‘Survivor’ Tai: “I’m Not the Flip-Flop Guy. If You Worked with Jason and Scot, You’d Want to Flip on Them Too”

Tai Trang (CBS)

QUICK NOTE: The good folks at XFINITY sent me deep into the Fijian wilderness to bring you an exclusive look at “Survivor: Game Changers.” While I was there I conducted interviews with “Survivor” host Jeff Probst and the entire 20-person cast. I also captured exclusive photos and other behind-the-scenes tidbits. So, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for up-to-the-minute updates.

Name: Tai Trang
Age: 52
Hometown: San Francisco
Previously Played On:
“Survivor: Kaoh Rong” – 2nd Runner-up
Best Known For: Being rewarded for befriending a chicken by singing star Sia.

Gordon Holmes: You seemed very conflicted with lying and backstabbing in Kaoh Rong. Have you come to terms with that?
Tai Trang: When I went to the shady side it made sense to me. I was playing the game. People say I shouldn’t have gone there because I’m a nice guy.
Holmes: I’m not saying whether you should or you shouldn’t. There isn’t a right or wrong way to do this. But when you did lie, you seemed uncomfortable.
Trang: I was uncomfortable. I go back and forth. Eventually I followed the way I felt instinctively and I went to the light. So, coming into this game, I’m going to play the way I am. That’s easy for me to do. I think who I am appeals to a lot of people. I’m understated, I’m nice. People like being around nice people. But then again, it’s a game and I need to be a little more focused on that. I think I lost focus toward the end of Kaoh Rong. How am I going to own my game? I didn’t do a good job of that last time.

Holmes: You turned on Scot and Jason in Kaoh Rong and it worked out for you then. However, everyone here saw that. How do you turn that to your advantage?
Trang: I’m going to have a conversation with everybody. I think they might say, “He’s a nice guy, but he’ll turn on you.” I need these people to understand that we’re all players. They’re all strategy players. I have to let people know that I went to the dark side. I need them to feel like I’m going to be a nice guy and play a straight forward game. But, if the opportunity comes and I need to do something to advance my game…for a reason…I’ll need a reason…but, I’ll do it. Some people think I flip-flopped around, but everything I did made sense to me. I just wasn’t able to explain myself well. I need to own it.

Holmes: Jeff told you guys that the theme is Game Changers. What was your reaction when he said that?
Trang: (Laughs) I said, “Really? How am I a game changer?” Seriously! Am I bringing out the softer side of “Survivor”? Because I think about our place on this Earth? Maybe he’s referring to I’m a little guy and I’m able to take a stand and follow my heart. I’m not afraid to make moves. But “Game Changer” is a really big term! I’m looking at everybody, and I’m a fan, and I don’t remember any of these people. I know them by their name. I know Cirie, Tony, Sarah…I don’t know who Sierra Dawn is…the tall Sierra. I remember Ozzy and Malcolm, they’re great players. But, I guess we all changed the game somehow. (Laughs) It is really scary.

Holmes: Is there anyone you’re hoping to work with?
Trang: Just looking around pre-game, Cirie seems to be really open. I know she’s really nice. Something about Michaela and the cop Sarah, JT…they all seem like sweet people. It’s tough for me to want to partner with someone like Tony. I don’t think we even speak the same language. I don’t want to repeat what happened with Scot and Jason. I don’t want someone to dictate to me how we’re going to play. Him and Sandra, there’s the same energy about them.

Holmes: You’re here with two players you’ve never seen play before. Does that worry you, does that make you want to work with them?
Trang: Michaela and Zeke…I like their energy. It doesn’t worry me. Maybe it’s naïve of me. But, I’m approaching the whole game…I don’t remember how everyone played, so I’m a blank slate, except for a couple of people. The new people, I’m basing it around what I’ve seen with them, and I would play with them. We’re not talking, but I am extending myself. You can feel who’s open and who’s not.
Holmes: Are you smiling at them? Giving them the double guns?
Trang: (Laughs) No no no. Aubry and Debbie, we went through the game before. I’m completely open. And Caleb, we definitely want to work together. It’s not a secret. Everybody assumes that. I promised his new wife. (Laughs)
Holmes: You’ve got three other people from Kaoh Rong here. Is that a positive or a negative?
Trang: I think it could be a positive thing. We didn’t do any pre-game alliance…other than with Caleb. Aubry, I talked to her last week, I said, “Hey, we’re playing again.” And she said, “Yeah, we’ll see how things fall.” We left it at that. I think people think we’ll be playing together. But, it’s a brand new game. It’s hard to promise things and then not break those promises. I even told Caleb, “If it’s between you and I, don’t get mad.” We both agree on that.
Holmes: But his wife can get mad.
Trang: (Laughs) Yes.

Holmes: Alright, I’m going to give you a reason someone might use to get rid of you. I’d like you to counter that argument.
Trang: OK.
Holmes: Like I said before; Tai turned on Scot and Jason. I don’t trust him.
Trang: I’m not the flip-flop guy. If you worked with Jason and Scot, you’d want to flip on them too. They were a two-headed monster I had to take out.

Holmes: Tai is good at challenges. He’s not the biggest guy, but he held his own after merge.
Trang: (Laughs) Oh, c’mon. Everyone here is good at challenges. I’m small. I got so lucky during the challenges. I was good at the beginning, but at the end I was depleted.

Holmes: Tai is a guy that will become best friends with your dinner.
Trang: (Laughs)
Holmes: I don’t want to hang out with chicken. I want to eat chicken.
Trang: But I will get you something better. Don’t you want to eat fish instead of chicken? We had so much food in Kaoh Rong. We had a lot of clams, mango, nobody wanted chicken. You have pets right? You don’t eat them.
Holmes: That’s true. I don’t eat dogs or cats.
Trang: When you call a chicken and he comes to you and spends time with you, that’s a pet. But, if people want to eat chicken, I’ll kill the chicken. I’ll cook the chicken. I make a really good Chinese chicken.
Holmes: Which pop star do you think will interrupt the “Game Changers” finale?
Trang: (Laughs) I don’t know. I didn’t even know who Sia was!

Holmes: If there is a twist, what do you think it will be?
Trang: There’s definitely a twist. I like the idea of Redemption Island. A second life. The super idol didn’t get played last time, but it was in the game. It was fun to have that. Maybe a twist with no idol?

Holmes: Alright, I hold in my hand a deck of cards that features your opponents, except for Michaela and Zeke who we don’t know yet. I’ll give you three cards at random. You tell me who gets voted out first, who you work with but eventually eliminate, and who you take to the end.
Trang: No Zeke and Michaela?
Holmes: Right, I didn’t think we’d be able to talk about them specifically. But then during my first interview, I asked someone what they thought of the new players and they said, “Oh well Zeke is like this and Michaela is like that.”
Trang: Yeah, Jeff told us their names.
Holmes: I didn’t know that. I thought that person was psychic.
Trang: (Laughs) I think Zeke is gay. And Jeff Varner is gay. Wouldn’t it be sweet to have a gay alliance?
Holmes: The first ever gay-lliance! I love it.
Trang: (Laughs) Gay-lliance! Jeff Varner talked to me about it. I have talked to him about us working together. Is Malcolm gay? He sounds so gay to me.
Holmes: I don’t think so. I know he’s been in relationships with females.
Trang: Oh, OK. He’s not, but the way he carries himself is very sweet.

Round One: Cirie, Andrea, and Brad
Trang: I’m going to vote out Andrea because I think she could be dangerous. I don’t remember much about her, it’s my instinct just seeing her around. And she’s not going to be great in challenges. I’ll work with Cirie because she’s very calm. I think she can work with a lot of people. And I’ll keep Brad because he’s going to piss off a lot of people. He’s a loudmouth.

Round Two: Caleb, JT, and Malcolm
Trang: I’m voting out Malcolm. He’s going to be really good in challenges and all the girls are going to like him. He’s good socially. I’ll work with JT. He’s good in challenges and he seems straightforward. I’ll take my bromance to the end. Not just because I promised his wife. I think it’d be really sweet if we went to the end together.

Round Three: Debbie, Sandra, and Hali
Trang: Sandra is out first. She’s annoying. I don’t think she’ll be good with challenges. She won’t carry me. And she’s won already. I’ll work with Hali. I don’t know anything about her, but she seems like she’d be my equal partner. I can talk to her. She’s small, we’re the same size. And I’ll take Debbie to the end. I think she’s going…she’s going to lose it. She’s going to piss off a lot of people. She tells people what to do.

Round Four: Ozzy, Troyzan, and Aubry
Trang: I’m taking Ozzy out. He’s a threat. I’ll work with Aubry, I’m not taking her to the end though. She can out talk me. I’ll take Troyzan to the end. He’s big, but he’s a little too out there. I can explain myself better. I think people are more drawn to me than him.

Round Five: Ciera, Tony, and Jeff
Trang: I’m taking Tony out. Same reason as Ozzy, they’re big threats. I’ll work with Ciera, I think she’ll be loyal. It’s just my sense. I know she voted out her mom. And I’ll take Jeff to the end, I’d like to see two gay guys sitting there. And Jeff is such a loner, people aren’t going to warm up to him.

Holmes: Alright, we’ve got two left. Work with one and vote out the other.

Round Six: Sarah and Sierra
Trang: I’ll vote out Sierra because she seems more simple. Other people can use her. And I’ll work with Sarah. But, I have to look out for her because she’s a cop. She’s good at observing. But, I like her energy.

Don’t miss the two-hour season premiere of “Survivor: Game Changers,” Wednesday March 8, 2017 at 8 p.m. ET.

Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes

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