Recently, Survivor host Jeff Probst opened up his Cameo account so that about a dozen lucky fans got to purchase a Cameo video message from him. Some of the recipients have been posting snippets online and one of them caught our eye because it’s about one of the show’s iconic villains, Russell Hantz.
Hantz is one of the most polarizing characters to ever appear on the show and usually at the top of the list when fans are discussing bitter juries or people who should have won but didn’t. Here’s what Probst had to say about Hantz after recently rewatching Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains.
Probst Praised Hantz’s Relentless Pursuit
In a Cameo, Probst told fans, “It’s easy to forget, but Russell really did reinvent a couple of things and maybe most significantly the first guy who ever said, ‘Why do I need to wait for a clue to go look for an idol? How many spots could it be in?'”
He added, “I just rewatched ‘Heroes vs. Villains’ and I really was reminded of how impressed I was with his absolute, relentless pursuit of any and everything — including Parvati, which may have done him in! But that was a really fun season.”
Probst Thought Hantz Was Robbed His First Time Playing
In a 2009 blog for Entertainment Weekly about Survivor: Samoa, Probst wrote that the jury not giving Hantz the money over Natalie White was “silly.”
“This season was so lopsided in terms of one person (Russell) completely dominating the game that to not give him the money and the title is a bit silly,” wrote Probst. “If I were playing Survivor, no matter how much I despised someone, if they kicked my ass in the game I would give it to them. Period. Outwit. Outplay. Nobody outwitted or outplayed Russell. Not even close.”
What’s interesting is that he really changed his tune in two years. In an interview in 2007, Probst admitted that he always roots for someone likable to be there at the end because he doesn’t like “giving $1 million to an a**hole.”
“Secretly inside, I’m always hoping — hoping, hoping, hoping — that there’s somebody likable that sticks around. Because I don’t like giving $1 million to an a**hole,” said Probst (via Reality TV World), adding, “I think there’s enough negativity going around that it’s nice once in a while to see the good guy win. While it’s impactful when [Survivor: Pearl Islands castaway Rupert Boneham] gets voted off — the truth is, you want Rupert to win.”
But jump forward to the 2009 blog and Probst wrote, “I do not believe the [Samoa] jury voted for Natalie, I believe the jury voted against Russell. Russell was clearly upset [at the live finale] and I think a lot of people understand why that would be. … I put myself in that same group. Again, I’m speaking as a fan, not as a host or a producer. But hey, this is how it goes, it’s why Survivor is so fun to watch, you can never predict the outcome.”
He also said at the time that “Samoa” “will rank as one of [his] favorite seasons and for one reason: Russell Hantz.”
“He single-handedly kept this show interesting week after week after week. But I know some will argue that because it was ‘The Russell Season’ it lacked having more big characters and therefore does not rank as high. This is one that will be debated by Survivor fans for years to come,” wrote Probst.
There is no word yet on when Survivor will be back on the air. There is talk about the production team filming three seasons this spring so that they can air one in the summer of 2021, one in the fall, and then one in the spring of 2022.