heart. The camera crew, the sound men, the bag boys that carry the equipment — they're all my family. I've been dealing with them for a year-and-a-half in three years. ... The whole organization is like my family and I feel like I let every single one of them down, including millions of fans.
TVGuide.com: Why do you think you weren't able to beat Matt in the duel?
These blocks were cut at an angle so you had to have exactly that angle on that particular spot; every one had to cut perfectly and there were 200 blocks. I would get one and it wouldn't stay still. ... Matt is a great guy, frankly one of the greatest guys I've ever met. The guy is a good, good guy and he just happened to ... like he said, he was doing it for his savior. And guess what? Evil lost and the good guy won, which, at the end of the day, that's what everybody wants it to be. My blocks weren't matching up, but I don't want to say it was luck that got him through exactly where they were supposed to be at exactly the right time. He had help from a higher power. I might be the villain here, but I do believe in a higher power and his name is God. .... Maybe it was his call and maybe it was my time to go.
TVGuide.com: Was there anything you think you could have done to win over more of your tribe and avoid getting voted out?
I tried. They focused on Russell the bad guy and this and that. But in three days of talking, they have to — which they do a great job of — put that into 45 minutes. But there's a lot that goes on out there that you don't see. You didn't see me aligning with Mike [Chiesl] and Dave [Murphy]. You didn't see me telling them, before I aligned with Krista [Klumpp], I said, "You have my vote, you'll see. Just tell me who you want to vote for. All I'm asking is that you bring Stephanie [Valencia] along. And I said, "I'm not saying I want to go a certain [distance] with you, all I am saying is, right now, you have my vote. We can go this route if you want to go this route." They were like, "Yeah, man. Yeah, man. We can do that." While they're talking to me, I could tell they were lying to me. They were playing the "get rid of Russell" show. They were so intimidated by me, it was like I was John Gotti walking around out there. They were shaking like little babies when they talked to me.
TVGuide.com: Online, you said you were pissed at "Boston Rob" even though you weren't on the same tribe. Was that just a continuation of your rivalry from Heroes vs. Villains?
Russell: I am a pretty good judge of character. And in the real world, I just don't think that "Boston Rob" is a good person. I don't think he is a stand-up kind of guy. It might seem like it because they edit him to be that hero, but everyone can be friends with me. In the game, he is the best one standing by far. He is in so much control of that tribe, it's like me on Samoa. ... If you ask me now, I would tell my tribe, "He's going to eat you up and spit you out. You have to have me. You don't understand what's about to happen. You go to the merge and he's going to take you out." They're in big trouble because they got rid of me.
TVGuide.com: In recent weeks, there have been accusations that you leaked show spoilers about Samoa and Heroes vs. Villains. Is there any truth to those reports? How do you respond to those reports?
I don't even like to comment on that because the same person that did that — please don't even say a name because I don't like to give credit where this person wants credit — but this person is the same person who leaked a picture of me and Snooki from Jersey Shore in a limo. He [PhotoShopped] the picture and then Twittered it and then tried to sell it to TMZ. This is the character of the guy that we're dealing with. He's probably a genius on the computer because he's probably a nerd. They're going to put it on me? Of course they want to put it on me. You want to get famous? Talk about me. I'm the most recent villain on the show. They've been spoiling seasons for years. How come they never found nobody else? How come it suddenly comes up with the biggest villain in history?
It is completely false. It pisses me off because if you knew me, if you could actually see me on the show, you would know that I respect the show way too much. I respect the group of people out there too much. There's no way. Me actually giving a list of people that goes home? That's insane if you know who I really am.
Are you sad to see Russell go?