Back in June last year, while the Survivor: Winners At War cast were battling it out on the islands of Fiji, I reached out to a selection of former Survivor players to get their thoughts and predictions on the returning castaways. Over the next few weeks, I will be posting those interviews here on Inside Survivor.
Today, we’re talking to Shii Ann Huang, who played with Amber Mariano 16 years ago on Survivor: All-Stars. While never the closest of allies in the game, Shii Ann is credited as being the vote that gave Amber the win in her 4-3 victory over Rob. Having met at the infamous tribe swap, where Amber ended up separated from her old tribe, Shii Ann joined Lex and Kathy in helping save Amber, allowing her to make it to the merge. While Amber didn’t return the favor, instead rejoining her old allies at the merge and voting out Lex, Kathy, and Shii Ann, the self-described Shii-Devil wasn’t bitter about it like her fellow competitors. Shii Ann respected the gameplay of Amber & Rob, but in the end, she gave her vote to Amber, appreciating her under the radar strategy. As thanks, Amber gifted Shii Ann a brand new Chevy at the live reunion.
Inside Survivor reached out to Shii Ann to get her thoughts on Amber’s return to Survivor: Winners At War.
Disclaimer: This interview was conducted in June 2019 while Survivor: Winners At War was still filming in Fiji.
1) Hi Shii Ann, thanks for doing this. Before we get into all things Amber, it’s been a long time since Survivor fans have heard from you, how has life changed since we last saw you on All-Stars? And do you still keep up with Survivor at all?
My life is pretty wonderful, thanks for asking. Though my cat passed away since I was on the show :(. I don’t keep up with Survivor except for the occasional fan who will ask me about it. Having played it twice, I love those memories. Maybe it was the PTSD, but I don’t actually keep up with the show as it’s changed. In fact, I’ve only seen the seasons I’ve been in and half of Africa. I hear it has a lot more twists now.
2) Let’s journey back to 2004, you played in the season where “Romber” got together and dominated the game. What was Amber like? What was your opinion of her as a person and a player?
Amber is a sweet person, and her strategy was simply to ingratiate herself with her tribe members. It worked. She was polite and kind and didn’t cause any drama at camp.
3) Three days after the infamous tribe swap (where Amber was separated from her old tribe), the merge happened, and Amber was reunited with Rob and found herself back in the majority. Did you notice a change in her behavior as she moved from a position on the bottom to a place at the top?
Not really. But I also can’t remember, it was almost 20 years ago. I’d have to rewatch the show.
4) There were a lot of big personalities on All-Stars, especially at the merge. In fact, Amber was probably the only person known for not being a big character. Does that resonate with you — that she’s pretty mild-mannered and quiet? How did she juggle all those big personalities?
The bigger the personality, the bigger the target. I think Amber played her cards right. Under the radar. It’s a great strategy.
5) Her first season, Amber was BFF with Jerri Manthey. In her second season, she coupled up with Boston Rob. She doesn’t seem to shy away from strong personalities — whether strong women or strong men. It burned her the first time but suited her the second time. Is that a strategic strength, or is it a time bomb?
Amber won because I appreciated her subtle gameplay. You have to remember part of the game is luck as well. Perhaps she was luckier the second time around because Rob was such a good player. He really took her to the end.
6) You were the deciding vote that gave Amber the win and seemed to be the only person to actually give her credit, voting FOR her, rather than AGAINST Rob. What was it about Amber’s game that earned her your vote?
I voted for her. Not against Rob. She was, in many ways, smarter to go under Rob’s wings. If you can outplay the winner by being the dark horse then kudos to you! I loved that she just played nicely to the end.
7) You also played with another winner on this seasons’ cast, Ethan, who also swapped to your tribe on a bottom position. What was your opinion of Ethan? And how did his play compare to Amber’s?
Ethan is a fine player and, in general, a nice guy. Unlike Amber, he definitely thought he had a good chance of winning. I think that was the flaw of a lot of winners who came back to All-Stars. Bigger egos and expectations to win.
8) Have you stayed in touch at all with Amber (or Ethan) since All-Stars? If so, how have they changed in the years since we last saw them on TV?
I’ve seen Ethan and spoken with Rob. I’ve kept in touch via Instagram and Facebook with some of the cast. I exchange holiday cards with Amber’s mom every year. I think Amber is a mom of 4 now? That’s amazing that she and Rob are still happy!
9) Lastly, will you be watching this all-winners season? And would you ever be interested in playing Survivor again?
I probably won’t be watching it TBH, but I’ll be rooting for the players from my seasons. And never say never, but it would have to be a pretty special season for me to leave my family and work for a new season. Who knows? Maybe they will do Survivor New York City, and I’ll win a special challenge like showing the others how to find a public bathroom in Times Square.
Thanks again to Shii Ann for taking part. Stay tuned to Inside Survivor for more Playing with Champions interviews.
Survivor: Winners At War premieres February 12, 2020, on CBS.