Post Mortems

Survivor 42's Newest Jury Member Responds to the Lie That Led to His Downfall, Names Season's Best Player

Survivor 42 Hai

Warning: This post contains spoilers from Wednesday’s episode of Survivor. 

We love a good #blindside, and in Episode 10, the axe fell on one of Survivor 42‘s most strategic — and most unsuspecting — castaways.

After Lindsay scored back-to-back challenge wins, the beastly Jonathan was left vulnerable to the vote once again. But Omar had other plans in mind. Seeing how much of a threat Hai’s strategic gameplay had become, Omar planted a devious lie in Mike’s ear, severing the retired New Jersey firefighter’s close ties with Hai and completely flipping the script on his former ally. When all was said and done, Hai was sent to Ponderosa with every vote except Romeo’s against him. (Read a full recap here.)

Here, Hai talks to TVLine about how his game fell apart, what his biggest downfall was and why Omar is the one to watch.

TVLINE | How are you feeling today, and what happened out there?
HAI GIANG | Considering everything that is happening and the reason I’m talking to you, I’m actually in really good spirits. The weight has lifted from my shoulders. The outcome has been revealed, and my friends and family can finally stop asking me if I’ve won because I did not win!

I think I was playing too visible of a game. My game wasn’t very covert. I was aggressive and strategic in my gameplay, and I think I did a really poor job at managing my threat level. Other strategic players saw an opportunity to cut the head off the snake, and I was the metaphorical snake!

Survivor 42 HaiTVLINE | Looking back, was there any big misstep or relationship dynamic that you wish you played differently?
I think the theme of my game that allowed me to play well, but was also my downfall was [the fact that] I played with too much empathy. It didn’t really show in the edit, but the reason I made the relationships I did was all based on who I liked. Who did I intersect with as a person? So early Vati days, Lydia and I bonded over being young, queer people with similar senses of humor. As soon as the merge came, I made incredible relationships with Drea and Omar. There were a lot of people that I personally empathized with and wanted to work with, and as a result, I couldn’t see through my emotions for certain people that I should’ve recognized as threats. Omar and I played very similar strategic games, me being a little more aggressive and visible, and him being more under the radar and convert, and I couldn’t read that fact that we had similar playing styles because I was in love with Omar as a person.

TVLINE | Who’s playing the best game right now and why?
Omar is 100 percent playing the best game. I think though in hindsight, people didn’t notice his game. So if he makes it to the end, he’s going to have to be articulate and explain the moves he made, and that actually might piss a lot of people off. Sending Mike’s closest ally home by telling Mike a lie that never happened… does that warrant respect or will that piss people off? We’ll see.

TVLINE | And what’s your take on that big lie — he told Mike that you called him a puppet. Any grudges, lingering feelings… ?
No grudges. I understand Survivor is a game and over the last 10 months, the cast has been healing together, putting the pieces of the puzzle together and really understanding what transpired. For me though, the episode title “Tell a Good Lie, Not a Stupid One,” I really thought Omar’s lie was a bad lie because Mike’s lived with me for 19 days. Mike, I don’t talk like that! I don’t go around saying, “I control Mike’s vote, he’s my puppet.” First of all, who is this person that Omar is creating and fabricating because that’s not me! Mike should’ve seen through that, came back to me and we could’ve aligned on the story and exposed Omar at that point. But because Mike is a very emotional player and Omar saw that, he was able to capitalize on Mike’s weaknesses as a player and target me. Kudos to him. Brilliant!

TVLINE | What was your perception of Omar’s game? Did you view him as a huge threat?
I did not view Omar as a threat. Maybe it’s because your perception of someone is based on a lot of different factors. Physicality, speech patterns, the way they smile at you, whatever. Omar was a very non-threatening individual out there, and I love the guy, but when I think of threats I think of immediate superficial threats, like Jonathan or Drea’s physicality. I even recognized Lindsay as a threat before I did Omar, because Lindsay was so covert and didn’t have a lot of strategic conversations with me. But because Omar and I were very aligned strategically and he would always tell me about the plan, I didn’t view him as keeping information from me, so I had no reason to believe that he was against me.

Survivor 42 HaiTVLINE | Tell me a bit about this hellacious weather we saw in this episode. How long did it rain for and how did it really feel being out in those elements?
In hindsight, the weather in the two days leading up to my elimination was so ominous I should’ve realized it was me. It was the worst experience of my life! Night 17 and Day 18, it rained nonstop for probably 48 hours. The eight of us that were there that night were just huddled under the shelter fighting for our lives. I know that sounds dramatic, but in that moment, I was like, “I’m going to die tonight, right here, right now” because it was just so bad. Anyone watching on TV that’s like, “I could do that. They’re babies!” I would love it if the next thunderstorm you have, you go outside and sit there for 48 hours in the same clothes, and tell me that you can do what we did. It was bad! I don’t think people empathize enough with TV characters that go through trauma. [Laughs]

TVLINE | How confident were you that Jonathan was going to be voted out?
Jonathan was my target and at that point, I had a 100 percent correct read on who was going home at each Tribal. Needless to say, I was very confident he was going home. That scene of me telling him about my fake idol… first of all, that was not a new lie. I used that strategy twice to placate Daniel and Chanelle. I used my amulet key and Mike’s hidden immunity idol scroll and told them I found an idol and would be willing to play it for them if they needed me to, and it worked both times. That’s part of the reason why neither of them used their Shots in the Dark. I was attempting to pull that same move with Jonathan, but as it turned out, Omar had already been in his ear and told him, “If Hai tells you he has an idol, it’s fake.” So Jonathan didn’t read through my lie, someone had already given him a heads up.

But yeah, going into Tribal, I thought Jonathan was good as dead, and even people’s answers… they were so good! They were really playing into my perception of what was going on. Lindsay saying, “Tonight’s theme is about evening the playing field.” In my head, I thought she was talking about Jonathan’s physicality, [but] she was talking about my strategic game! And as I was getting blindsided, I couldn’t help but leave with a smile on my face knowing I was a big threat, and not [leaving] because people disliked me… except Mike because he’s very emotional. [Laughs]

Survivor 42 HaiTVLINE | If you had survived that vote, who was in your ideal Final 3?
My Final 3, which I wish they would’ve highlighted more, was myself, Omar and Drea. The three of us immediately came together at the merge and I was like, “These are my Canadian babies, and we’re going to go to the end together.” I liked who they were as people and I thought they were very aligned with me strategically, and they were until they saw that I was the threat to take out. Kudos to them!

TVLINE | The bruise on your face magically disappeared before Tribal Council! What was that from, and was that some sort of editing trickery?
The bruise was actually the alternate contestant from the season that we finally got rid of! In actuality, the bruise came from the boulder challenge. I got hit in the face with the ball, and that’s also why I had the shoulder injury. It disappeared because right before Tribal I was playing around with the knife and I was like, “Oh my god, the knife is reflective. I can finally have a mirror.” I saw the mark on my face, which no one told me about, and I was picking at it and it peeled off! So coincidentally, it peeled off right in time for me to get blindsided! [Laughs]

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