Voted out on day 8 was Yau-Man Chan, the 55-year-old fan favorite from Survivor: Fiji. Unlike some of the returning Survivors, Yau-Man can truly claim to be a fan favorite, earning an overwhelming 65.5% of the vote on a CBS popularity poll. Smashing Jonny Fairplay’s head into the side of a canoe can only help his popularity rating, but it didn’t save him from an alliance breakdown.
Yau-Man knew that his previous performance would be a factor in the game. “In Fiji, I was able to play the under-the-radar weak old man type of game until the merge, but here there’s a target coming into the season,” he says. “Everyone remembers how well I did in Fiji and I had a target on my back right away.” But he also had the weather working against him, and found this season’s challenges brutally difficult. “It was horrible. Rain dumped on us – we’re talking downpours – two or three times a day.”
His tribemates had previous experience in common, which he now sees had disadvantages when it came to tribal challenges – namely, over-confidence. “We didn’t spend enough strategizing, thinking through the challenge. Lots of challenges were repeats from the season before, and we said, ‘Oh, we know what we’re doing,’ then we go on and lose it.” At camp, he knows they had advantages; they were able to quickly and skillfully assemble their shelter, and they knew the Fans would be working against a learning curve. “I think we went in there a little bit too cocky. We put up a nice little shelter, and did well with fire and got a lot of food, but when we went into the challenges, we were thumbing our noses at them and saying, ‘Hey, we know what we’re doing!’ But in the end, we got whipped.”
But Yau-Man puts the blame for his early exit squarely on himself. “I’m not a people person,” he says humbly. “I don’t read people very well. I should have got to know Cirie better and faster, but I didn’t realize what a strong personality she has. She went from being in a defensive position to a strong offensive position, getting everybody to go along with her to vote me out.”
When asked to explain Cirie’s decision to flip, Yau-Man still isn’t sure why she would favor an alliance with two settled couples over the more loosely grouped four players on the other half of the tribe. But he notes that “she felt that my alliance with Jonathan was too strong,” which was a problem because Cirie and Jonathan did not get along. Apparently, the two had a big fight where they hashed out what each other had done on their respective Survivors. Yau-Man describes the fight between Cirie and Jonathan as “recounting each other’s evil deeds during their seasons.”
But Yau-Man was unable to watch Jonathan’s season, because it aired while the Fiji season was being filmed. “I didn’t know all the things Jonathan did. So when he approached me about being in an alliance with him, I was happy to do so. He’s an older guy, he has a family and we have a lot in common,” he says. “I thought it would be obvious that she would do much better with us. The other two were very tight couples, but for some reason, not only did she not want to align with us because of Jonathan. Also, she was afraid that if I got an immunity idol I would go all the way, or something like that.”
Was he the threat that Cirie feared? Yau-Man says that the further he got in the game, the more threatening he would have become – but that he never imagined that Cirie would consider him a threat so early in the game. “We were not even close to merging yet,” he points out. “I thought that I should be able to convince her that because I can play the game so well, she would be better off aligning with me and my allies.”
He again lays the blame on himself for not spending any time with Cirie, and underestimating her personality. He admits that he gravitated towards the older people in the tribe because the conversation amongst the young couples was uninspiring. “They were talking about the best hair removal salon in the Los Angeles area. What do I know about that?” he laughs.
“I also had good friendships with Ami,” he adds. “She turned out to be very different from the person we saw in Vanuatu.” On his tribe, he recommends keeping an eye out for Jonathan, whom he describes as a well-rounded player, and Ozzy. “That guy is so athletic. He can swim as fast in water as he can run on land. It’s amazing to see him. He’s like a fish. He’s a challenge monster.”
Yau-Man fans could not help but notice this season that he did not get a lot of screen time, but it turns out there were no Tribal Council scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor. Yau-Man says that he did argue his case with Cirie back at camp, but we didn’t see it. “I spent a lot of quality and not-so-quality time with her one-to-one to try to convince her that she had a much better chance of going far with me than with the other guys. I even promised her that if I made to Exile Island and found the idol I would share it with her.” He described his hidden alliance with Earl in his earlier season, and offered to run a similar sort of relationship between them.
He argued that their immediate target should be to break up the couples; he wanted them to vote out Parvati first. “It’s such an easy thing to convince someone to split up a couple,” he says, still sounding frustrated. After all this time, Cirie’s decision obviously still confounds him a little. “It’s so obviously a good move! I don’t know why Cirie decided to turn on that. In fact, that was the first vote before Jonny Fairplay decided to quit, we were targeting Parvati because we knew she and James were getting too tight. I don’t know why it was so difficult to convince people to not let the couples go on. The problem was that there were two couples involved, so there were four people involved – James, Parvati, Amanda, and Ozzy – and there’s only nine of us with Cirie in the middle. We thought it would be so easy to convince Cirie to break up the couples, and I don’t know why we couldn’t.”
In the final tribal council, Eliza voted for Yau-Man and Ami voted for Cirie. Now, admittedly I’m easily confused when it comes to these wily Survivors, but those votes left me feeling like I’d gone to the fridge at a crucial moment and missed a critical conversation. Eliza turned on Yau-Man at the last minute? Ami struck out on her own and voted for Cirie? What happened to kicking out Parvati?
Yau-Man explains that he was also surprised by Eliza’s vote. “Our alliance had decided to vote out Parvati because she’s so tight with James, and we know we lost Cirie’s vote. I thought that I would have Eliza’s vote, so I was very surprised to see that she voted for me,” he says.
But Ami’s vote wasn’t out of the blue; we didn’t see their conversation before tribal council. Realizing that they didn’t have enough votes for Parvati, she decided to cut her losses and warned Yau-Man ahead of time that she wouldn’t be voting for Parvati. She promised not to vote for him, but wouldn’t tell him who she was planning to vote for. “I thought she would vote for Ozzie or Cirie, and it turned out to be Cirie. But Eliza’s vote was a total surprise.”
Fans of the show have also wondered if they ever entertained the notion of flipping it back over on Cirie, but Yau-Man says that it never went that direction. “Looking back, we should have,” he admits. “The reason is we really didn’t talk to the other alliance at all. Cirie did a lot of talking to Ozzie and James, but Jonathan, myself, and Ami never really talked to them. I guess if we had talked to them we could have got together and said, ‘Let’s vote for the person who is flip-flopping and always trying to stir up trouble.’ We mentioned it briefly, but we never pursued it.”
Last week’s challenge looked rough, but it was more brutal than we realized. According to Yau-Man, it was originally supposed to be three rounds long, but when the first round had dragged on for forty minutes without a winner, the producers stopped the game and told them there would only be one determining round because the first round was turning out to be so difficult.
“It dumped heavy, heavy rain on us. You see the water is about one and a half feet deep, but what you don’t see is that under the water it’s not sand, it’s broken coral. So a couple of people who didn’t wear shoes were in trouble. When we were holding down the pillows, we were down on our knees – all our knees were cut up. It was brutal. I’m glad they changed the rules – everybody agreed, this round is it, because we were not going to last for three rounds. At one point someone tried to keep my head under water to drown me. I don’t know who it was, but Eliza would know because she started screaming, ‘They’re trying to drown the old man!’ They stopped the game and made the rule that you couldn’t hold someone underwater.”
Yau-Man has been known to post on message boards occasionally, but says that he’s been too busy to get back to the internet. “I’ve used up all my vacation time!” He has a humble way about him when asked about his obvious popularity with both the fans in the real world and the ones who ended up playing against him.
“I was surprised I was so popular when they introduced me. I got the loudest cheers from the Fans tribe. That felt good, and I was surprised that wow, they really were expecting me back.”