In the end, the Galu jury members decided to hand the million dollars and the title of Sole Survivor which Russell Hantz, the oil company owner, felt he had earned to Natalie White, the former pharmaceutical representative. If one thing was clear from their interview, the self-titled Greatest Player Ever was not at peace with that decision.
First of all Natalie, what do you feel was your big, strategic play that impacted the game?
For me, you know, I felt that when Erik got out, I feel that was my big, strategic move. It changed the … it changed the game in my opinion.
Now it seems like both you and Mick knew how [unintelligible] of a game player Russell was. Did you have any insight into how the jury would vote?
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, for me, I had worked really, really hard on building relationships with all of the Galu, because I knew that if I made it to the end, the majority of them would be sitting on the jury. Um, so I felt like I got to know them really, really well, so I thought the voting criteria, I might have an idea of how they might vote.
What’s your relationship with Russell, now that you’ve seen these episodes on TV, and the fact that you were part of his “Dumbass Girl Alliance.”
You know honestly, there’s no hard feelings. I mean, Russell and I, you know … that’s Russ on TV. So, you know, there’s more there, and Russell and I will be friends forever.
So Russell, what happened, man?
Um, I don’t know. [laughs] Uh, I brought Foa Foa to the Top 5, that’s what happened. And uh, I did all the work, and they keep saying how her big move was to get rid of Erik. Brett was trying to get rid of Erik; Brett was telling all the girls that. If Natalie thinks for a second that that five minute conversation got rid of Erik, she’s crazy.
Natalie: No, it actually did. I talked to Brett about it. Brett was not going to get rid of him at that time, and you even saw on the recap that that was not the case.
Russell: So you’re that naïve, to think that five minute conversation … if you were that good, you could’ve ran the show yourself; you didn’t need me.
Natalie: You know what, I was that good, that time. So take that one to the bank; you can ask all of the girls, and they will tell you.
Russell: Well, I don’t believe that. Anyway …
Natalie: You don’t have to believe it, but you should.
Russell: You won. Let me tell you what I got. I got rid of every person that was a threat to me. I made the huge move with Kelly, finding an Idol without a clue. I found two of them without a clue. I found another one of them with a clue, with them chasing me. I get rid of the big player at the end of the game, I get John to flip his vote and save your butt. You want me to keep going on? Because I can … but okay, let’s talk about your one strategic move.
Natalie: Okay, hey that’s fine. We’re not just talking strategy here Russell. You did not play the Galu social card, period. They gave me a million dollars, not you. Bottom line; game over.
Russell: Because I was trying to save your ass the entire time.
Natalie: Well then, that’s your mistake. That’s your loss, period.
Okay Russell, how do you feel about the sentiment that you didn’t take the jury into account all season long?
What do you mean?
Well, in talking to Jaison and Mick, and Brett, that’s what they think that your biggest mistake was, that you didn’t take the jury into account. You put too many people off, and they weren’t going to vote for you.
Yeah well, you know, when I went 4 to 8, to the tribe, I had to save my people. I had weak, weak people. I had Natalie, and I had Mick, and I had Jaison; they wasn’t helping strategically in the game.
Natalie: Which is not true. Yes we did.
Russell: You gonna let me talk, or what?
Natalie: Go ahead.
Russell: Well then shut up and let me talk. So I go over there, and while they’re doing their little thing, you know, getting to know everybody, I am taking my team all the way. I’m not the only person that thinks this; all of America thinks this. I am the fan favorite. I’m the one that they love. Natalie wasn’t even nominated for that. So, I worked my butt off to take Foa Foa all the way to the end, while they’re playing their strategic game. I mean their social game. I played a strategic game. So, if I don’t do that, there’s no way in hell Natalie goes anywhere in that game without me. If she would’ve flipped to the girls, she would’ve been the first girl gone. It just wouldn’t have happened, and she knows that. She knows she’s there because of me.
During the heavy rain and the nasty weather, how did you stay so composed, when everyone else was losing their minds?
Uh, you know, it’s just, I got focused in the game. I kept my focus the whole time I was there. I knew as soon as I got mentally messed up in the game, it could mess up my strategic game. And I seen everyone else getting messed up mentally; Natalie wasn’t so bad in that, she was pretty tough when it comes to the, you know, taking the elements. Jaison, Ashley, even Mick, they were getting eaten up out there, I mean it was really getting ‘em down. Especially Jaison. Jaison’s a weak, weak person, he’s a weak guy, like everybody says. He should’ve just checked out a long time ago; he shouldn’t even have played the game.
But I mean, I just did it. I just tried to focus and just did it.
Natalie, [unintelligible], were you surprised that Erik came in and delivered this Gladiator-esque speech in your favor at the final tribal council?
Absolutely. Because, yeah, typically people go back to Ponderosa and they talk, so I wasn’t really sure, you know? Come to find out now that, Erik thinks it’s like the coolest thing that I got him voted off. He loves that. Um, so, clearly they did talk at Ponderosa, but I just didn’t know how much he knew and which way he knew. So I was afraid at final tribal; I didn’t want to lose his vote or anyone else’s for owning up to his ouster. So I tried to be really careful and dance around that.
Outside of a million dollars, because that’s obvious, what has Survivor done to change your life?
You know honestly, Survivor has done so much for me. I mean it’s a very humbling experience, I mean you’re so thankful for just your basic items. I mean your basic hygiene items, a toothbrush or toothpaste, you’re just so thankful and grateful for those items. Um, you really realize want vs. need, and so the second that you really think you need the razor, you know, honestly you don’t need the razor to survive. It’s nice to have, but you realize that you need the bare minimum to actually survive.
And you know I really built a lot of confidence in myself, you know, doing things outside my box. So, other than being a really humbling experience, it drew me closer to my friends and family, and just made me realize how important they are to me.
To Russell: Did you ever think about keeping John? [unintelligible] Do you think you would’ve been able to keep him for so long?
I think that, if I wanted to go there I could’ve brought anybody with me that I wanted to the final three. Anybody I wanted, to the final three. I was that in control … I was controlling the whole deal. And um, I’m sure Natalie can vouch for that. I had it all under control; I could’ve picked and chosen whoever I wanted to go. So, I don’t know. If I would’ve decided to bring them, I don’t know who gets the votes. Shambo probably wins it. Because Natalie ain’t voting for me; she’d be like the rest of them, she’d be salty because I stabbed her in the back, and wouldn’t vote for me. I believe Mick would vote for me; he’s a pretty strong guy. So you know, I get a vote, and I lose a vote.
Russell, you mentioned the three Idols; how long did it actually take you to find those? Because it seems really fast on TV.
Yeah, I would look in each individual spot, I would look for about four hours, because I didn’t want to leave any rock unturned; I wanted to make sure that it wasn’t in that spot. So you know, when I walked away from an area, I wanted to make sure that area was clean, and make sure I don’t have to go back to it. So, it took a while. It took a good nine hours before I found one of them, for sure. The one under the bridge was pretty quick, but it took about four hours.
Are you surprised that no one in the history of the show has ever thought of looking for them without a clue?
Yeah. I changed the way the game has been played. In ten years of Survivor, you wouldn’t have thought that somebody could break record after record and do stuff that’s never been done. In ten years you would think it’s all been done. But now, the whole game has been changed; everybody’s gonna be looking for Idols right off the bat. It’s gonna be a madhouse.
Russell, how much of a consolation is the fan favorite?
Consolation? The fan favorite it wonderful to me, because that’s a ton of people … I mean, were you there? Did you hear all them people screaming my name in the crowd? That was pretty impressive; I didn’t expect that. I win fan favorite? I surely didn’t expect that from the first couple of episodes. All of a sudden I went from the most hated to the most loved? It’s crazy.
Do you think that your loss had mostly to do with a bitter jury, or was it any fault of your own?
I lost because of a bitter jury; it definitely wasn’t my fault, it ain’t no way. It was a Boston Rob jury. And he lost because of a bitter jury. It was that situation. But Boston Rob, he had a couple people on the jury that knew the game and knew how to play it. But my people, they were all a bunch of kids when it comes to the game. We got Dave, which is a psycho; he belongs in a mental hospital. We got Laura, which is the psycho’s girlfriend, and she don’t even know what’s happening. [unintelligible] Monica was pretty tough, but she didn’t start playing the game until the end. And John, he was flipping all over the place; he didn’t know where to go. So they were broke up when I got there, so it was an easy task.
Natalie, way back when you killed the rat, I thought it was foreshadowing that either you were going to flip on Russell at some point, or you were going to beat him in the end. So, good thing you killed that rat I guess?
[laughs] Yeah, there you go! And it tasted really good too. It tasted like chicken.
Russell, do you maybe think the Idols was somewhat easier to find this season?
Sometime they’ll make it easy, right/ So that’s why I started looking. I know people think, “Oh, there’s no way he’ll find it without a clue.” I seen Yasmin looking up and down trees, and nobody else was looking at Yasmin. She had the clue, and she’s looking all up and down trees, so you know what that tells me? It’s in a tree. But nobody’s looking, because everybody’s too busy, you know, getting friendly with everybody. Not playing the game. That’s when I found the first one. And then the second one, when they go to their reward. The clue has to first be read, before the Idol is placed. I knew they went on a reward, so that means a clue has been read now. So I start looking.
And the one I got with Dave, I had them chasing me around camp. I know it’s by the wall, and Dave’s right by it, he can get it, all he has to do is pick up another rock, it’s right in his face! But he’s too busy following me, to try to keep me from getting the Idol. So I take off running, and he follows me like an idiot, and I lose him and go right back to that spot and I get it from right where he was.
Is that why, did you try not to win that Reward Challenge? Because you knew they would get a clue and you could go back to camp looking for it?
No, I tried to win the Reward Challenge. Because I knew they wouldn’t be looking. If I win the reward challenge, I get the clue, and then I’d go get it. They wouldn’t be looking for it. They was a bunch of dummies out there. All they wanted to do … the girls on the Galu tribe, all they wanted to do was sit at the popular table and be popular girls and leaving Shambo all by herself. Which was great for me. I got attached to Shambo; that’s another big move I made. I made that move getting Shambo to flip, and come to me. So you know, just constantly. I constantly made big moves. That’s why America loves me. Because I played a crazy game. And as I watch it, it amazes me that I was so focused in playing that game.
Both of you, do you think maybe it benefitted you guys to lose so many challenges at the beginning? You had experience with tribal council and Galu, maybe their heads weren’t in the game come merge?
Russell: I think it definitely benefitted us.
Natalie: I would agree.
Russell: We went down in numbers, and we got to be able to still work it. First of all, when we went to the tribe with only four, if we would’ve went with five, we would’ve lost. Because Liz was going to flip. She even said. I asked her, and she said she was flipping. I said, “Liz is flipping, we need to get rid of her.” So we needed to go just like we did, with four people. What do you think, Natalie?
Natalie: Yeah. I mean, we had been to … we voted I guess like five people out, so we had been playing the game a lot longer than them. I mean we were forced to. You know, they’re hanging out; they had voted one person off. So, yeah it definitely worked to our advantage that we had been to so many tribal councils.
What shocked you the most about that final jury tribal council both you guys went through?
Natalie: Well for me, I’ve always watched seasons in the past, and you’re at your worst mentally, emotionally, and physically, and you’re pretty prepared to be criticized. But it seemed extra brutal. It was rough. And you know, they’re long. They’re a couple of hours, so you get pounded up there, on the last day, when you’re at your absolute worst. And for me, I guess I didn’t think people would get … I guess people were a little more hateful than I thought they would be. But it makes you fight for yourself, so in turn it was better for me, because I was able, you know, to fight for myself.
Russell: I thought that my speech was brilliant. As I talked, I was laying out everything that I did. I weeded everybody out, and then I tagged Mick alone. I thought that I laid everything out for them. What can you do … weigh it out. If she outwitted me, and outplayed me, give her the money. She was nicer to people than me, but just weigh it out. Which weighs more? That’s called a bitter jury. That’s what it is. Yeah, she had a better social game than me, but did she have a better strategic game than me? Did she have a better physical game than me? No. So let’s weigh it out. When you use common sense, when you weigh it logically, it just seems like it would’ve had to be my vote.
Natalie: Well it wasn’t, because you were so mean to everybody. It’s a social game. I mean you have to at least admit that it’s a social game.
Russell: Yeah, it’s a social game, social game, social game. Let’s rename it the social game! Because that’s all it is. If it was a social game and only that, and only people like you were playing in it, then you know what would happen? They would’ve shut it down before the first season would even be finished. Because you’re that damn boring.
Natalie: Well, you know what, I may be boring, but guess what, I got the check. So that’s all that matters; I don’t care.
Russell: [stutters] Yeah, well …
Natalie: Yeah, I know you don’t have anything to say.
Russell: You wanna talk about money? You wanna see my bank account?
Natalie: I don’t really care about your bank account.
Russell: I don’t really care about your check.
Natalie: [laughs] Yeah you do. You wanted the title. You do, you do care. You wanted to win, and you hate it that you didn’t win, and I’m sorry that you didn’t take into account the jury. You did not play the social card, at all. Period.
Russell: I can’t understand how stupid you are. You think the social game is the game. You sit there and say, it’s a social game, it’s a social game. How can you be that ignorant? How can you be that stupid?
Natalie: Well guess what, I played the player, so just shut it up now.
Russell: Calm down, calm down.
Natalie: You’re not used to getting a rise out of me; well, you got a rise.
Russell: Oh, you want me to get a rise out of you? You want me to start working on this? Because I’ll get you. I got many, many interviews to go to, all kinds of TV shows.
Natalie: I know you do.
Moderator: On that note, we’re actually out of time. Thank you Russell and Natalie for a great season.