Russell Swan was removed from “Survivor: Samoa” for severe dehydration. It turns out his memory of the situation is very different from what we saw on TV and only highlights the seriousness of the collapse.
What were you doing before ‘Survivor’?
I was and still am an attorney with the Environmental Protection Agency, I do environmental law. I’m with one of the regional offices here in Philadelphia.
This season, Jeff had the tribes elect leaders right off the bat. Did you like being elected the leader?
It sucked. I absolutely hated it. I am a student and a fan of the show. This was the eighth time that I had applied to be on the show so I knew that the whole leadership thing is rather dubious and to actually proactively be elected leader… I knew I was in trouble. Especially when we lost that first challenge. John Mr. Underwear Model decides he’s not going to take his pants off for the swim so he got smoked by Jaison and instead of Jeff saying it was stupid to keep your pants on, he’s like, “Wow wasn’t it really poor decision-making by Russell to pick John for the swim.” So it sucked being picked as the chief.
Why do you think it was you that got the most votes?
Shambo and I were getting the votes and I think it was because of Shambo’s mullet and I think for me it was because I had on a suit jacket. So it was like anything that distinguished you at all because we were complete strangers, we didn’t even know what each other’s voices sound like and the two that stand out the most were Shambo and I and unfortunately I won the day. [laughs]
Okay, let’s talk about the emergency we saw last night. Can you talk us through what happened?
Here’s where it gets interesting. Forgive me if it sounds like I’m being schizophrenic because I have a memory that was dashed completely last night. My memory and what happened on TV are two different things. My memory is this: we’re pushing the ball, I get tired, I’m thinking c’mon hurry up, let’s get to the puzzle. I’m running into things because I’m blindfolded, I get to the puzzle, I am wasted beyond all heck, I take a knee. I’m waiting for Laura to tell me to move my peg [on the table maze], she finally said move your peg, I lifted up, I remember being hit on the chin and kinda knocked myself out a little bit, I fall on the ground, I get a drink of water and I’m ready to go and these fools kick me out of the game! I’m livid and that’s my memory.
Then I’m watching TV and I’m watching a black guy who looks like me (a good-looking black guy [laughs]) and I see him, like, dying. It was a scary thing. My wife is sitting beside me and she absolutely loses it. She starts bawling.
I had [previously] told her that next week it’s me, I’m the man who goes down, but that I’m fine and I don’t think they should’ve kicked me off. Fast-forward, we’re sitting there [watching TV] and she sees my eyes staring out at nothing, this guy looks like her husband and he looks like he’s dying and she absolutely loses it. I was completely floored, I had no idea that’s what happened. I have no memory of that whatsoever. I don’t remember running into Foa Foa’s side, I don’t remember hanging on the puzzle, I don’t remember anybody from the tribe saying anything to me, I don’t remember passing out the second time. I remember getting a drink of water and being ready to go.
Wow. That is incredible. It makes what we saw last night so much scarier.
Yeah, for us too.
And what did they do with you after the part that we saw? Where did they take you?
Good question. Now I don’t trust myself, but as far as I can remember I go to a clinic-like thing that is set up for everyone for any type of ailment. I can tell you that I was a complete jerk, I remember that. It’s almost like when you take somebody in and they’re high or drunk and they’re getting medical attention and being a complete idiot. That would be me.
I remember just kind of taking 10 minutes, they put an IV in my arm. I feel fine, I’m ready to go and I’m like, “Take this crap out.” I’m still convinced that I’m going back out there and they’re like “We gotta check your electrolytes” and somebody is talking about a heart attack and I’m like, “I’m talking to you, I can breathe.”
That’s what I remember. I don’t trust it because my memory of the actual challenge was way off but the only defense I have is that I was in some kind of warrior mode and it just wouldn’t turn off and denial and all that stuff and it literally looks like I kicked the bucket out there.
Wow. That is incredible, how scary for you. Okay, well, let’s turn back to the game now. Who are you rooting for?
You know… there’s a couple people. I’m really rooting for Shambo. I mean, ya know, as crazy as she was and as crazy as she drove me while I was out there, you just gotta love her. She’s a character. That other Russell, he’s a little troll, but definitely I’m rooting pretty heavily for Shambo. My next would be Dave. You know, anybody who wears a ponytail and is balding like I am but rocking the dreads, you gotta give him some love.
Do you think Shambo will flip sides if there’s a merge?
That was a very emphatic yes! [laughs]
You know, I sent her both times [to Foa Foa]. I didn’t know anything about what was going on over there but I knew she was not going to be happy with me and it was obvious that she wasn’t happy with the tribe. We were both kinda different from a lot of those folks but after seeing what I saw, it is clear to me that she’s probably gonna flip.
Do you have any messages for your fans?
First of all, perseverance pays off. Don’t give up if there’s something you want to do. I kept applying to this show because I really wanted to be on it and it finally happened.
Secondly, don’t not do something for fear of failing at it because it really is better to try to do something that you really want to do and fail because you still get so much out of it. I got so much out of this thing even though I didn’t win. I’m still a winner.
I have had so many life-affirming moments from it. A life-affirming moment of having my wife see me almost die. It made us talk in a way we haven’t talked since we were dating and we’ve been married 13 years. I got to watch my tribe care about me when I fell, that was life-affirming. And there’s something to be said about getting knocked down but getting back up. I fell down, the defeat was crushing, the blow to the ego was beyond compare. I wept bitterly, I was absolutely devastated. While I was laying there, part of me wanted to die. It was that bad, I felt that horrible and that useless and then I prayed and God affirmed that I got more time. More time to be a husband to my wife and a daddy to my little girl and it doesn’t get any better than that, I just want people to know that. Don’t feel sorry for me, it has been ALL GOOD. Yes, I wish I would’ve won a million dollars because that’s what I went there to do, but I came out of the game with so much more. That million dollars would’ve eventually been spent but this has been something that will last for the rest of my life.