The Galu tribe's been victorious during almost every challenge under the guidance of their elected-chief, Russell Swan. So every member of the tribe was stunned when the attorney collapsed while participating in the reward challenge. "I never felt sick. I felt tired," Russell tells In Touch about the incident. "I thought I was just winded and thirsty," adds Russell, who flipped out on the medics when they made the decision to pull him from the game. But while watching the episode and seeing himself pass out, he has a newfound understanding of what happened. "The brain is an amazing thing. I guess it fills in the gaps because my memory of what happened and the reality of it are two completely opposite things," he admits.
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How are you feeling?
Russell: I'm actually doing fine. I'm still coming down to earth from having seen that for the first time but physically I'm doing just fine.
That's good to hear. So, what happened?
Russell: In my mind I was rolling the ball — I got really tired and was winded. I went to the maze, I took a knee, I was asked to pull my part up so they could move the ball — which is when I hit myself in the chin, so it felt like I was getting an uppercut and I knocked myself out. I lay there for a while then I took a drink of water and I was ready to go. Then they pulled me from the game and I was ticked off. That's my memory.
You were breaking my heart last night when you got so upset about going home.
Russell: I was devastated. I had applied eight times. I really wanted to do this. I felt like everything was cool, my memory was that I was fine and thirsty and then these mean evil people took me away from my dream and crushed my effort to win this $1 million for my wife and my daughter. And then something else happened. I watched this guy, who happened to look like me, almost die on TV. I was absolutely shocked. I did not know that that's how it had gone down at all. My wife freaked out and thought I was dead.
Since watching it, do you honestly think you could have gone on with the competition?
Russell: Oh hell no. I was done. When I saw that guy laying there I thought that dude is dead because that heart is not pumping any blood to the brain. Believe it or not, it wasn't until I actually watched it last night that I finally understood why they did what they did.
You got to hear all the other contestants talking about you and saying such nice things. How did that make you feel?
Russell: It was so life affirming. So the bad news is I go out and I'm bawling like a baby because here's this crushed, devastated broken man. But now out of this come all of these life-affirming statements. Sure, we were playing a game — but all of those people really believed in what I was trying to do. Last night my wife and I talked to each other in a way that we haven't done since we were dating and we've been married for 13 years. All of this great stuff came out of it, so I have no regrets. Sure, I wish I could have stayed in the game longer. I wanted to win that $1 million.
What was the worst part of the 15 days you spent in the game?
Russell: Being chief, without a doubt. When I was elected on day one, I knew I was in trouble. I had a huge target on my back. I did not sleep at all because I was constantly agonizing about what was going to happen tomorrow.
Even worse than the rain?
Russell: Rain is rain. It's water. But being chief was awful! But at the end of the day I'm glad that it happened because so much good stuff came out of it.
Would you do it all over again?
What's next for you?
Russell: I am back at work. I have a great job. I love protecting the environment. I love practicing law and being one of the good guys. Everyone in my office is absolutely excited about me being on the show because normally we government bureaucrats don't get to have this kind of fun. I got to inspire them and prove that even if you're middle aged and working for the government you can still be pretty cool, strong and kick butt.