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Survivor: Redemption Island Episode 3: Where did Russell go wrong?

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Written by : published Thursday 3rd March 2011

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It hasn't been a good year so far for ruthless evil dictators, just look at Egypt, Lybia, and now Russell Hantz, the self-proclaimed King of Survivor.  Click this link if you missed Episode 3 of Survivor: Redemption Island (if link doesn't appear it will soon), and don't you dare think about missing my Survivor Examiner full episode recap (same goes with this link), to get caught up to speed.


So what went wrong with Russell's gameplay?  There is no better example for future Survivor players to look towards, than how Boston Rob and Russell approached this season.  Neither player has ever won, but they have an amazing knack for the game.  The difference is the adaptation and evolution of Boston Rob, in contrast to the particular style of gameplay Russell exhibits.  Russell was a new breed of Survivor when he appeared in Samoa and became a legend of the game.  I for one, am one of his biggest fans and consider him one of the best the game has ever seen.  But let's face facts:  Russell was lightning striking the same place twice, a player who's approach we simply won't see work again.  He benefited greatly from being the only unknown "all-star" on Heroes vs. Villains, and this 2nd run at the million is what cemented him as a "legend."


But unlike Rob, Russell has let his ego grow to uncontrollable heights.  Rob still appears to want to adapt and play the game, while Russell believes he deserves to win based on past performance.  Well, you don't get to the World Series just because you got there last year.  It is always harder in life to remain #1, as opposed to becoming #1.  It wasn't a bad idea to use his image to his advantage, to gain favor or to create fear.  But to come in with a carbon copy gameplan from his 1st two tries, just doesn't seem to be mastery, it instead seems foolish.  Banking on the hope that you will find an Immunity Idol is not solid "legendary" strategy, and if this is how you "keep hope alive", you may as well pull the plug on the drooling vegetable.



None of this is meant to overstate the fact that Russell saw his torch snuffed, although the site of this did make me a bit sad inside.  What we are not mentioning is that this is not the last of Russell Hantz, not by a long shot.  With Redemption Island in play, he still has a 1 in 17 shot at a million...that seems like a long-shot and it is, but it's better odds than Francesca, who just had her "buff burned" (the newest way we know a Survivor is gone for good).  He may very well become a factor again this season, but to me, this latest outing puts a slight tarnish on his reputation in the game.  Sure, you have to see how this all plays out, I mean, if he wins the game do you think anyone will care that he was sent to Redemption Island this past episode?  Of course not.  But if he never gets off of Redemption Island and back into the game, you can bet that his status as "one of the best to play the game" will take a severe hit.

And think about that...In Survivor, you always have to be judged against that group of players, against the twists and circumstances of that particular season.  But had there not been the game-changing Redemption Island twist this season?  Well, we would have just seen the "legend" Russell Hantz as the 1st person voted off his tribe.  He would have been a forgotten player, the guy on the season finale who's burned-out torch leads the Survivors to say, "Oh yah Russell.  I remember him."  Needless to say, Russell has social weaknesses in the game and without hidden Idols or the ability to locate each and every one, this weakness is greatly exposed.


Beyond Russell, and beyond Rob's Survivor clinic he is putting on thus far, both Julie and Stephanie had interesting strategic choices in Episode 3 as well.  With Stephanie, she all but ruined her chances in the game by going over-board in her defense of Russell.  I was a bit let down by Stephanie whom I hope rebounds now that she finds herself without Russell to attach to.  But she jeopardized her game by not focusing on it.  Parvati is a great Survivor Hall of Famer who relied on and aligned with Russell, but she always was in control of her own game.


As for Julie, I think she made the right decision in going along with her alliance of 6 instead of with Russell.  Had she flipped, she'd be the 4th on Russell's alliance, and would have just alienated the other 5.  With blood on her hands, that would have been a bad spot to be in.  She also would have then been in the minority alliance.  By going the safe route, she has an easier route to get further in the game...you can't fault her for following that path.



Next week is "put up or shut up time" for Russell as he'll duel Matt on Redemption Island.  I for one, can't wait, as this season has been stellar thus far.  Although I can't imagine the game with Russell gone this early, I'm going to try to cope and come to terms with that possibility.  I guess I have to "keep hope alive" for at least one more week.


Make sure you follow my blog, FilmSurvivor.com, for a collection of all of my Survivor coverage, including my weekly preview, recap, exit interview (this week with Francesca), and Friday round-up.  You also should be following me on Twitter, @tomsantilli, if you aren't already.


Jump in with your comments!  Does Russell stand a chance on RE?  What were his major faults this season?  Did Julie do the right thing in siding against Russell?  Until next week then!

About the author SurvivorTom


Tom Santilli is a respected journalist and member of the Detroit Film Critics Society.  He writes several on-line columns, most notably as the Detroit Movie Examiner and the Survivor Examiner for Examiner.com.  He also is a contributor as a Survivor-Insider to TVGeekArmy.com and writes exclusive Survivor in-depth episode analysis for TheTVKing.com. He has been featured on Rob Cesternino's "Rob Has a Podcast" and most recently landed the only exclusive Richard Hatch interview given since his latest legal trouble has surfaced. All of Tom's Survivor coverage as well as movie reviews can be found on his blog the "FilmSurvivor", at FilmSurvivor.com

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