'Survivor: Philippines' Russell Swan on reality-show return: 'I never thought I'd go down in history for almost dying'
Suffering from extreme dehydration, Swan collapsed several times during a challenge in "Survivor: Samoa" and scared the khaki pants off host and EP Jeff Probst, who called the incident "the scariest moment I've ever had on the show."
When we asked Swan in the Philippines about almost starring in a "Survivor" snuff film, he revealed he had "completely false memories" of what happened that day.
"The brain is a bizarre thing," he told us. "My memory was that I took a knee to rest, because I knocked myself out, [but] I got up, and I was good -- and they kicked me out of the game!"
The environmental attorney, now 45, "stuck to that story" up until he saw the episode aired on TV -- beside his oblivious wife.
"I saw me pass out three times, eyes roll up in the back of my head, and I'm thinking, 'What in the heck is going on?' And because I did not remember what happened, I did not have the opportunity to warn my own wife what she was about to see. So she got to -- along with millions of other people -- almost watch her husband die. Without any warning at all. So you can imagine what that night was like."
Fortunately, Swan recovered quickly and suffered no long-term health problems. And now the Samoa workhorse now realizes, "There are times when you have to stop and take care of yourself."
Swan is also determined to avoid other mistakes he made in Samoa -- like selecting pillows over a weatherproofing tarp for his tribe.
"I didn't understand why I was chosen chief in the first place," he laughs, although he know believes his "jovial and friendly" personality appealed to his tribemates. So now, he insists, "if I have to be nasty, I'll just be nasty," to avoid another leadership role.
"Why would you have me as a leader? Remember, I sucked. If you have me as a leader, you're just as dumb as I was."
Regardless of his role within his tribe, Swan is looking forward to reuniting with Jeff Probst. "The first time I saw Jeff was completely intimidating," he admitted. But during his health scare, Swan got to see him as "just a man who's concerned about another man."
"That made me feel really good -- that no matter how high his star has risen over the years, he really does care about us out here. I was a broken man that day. He showed care for me above and beyond just, 'Oh did we get the shot? Oh this is TV gold!' That just makes me respect him that much more."