The Russell Hantz Phenomenon


Ah Russell Hantz, two time finalist, three time player and zero time winner. No other player of Survivor has had the same amount of debate over their skill and only Aubry comes close to the same level of debate over whether or not they were robbed. No other player comes up so frequently in best player discussions and no other player gets shot down just as frequently in those same discussions.  In my reality tv viewings I’ve come across some more players in different games that also have also done a Hantz.



  1. Russell Hantz and the Hantz family. Russell Hantz is among the greatest Survivor players ever.


  1. To lose in the final of a reality competition twice typically only to return a third time and place disappointingly out of the final. Joey did a Hantz with this season.


Russell Hantz – Survivor 19, 20 and 22

Walk tall and wear a neat hat

To start it off with the man who defines the term, Russell Hantz came into Samoa for season 19 with a game plan to be a lean mean winning machine. He dominated confessional counts, he burned socks, he won challenges and he even defeated top quality computer graphics programming right when it mattered. So naturally when it came to finale night he was a lock to take out the million right?


Turns out a jury full of people you’ve terrorised all season aren’t too inclined to write your name down for a million dollars, no harm, no foul. Turns out production liked Russell so much he got to come back for another season right away, staying out in Samoa and playing for another shot at the million. It’s worth noting that Russell is coming off of the back of a tribal council he thinks he played pretty well and depending on the day you ask him, he thinks he won it all. So it’s no surprise when lining up on the mat in season 20 Russell is in awe but ready to play. Given the nature of the term we can forgo a fair portion of the season complete with “Players who respect the game” and skip right to the end. Russell is sitting in the final 3 with two former winners there’s no way they’ll give it to a former winner so that’s 2 for 2 for Russell right?

Sandra 2 Times
Not the 2 for 2 you were hoping for

Over the course of season 20, a neat little rivalry came out over the course of the season. Boston Rob and Russell get caught up in a clash of egos that sets the scene for season 22: Redemption Island. Two titans of the game go head to head, surely this is going to be the best received season ever and the two men are going to take each other down to the wire against each others’ stacked tribes right?


Boston Robbed.jpg

Overall Russell’s arc on survivor is a tragic one but no-one can discredit the winning games of everyone he played against. No matter how much it may go against your personal Survivor philosophies.


Paul Abrahamian Big Brother 18 and 19

Few can rival Blackbeard in the facial hair department

Big Brother in the US is more like survivor on live stream than the popularity contests of the Australian and UK versions. Contestants vote each other out as opposed to the audience doing so in other versions. This leads to some juries making controversial decisions. It also leads to some people getting punished for their gameplay in the end. Though there is precedent for the “bad guys” winning in Big Brother, their success is not guaranteed. (See: Dr Will, Dan Gheesling and Evel Dick, yes that’s actually what he was called, for just some of the “Bad guys”)

The big man with the black beard played Big Brother in seasons 18 and 19 two seasons back to back but due to the summer long filming of Big Brother Paul was more than aware of his loss going into his second time around. Paul came in with a plan and he executed it with ruthless accuracy, eliminating all but his most faithful followers and dominating every facet of the game he possibly could.

The unfortunate thing for Paul is that at the end of the game you have to face the jury and in a final two there is far less room to hide and in Big Brother where some parts of the audience watch you 24/7 there’s absolutely no room to hide from the audience. Paul was the villain of the season and everyone knew it.

Paul Comic
Towards the end this tipped Paul off to the public’s perception but by then it was far too late

Time will only tell if Paul ever comes back and wins but for now he’s the guy that totally hantzed Big Brother 19 and that’s a shame, maybe time will be kinder to him because no jury has.


Cleen Rock One – Ink Master Season 5, 7 and 9


I have to admit that I have another love besides Survivor and that would be the show Ink Master. The show’s been running for 9 seasons and in that short time there have been quite a few returning contestants. As the title suggests the show is about professional tattoo artists competing in themed challenges in order to get to the finale and show off a master canvas that is a very intricate piece they’ve had a limited amount of time to work on. Each week contestants compete in a flash challenge that is typically in an odd medium or challenges them to be creative with an established one (favourites of mine include scrimshaw and making a custom grill for a hot rod) followed by an elimination tattoo designed to challenge the theme of the week like placement or detail with the best tattoo winning tattoo of the day and consequently being safe from elimination.


The show is slightly different in the case that it’s a very skill oriented competition, however, the judging panel consisting of tattoo artists Oliver Peck and Chris Nunez being joined by MC and rocker Dave Navarro still have their own subjective vote that can and has been subject to debate over whether it was the right decision. This has been going on since the very first season and continues to the most recent season. The finale dilemma is a discussion for another time but suffice it to say that the show is notorious for controversial decisions over its lifetime.

Cleen Rock One is regarded as one of the best players in Ink Master history off the back of his prolific tattoo of the day wins and two time finalist status. Unfortunately for Cleen, he’s yet to win, losing first in season 5 to Jason Clay Dunn for not meeting the design brief.

Not Photorealism.jpg
Pictured: Not Photo-realism

Then in season 7 losing to Anthony Michaels. Cleen didn’t stop there though; he came back for his third time around in the most recent season with old adversary turned friend Aaron Is.

Golden Skull


This didn’t work out for them though, coming fifth thanks to a hands related mishap they fell short but at least Aaron improved on his previous finish so that’s a silver lining. To be frank though, Cleen is a well established businessman with a work ethic that is to be envied. He also has multiple tattoo shops and a loving family so really, he doesn’t need Ink Master success because he’s already found his own success.

Final analysis

Finally, it’s worth noting some similarities in all of these people’s performances as a possible learning opportunity for us all. This is not a dig at any of them, I’m honestly a fan of each and every person I’ve named in here and I’m bringing them up so all of us when we get onto our shows of choice have learned from everyone possible so we can win. I’ve identified the three C’s that sum up the attributes that most make up the gameplay of everyone in this article: Confidant, Charismatic and Cheeky.


Russell let me tell you how good I am

Every single person on here is notorious for their confident confessionals, controlling gameplay and unabashedly speaking their mind about each and every thing they get asked about. Russell was confident enough to sabotage his own tribe two seasons in a row, Paul was confident enough to pull off a supremely controlling game his second season around and Cleen Rock One is a gun artist and he makes sure you know it every time he’s on screen.



It takes a certain kind of person to be so confident and in some peoples’ cases so evil in their gameplay and not get cut immediately. There’s an inherent charm in their confidence that makes them really fun to watch. Their larger than life attitude is always a highlight even if they can rub you the wrong way sometimes.


Paul being cheeky

This one comes part and parcel with the confidence, they have a mouth on them that can rival Courtney Yates when they want to and they appear to want to a lot. No-one will outdo the acid tongued queen of Survivor any time soon but these guys can certainly bring it up to her. Tearing holes in peoples’ tattoos and talking smack about all the competition is a skill these three have in spades.

What have we learned?

Through the analysis of all three of these players we’ve determined one really key piece of information: You can play your brains out and not get rewarded. Yes there are aspects of jury management that trip some players up and yes there are aspects of the games they played that mean they can get ousted through silly mistakes or past reputation but ultimately losing sucks but if you’ve got to why wouldn’t you go out playing your heart out.

That’s how I see it anyway, agree? Disagree? Let me know on twitter @therihasspoken or wherever you found this I’m probably the one that threw it at you. I’m going to be around all season long posting Wednesday morning Australia time. I’m looking forward to watching the season with you all and go Ryan!

Side note: We also learned that all of these guys are massively built and tattooed and could kick my butt in spades.

It’s also worth noting that Amanda Kimmel from Survivor 15,16 and 20 also fits into the description and has most certainly performed the Hantz but ultimately her character archetype doesn’t fit with the rest of the people in here and so in the interest of staying on theme she wasn’t analysed this time around.

“Glad I wasn’t subject to this Australian’s tripe” – The Amanda Kimmel (Totally)


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