Russell Hantz is one of the most notorious villains in the game of Survivor. He was hot-headed, egocentric, manipulative, cunning, and even downright rude. Yet he made it to the end of the game the first two times he played.
However, in both cases, he wasn’t voted winner, which led him to return twice more, both times after which he was eliminated second.
Players saw Russell as a major threat. They knew his M.O., how dirty he played, and how he tried to get into peoples’ heads and twist and turn facts to his advantage.
He made this very clear in many quotes throughout his time playing the game. Here are 10 of his most memorable ones.
10 I’m The Puppet Master
“You can call me the puppet master. They can be my little puppets. They’ll run when I’tell them to run, they’ll walk when I tell them to walk. When I’m done with them, just throw them in the trash.”
It wasn’t enough for Russell to tout his abilities as a “puppet master” who was able to get his tribe to do pretty much anything he wanted and trust everything he said. Russell had to take it even further to outright say how he was simply using people.
He made no bones about the fact that his tribemates and alliance members were just stepping stones for him to the million dollars. He didn’t care about anyone or anything.
9 I’ll Make Your Life Miserable
“I’m planning on making it as miserable as possible, making it hell for everybody, to get what I want.”
If you dare turn on Russell or try to work against him in any way, he will make your life in the game a living hell. He was willing to do whatever was necessary to win and gain favor.
And if that meant making an enemy miserable, so be it. Better them than him, right? And the unhappier the person is, the more likely they are to lash out and put a target on their back, taking it firmly off of Russell.
8 I’m Here to Play
“I didn’t come here to work, I came here to play.”
To Russell, the game wasn’t about work, it was about playing a game. A vicious, brutal game for a million dollars that requires one to, as the description states, outwit, outplay, and outlast others. Forget all of the menial tasks like building shelter, starting fire, finding food, and getting clean water. Leave that to his "minions."
It was all about making the right moves, navigating the right directions, and taking out the right people. It’s just like a board game, where the person who rolls the dice just right and takes the proper path wins. Russell plays the game; he doesn't host the party. And he won't help you clean up after it either.
7 Dumb Girls
“It is day one now. I got an alliance with the dumb short hair blonde, and even dumber long hair blonde, and the dark hair girl. I like to call it my dumba** girl alliance.”
While Russell ironically got along well with all of the pretty girls, forging alliances with many of them, he sure did talk trash about them behind their backs. “My strategy,” he said on another occasion, “is to be able to have a secret alliance with each one of these dumb girls.”
The joke, however, was on Russell since both times he played and made it to the finals, he lost to a woman. The first time, he lost to Natalie White, and the second time to Sandra Diaz-Twine, who was chosen as winner over him even though she had already previously won the game, and Parvati Shallow, who came in second (and previously won as well). He did, however, win the Sprint Player of the Season both times.
6 Breaking Hearts
“It’s crazy how you can break their hearts by telling them a lie.”
Breaking hearts and telling lies. This was what Russell was about. He made the girls, and anyone with whom he aligned, feel as though they could trust him with their life. Then when the time was right, he stabbed them in the back.
In his defense, this really is supposed to be how you play the game of Survivor. However, considering Russell has never won, it’s clear that having a good social game is also a big part of the equation.
5 Mind Control
“I think if I can control how they feel, I can control how they think.”
There is something to what Russell is saying here, which is essentially the art of manipulation. If you can control how you make someone feel, you can have them eating out of the palm of your hand in no time.
Once Russell was able to get people to feel a certain way about him, others, or certain situations, he was in, and could then control how they thought about or perceived said situations.
4 Extreme Arrogance
“I’m not here for the money, I’m only here to show people how easy it is to win this game.”
Russell claimed that he wasn’t after the million-dollar prize. And maybe there’s something to that since he's a successful businessman in the real world who owns an oilfield service company with his father and brother, as well as a bar in L.A., and has made a million or two on his own.
But it’s sheer arrogance to want to take that million-dollar prize from the hands of players who were excited for the game, and could change their lives with the money. Again, the joke was on Russell because while he did take home other monetary prizes, as noted, he never got that million from winning the game.
3 Pass the Popcorn
“My strategy is working like a dream. They’re hollering at each other right now and I’m just going to sit back and watch it happen.”
We’ve seen the strategy work time and time again on Survivor, and even other reality competition series like Big Brother. Stir up trouble, leave everyone else to fuel the drama fire, then sit back and watch as though you are an innocent bystander.
It was admittedly a great strategy and it worked to Russell’s benefit many times. Deflect, deflect, deflect, then watch the competitors take each other out. Genius.
2 They’re Not Smart
“My tribe will believe anything I tell them at any point, because they are...stupid.”
Russell didn’t beat around the bush about the fact that he saw his tribemates and alliance members as nothing more than numbers and votes for him. He believed that every move they made was strategically directed by him.
But he even went so far, as in this quote, to call them downright stupid. While he might have been correct that many of them were blindly following him, it just isn’t right to call people names.
1 The Russell Seed
“I’m telling you, you plant that little seed in their head and their little brain and then it grows, and it’s called the Russell seed. It takes over the whole mind, so that makes it easy for me to manipulate every single one of them.”
Russell used the term the “Russell seed” more than once to describe the thought and ideas he cleverly planted in peoples’ heads, letting them ruminate until they began to believe that he was telling the truth and was worth following.
While he exaggerated his influence just a bit, the truth is that Russell was a cunning and ruthless player who deserved to win. But he never did simply because he refused to apologize for his actions and put his ego aside when addressing the jury.