Watching the first episode of "Survivor Samoa" last night was bittersweet.
Sweet, because my wife and I are huge Survivor fans. We've seen each episode of every season, so naturally we were looking forward to the fresh drama that plays out as twenty contestants try to outwit, outplay, and outlast each other.
Bitter, because this was the most disturbing Survivor show I've ever seen. Plenty of jerks, assholes, and liars have competed for the winner's prize of one million dollars. But nobody like Evil Incarnate Russell Hantz.
Usually it takes a while for a contestant to warm up to truly despicable behavior. Hantz, though, was off and running with the devil right from the beginning.
As Dr. House always says, “everybody lies.” And most “Survivor” contestants end up lying or leaving. This is not a Miss Congeniality contest.
But starting your “Survivor” journey with lies about being a firefighter who lost a dog while suffering through Hurricane Katrina? Then dumping out all the water from your tribemates' canteens? After making alliances with all the women in your tribe, most of whom you call “dumb-a**” girls? And the one not girlish woman you call an “old lady”?
Russell H.: “I plan on making it as miserable as possible for everybody.”
To me, the guy looks like a genuine piece of shit. If he's play-acting a role that isn't his real personality, he deserves an Academy Award.
Regardless, deceit is part of the Survivor game. Every hard-core fan of the show knows this. And applauds it. I love watching a good liar.
However, Russell Hantz elicited other feelings in me. Disgust. Irritation. Anger. And not just at Russell. At the producers of Survivor also. They're promoting the heck out of his evil'ness.
That bothers me, as it bothered this commenter on a People blog about Survivor Samoa:
I will not watch a show that promotes this man as the main focus of the show when he should not have been cast at all. He is sick and dangerous and that is not why I watch Survivor. You touched the surface a little bit at least, Stephen. What he does is not game play or strategy, it’s an outlet for his psychotic tendencies. I can watch horror movies for that. I am insulted that the Survivor producers and casting directors think the American public want to see that. I wanted to see so much more last night, but you’re right. I only got to see him. What a joke.
I just hope he goes out fast so I can watch Survivor again. He said he wants to prove how easy Survivor is to win. Well, yeah Russell, anybody could do what you’re doing. Someone, I think Jeff, said he was “charming”? What edit were you watching? There is nothing charming about him from his fat belly to his fat head. He is disgusting and does not deserve this chance that millions of people would do anything for. Get him off Survivor contestants and no more like him please.
The United States is suffering from chronic incivility.
It's evident everywhere, from Congressman Joe Wilson yelling "you lie" at our President, to Serena Williams cursing a line judge at the U.S. Open, to Kanye West usurping a MTV Video Music Award winner's acceptance moment.
And here comes Survivor Samoa, elevating super-jerk Russell Hantz to super-star status. CBS features him all over the show's web site, billing him as "The Biggest Villain in Survivor History."
If a network is out for ratings, it makes sense to go for the sensational jugular vein, making viewers bleed with cries of Ugh! I can't believe Russell acted so nasty!
Yet something bothers me about Survivor's producers choosing to feature Russell Hantz at this time, when our nation is struggling to stay on the civilized side of the boundary between intense debate and crazy ranting.
Jeff Probst, who oversees the contestants on Survivor, writes in his blog:
A new star has most definitely been born. He stands about 5 feet tall and when he slips that buff on top of his head, he transforms into a pirate, missing tooth and all. He was discovered on Survivor, the greatest reality show of all time, his name is Russell Hantz and in addition to being absolutely captivating on television, he writes and delivers some of the greatest material ever heard in 20 seasons of Survivor.
As long as Russell is on the show you are going to be talking about him and I am going to be writing about him. Instead of protesting like you did last season about my infatuation with Coach, why not try “riding the horse in the direction it’s going.” ‘Cause trust me, that is the direction this blog is going.
Yeah, I believe you, Jeff. The nastier and more outrageous Russell Hantz gets, the more CBS is going to like it.
But I'm not.
I'll be visualizing assholes like Russell watching him on TV, their feet up on a beer-stained cushion, yelling "hey, woman, where's my fucking dinner?!," chuckling at his sexist demeaning insults, and thinking with their few brain cells, That mean motherfucker is kicking some ass!
If you don't watch Survivor, it looks like you'll be able to follow the plot line of the current season via Wikipedia.
I sure hope that soon, very soon, it shows that Russell Hantz has been voted off the island.