Survivor: Interview With Russell S. - "How dare these people take me out!"
The second medical casualty this season, attorney Russell Swan spills the beans in this conference call about his health issues, the trials and tribulations of being chief, the deal with Shambo, and how on earth you could be dehydrated while sitting in a monsoon for days on end. My apologies for posting this interview so late - I've been out hunting water in a rainstorm. Really!
When did you feel yourself starting to fade?
You know, I never - this is going to sound strange, dude, and I know it sounds strange - I never felt like I faded at all! To me, it felt like yes, Iím tired, and what I remember is being winded and I took a knee. I pulled the puzzle up to my face, hit myself in the chin, maybe knocked myself out. Just needed a moment to kind of like, catch my breath, maybe get a drink of water and then alright, game on, letís continue! It wasnít until I saw last night that it was definitely not the way I remembered it.
How did you feel when you watched it last night?
It was shocking. My wife freaked out - she was crying. You know, it was wild because I had been trying to prepare for different things but I didnít know, I really didnít know it was that bad at all. So it was really tough to watch but it was just tough to watch especially because my wife was so upset. Because, in her mindís eye, it looked like I died. And if I didnít, it looked pretty daggone close.
Did you feel guilty at all for not choosing the tarp? And was that why you were working so hard?
No, I felt no guilt at all. I was working hard because I was elected chief. So that hard work was from day one. I figured I had no other choice but to work as hard as I can to make this tribe as strong as I can, to keep winning challenges. Because thatís the only thing that keeps me from the chopping block. The tarp versus the comfort, that was a game decision. You know, if it had been life, I would have chosen the tarp. Itís not life, itís a game.
So do you think it would have made a difference if you had chosen the tarp?
No, I donít think it would have made a difference at all. I still would have been on my back, if thatís what youíre saying about, you know, working hard. I was working hard because I had a target on my back. I donít think any one decision was the culmination of me being on my back. I think any one decision could have got me voted out, it was just one of those things where I thought that was the path of least resistance at the time I made that decision.
How much did the rain affect you, personally?
Personally it really didnít affect me that much other than just being cold, you know. It sucked. It would have been better to be dry, but we werenít. It would have been nice to not have sheets of skin peeling off my hands and feet, but thatís what we had to deal with. So, it was tough. I mean, there were times I had to dig deep and say hey Russ, you can try to keep this fire going as much as you want, but right now youíre freezing. Get around some other human bodies, get warm, and then try to come back to this fire.
What was behind the decision to send Shambo to the other camp twice?
Man. You know, the first time, the only thing I can think of was...I figured that when Yaz came back there was something about a clue, I figured that might be a hidden immunity idol. Wasnít sure. But I figured Iíd give her a shot because she was so depressed. But I thought you know, she seems cool, maybe if I get this chief thing off of me and she makes the merge, I can align with her, I donít know. But she needs some help. The second time it was just, again, she was low-hanging fruit. I see a tribe thatís kinda coming together, I think, she seemed to be a little bit on the outs, I have an excuse because I was pissed off that she lost our equipment and our chicken. So - you want to party you gotta pay.
Going back to when you passed out, did you talk to Jeff about that at all?
Um, you know, I havenít talked to him since. But at the time we were going back and forth and Iím laying there and Iím like, Jeff, do not let these people pull me out! Iím just a little tired. I mean, look, I had applied eight times to get on the show and the last thing I wanted to do was be carried off on my back. To be carried out at all was not what I wanted and to be carried out on my back, number two, was just horrible! So Iím like, dude, tell them not to take me out. Heís like, itís not even a discussion. Of course, Iím looking at the perspective that Iíve only been down there ten minutes and Iím just thirsty. I hadnít seen the eyes roll back up in the head and me hanging on the post and all that kind of stuff. So in hindsight they made the absolute right decision. But at the time I was pissed off at him and anybody else who made the decision to take me out. I thought it was bogus and I thought they were losers.
So it was hard to reconcile with yourself that it was over?
Oh yeah. It took me a while because I couldnít understand. Iím not Mike Borassi, Iím not some 62 year old guy. Yes, I passed out. Big deal! People pass out all the time. Okay, well you almost died. Well, almost only counts in horseshoes, dude. Iím not dead. Come on! Get the blood pressure cuff off, put the blindfold back on, get the doctors out of the way and letís go!
There was talk of you sitting that challenge out. Do you think that would have changed things, or just postponed the inevitable?
Now thatís an excellent question. I donít know! I think it would have been inevitable if we would have still had the conditions that we were dealing with. Not drinking, getting food. But see, the weather that day looked like it was gonna turn. So I think it would have changed the game because I donít know...it could have rained, I canít remember. I mean, I donít remember being in Ponderosa and it was raining, but who knows. I can only speculate.
Who would you expect Galu to pick as their new leader?
Damn, another good question. Iím not sure, because now thereís strategic reasons for why you try to get somebody. Because you realize now, it is a millstone. You know, it does take people out. So you might want to get somebody you think is vulnerable, so is that Shambo? You might want to get somebody you think is strong - is that Eric? Is that John? Is that Laura? I donít know, thatís a very good question. Itíll be interesting to see how it plays out but Iím not really sure.
Who would you pick?
If I got to pick, Iím the king of the universe, I would probably pick Laura only because I was beginning to speculate maybe she was running the game. I donít know. I would want to make her a little vulnerable, so I can sit back and watch her run around and collect the firewood, and me saying ďChiefĒ to her every five seconds: ďChief! Chief! Chief! Chief! Chief!Ē But I donít know if thatís whatís going to happen.
So do you see being chief as more of a positive or a negative?
Itís always a negative. Well, letís just put it this way. In my estimation itís always a negative because thatís the way Survivor plays out. People who voluntarily take up the mask of chief usually get hammered down. So just because itís not voluntary and you get voted, doesnít mean it doesnít operate the same. It makes you a target. And even if you donít think it makes you a target, I felt that way because thereís never been a season before where they had elected a chief. And so you worry about every decision because you know it all had ramifications on you! Not for anybody else, necessarily, but definitely for you.
At last nightís tribal council, Eric had great things to say about your drive pushing them forward. How do you see Galu doing now with your departure?
Wow. You know, itís interesting. First of all, let me just say I loved that! That made me feel good. I thought these people could care less, I almost died, it was nice to hear that they actually got something out of my time being there. And if Eric said it, I believe it. That dude is a beast! And so Iím gonna tell you - they piss him off, and when heís pissed off, it sucks to be you. So Foa Foa is going to be in trouble, I think, because of that.
If you got to pick the winner, who would you pick?
You know, I want Shambo in the worst way. Sheís been vulnerable, but sheís just so...her. Everybody else is just playing this game, lying about what they do and who they are, and I mean, Shamboís just all over the place, sheís bumbling and sheís just...gosh, I think she would be our seasonís JT.
When you were chosen leader, did that change your strategy going forward?
Completely blowed my strategy out of the water. I mean, I watched this pretty much all the seasons with the exception of a few, and the early key to Survivor is mediocrity. Be somewhere in the middle of the pack, do good enough in the challenges that even if you lose, it looks like you put out a good effort, but not so much where you seem dominant, where ďOh, youíre just an absolute threat, weíve got to get rid of you.Ē You want to be in the middle of the pack. Well guess what! Chief doesnít allow you to do that. You are sky high, baby, and everybody is watching you.
Was there anybody you tried to model your game after?
You know, it was a mixture of people. I would say it was a little bit of like James Clement, I believe his last name is. With the strength and kind of like, domination in the challenges. I guess a little bit of the discernment that you see in the other people who have kind of flown under the radar, like a lot of my tribe members are going. I wanted to be kinda in that mix. And definitely just being friendly, like Taj. Just hanging out and basically asking questions - okay guys, so what are we doing? Versus people who come up to me - chief, what are we going to do about this mess? I thought Iíd have to wipe these peopleís butts at one point!
What would you say was your primary alliance out there?
I had none. I had none! And the shame of it is, that the reason why that was, I was busy worrying about this target on my back. So rather than walking down the beach and enjoying the sunset with a few people, and talking, okay whoís who and whatís what, Iím collecting firewood. Rather than laying in the shelter and kind of just enjoying the banter, Iím tending to the fire. See, some of this constant ďTake care of this! Take care of the tribe!Ē Thatís what scared me in the first vote, I realized how out of the loop I was. But I just didnít feel like I had a choice, I had to keep moving, had to keep going.
Was your decision to take care of everyone purely strategic or did you have a little bit of a parental instinct going on?
That is a good question. I think, you know, thinking about it quickly so I can give you a quick answer, I think it was a little bit of both. It was really hard for me to turn off the nurturer. I love being a dad, you know? And me and my daughter are very close. So, yeah, there was a lot of that going on but some of it was strategic because I figured the better I take care of the tribe, the better weíd do in challenges. The better we do in challenges, the least chance we go to tribal council and the threat of me being voted off. But thatís a very good question because at the end of the day, there was some of that nurturing thing coming out, being a dad as well.
When you saw the other Russell, the ďevilĒ Russell as we call him, what did you think about the things he was doing to his own tribe?
Idiot! What planet are you from, dude?! I mean...to what end...I thought it was crazy. But look, heís still in the game, he looks like heís having fun, so maybe the jokeís all on us. But I will say that, who wants to lead the game, you win, and everybody hates you. I wouldnít want that. I wouldnít want...a million dollars isnít worth the vitriol of my country. The eleven, twelve, thirteen million plus people who watch this. No thank you.
After Shambo lost the fishing supplies, why did you put her in charge of the chickens?
[laughs] Wow! Well, at this point Iím not connecting any dots. You know, this was the first mishap. Accidents happen, okay, no harm, no foul. Now this chick says ďIím a country girl!Ē Weíre walking the chickens back, I donít know what to do with chickens other than like, putting them in a pan and roasting them, thatís about all I know about chickens. So somebody basically raises their hand and says ďOoh, ooh, ooh! Iím a country girl, Iíve grown up around chickens all my life!Ē To me it was a no-brainer. Well, maybe not! [laughs]
Did you ever get that chicken back?
No. She flew around, and apparently they like their cages and their coops and their...eventually they come back, but they donít like to be grabbed or chased. And so, whenever she was chased and thought she was gonna be grabbed, she flew away.
Back to your health issues, was it just dehydration or was there something else?
Yeah. I never got an official diagnosis, and there was never any other physical issues going forward, so yeah. It was just pure exhaustion and dehydration. Because when I got taken out, I was absolutely belligerent. I couldnít believe - ďHow dare these people take me out!Ē But thatís because the reality of what I thought happened, and what I saw last night (on the show) were completely different.
Were you told that you were worse off than Mike?
I think somebody tried to mention that to me, but you know, I wasnít trying to hear it. I thought they were just blowing smoke.
You did look worse, sorry!
I agree! [laughs]
What was the hardest part of the experience for you?
It was just being chief, you know? It was just the constant pressure of knowing that everything I do in this game is going to be scrutinized. By my tribe, by Jeff, by the other tribe, by people watching the show. Of course I wasnít so much worried about people watching the show at the time, but I was definitely worried about all the ramifications of making decisions and going to different challenges and tribal council and Jeff saying ďOkay, you guys are here! Isnít it Russellís fault? Hey, donít you think Russell really screwed up?Ē It just kept banging around in my head, it was constant from day one.
What was the easiest moment for you?
Oh, the night we got - this is the best moment! - the night we got the steaks. We had eaten the steaks, eaten all the brats, everybodyís feeling good, the guys are sitting on the beach, the sun is setting over this gorgeous ocean, all the women are back in the shelter, they got their little candles going, and their pillows. It hadnít started raining yet so everybody...it just felt like a big, satisfied family. I just felt so good!
Your proudest moment?
Wow. When we won the second challenge. We had lost that first one. And we were, we were on our behinds! I think the dehydration, for me, started then. And I never recovered. And we hit those A frames like nobodyís business! And the puzzle people hit that puzzle, and we knew then. We won that challenge, and I just felt so happy for this group of people because we were down. We were definitely down, and we pulled it off.
Are you glad it did not come down to you having to cut off your dreadlocks?
[laughing] Well, now see, thatís where it gets to be tricky. Because if Iím sitting here bald, that means Iíve also got a check in my hands for a million bucks and I worry not about how Iím going to pay for my childís college education! But, I donít have the check for a million dollars and I get to keep my dreads, thatís cool. And even though I went out and crashed and burned, it has been so life affirming. My wife and I had a conversation last night, and weíre talking in ways we havenít talked since we were dating. Weíve been married for thirteen years. It just brought us so much closer together. So, at the end of the day, I canít complain about anything thatís happened. Wouldnít mind having that check, but, itís all good.
Has your daughter watched the show?
No, no, no. I was a little worried because I wasnít sure, when they showed the promo and I looked like I hit my head, Iím like, ďHmm. That doesnít look like what I thought happened.Ē I thought, letís prescreen it, just to make sure. And if we need to later, weíll just put it on watch On Demand. She wonít be seeing it.
Did you ever go to the hospital?
No, they took me to - and again, Iím gonna have to caution you, my memory is pretty sketchy here - but I went to this...they had like a clinic that they set up for everybody concerned. You know, whether you work on the show or youíre a contestant. And I went there, and was a complete jerk to everybody there, because I shouldnít have been taken out of the show, as far as I was concerned. But no, we never went to an official hospital.
What was with Eric holing up in the tree trunk for over twenty hours?
Oh, that was his shelter. Like Shambo had her little hidey-hole, he had this little hidey-hole in the trunk of this tree where the way the tree was angled, the palm fronds being put in the hole, it kept him from getting wet. So to him it was a better alternative to being in the shelter, which was quite leaky.
What was Shamboís hiding hole?
She had like, totally gone underground. It was like some Navy Seal thing that she had pulled off, and dug a little bit down at the root of these trees. The trees are weird because the roots actually kind of grow up, almost like the tree itself, so they create these really wavy, cave-like structures. And if you dig down a little bit, you can throw a roof on the top and thatís what she did. So that was her hidey-hole.
Did you know that Eric had the hidden immunity idol while you were still on the show?
I had noooo clue. And again it goes back to this whole chief thing. So chief goes off to do the challenge, and he gets to look for the immunity idol!
What have you seen on tv that surprised you the most?
The evil Russell, the white one! [laughing] Not to be confused with the black one! I mean, thatís back from when I saw that first episode and I saw what this guy was doing. My jaw almost hit the floor. I was like, what the hell is that all about?
What havenít we seen that you think would surprise us the most?
You know, I canít think of anything, honestly. Those points where Jeff has said ďFirst, first, first!Ē You know, Ben getting kicked out of the challenge, Mike getting evacuated, me getting evacuated, I mean, those are the things! Youíve seen those things.
Did it occur that by sending Shambo to Foa Foa, you were giving her a chance to bond with them?
No, not necessarily, I wasnít thinking that far ahead. Iím just thinking that sheís pretty much low-hanging fruit, there seems to be some coalescing going on amongst a group of people, sheís kinda on the outs, Iíve got to make a decision, sheís low-hanging fruit. I didnít want to do it, didnít want to do it at all. But, you know, that was my millstone, I had to make those types of decisions.
If Russell makes it to the merge, how do you think he will fare on your tribe?
Good question. See, if people keep their wits about them, thereís some good players over there. They should be able to discern that this dude is not all heís cracked up to be. And theyíll try to take some shots at him. But I just donít know how itís gonna play out, because again, I was so far out of the loop there that I donít know what people are thinking or how theyíre strategizing.
How were so many people dehydrated with all that rain? Couldnít you just go out and look up to get water?
Iíve gotten that question from tons of family and friends! And whatís really interesting about that is, you try to do that, and the water ends up contaminated somehow. Either from the runoff from the medium that youíre using to get the water, or by things that say ďOh, neat! Water has collected. Letís get in it!Ē I mean, thereís tons of like, lizards and bugs and rats and all kinds of stuff. And any time water pools, they get attracted to it. So unless youíre sitting right there the whole time, and it takes some time for rainwater to collect, you think to yourself, I need to boil this before I drink it. Now, there was a time when my canteen was open, there was some water in it, I kinda drank it, but I was fearful because there was a couple times where my stomach got squirrelly. Itís just a paranoia thing, you know? Thereís just too much nature happening around you that makes you distrust the rainwater.
*Thanks to Mariner for the interview!
Re: Survivor: Interview With Russell S. - "How dare these people take me out!"
"There’s just too much nature happening around you that makes you distrust the rainwater."
*shakes head and walks away in utter disbelief.....*
Re: Survivor: Interview With Russell S. - "How dare these people take me out!"
Waywyrd--thanks so much for the interview. I am still trying to wrap my mind around the whole dehydration fiasco......