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December 20, 2014

How Does Russell Rank Against the Best 'Survivor' Players Ever?

by David Hofstede, posted Dec 18th 2009 7:15PM

We'll soon know whether Russell Hantz's ruthless game play will make him the winner of 'Survivor: Samoa.' If he doesn't win, he certainly deserved to -- no one's played the game better this season.

Some fans are already anointing Russell as the best 'Survivor' contestant ever ... but win or lose, some of us aren't ready to go that far. How does he stack up against previous players, all of whom could give Russell and his hidden idol-finding ways a run for the million? Hopefully, some will actually do so when the series returns for a 20th edition all-star season this spring.
We'll soon know whether Russell Hantz's ruthless game play will make him the winner of 'Survivor: Samoa.' If he doesn't win, he certainly deserved to -- no one's played the game better this season.

Some fans are already anointing Russell as the best 'Survivor' contestant ever ... but win or lose, some of us aren't ready to go that far. How does he stack up against previous players, all of whom could give Russell and his hidden idol-finding ways a run for the million? Hopefully, some will actually do so when the series returns for a 20th edition all-star season this spring.

Richard Hatch1. Richard Hatch (winner, 'Survivor: Borneo')
Winning 'Survivor' without a blueprint for success remains one of the most impressive achievements in the series' history. Hatch demonstrated an instinctive grasp of both tribal and individual games, knowing when to focus on each to advance his position. Never a physical or social game threat, he relied almost exclusively on cold-blooded machinations to win $1 million. In many ways, he was the original Russell.

Amanda Kimmel2. Amanda Kimmel (runner-up, 'Survivor: China' and 'Survivor: Micronesia')
Sure, Amanda melts like a Death Valley snowman at final tribal councils, but she's been to two of them, while setting the record for most days in the game without ever being voted off. A master of the social game, even if she proved incapable of justifying her actions to a jury, Amanda also held her own in physical challenges.

Tom Westman3. Tom Westman (winner, 'Survivor: Palau')
A dominant player from day 1 through the final vote, Tom was an out-front leader who not only survived the target that leadership puts on a player, he led the Koror tribe to a near-clean sweep of immunity challenges. He also won five out of seven individual immunity challenges -- most over players half his age -- and singlehandedly caught a shark to help feed his tribe. A shark, people!

Rob Mariano4. Rob Mariano (7th place, 'Survivor: Marquesas' and runner-up, 'Survivor: All-Stars')
Giving Amber Brkich the $1 million prize in the first all-star season was a move of sour grapes from a jury of 'Survivor' veterans, who refused to acknowledge how Boston Rob outwitted, outplayed and outlasted them all. He manipulated experienced players with an ease and sincerity that wannabes like Jonny Fairplay could only dream of pulling off. And since he married Amber shortly after her victory, he still had the last laugh.

Stephenie LaGrossa5. Stephenie LaGrossa (7th place, 'Survivor: Palau' and runner-up, 'Survivor: Guatemala)
While Tom Westman was leading his Koror tribe to victory after victory, Stephenie saw her Ulong tribe whittled down until she was the only member left. Alone at the Ulong campsite, she tearfully vowed to keep fighting, but was then instructed to merge with Koror. Immediately outnumbered and recognized as a major threat, she still managed to survive two more votes before being eliminated. Stephenie's determination, strength and athleticism were so admirable that she was brought back for the following season, finishing second.

Russell Hantz6. Russell Hantz ('Survivor: Samoa')
Russell was on the offensive from the moment the game began, working tribe-mates with lies and promises of long-lasting alliances. He found hidden immunity idols without any clues to their location, and knew exactly how and when to play them. But his ability to manipulate his fellow players must be measured against the sometimes astonishing gullibility of those who swallowed his assurances. If Russell doesn't win, his short-fuse temper will probably be the reason. If he makes it to the jury vote, his natural arrogance and no-longer-secret wealth will both work against him.

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