‘Survivor: Philippines’ Castaway Russell: ‘I’m Just Mad…Humiliated’


Russell Swan (CBS)

XFinityTV is blowing up their coverage of “Survivor: Philippines.” Every Monday Jeff Probst and I will tackle a wide variety of topics with the “Survivor” Question of the Week. Every Tuesday I’ll be squaring off against “Survivor: One World” favorite Kat Edorsson in this season’s Power Rankings challenge. Every Wednesday briefly after the show we’ll have a full episode recap and every Thursday we’ll have an interview with the latest eliminated player.  Follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for all the updates!

Set Your DVR to Record “Survivor: Philippines”

Usually “Survivor” exit interviews involve the castaway and I discussing what went wrong with their game, who stabbed them in the back, and how tough the conditions were. We share some laughs, they do some word association. Lather, rinse, repeat.

This won’t be one of those interviews.

I spoke with Russell Swan the morning after he was eliminated from “Survivor: Philippines.” We didn’t discuss his relationship with Malcolm and Denise, his Tribal Council debate with Angie, or his brief alliance with Roxanne. In fact, no other players’ names came up. We really didn’t talk about anything other than the psychological effect a game that’s played under the worst conditions in front of millions of people can have on someone…

Gordon Holmes: I feel like if you play this game with the same people in the same place 100 different times you’ll get 100 different outcomes. Was what happened to Matsing? Just a run of bad luck?
Russell Swan: Gordon, this is going to sound weird. I’ve had some anxiety about these interviews and what I feel comfortable sharing. I will be the first confess that I’m having  a tough time. This has had a tremendous effect on me. It’s hard to focus on those type of typical questions. The only thing I can say is; this experience was very different from the first one. The impact the first time was physical. This time it’s psychological. And, it seems clear to me that the best thing for me to do is be introspective and think about if there are things I can learn about myself. Hopefully in time I’ll be able to talk about the game.
Holmes: I understand.
Swan: But right now, Russell needs to take care of Russell.

Holmes: OK, let’s go wider with this. Going into the game I spoke with you, I spoke with the other returnees. All three of you came into the game under similar circumstances with the medical evacuations. And you were unique in that your elimination in Samoa really seemed to stick with you. You said a couple of times that you kept asking yourself, ‘What if?” Now that you’ve played again and were voted out, does that make things better? Does it make it worse?
Swan: That’s a very good and interesting question. And that’s the crux of this whole thing. I have to say my short answer is that I’m not sure. And that’s all because what happened this time is so much more complex. Because, let’s face it, I’m an object of scorn and ridicule to some extent. Which is fine. If you don’t go into this thing with your eyes open that that’s within the realm of possibility, then you’re a fool. I get that. Just because you can intellectualize about that doesn’t make it easy. I’m not in an intellectual place right now. It’s having an impact, which is difficult.
Holmes: What’s the reaction been like from your family?
Swan: Last night before the show came on I told my daughter, “Look, I’m going to get voted out.” She asked me why, and the way she asked me was like, “Why would they vote you out, Daddy? You’re OK. I love you. Why don’t others want you around?” And I basically said that my tribe loses the challenge and votes me out. But she could discern that there were still other people in the tribe. And she said, “If there’s still going to be other people, why are they voting you out?” And then she started to cry. It just hit me that this is a pretty profound thing. We had a conversation that was very good, it bonded us in a very special way that I don’t want to share because it’s very personal, but it’s tough to have to see my daughter upset over this thing. So, it was one more thing that piles onto the scorn and the ridicule.
Holmes: Does it give you some solace that your real alliance, the people you’re spending your life with, care so much about you? Does that help put things in perspective?
Swan: Oh, absolutely. And Gordon, that’s the one thing I’ll say that there is always a silver lining. And one of those things was the special moment I had with my daughter. The other one is I really do appreciate my life. Not to say that before “Survivor” that I didn’t appreciate her, but when you feel like you have nothing else and no soft place to land, and you can go to this person and you know that they have your back and they want you to be better, that’s just such an amazing thing. My real tribe loves me and they have proven it. I will never have to question that.

Holmes: You mentioned “scorn and ridicule” earlier. What have you been experiencing outside of the game?
Swan: You know; Twitter, Facebook. Some of it has even been in my face walking down the street. It’s probably not unlike some of the other folks in the past have received. But I’ll be on my way to the office and the guy across the way on the train platform will say, “You suck!” Some of it’s been quite aggressive to the point where if I’d been able to get to the people it might not have ended well. It’s not easy. I’m a person, I’m a human being. Jeff’s right, I’m not Superman.
Holmes: I always say it’s easy to be on your couch and be well fed and say, “Yeah, Russell should have done this.”
Swan: That’s right. If I’m not mistaken, you’ve run a challenge or two.
Holmes: Yeah. A few times.
Swan: You know that those things are ballbusters.
Holmes: That they are.
Swan: And that’s just the physical. The physical is easy. I wanted to do well. I wanted my tribe to do well. I wanted to last longer than I did before. I wanted to make the merge. And I do wear my heart on my sleeve. What happened in Tribal a couple of times is the antithesis of what I believe. I don’t believe in tearing people down. But, that’s the nature of the game.

Holmes: You went in with a blueprint for what you wanted to do. You didn’t want to be a leader, you were going to hang back, you were going to stay hydrated. A lot of the things you said you weren’t going to do, you ended up doing. Is that part of being in the game? Is that something within yourself that you have to deal with?
Swan: I don’t know. Again, I don’t know. Right now, I’m in “Survivor” mode. I’m just mad, pissed, humiliated. That’s where I’m existing right now.

Holmes: I love “Survivor.” I’ve been watching from day one. But at the end of the day it’s just a game. We’ve spoken a few times, I don’t know you personally, but you’ve always been a nice, approachable guy.
Swan: Thank you.
Holmes: This interview has been kind of heartbreaking. I hope you’re able to find some solace in all of this. It’s not worth beating yourself up over. It seems like you have a fantastic life and a great family.
Swan: Absolutely. And I appreciate that.
Holmes: A lot of people leave the show and it’s changed their life for the better. I hope you’re able to eventually find a good place for this.
Swan: I’ll get there, Gordon. If nothing else, I don’t want people to think I’m going to jump off of a bridge.
Holmes: Do not jump off a bridge. I can’t emphasize that enough.
Swan: (Laughs)
Holmes: We’re both Philly guys, if you’re going to jump off a bridge you call me.
Swan: (Laughs) I certainly will, dude.

Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes

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