The importance of the actual day-to-day act of taking care of yourself is often lost in “Survivor.” While the social maneuvering, alliance building, and backstabbing may be the show stealer, the fact that these people are surviving with so little (no pun intended) for so long must be appreciated. Russell Swan learned to appreciate that the hard way when he collapsed during a reward challenge and was taken out of the game. We had a chance to ask Russell what he remembers from that day (not much), why he took the leadership role seriously, and which of the Galu members is the dreamiest…
Gordon Holmes: So, I missed last night’s show. Anything interesting happen?
Russell Swan: (Laughing) I almost died…and I freaked my wife out. And that’s about it, Gordon.
Gordon: Jeff Probst said that you probably didn’t realize how bad it really was. Now that you’ve had a chance to watch it, what are your feelings on the incident?
Russell: You know, Gordon, that was just a huge shock. My brain has a completely different script in it in terms of what happened. I had no idea. This is what I remembered happening. I go through the maze, I take a knee to rest, Laura tells me to lift my side up, I lift my side up. I hit myself in the head and maybe knocked myself out. I’m laying there for about five minutes, and then they yanked me. And I was pissed off, because “Why are you yanking me?!” Then I see on TV; I’m stumbling around, they’re pulling me, I’m laying on the thing. It was disturbing. I’m laying back, and my eyes looked like a dead person. My wife lost it. We both agreed that we shouldn’t let my daughter watch it.
Gordon: It was rough cause you were stumbling around, but you were wearing a blindfold so you’re supposed to be stumbling around! Nobody knew what was going on.
Russell: That happened to a person that I don’t know. That was not me, that was someone who looked like me. I have absolutely no memory of any of that. I don’t remember hearing anyone’s voice except for Laura’s. The only other voice I remember is Jeff saying, “Stop,” And I’m thinking, “Why are we stopping? Don’t tell me we lost the challenge.” I guess if there are gaps your brain will fill them in.
Gordon: How long after they took you out of the game were you able to be up and about again?
Russell: This is going to sound strange, but in my mind it was only five minutes. But in reality it was more like a couple of hours. Apparently I was being a jerk to the medical staff because I didn’t understand why they were taking me out of the game. Having seen the show…now I get it.
Gordon: Jeff had mentioned that he watched you go through several stages: anger, denial, sadness. He also said that you were worried you’d be viewed as a quitter. Do you appreciate now that that isn’t the case?
Russell: I appreciate that now, but at the time, I thought it was because I was lying on my back for five minutes. What a wimp. I was thinking, “I’ve sent in eight applications to this show, and this is how it’s going to end cause I’m on my back for five minutes?!” I was in warrior mode, I wanted to go.
Gordon: As part of that leadership role, you punished Shambo for losing the chicken. How much of that was punishment and how much of that was strategy to get in close with the rest of the tribe?
Russell: Yeah, she’s on the outs. But, she had made a number of mistakes, not only the chicken, but losing the snorkel…which was huge. I had to show the tribe that there are consequences for actions. But some of that is strategy too. There are other people I could put up on the chopping block. But I’ve got a target on my back. Any time I can throw the light on someone else I’m going to do it.
Gordon: Now something that did throw the light on you was when you chose the bath and body gift basket over the tarp. How much grief did you get over that decision?
Russell: (Laughs) I’m going to tell you, the grief over that has been way too much and long lasting. It was a stupid decision, but it was strategic. In life, and we’re not playing “Survivor,” I’m choosing the tarp. It’s a no-brainer. But there were some very specific things that I saw that led me to that decision.
Gordon: How could you have possibly known it was going to rain for forty days and forty nights?
Russell: I never imagined that, it was supposed to be Samoa’s dry season. But it rained for a week straight. I’d hate to see that place when it’s the wet season.
Gordon: Yasmin seemed to be someone that you were willing to go to bat for, but you eventually voted against her. Was this a situation where you didn’t feel that strongly toward her, or did you think it would be a disaster to go against the others?
Russell: Yasmin was the strongest woman in the game, period. Every time she had to step up, she did. At that point my strategy is, “Let’s win every challenge so we don’t have to go to tribal council.” But, “Survivor” is a social game, and I need to be able to go back and see what the group thinks. I thought it was the wrong vote, but we’re playing a game.
Gordon: OK, word association time. Let’s start with Brett…
Russell: A sweet guy.
Russell: Smart as hell.
Russell: Warrior, my right-hand man.
Russell: Underwear model!
Gordon: Underwear model/rocket scientist/nuclear physicist…
Russell: Yeah, whatever. I don’t know about that guy. He’s cute. I’d probably try to hit on him.
Gordon: Oh, he’s adorable. But you’re getting me off track.
Russell: Oh, she’s a sweetheart.
Russell: Wow…master manipulator.
Russell: Sweetheart, I love Monica to death.
Russell: Shambo is one of a kind. I will always keep in contact with Shambo.
Gordon: During tribal council last night, Erik made a very passionate speech. He said they were going to do what you would have wanted them to do, bringing it to Foa Foa, every challenge, every time. What was your reaction to seeing that you’re still a leader, even when you’re not there?
Russell: I loved that. At the end of the day, it is a game and the leader thing is somewhat contrived, but we are people and we’re really doing that. I took that role seriously at some point because I had to. And to see that they took that seriously, it was very cathartic and it really did mean something.