The last person to leave the game, the person so close to the end they can taste the money but has their opportunity to plead their case taken away at the very last moment. That person becomes ingrained in their respective season as the final recipient of “The Tribe Has Spoken” and earns a place in a very special group in Survivor history: The Day 38 Club.
Inside Survivor contributor Ian Walker continues the countdown of the updated and revised Day 38 Club rankings. The list takes into account the strength of a player’s game, character, and the power of their story.
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No. 22 – Tai Trang (Game Changers)
Tai Trang may be one of the most wholesome people to ever play Survivor. Between his inspiring story of coming to America as a Vietnam War refugee to his warm affection towards all living creatures, it’s hard not to be enveloped by his warm presence on the television screen.
He managed to reach the Final Tribal Council in his first season but was chastised for yanking some people around emotionally and generally being a wish-washy player, which cost him the win. Still, he came out a fan favorite, and it was only a matter of time until he played again.
Tai’s return to the game in Survivor: Game Changers was a different journey than his first go-around. Not as many emotional peaks and valleys, but still enough Tai goodness to satisfy any Survivor viewer.
One thing that Tai proved this season was that he is an idol-finding fiend. Having already found one in his initial season, he went on to find another three this season, two in one episode, the first to do so in Survivor history. That first one came in clutch in an epic way, playing it for his ally Sierra Dawn Thomas at the first-ever joint Tribal Council, blasting poor Malcolm Freberg out of the game in a move he never saw coming.
Tai’s knack for finding idols should prove that there is a healthy level of skill in finding one, and it’s not just all blind luck, especially if you’re like Tai and have the gardening experience that can help you master the island terrain.
In Game Changers‘ post-merge, Tai wasn’t as integral to the game’s flow as his first time. He kind of fell in with the more old-school minded players like Brad Culpepper and Debbie Wanner, hiding behind them and his two idols, which allowed him to last deep into the merge. Soon enough, he found himself in the final seven and in a similar spot that he was in during his first season: having clear eyes on the game’s biggest target and a willingness to take them out, in this case being Sarah Lacina.
Tai has great reads when playing Survivor, but not the greatest execution on those reads, like in this instance, when he decided to rope Cirie Fields in on the plan to blindside Sarah. Having pulled off an ambitious plan or two in her Survivor career, Cirie tried to set in motion a plan to take Tai and his two idols out. That caused a huge commotion at the next Tribal Council, during which Cirie’s plan blew up in her face, and Tai survived with both idols intact. However, he would have to spend those idols at the next Tribal Council, the memorable (and controversial) Advantagegeddon.
Fast forward to the final four, and Tai was the last obstacle standing in between Sarah and her eventual million dollars, so it was time for him to go. This time around, if he had gotten to the Final Tribal Council, he stood a great chance of winning, mostly because he didn’t engage in any of the darkness that befell his first season.
Alas, Tai’s journey came to an end on Day 38, lasting long enough to join the Day 38 Club and logging in 77 out of 78 total days in his overall Survivor career, being his affable, genuine self along the way.
Stay tuned to Inside Survivor as the Day 38 Club rankings continue over the coming days. Check out the previous entries here.