Survivor – Portrait of a Meltdown

brandon and tribeWell, that was a different episode. There’s practically only one thing to talk about when it comes to this week’s episode of Survivor, but there’s certainly a lot to say on the matter. So if you’ve seen the episode (or just want a breakdown of the craziest Survivor meltdown of all time) click through.

Alright, let’s not bury the lede. Brandon Hantz, nephew of infamous Survivor player Russell Hantz and returning “Favorite”, had an epic, scary meltdown on Wednesday night’s episode and was subsequently voted out on the spot, before an Immunity Challenge, by his tribe.

A Brief History of Brandon Hantz

brandonThe behavior wasn’t isolated to this episode, or even to this season. When Brandon first appeared on Survivor, his behavior was irrational enough that I questioned in more than one blog post if he posed a threat to himself or his tribe. There were suspicions that maybe this guy had been given it easy on the psych test, because of the drama of his family background. He leered at women and became obsessed with an attractive female tribemate, saying she was a temptation and calling her “Delilah”. He was paranoid, unpredictable and angry.

This time, there were rumors on the Internet that Brandon had failed his pre-Survivor psych test and was cast anyway. I should be clear, I have NO idea whether these rumors are true. (I won’t link to them, because a Google search brought up a page that contained spoilers and I try very hard to avoid those. Google at your own risk.) Jeff Probst told EW.com at the beginning of the season that Brandon had been cleared for the show. However, having seen this episode, you have to wonder how on earth Brandon could have passed a psych test. He was unstable to the point of appearing dangerous. His tribemates seemed actually scared.

Diary of a Mad Hantz Man

At the beginning of the episode, Brandon announced to his tribe that he was volunteering to be voted out so that he could return to his wife and children. (It is truly terrifying that this man has children.) The next morning, he’d decided that he was going to play harder than ever, out of his love for them. Ups and down. Ups and downs. He also told Corinne, Andrea and Cochran that he’d considered burning down the camp and peeing in the rice and beans. He did a few confessionals with wild, crazy eyes.

Following the Reward Challenge, Brandon began his downward spiral. The rest of the tribe was praising Phillip’s performance in the challenge because, you know, he won it for them. And Phillip, being who he is, accepted the praise and bragged a little too much. Annoying, but nothing to really get your knickers in a knot about. But Brandon couldn’t stand it, and lashed out at Phillip.

phillipThe argument was volatile enough that Phillip wanted to throw the Immunity Challenge to get Brandon out, and Brandon was acting crazy enough that I didn’t think Phillip was wrong for suggesting to do so. I’m rarely on board with throwing challenges, but in this case it seemed warranted. The big mistake, though, was made by Andrea. Apparently she and Brandon are pals, and she essentially told him that if the tribe lost the Immunity Challenge, she was worried he’d be voted out. Big mistake – the kid was too unhinged to get that news.

Somewhere in there, Brandon had attempted to apologize to Phillip and the end result was Phillip implying that Brandon should not bite the hand that feeds him. Those words stuck with Brandon, and he freaked out. He confronted Phillip about possibly getting voted out, then ranted to everyone else that he’d give them a reason to vote him out. Illogical, because he is unreasonable. Brandon poured out the rice and beans, and it seemed pretty clear that everyone on the tribe was kind of afraid of him. Erik tried to stop him from pouring out the food, but backed off pretty quickly. It made me wonder how much else went on with Brandon at camp that we didn’t get to see. They seemed truly exhausted from dealing with his behavior.

Brandon tried to start a fight with Phillip, and I think the producers should be counting their lucky stars that he wasn’t on a tribe with more aggressive people. Malcolm and Erik are calm dudes – how would someone like Shamar have dealt with all the rice getting poured out? Would Eddie have remained so calm? Can you imagine NaOnka on this tribe? Phillip walked away from Brandon, but not everyone would have.

Probst Plays Therapist

at the challengeEveryone arrived at the Immunity Challenge, and it was clear that the Favorites had already decided what to do. First, Brandon spoke – it was as manic and illogical as ever. He said he was giving the Fans a second chance, and told them not to let Phillip win. He didn’t really make it clear if he was quitting, but he was obviously trying to go out on his own terms or something. Next, Corinne spoke and delivered what seemed to be a prepared statement. She announced that the Favorites would be forfeiting the challenge so that they could attend Tribal Council to deal with some discontent within the tribe. Eventually Probst got Brandon to come stand by him so they could try and talk things through.

Brandon continued to say unsettling things, and act like a person who probably has a mental illness and likely needs some serious help. Andrea started sobbing at one point – I still can’t believe that she and Brandon were close -and Dawn had a hard time holding it together as well. Everyone just looked drained, like they’d been dealing with unpredictable, irrational behavior for a long time.

First of all, it was awkward to watch Probst give Brandon such an intimate shoulder massage during all of this. Second of all, he did a pretty good job of keeping the guy calm and I’ll be interested to hear what he has to say about it all tomorrow in his weekly Q&A with EW.com. But while he deserves credit for dealing with the situation well, it’s a situation that never should have happened.

Entertainment vs. Exploitation

I fear this is getting too long, and I’ve already stated that I don’t think Brandon should have been cast on Survivor this season, or any other. But this could lead to an interesting discussion about reality TV show casting in general. There’s been talk before about suicides of reality TV “stars”, and other violence, though it often seems to revolve around shows that I’d consider a lower quality than something like Survivor. Yes, there is such a thing as high-brow reality TV. Accept that fact.

Recently on American Idol, a young man was put through to the live rounds who obviously wasn’t equipped to handle all the pressure that came with it. He delivered an awkward performance – a pale redhead wearing a tanktop, ponytail and feather earring – and then took criticisms from the judges for being different than what they’d expected. They signed up for a particular brand of quirky, and he hadn’t delivered. Afterwards, he painfully told Ryan Seacrest that he only smiles because he thinks he has to. Hearts broke, and the kid seemed to troubled that I actually worried for him. Like Jeff Probst this week, Ryan Seacrest handled it well, but you had to ask why the guy had been put into the situation to begin with. The quest for good ratings and buzz on Twitter should never trump ethics. Putting Brandon on this season of Survivor was exploitation, not entertainment. I’m disappointed in the show for doing it.

Verbal Voting

On a lesser level, I think it’s unfair to the other Favorites that Brandon was cast. He was impossible to live with, and the tribe was essentially forced into forfeiting a challenge in order to vote out someone that seemed threatening to them. Sure, they had an opportunity to vote Brandon out instead of Francesca – but that was three days into the game, when Brandon wasn’t yet sabotaging food and threatening physical violence. I think it’s unfair that they had to lose a tribe member because the producers were irresponsible in their casting decision. Furthermore, what about their food? Will it be replaced? That also feels unfair.

Anyway, Probst moved things right into Tribal Council (because everyone knew allowed Brandon to return to camp would be a mistake) and everyone verbally voted Brandon out, except for Brandon, who voted for Phillip. He was sent to wait behind the Immunity Challenge structure, hopefully for medical assistance, and the Immunity Idol was handed over to the Fans.

Hidden Immunity Idols and Such

OK, a few other things did happen during this episode. The Favorites won yet another challenge, and got to partake in a tasty BBQ feast. The Reward Challenge required two players to hold two large baskets, while players from the other teams attempted to fill them with coconuts. The team with the last player standing won.

reynold02Reynold seemed to have a good strategy going in piling all his coconuts on Brandon, eliminating him for the Favorites, and then moving onto Phillip. But where the Fans went wrong was putting Michael and Matt on the nets. Eddie definitely should have been in one of those roles, they didn’t need both of their strongest guys throwing the coconuts.

At the Fans’ camp, everyone went looking for the Hidden Immunity Idol and Reynold found it again. My fiance Rob ended up with Reynold in the office Survivor pool, and we originally thought that he wouldn’t last long. But Reynold keeps getting lucky, and the Tribal shake-up that’s about to occur is just what he needs. That’s right – next week, the tribes are going to be shaken up, which means anything could happen. I often dislike this game twist, because it undermines all the hard work people do in building alliances early on. But it can certainly lead to a more unpredictable game, and this season has been an exciting one so far. I feel confident that it will keep up.

OK, your turn! Take to the comments and sound off on Brandon’s behavior, and all the rest.

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About Jill

Pop culture junkie. Food lover. Feminist. Content marketer. I'm here to win and I'm also here to make friends.
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22 Responses to Survivor – Portrait of a Meltdown

  1. Scott says:

    I feel sorry for Brandon. He obviously has some issues, but I really don’t think this would have happened if Phillip hadn’t been cast. You mentioned that they had the opportunity to vote out Brandon, but his behaviour didn’t warrant it back then. I’d make the same argument for Phillip, except he was behaving like a lunatic from day one. For me it would be the height of frustration to have to work with someone like Phillip, so, whilst Brandon obviously went too far, I do understand why he went off the deep end, and I don’t think that anyone would have expected this kind of melt down during casting. Great work (although creepy shoulder massage) by Probst to keep him calm.

    Other thoughts: They need to fire whoever hides the immunity idols, because it’s not fun to have a new idol each vote (at least pre-merge), and it’s even less fun when they’re so flipping easy to find. I wouldn’t mind multiple idols being found (hey, Micronesia), if the players had to work to find them.

    Dawn impressed me this episode. She seemed to still be against throwing the challenge, because it’s always an extremely dangerous thing to do (although a tribal mixup next week would negate that, as there should be a 4-3 favs-fans advantage in each tribe). I just hope Corinne is safe!

  2. Aaron Sirois says:

    I’d hate to be the public defender that gets assigned to Brandon whenever he inevitably goes off the deep end in a real world situation.

    I’m honestly shocked that Phillip didn’t go nuts at the things Brandon said about him. I think it proves that he’s much more level headed than he plays up on TV. I really wonder how much of it is an act.

    And yeah. I’m totally ready for them to just start burying the idol somewhere and then having clues hidden in trees. It’s beyond a joke now.

    • Jill says:

      I agree. I think Phillip can be difficult, and he said some things that aggravated Brandon that I think a more sensible person would not have said. But he also kept his cool more than many would.

  3. Alex says:

    I completely agree about the exploitation issue. I’m not going to go as far as saying that Brandon is severely in need of therapy, although I do think he has some issues that need to be worked through. It’s not like he just out of the blue decided to go crazy. It seems as if both he and Phillip were cast exclusively for the purpose of drama and that is… sad.

    I keep thinking about Jeff’s comment on how part of him couldn’t help but thank the Survivor gods for Francesca being voted out first twice, because it made history…. are they also doing it now? I think this really was the lowest point in Survivor history. While it may have provided temporary ‘entertainment’, I kind of think lowlier of the show now.

  4. Sheena says:

    When I heard that Brandon was being brought back into another season that was the ‘END’ of watching Survivor for me … Watching him in his first go around was painful and scary….the guy is a ‘gun’ just waiting for the trigger to be pulled…I have no doubt that in the ‘real world’ he will go off completely …It’s just a matter of time .. Physiological testing be damed…this guy is not dealing with a full deck.. And should never have been brought back .. Philip is maybe a goof, talks too much and delusional but not scary .. Ask yourself which would you rather be around? I think that the physiologist should be ashamed at not putting a stop to Brandon even being considered..Producers….the show does suffer…

    • Jill says:

      I think you’re right on with Phillip compared to Brandon. Phillip is kind of a blowhard. Not a great guy to be around 24/7, too full of himself, lacks social graces…but he doesn’t seem dangerous.

  5. Davide Maistrello says:

    Well, this episode is definitely one for the ages. I’ve come to the conclusion that Brandon Hantz is the craziest and scariest reality TV contestant ever (and believe me, we’ve gotten our fair share of those here in Italy…some years ago a guy was expelled from the Big Brother house after two days of permanence– he had stripped fully naked and had threatened to defecate in the other housemates’ beds – then he was hospitalized in a psychiatric hospital). I think we can honestly say that everybody saw it coming since the season started, I would even say since the names were announced, but in my opinion it shouldn’t have gotten to this point.

    Before the episode started, I was willing to bet that Phillip would set the train of crazy off, but from what we saw it seems that he didn’t do anything particularly offensive towards Brandon. Who said that Russell’s nephew is a time bomb waiting to explode is completely correct; he had already checked out of his game, and wanted to do that on his own terms.

    I fully admire how Jeff Probst dealt with Brandon’s craziness at the Immunity Challenge – he masterfully managed to keep him at bay. It’s awesome to see how he can cope with threatening situations, such as when he stopped the challenge to allow the doctors to assist Russell Swann. The problem is that Brandon should never have been put on the show a second time, after the difficult time he had since he returned from South Pacific. I honestly felt sorry for the guy, who clearly can’t prevent the game from getting the best of him. Maybe he’s a nice, saner guy in real life, even if probably no one can really tell, apart from who really knows him.

    About the psychological test issue…I really want to think that there is nothing wrong with it. Things of that proportion should never happen and, after reading Probst’s interview on EW.com where he said that they all thought that it would be great to see Brandon playing with a different, more positive approach, I think it’s safe to say that their hopes went terribly wrong. A game like Survivor should be played only by people who are fit enough to handle the experience (you can quote the case of Sinisa Savija, the Serbian-Swedish guy who threw himself under a train after being voted off first in the first Swedish edition of Survivor in 1997) but this season we already had two meltdowns, that of Shamar and that of Brandon, with all the appropriate distinctions made.

    I don’t want to blame what happened on the producers, but I deeply hope that no one in the Hantz family clan will be ever invited to play again. Brandon’s meltdown sure made for good TV entertainment, but I found it very difficult to watch.

    • Jill says:

      Great comments! I wish I could believe Jeff Probst, but given how Brandon behaved on his first season I don’t know how they could have thought it would be any different.

  6. colin.was.here says:

    That really was something.

    It was awful to watch, but also really gripping. I thought the looks on all their faces at the Immunity Challenge said it all.

    Also think he should never have been on, thumbs down for that.

    Glad others also thought the shoulder rub was little much….It was effective, yeah, but so, so awkward.

    Crazy, crazy episode.

    PS Who was the attractive female tribe mate that Brandon hated/lusted after and called Delilah?

    • Jill says:

      Annie C below is correct, it was Mikayla and Brandon was very bizarre – she did nothing to lead him on at all, he just felt tempted by her.

  7. Annie C says:

    Wow, that was quite a bit of crazy. In response to the person above me, her name was Mikayla. If I remember correctly, she did absolutely nothing promiscuous or provocative, and Brandon just targeted her from the start because she caused him to lust.

  8. Andrew says:

    While no doubt Brandon does have mental health issues, I also believe his behaviour can In part be attributed to him trying to live up to his perception of the Hantz family name. Uncle Russell was disappointed in Brandon’s gamesmanship and crying in Brandon’s previous season, hence why I believe Brandon made a point of mentioning he hadnt cried this season. He also from The beginning had plans to ruin the rice etc, meaning he was merely waiting for the opportunity to do this, and Phillip merely gave him an excuse to do this. Brandon I feel was waiting for an opportunity to prove how tough he is, and that yes he is a Hantz, and Phillip merely gave him this opportunity.

  9. Yao says:

    Shame on Jeff Probst and the other producers for casting an obviously mentally unbalanced person for ratings. It was completely unfair for the Favorites tribe and they should have their food supplies replaced. People signed up with other generally normal people to play a game. Not with people who would destroy food supplies or burn down the shelter.

    Brandon either quit or was disqualified. The Favorites tribes went through the voting “process” so they wouldn’t have to lose two people. If Brandon brought out the Hidden Immunity Idol would the producers accept that? No. So it wasn’t a real tribal council. And I hearing a lot of praise for Jeff Probst for handling the incident but this wouldn’t have happen if they valued gamesmanship over insanity. And for people saying how great this was. Why don’t we just have show watching crazy people hurting themselves or destroying things?

    The casting has been getting worse and worse (One World being the worst) and the lower ratings aren’t due to people getting bored with standard Survivor model but with all these crazy people.

    • Scott says:

      You can’t go past Fiji for bad casting, in my opinion 😉

      They’ve done it before where an official vote hasn’t taken place (Osten in Pearl Islands). Granted they were at tribal council, but they didn’t officially vote. Plus the favourites didn’t even attempt the immunity challenge, so there’s no guarantee that they’d have to lose two people if they were forced to play. There’s no way I think Brandon was disqualified, he didn’t physically harm anybody, which showed he’s not completely crazy – he was able to control himself there. I definitely don’t think Probst or any producer would have allowed him to play again if they thought this would happen. Of course Brandon was cast for ratings – all of the favourites were, but there’s no way that they cast him in the hopes he’d lose it like that.

      Plus I wouldn’t call many other castaways ‘normal.’ Phillip? Coach? Russell? Matthew from the Amazon? At least Brandon didn’t do anything to put anyone in danger, many tribes have been out of supplies before.

      • Yao says:

        I believe Osten actually did quit and he’s counted as a quiter. Besides the rules have always been unclear (sometimes in a episode if a person quit or was medevac they would have a Tribal Council and other times they wouldn’t). So I believe the Favorites was being cautious. There was no guarantee they would win the Immunity Challenge. If the Favorites talked with Brandon before the challenge and convinced him to leave and they lost the challenge then they would be down two. So they left him alone and were planning on throwing the challenge to get rid of him then but then he had his meltdown. And no it was not a normal voting process. If Brandon brought out the Hidden Immunity Idol would the producers accept that? No, they wouldn’t. There was no way they would have let him back to camp.

        And those other players you mentioned are nowhere near as crazy as Brandon. Eccentric at worst. What Russel burned some socks? Brandon destroyed the tribe’s entire food supply (and those other times you mentioned when tribes ran out of food was because they didn’t ration it properly not due to one man) and was threatening to burn down the shelter. And no he was not in self-control when he had to be restrained by Jeff Probst. He was incoherent in his ranting at Phillip. And people close to production have said he failed his psych evaluation but was cast anyway. Read this article where Jeff talked about the measures needed to contain Brandon.

        http://insidetv.ew.com/2013/03/14/survivor-caramoan-jeff-probst-brandon-hantz-meltdown/

        “I can share with you that I was whispering instructions into my microphone (which is fed to our audio department) for our safety and security guys to be ready to assist if necessary. I was also asking for our show psychologist to be put on a boat and brought over immediately so she could counsel Brandon after the incident was over.”

        There’s a difference between casting interesting people and casting mentally unbalanced people. And it was dangerous and irresponsible to cast Brandon. This show is called Survivor not Asylum. I watch the show to see fun challenges and strategic gameplay like how it was during the early seasons. If all you want to see is crazy people destroying things then why have rules, why have challenges, why even have a show?

      • Scott says:

        Well the producers obviously knew he didn’t have the idol, so there was no danger in that. Brandon would’ve have played it anyway – he knew he was going out, he just wanted it to be on his terms rather than Phillip’s.

        I disagree, I think he was in total control, until Phillip brought up his children, which I think was an abhorrent thing to do. Brandon walked away from his tribe at that challenge, he walked around behind the challenge equipment when he left, and he could’ve easily come back around if he wanted to get physical, but he had the control not to.

        You can’t use threatening to burn down the shelter as a reason to call him crazy, I highly doubt he ever came close to thinking about actually going through with that, hence the food supply. The producers obviously wouldn’t let a tribe starve, so I think for Brandon, it was the best way to release his anger without endangering anyone on his tribe.

        Also the quote from Jeff. Of course he had safety and security guys on standby, but that was obviously a precautionary measure. They would’ve done that in any similar situation, not because they thought Brandon was going to lose it. And the show has a Psychologist who sees every single contestant after they’re voted out, so it wasn’t special for Brandon.

        I don’t think it was irresponsible or dangerous to cast Brandon. He obviously came back wanting to play a different game, but he was chucked on a tribe with a delusional idiot who treated him like dirt, and got away with it, whilst poor Francesca was voted out first twice. You saw how he reacted to that, which I think was fair enough. Then to sit around for another however many days just to be continually treated like an idiot by Phillip, of all people, would’ve been bad. Andrea basically telling him that they were throwing the challenge to get him out – what would you do? Would you just accept it, or would you want to retaliate in some way? Brandon retaliated, he didn’t hurt anybody like he could have, he just tipped out their food, because it was probably the most hurtful thing he could think of doing without hurting anybody, which I admire. It would be so taxing to spend that many days with somebody like Phillip walking around like they were the second coming of Boston Rob.

        Oh please, there’s always been drama back at camp, it’s a part of the show. Of couse I watch for the challenges and strategy (neither of which were better in the early seasons, mind you), but that’s not all there is to it, Survivor is a social game. I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with Brandon, and I in no way think this would’ve happened if he wasn’t stuck with Phillip (or even if Andrea hadn’t told him what was going to happen), and under the circumstances (dropping everything else in your life to come and play the greatest game ever for a million dollars, just to be bullied by a delusional man whom nobody will stand up against?), I have no qualms with his casting, or what transpired.

      • Scott says:

        Whoops, I meant Brandon would not have played it** (first paragraph)

  10. HIGR says:

    Awkward and sad to witness Brandon’s intense emotional outburst. Obviously he has some major unresolved issues and this meltdown might of been a blessing in disguise which will hopefully get him the professional help he needs. Feel so sad for his wife & children.

    I think people are being to harsh on Phillip, I frankly did not care for him when he was on Survivor first time around. Though this time around I am rooting for him. Think he handled Brandon’s verbal assault really good. Because response I heard from male watchers was ” he (Phillip) should of kicked his (Brandon’s) a%*” so Phillip did show mature & responsible restraint, so kudos to you Phillip!

    By the way are we turning the blind eye on who literally stirred the pot in her so innocent & naive way??? Common sense tells you never ever ever add more fuel to the fire. Come on Andrea perfectly knew what may happen when she ” so innocently” told Brandon what Phillip had told her about voting Brandon off. It was obvious by her reaction that she knew what she had done and was afraid she was going to be called out on it . She still continued to add fuel to the fire when Jeff asked about what was going on . She had to mention how Brandon & Phillip talked so bad about one another, knowing again she would get a reaction from Phillip & in turn stirring up Brandon. I really liked her but after her true manipulative , sneaky personality came out not a fan of hers at all.
    But again it is Survivor.

    Jeff handeled this situation very professional & compassionately though the shoulder massage was awkward to watch but hey you you do what you have to do. Great job Jeff!!!!

  11. Mum says:

    Totally agree that it was irresponsible to cast Brandon a second time ( heck, even a first time for that matter). Listen to him talk with Dalton Ross on the Inside TV podcast (available free on i-tunes) and you will hear him defend his actions and even claim to be proud of what he did and this some 10 months later. He is unapologetic and unaware that his behaviour could be seen as threatening to himself or others. Completely delusional and expecting a third child. Also said he’d be willing to play a third time if asked !?!
    Advice to Survivor producers: We are never, ever, ever getting back together!

    • Scott says:

      Even more horrifying was reading that he’d only come back to play against Russell – no thankyou!

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