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Tai Trang (Beauty~Gondol) - FINAL 3 - 3rd place

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Tai Trang

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Name (Age): Tai Trang (51)

Tribe Designation: Beauty

Current Residence: San Francisco

Occupation: Gardener

Personal Claim to Fame: Being a part of the AIDS Life Cycle ride for the past 13 years. A 545-miles, 7-day camping and bicycle ride from SF to LA to benefit HIV and AIDS services. In total, I’ve raised over $75,000 for the LA LGBT Center and SF AIDS Foundation. I love this grueling, but fun, mental and physical challenging experience.

Inspiration in Life: My parents. They worked so hard to provide for 11 of my siblings. During and after the Vietnam war, we were so poor, we had to eat plain rice with soy sauce for months. Somehow they managed to get us all on a fishing boat to escape Communism and luckily we all survived 11 days on the open ocean. In an Indonesian refugee camp, my mom made and sold one cookie at a time to earn extra money for her children. They are the ones that taught me self-reliance and my mom always reminds me “If you have health and both hands, you can never go to sleep cold or hungry.�

Hobbies: Planning dinner parties, cooking for friends and keeping bees. I am fascinated by the colony’s social structures. I also enjoy reading and discussing fiction in our book club.

Pet Peeves: Foodies, double parked cars and lazy people.

3 Words to Describe You: Energetic, resourceful and competitive.

If You Could Have 3 Things on the Island What Would They Be and Why? Coffee-my life necessity, I grew up loving Vietnamese coffee since I was 3 years old; a razor- I like to shave my head and face to feel young (a survival must) and clean; “The Windup Bird Chronicle,� it’s a surreal Japanese fiction that would relax me.

SURVIVOR Contestant You Are Most Like: Spencer, I like his positive spirit and determination to survive in given situations, and Bob Crowley, because we’re both older, nice, likable players with non-threatening demeanors who work hard.

Reason for Being on SURVIVOR: Definitely, the fun of testing my ability to survive in harsh conditions, pushing my body physically and mentally to the fullest. I would love to compete in challenges against younger, stronger or bigger players to prove that size and age does not matter in this game. I believe in playing a good social game, and the nice guy always can win in the end. Also, to win the million dollars!

Why You Think You’ll “Survive� SURVIVOR: As a gardener and fishermen, I have the outdoor skills to build shelter, climb trees, forage for food, fish and dive. I am a vegetarian but I will harvest sea life for the tribe if it keeps me in the game. I will be useful and work hard at camp. I’m physically fit and will help win challenges. Being the middle child of 11 kids, I know how to get along and be the peacemaker. I can share my childhood war stories to pass time and charm people while bringing good spirit and harmony to the tribe.

Why You Think You Will Be the Sole SURVIVOR: Growing up poor and without many of life’s comforts, I have the physical and mental stamina to survive in harsh environments. I’m determined and never give up till I get what I’m after. I am short and non-threatening, most people seem to like me and often are drawn to me for whatever reason. I am genuinely nice and will treat everyone well (but don’t cross me, not even once). I will do whatever it takes to become the Sole Survivor. Even though it’ll be difficult and devastating to betray my alliance, my ultimate goal is to win. I want to be a winner that everyone thinks is a little odd, but endearing, who plays a smart and interesting game with some spicy drama.

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I've been trying to figure out why Tai is on the beauty tribe.  I can only guess the casting director was drunk.

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Following Episode 1: Tai was likeable in his presentation to his tribemates about his background and how their Cambodian environment was like a homecoming for him. He was charismatic while discussing his desire to protect nature and concocting the leashes for the chickens. His tribemates were privately curious about how he wound up on the "Beauty" tribe. However, whatever good will Tai could have achieved -- already at a disadvantage because of the generational and cultural gap between him and the rest of his tribe -- was lost when he made the cardinal mistake of actively searching for the hidden immunity idol. Anyone who made an early alliance with him is now wary of his intentions.
 
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Following Episode 2: Tai redeemed himself very nicely by smoothly integrating himself in a non-threatening manner within his tribe. His earlier missteps involving the search for the idol appear forgiven. He also managed to find clues that revealed its location, but retrieving it proved to be challenging. He has done everything possible to regain a well-regarded position within his tribe.

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Following Episode 3: Tai secured the hidden immunity idol, and it remains to be seen whether his tribemates suspect his has found it. Regardless, the empathy he has received might give him safety during any potential first visit his tribe makes to tribal council. His social game continues to impress.

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Following Episode 4: Tai voiced concern for being in a gender minority following the unexpected departure of Caleb. He wins over the home viewers for his heartfelt emotional responses and genuine regard for the wellbeing of all living things. He probably does not realize the impending tribal reconfiguration, in which he will have to put forth the same diligent effort to win over new tribemates as he did Caleb. Fortunately, he has the hidden immunity idol and appears ready to use it. The real intrigue will be whether he and Jason from the Brawn tribe wind up together and potentially discuss combining their idols into the so-called "super idol." This appears unlikely, as Tai and Jason appear to be polar opposites in terms of personality, yet Tai was able to bridge that gap with Caleb, and Jason might be relieved to have new tribemates and welcome Tai.
 
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Tai Trang (new Gondol, formerly in "Beauty")
Following Episode 5: Tai did everything an underdog must do when facing new opponents in camp. He was as helpful and non-threatening as possible. He demonstrated his worth both as a dedicated worker and all-round good guy, and he did so in a much more significant and genuine way than Alecia did after she escaped elimination at the first tribal council (Darnell's elimination), and Alecia's gestures probably bought her a few more days than she actually deserved. For Tai, he reached out to Scot, the other numerical underdog, and seemed to create a similar working relationship as he did with Caleb. Tai is still in a difficult position based upon the new alignment and being in a physically weaker tribe, but if he can make the merge with Scot and with his idol, so far, he has one of the strongest cases for Sole Survivor. ...How much did the reconfiguration hurt or help Tai's chances (scale of 1 to 10, 1 hurt very much, 10 helped very much)? 4.

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Following Episode 6: Tai continues to charm his fellow castaways and the viewing audience. His unlikely bonds -- first with Caleb and now with Scot -- seem to have brought out the best in each of those men. At this stage in the competition, Tai and Scot appear to have the best working relationship of any possible pairing of the 11 remaining castaways, and they were only together a short time. They could be the epicenter of the majority voting units going forward, drawing in former Brawn and Beauty members. If they also manage to draw in the unit of Debbie and Neal, it would create a clear path for at least one of them to reach the final day.

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Following Episode 7 (the merge): Tai remains in a good position following a vote that thinned the herd of the Brains tribe at the start of the episode and an evacuation that thinned it further at the end. He stayed above the fray as it relates to the posturing among the overconfident and aggressive players. His bond with Scot remains the most significant move of the game so far, as it created the link between Beauty and Brawn which would have dictated voting strategy if there had been a tribal council. While Brawn and Beauty will clash at some point -- perhaps as soon as next episode, which is titled "The Jocks vs. the Pretty People" -- Tai's likeability and good relationships, combined with how he could play his hidden immunity idol if threatened, will allow him to survive until a lack of immunity at the final vote for elimination will cause his elimination, since no one wants to sit next to him while making a case for Sole Survivor to the jury.
 
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Following Episode 8: Tai continues to warm the hearts of the audience with his compassion for his fellow castaways and his determination to overcome obstacles. These traits came shining through in his performance and behavior during and after the immunity challenge. During the challenge, he talked about how his entire life has been a battle overcoming pain, so whatever pain he felt in that endurance challenge would pale in comparison. Then, after outlasting a much younger and stronger Cydney, he graciously congratulated her on a valiant effort. Earlier, he expressed a desire to share the ice cream reward with the losing team, once again indicating his concern for others. The only problem for Tai is how his repeated ramblings about rumors about hidden immunity idols and their powers during tribal council may cause more suspicion to land on him than he probably covets. By showing us these cuts, the directors/editors are clearly setting up a conflict about this in an upcoming episode. For now, Tai seems to be daring anyone to speak up to contradict him, which would in turn reveal whoever does speak up to have the same hidden knowledge that he has, revealing that individual to be secretive like him. It is a daring move that appears to have more risk attached to it than any potential reward.

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Tai Trang (Final Five after Day 32 Tribal Council)
Following Episode 12: Tai remains the recipient of heavy scrutiny at tribal council and in his tribemates private confessionals. He does not seem to want to justify his actions and criticize those of his opponents during tribal council, even as the audience who supports his moves wants him to stand up for himself. One can assume that his nature to not hurt people gets the better of him at these times. What is less likely is that he is shrewdly delaying this commentary out of a desire to preserve the perception most have of him of not being a malicious person, and will only dispense it at the final tribal council. He had a major misfire in targeting Michele and then ultimately squandering his extra vote advantage on a failed plan. While he provided some valid reasons for considering Michele for elimination, his inability to build consensus among Aubry, Cydney, and Joe, and then his very awkward and disconcerting explanation of that during tribal council must have given jury members who might have favored his gameplay cause for concern. Nonetheless, Tai has a unique distinction of having cast a decisive vote for only two of six jurors (Scot and Julia), while the other four castaways have cast at least four decisive votes (out of the five that were held). While Tai's votes have not had has much of an impact, his actions -- finding the hidden immunity idol, conspiring with and then betraying Scot and Jason, spreading rumors about the power of the super idol and his earned advantage -- have had the greatest impact on shifting alliances and voting strategies. Unless Tai reveals the wisdom behind his actions in a manner that can persuade the jury back in his favor -- which he has not shown an ability to do so far, possibly on purpose -- it seems unlikely that he will win a vote for Sole Survivor unless the other finalists are Joe and/or Cydney.

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Following Episode 13: It seems like Tai has been doing damage control throughout most of his time on the island. Yet the best case he could make is that his votes have only resulted in two eliminations, while Aubry, Cydney, and Michele's have caused all of them. (Michele cast a vote for Tai at Scot's elimination in a planned split vote.) At the same time, this reveals what Michele astutely pointed out to him in this episode -- he only appeared willing to work with certain people. Tai's response to her -- about naturally having good feelings about some people, not having them about others, and following his gut -- was understandable but probably would not win any points with the jury, since they will appreciate people willing to work with everyone (like Aubry). Even though Tai was not the best strategist or the best at cultivating relationships, his actions in finding a hidden immunity idol, earning an advantage, and spreading rumors about the "super idol," had the greatest influence on votes. If Tai is able to eloquently point out this and his work ethic to the jury, he could win a final two vote against either Cydney or Michele.
 
Likelihood of a final two vs. a final three: With Joe removed from the competition on Day 34 and four castaways entering the season finale episode, it is a near certainty that there will be a final two instead of a final three, since a final three would mean only one tribal council for elimination before the final tribal council to vote for the Sole Survivor, which would be a deviation from the traditional format of the season finale episode. Also, there would be a six-day lapse between the previous tribal council (Day 32, Jason's elimination) and the final tribal council for elimination (Day 38), which seems incongruous and unfair to the jurors who would have only attended six tribal councils leading up to the final tribal council to vote for the Sole Survivor.

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Following Finale: Tai certainly had the most compelling argument for succeeding in overcoming social obstacles. His warm, genial nature and unique background and perspective made him the most compelling castaway this season, which pop star Sia recognized during the reunion show. Scot's criticism of him not using his advantages properly was hypocritical, as Scot walked off the tribal council set after his elimination with Jason's idol in his pocket. As expected, Tai struggled to make arguments in his favor. His most poignant moment was describing the Vietnamese proverb about the floating hyacinths and using this to describe his view of the game. While it was both accurate in the game and in life in general, it was not going to impress a jury which was fixated on which castaway presented the strongest image. Michele's comments to Tai in the previous episode about shying away from making connections with certain people seemed spot on then and even more relevant during the final tribal council. It was admirable that he admitted his meekness toward Jason and Scot, but showing weakness and vulnerability was not going to be persuasive at a time when people are looking to reward strength. Tai's best argument could have been how his vote to eliminate Scot was the critical turning point and for the other votes in which he was on the wrong side, those were opportunities that jurors had to change the game but failed, notably his two votes against Michele, which if Jason and Joe had considered, would have certainly given them a much better chance of winning the title of Sole Survivor.

 

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