Richard Hatch betrayed his thin veil of modesty the moment he hunched into a chair in Silliman Master Judith Krauss’ living room. He stroked a clean-shaven chin, thanked Krauss for a free lunch, and announced, “I love who I am.”
The audience, composed of about 100 combined Silliman College students and Yale Film Society members, sat cross-legged on the floor for Friday’s informal Master’s Tea. The stuffy, over-occupied room was swollen with Hatch’s ego, and as Yale’s greatest “Survivor” fans stroked, they glowed.
It became increasingly clear as Hatch — the million-dollar winner from the first season of the CBS game show — spoke that he was, indeed, a survivor. Despite a difficult childhood, he said he was not going to give up, and through a grueling application process that separated him from nearly 6,000 other prospective castaways, he was convinced he would make it.
Hatch did not shy from making value judgments of his fellow cast members. Regarding Stacey Stillman, a castaway who accused the producers of influencing the show after she was voted off, Hatch called her a “silly witch,” and said, “I personally masterminded her removal.”
“I’m a behavioral scientist by nature, and I’m very observant, which I think is why I won,” he said, “and she’s totally delusional.”
Hatch said he thought his greatest threat on the show was Greg Buis, an Ivy League graduate, who he said was incredibly smart and totally wild.
“He didn’t care about anything,” Hatch said, “and he used to piss off Jeff Probst all the time.”
Hatch added that where he felt the camera showed him perfectly true to form, Greg was portrayed a lot goofier and oblivious than he actually was. Hatch said Greg got booted not because of any sort of personal shortcoming, but because of his age and lack of experience and self-awareness.
“The key to winning is observation and awareness,” the professional managment consultant said, “You have to know who you are before you get there.”
Of Probst, the show’s host, Hatch said, “What a goober.”
But Hatch said the two are very friendly now, and Probst learned much about how to interact with the contestants over the course of the first season.
Hatch called some of the shows particularly eccentric attributes, like tribal council, ridiculous.
“Every time [Probst] said ‘Fire represents life’ we would laugh, and they had to keep reshooting,” he said. “It’s really unfortunate that some of those goofy things stuck.”
Hatch’s close observation and sharp character analysis is not limited to those personalities from the South Seas. Regarding the Australia show, Hatch said he thinks Tina will win, Colby “screwed up” by fighting with Keith, and that the cast in general is disappointing.
“They’re too cookie-cutter,” he said. “They’re too pretty and marketable. On the first one, we were goofy, fat and weird, and that was better.”
In fact, in response to a question asking who would win if the game were actually about brute, unaided survival, Hatch said he still would have reigned victorious.
“It would have been me because I was fat, which was phenomenal, and because I could catch fish,” said Hatch, who claimed to have lost 34 pounds during the one month he was on the island.
In light of a new-found fame that he calls superficial but not at all ridiculous, Hatch plans to continue making a career out of his notoriety for as long as possible. A survivor of childhood sexual abuse, he plans to launch an outdoor adventure program for similarly afflicted kids.
The survivor of a summer blockbuster, he plans to host the American version of “The Weakest Link,” a British television show.
Hatch said the public’s fascination with reality television does not necessarily comment poorly on the American people.
“‘Survivor’ is a game,” he emphasized, “and it’s actually really indicative of what we do every day.”