October 11, 2012 6:30pm PT by Kimberly Nordyke
'Survivor: Philippines' Contestant Russell Swan: 'I Have Very Little Positive to Say' About Experience
Russell Swan's second shot at winning Survivor is over.
The 45-year-old from Glenside, Penn. -- one of three returning competitors this season -- became the fourth person voted out of Survivor: Philippines after his tribe lost its fourth challenge in a row. In the episode, Russell was seen getting emotional about the disappointing performance of his now-decimated tribe, which, after his ouster, leaves only two members: Denise Stapley and Malcolm Freberg, who previously formed an alliance. (The other two tribes still have all six original members.)
Russell, who previously told The Hollywood Reporter that this season was going to be "bananas," talked to THR again the day after his elimination episode aired.
The Hollywood Reporter: Were you at all surprised you were the one voted out?
Russell Swan: No, not really. I mean, everybody had seen there were returning players, and you kind of figure that you always have that target on your back. So if given the choice, the newbies would figure that if there was an opportunity, the returning players would be taken out. It seems to be clear with the other tribes as well. [Jonathan Penner and Mike Skupin are the other returning players this season; all three had been medically evacuated from previous seasons.] I wasn't too surprised.
THR: So you knew you were going home?
Russell: Going in [to tribal council], I pretty much knew it was going to be me. Being a returning player, I had some advantage, and I can tell, with body language -- in poker terms of tells, when people are bluffing and you can just tell that because you're saying it, doesn't mean it's true. I had been down this road before. The experience was just, Wow, this is really culminating into being a complete nightmare. There is no scenario, including me dying, that would be worse than what happened. Although I wouldn't want to go away from my daughter or wife, this is the worst-case scenario I ever imagined happening.
THR: Why is the Matsing tribe performing so poorly at challenges? What went wrong?
Russell: It's hard to know. I've been more introspective with this thing, and honestly I've been trying to basically close that compartment door and lose the key. To a certain extent, I needed to go away a little bit, focus on other life demands and not have my head up my butt for why, why, why, why, why, for a TV show. I'm not in an intellectual phase of looking at the show. I'm still emotional in terms of my view of it. One of the things I will say is that I don't think it was from any particular person. I think everyone really did the best they could given the circumstances.
THR: You were seen struggling in some of the challenges [including the previous episode's water challenge in which he was seen having a hard time retrieving a puzzle piece underwater and climbing up a ladder]. Do you think what we saw on TV was a fair portrayal of your challenge performances?
Russell: The only one I'm going to talk about is the swimming thing. You never want to make these things racial or economic, but the bottom line is that there is an economic thing going on here. [Growing up], I didn't have access to deep pools and oceans. I didn't spend a lot of time in pools or swimming in the ocean or diving 20 feet down in the ocean. ... So, you know, being winded and trying to find something in salt water is different from opening your eyes in a pool. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter, it's just going to sound like I'm making excuses, and that was a particularly difficult thing for me to do. ... RC, here's a woman that did three of those [puzzle-piece retrievals] in a row. Come to find out, she swam the freaking English Channel. So that was her strength; she grew up with that.
THR: Do you wish you had done anything differently?
Russell: Good question. You know, the first time I played, it took about three or four months before I actually started to go back and rewatch the episodes. A couple of things I noticed was, "Oh gosh, you're so stupid, Russell, are you kidding me?" But I haven't been able to step back [this time]. My whole thing is just surviving this component of it, getting through the interviews and being left alone. ... I figure plenty of people have a lot to say about how I played, so let them have at it.
THR: You were shivering at tribal council. How cold was it?
Russell: You are the first person to pick up on that. I don't know if the fire was lower or the wind was blowing differently, but yeah it was absolutely freezing.
THR: After you were voted out, you told the camera that you were done with Survivor? Is that still how you feel?
Russell: [Because he was conversing with CBS about his upcoming Skype chat], I pretty much missed all of tribal council, and I didn't see or hear [what was shown]. In my memory, I was pissed, but don't remember saying anything [like that]. So I'm only speculating now when I say that I probably meant I was just needing space away from it. It's just a reality TV show, but it's me, not me as an actor playing a character. The fallout impacts me, and the impact is such that I am adverse to continuing to be impacted by it, so I want it away from me. I am going to going to have to rewatch it and see.
THR: Are you glad you went back a second time?
Russell: Again, I don't know. I wasn't sure that I was happy that I played the first time, but then all of these amazing things happened out of it. I met all these great people who said, "Wow, man, you were really in trouble but went down like a fighter," and it brought my wife and I closer together. ... I'm imagining that if you ask that question three months from now, I'd probably say I'm so glad I did it and no regrets and that I learned this and this and this. I can't say that right now. It just sucked. I as a Christian never try to use the word "hate" -- there is no place in Christian vocabulary for that -- but I have to say I'm in a position where I hate this experience right now. And I think I will get there. I really do. I wasn't too fond of what happened the first time either. But right now it's like a car crash that just happened: Look at the bodies while they are fresh. It's a snapshot in time how somebody answers a particular question, and right now my snapshot is that I have very little positive to say about what the experience was like for me.
Watch Russell Swan's interview with THR before the show premiered below.