He was “toast.” At least that’s how Hai Giang sees his vote off of Survivor 42.
A clear social and strategic threat, the data scientist, 29, couldn’t have flown under the radar much longer and ultimately a lie Omar Zaheer told Mike Turner sealed his fate.
“I was so impressed with Omar’s ability to turn the tide against me at that point in the game,” Hai exclusively tells Us Weekly. “I think everyone recognized that I was playing a very aggressive strategic game, and I think people were afraid to maybe make a move against me. Besides Romeo [Escobar] throwing a hinky vote, I don’t think my name had really come up on people’s lips as someone to target. So for Omar to do it so effortlessly and naturally, I’m very impressed by that.”
He adds, “And equally, I’m embarrassed for Mike because Mike lived with me for 19 days. He should have been able to sniff through Omar’s lie. The lie was, ‘Mike, Hai told me that he had control of your vote. And you were his puppet.’ First of all, I don’t speak like that. So I don’t know why Mike thought that was the truth, but it was really interesting to see my game unravel because of a lie.”
Still, the Atlanta natives takes his ousting in stride, telling Us, “I think that’s a really rare thing that happens when everyone is so unified on taking out one person. And it’s not because I did anything that personally offended people, but it’s because I was, in their eyes, a threat that they had to take out. And as a result, I can respect that move a lot.”
But, Hai does have some advice for future Survivor players: “Do not leave your shoes back at camp when you go to tribal. If you do, you are getting blindsided.”
Survivor airs on CBS Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET.
Scroll down to read our full interview with Hai Giang from Survivor 42.
Us Weely: How are you feeling this morning?
Hai Giang: I will say this was the episode, obviously, that I was, like, the most nervous for because for the past 10 months, right? I’m trying to figure out, like, “What went wrong? Why did my game fall apart?” And honestly, watching it back with my friends and family, I was so impressed at how I was the only target last night. I think that’s a really rare thing that happens when everyone is so unified on taking out one person. And it’s not because I did anything that personally offended people, but it’s because I was, in their eyes, a threat that they had to take out. And as a result, I can respect that move a lot.
Us: Right, you have to think it was a smart move to get you out over Jonathan, at that point.
HG: 100 percent. When you look at our performance on paper, where Jonathan might in person look physically much more intimidating, I think I was a bigger strategic threat and had a bigger shot of winning if I were to get to the end over Jonathan. And I think the show really highlighted that even during our answers during tribal council, whereas Jonathan couldn’t answer Jeff’s questions, I was eloquently explaining my thought process. And I think anyone who was astute or in tune at all during tribal would perceive me as the bigger threat, simply because I’m able to talk eloquently. Whereas Jonathan, you know, probably couldn’t talk his way out of a paper bag.
Us: You were blindsided, so looking back, were there definite signs you missed?
HG: They played that afternoon so well because something that I pride myself in is my gut and my ability to read the room. I think people knew that about me, was how perceptive I am as a person. And as a result, they really had to make me feel comfortable that afternoon. In hindsight, obviously there were always red flags, right? A big part of my strategy that the audience didn’t see was my fake idol strategy, which was using my amulet key and Mike’s immunity scroll to tell the targets that I had a real idol that I’d be willing to play for them, really to pacify them, not to take their Shot in the Dark. It worked with Daniel. It worked with Chanelle. I tried it on Jonathan. So it didn’t come out of nowhere. So that afternoon, Mike asked for his scroll back for the first time in, like, 12 days. And I was a little confused as to why he was asking for it back. But in hindsight, he was asking for it back because they were planning on blindsiding me. And one more thing, future Survivor players, do not leave your shoes back at camp when you go to tribal. If you do, you are getting blindsided.
Us: So you showed up to Ponderosa barefoot?
HG: Well, I had my slippers, but it’s funny, Sharon, because every person, it was like a pattern. The last, like, five people had left their shoes back at camp before we went to tribal, and we would all laugh about it. In this particular afternoon, I was like, “My shoes are over there, but we’re about to leave and I’m too lazy to go get them,” and sure enough.
Us: So when your torch was being snuffed in that moment, obviously now it might be different, but in that moment, who did you credit with getting you out?
HG: So I was trying to do the math as the votes were being read. And at that point, I was like, “OK, so everyone is in on it.” Because at that point, Sharon, my closest allies were Omar, Drea and Mike. And when I was reading the votes, I was like, “Everyone was in on it,” meaning that all of my closest allies conspired against me. So at that point, I was pretty quick to figure out that everyone was in on the plan, but I had no idea who was spearheading the plan. But at Ponderosa, like, comparing notes with other players, we were able to see a common linkage for who we were supposed to give credit to versus who on the island that we felt was running the show. So that was very interesting.
Us: Watching Omar lie to Mike about you being a snake, what did you think of that?
HG: I was so impressed with Omar’s ability to turn the tide against me at that point in the game. I think everyone recognized that I was playing a very aggressive strategic game, and I think people were afraid to maybe make a move against me. Besides Romeo throwing a hinky vote, I don’t think my name had really come up on people’s lips as someone to target. So for Omar to do it so effortlessly and naturally, I’m very impressed by that. And equally, I’m embarrassed for Mike because Mike lived with me for 19 days. He should have been able to sniff through Omar’s lie. The lie was, “Mike, Hai told me that he had control of your vote. And you were his puppet.” First of all, I don’t speak like that. So I don’t know why Mike thought that was the truth, but it was really interesting to see my game unravel because of a lie.
Us: For sure. Let’s talk about Romeo. Why do you think they left him out of the vote?
HG: A great question, Sharon. So, in the edit, I think Romeo played a really strong pre-merge game, but as soon as we got to the merge, I don’t know what happened. He cracked out there. So in the edit, in the show, you guys only see Romeo being paranoid because he’s at the bottom. Well, in reality, he’s at the bottom because he’s paranoid. You would feed Romeo information and it would somehow always get back to you. And as a result, you knew not to trust to Romeo. For example, before the hourglass twist, when Romeo’s group was eligible, I was trying to help him out and tell him to target Chanelle because she was untrustworthy. Somehow that information had gotten back to me. And as a result, I knew that I couldn’t work with him. So the theme of Romeo’s game was that he was untrustworthy. And if you tell him any information, it was a huge possibility that it would get out. Romeo was seen as a liability. So I don’t think anyone’s really clueing him in on the vote.
Us: Talk to me about the amulet. We saw Drea and Lindsay consider getting you out to make theirs more powerful. Did you consider getting either of them out for the same reason?
HG: I did consider getting them out just to strengthen the amulet. But if I was going to make a move, it would’ve been on Lindsay because Drea was in my final three plan. I wanted to go to the end with her. And I knew at a certain point, if we were to take out Lindsay, who was a physical powerhouse – I actually think her physicality is much more impressive than Jonathan’s because she has much more room to maneuver at different challenges. But as a result, I viewed her as a bigger threat to take out than a lot of other people. And I was eventually going to work with Drea to take her out, so we could have a steal a vote later on in the game. But I wasn’t willing to make that move just yet because I thought there were bigger fish to fry.
Us: Speaking of your final three plans, who else did you want to go to the end with?
HG: My final three were myself, Drea and Omar. As soon as the merge hit, the three of us got together and formed the majority eight. I know the edit gives Lindsay credit for that, but in reality, it was Omar, myself and Drea who identified who our closest allies were, and then common threats in which we could take out first. I knew that the eight would fracture pretty fast, so I was always willing to consider taking other people in the eight out just because I was like, “This is too big of an alliance to sustain.” But yeah, Omar and Drea were two people that I immediately got along with. I really empathized with them as people. And I really wanted to get to the end with them.
Us: Do you have interest in playing Survivor again?
HG: Absolutely. If [casting director] Jesse Tannenbaum wants to call me next spring, like, Jesse, you have my number. I think that the conversation that all of us have had in our own heads, like, “Would I play again?” I think in actuality, it’s a litany of different factors. I think the one thing that the audience doesn’t see was how hard it was to get on the show in the first place, not just from casting, but every person in our personal life had to give us permission and their blessing to allow us to be out there. And I know for myself anyways, this was a huge strain on a lot of my personal relationships because it pretty much superseded everything in my life for the past two years. I’ve been in this process since 2020, so I would love to play again, but the timing has to be right.
Us: You played such an aggressive game and it was so fun to watch. How do you think you would have fared in a 39-day game?
HG: I’m so grateful that the game was only 26 days. I think when we first learned that it was 26 days when Jeff told us in the pregame, we were all visibly kind of disappointed. But honestly, after being there for, like, four days, I was like, “Oh, my God, can this game only be 10 days please?” Because it was so difficult without any food rations, truly, [it] just had so much mental, emotional, physical strain on our bodies. And as a result of an accelerated game, I think we all played harder. We were all much more alert and vigilant and innovative. And I think that is why season 42 has been such a fun blast because you have 18 people ready to play because there’s no time to hide. And I personally love the accelerated pace.
Us: And as a vegan, it must have been even harder!
HG: Yeah. And honestly, I’ve seen a lot of criticism from people online about production, like, not giving me food. The fault is definitely mine. I did not tell them I was a vegan. So I got out there at pregame and I was like, “Hey, will it be OK if I just exist off of rice and beans and not eat any of the sea life?” And their faces in hindsight made so much sense as they’re like, “Oh, my God, this guy’s going to die out there.” Honestly, during casting, you don’t wanna give them any reason to cut you. And I’m like, “OK, is my diet going to hinder my ability to get cast?” So I did not bring it up.
Us: To wrap up, do you think there was anything you could have done at tribal council to stay or was your fate sealed when you walked in?
HG: I think my fate was sealed at that point. Even if I would’ve sniffed out Omar’s lie, I think Mike was too emotional and invested in me going to justify his intense emotions. So I don’t think there’s anything I could have done because it’s really rare that the entire tribe is like, “Yeah, this guy is the obvious threat. We have to take them out.” Because it benefited every single one of them. So at that point, I was toast.