Exclusive: Yau-Man Chan talks about 'Survivor: Micronesia' ouster
By Reality TV World staff, 02/25/2008
Previously defensively-minded Cirie Fields made the decision to suddenly go on the offensive during her second Survivor adventure, and Yau-Man Chan was her first target.
As a result, the 55-year-old computer engineer and former Survivor: Fiji contestant from Martinez, CA became the third castaway eliminated from Survivor: Micronesia -- Fans vs. Favorites during Thursday night's broadcast of the long-running CBS reality show's sixteenth season.
On Friday, Yau-Man talked to Reality TV World about why Cirie grew suspicious of him and organized the support for his ouster; how the romantic interests of a few of his fellow Favorites forced him into an alliance out of necessity; how he basically knew he was going to be booted prior to Tribal Council; and why he feels Jon "Jonny Fairplay" Dalton deciding to quit indirectly led to his own downfall.
Reality TV World: Okay, I have to ask the obvious first question. What was Cirie's issue with you? Was she really just that paranoid that you'd find the idol if you got to Exile Island or had something else happened between the two of you?
Yau-Man: Pretty much I was very surprised because I think she... I thought, first of all, we all know she was sort of the odd person out. There were two four-person alliances going there, and I thought her game plan was to, "vote anybody but me" type of strategy...
Reality TV World: I would think from a strength -- a physical standpoint as well.
Yau-Man: [Ya,] I thought it would be easy to bring her to our side. But I think she felt that because Jonathan and I allied ourselves first and then brought her in -- she found out at that we brought her in [after that], and she didn't think that... She [thought] that we brought her in and now she's on the outer fringes of the alliance.
Then -- actually, they didn't show it on the episode -- but I spent a lot of time talking to her one-to-one and said, "Cirie, we can play the same game. You and I can play the same game as we did with me and [Earl Cole played] during the Fiji season where the two of us were allied, but nobody knew about it until very late. If I go to Exile Island and find the idol, I'll share the use of it with you."
I did a lot to try and convince her, "Hey, I'm your friend. We can actually go far together." But I guess I never did.
Reality TV World: Do you know why she seemed so sure you'd be the next Favorite to get to Exile Island? Had you guys drawn straws...
Yau-Man: There wasn't drawing straws...
Reality TV World: Was there some type of schedule set up? She seemed pretty confident that the next time the Favorites got to choose who to send to Exile Island, you'd be the one to go.
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Yau-Man: Right, I don't know why she was so sure. Amy gave us the clues -- the first few clues -- to whoever goes next, [so] we can just switch it back and forth and just go to the fourth clue and keep going from that point on.
Reality TV World: So is that why Amy was the only one to raise her hand after you guys won the third episode's Reward Challenge -- because the tribe had already agreed on who would get to go to Exile Island ahead of time?
Yau-Man: Well, yeah. Pretty much. We were going to -- as much as possible -- take turns. But I think that the thing was if we could not agree, we'd have to draw rocks.
Reality TV World: But there wasn't any agreement you'd be the next one to go, correct?
Yau-Man: There wasn't an agreement... I was trying to make an agreement with Cirie and say, "Look, if I ever make to Exile Island and find the idol, I'll share it with you. And your chances are good with us -- with our alliance -- because the other four are all coupled together. You're on the outside also."
Reality TV World: I know you were basically "recruited" for Survivor:Fiji so I'm not sure how much Survivor you'd watched before then, but what has frequently happened to Survivor "fence-sitters" is two alliances team up and vote the fence-sitter out. In fact, Eliza and Ami -- who were in opposite alliances at the time -- did exactly that to Dolly Neely way back in an early episode of Survivor: Vanuatu. Why didn't that happen here?
Yau-Man: We were not playing that. I wish that had come up. Our worry was -- and that's our downfall -- that our alliance was worrying too much about the tightly-coupled alliance, James and Parvati and Ozzy and Amanda. We were determined to split them up.
Reality TV World: So the two four-person alliances never discussed the possibility of both just voting for Cirie?
Yau-Man: No. We weren't talking very much to the other alliance... We were quite determined to first get Cirie into our alliance and the other thing was to target Parvati to be voted out. Either Parvati, or maybe even Amanda. It's important to split up those two couples early.
Reality TV World: So it was basically "Cirie or Bust" for you guys?
Reality TV World: So you guys really hadn't given any thought to the idea that you could just vote Cirie out -- and for all you knew there might have been a tribal swap before your tribe ever even went back to Tribal Council again?
Yau-Man: Yeah. We never really -- we talked about that, but we never took it very seriously. Never to where we would approach the other guys say 'Hey look..." We never took it to that level.
Reality TV World: From what was shown on the show, it really Cirie seemed to have previously made a pretty clear choice to join your alliance with. Was that just the editing or had your foursome really spent the first week on the island thinking you had a pretty solid five-person alliance with her?
Yau-Man: We did. But I guess Cirie, the more she thought about it, the more she felt like she's on the outside given the fact that Jonathan and I and Amy spend a lot more time together than with her. She came in after Jonathan approached me to form an alliance, so from that point on... As soon as when we approached her, she already felt that she was an outcast right then.
Reality TV World: But even with yourself and Jonathan, that still would have out her third in a five-person alliance. What made her so convinced she was the fifth person?
Yau-Man: I don't know. I wish... When I get to talk to her again, I'd like to ask her that question (laughing). "Why do you think somehow that Amy and Eliza, why would she consider us being so tight?" At first, we could see she would have a much, much better chance with us than with those two couples. We couldn't see why she couldn't see that.
Reality TV World: So basically that first week, you guys thought everything was all set and suddenly on Day 9...
Yau-Man: She changed. She was very nice to me, we were doing things together and then I never thought that suddenly she'd have a change of mind -- a change of heart. It started out with a big fight with Jonathan, and she kept bringing up all the things that Jonathan did in [Survivor: Cook Islands] and how he would flip back and forth and so on, and so she kind of kept carrying that idea forward and said, "Hey, you're going to do that here also and I don't want to get caught in that."
Reality TV World: So it was really Jonathan more that she seemed to be focused on -- you and Jonathan specifically?
Reality TV World: During Tribal Council, Cirie also made a big point of mentioning how she'd only be "the fifth member of a five person alliance" if she'd voted with your group. Did anyone in your group ever turn around and point out that she would also seem to be in the same spot with the other foursome?
Yau-Man: Yeah, in fact that was very early [before we even left for Tribal Council]. When we first figured out that she is not as tight with us as we thought she would be, that's the first thing that I pointed out to her. I said, "If you go with those four, look at them. They are very tight."
Reality TV World: What was her response to that?
Yau-Man: She then from that point on went around trying to convince Eliza to vote me and she went to Amy and so on. She kept working on the other people.
Reality TV World: So she started to pick-off pieces of your alliance then?
Yau-Man: My hats off to her. From a defensive position, she took up to become an offensive position. She then worked on our alliance to turn them against me.
Reality TV World: Do you have any explanation for how Cirie suddenly went from the passive, "I'll write anyone's name down as long as it's not my own" person we saw in Panama and during the first couple of Micronesia episodes to this incredibly forceful power player?
Yau-Man: No. That was a surprise. I could kind of see the change in heart from the point she had the big argument with Jonathan and what his game plan is and so on. It got more and more intense, and from that point on I think she was determined to break-up whatever Jonathan's alliance had.
Reality TV World: You mean the Episode 3 argument that viewers saw taking place in the cave?
Yau-Man: In the cave, and it actually went on for a long time. It went on for a long time, and my name was brought up. I was there most of the time, and from that point on I went, "Oh my God." That was pretty much the turning point.
Reality TV World: That was the argument that took place after you got back from losing the Immunity Challenge, right?
Reality TV World: So I guess it's safe to say that by the time you left camp from Tribal Council, you were pretty much...
Yau-Man: I was pretty much [expecting to be eliminated]. I thought I still had some hope. In fact, before we went off for Tribal Council, I pulled [Cirie] aside one last time and we had lots of one-to-one conversation. I gave her the last chance, I said, "Look, I will be with you. I'll protect you. You know that my word is good." I did try to talk to her until the very end.
Reality TV World: What was your original strategy going into the game? I'm guessing the couples wasn't part of it.
Yau-Man: No. I was surprised the couples happened so early and they were so obvious so early. I didn't think that was a good thing to do. So our strategy was certainly break-up the couples. But...
Reality TV World: But before the couples happened, what was your plan? Jeff Probst has mentioned how some of the Favorites began talking about alliances and strategies before they even knew that they'd be coming back for sure. Had you had any of those types of talks? If so, with whom?
Yau-Man: It was difficult because I was the only one from Fiji. And also Cirie was the only one from Panama. So my assumption early was there were three from Cook Islands, two from China, two from Vanuatu. So they would pretty much already have played with each other and they know each other, so I assumed that there's some kind of an informal, unspoken alliance. Not only that... Cirie -- who has been on a season three years before -- she would have met with some of the other players like Amy, Eliza. I had only been off a season [one year ago]...
Reality TV World: Yeah, you hadn't have as much time to run into them...
Yau-Man: I was by myself out there, so my assumption was I had to work myself into some alliance. I knew if I could get to the merge, I'd be okay, so I knew I was in trouble.
Reality TV World: How tight was your alliance with Jonathan, Amy, and Eliza, really? Because last night we saw Jonathan and Amy both talking like they were willing to switch to the other side, and then Amy and Eliza both failed to vote for Parvati at Tribal Council.
Yau-Man: Ya, Amy came to me at the end and said, "Hey, in order for me to survive, I have to not vote Parvati. So I can have the flexibility of telling them 'I was with you guys. I didn't vote with them.'" So I guess she through the vote in for Cirie instead, and I was surprised that Eliza and Jonathan -- Jonathan I thought was quite tight with me all the way. Then Tribal Council, he pointed out why it was a silly thing to not keep me around.
Reality TV World: Who do you think you would have ended up allying with if the couples hadn't formed their alliance? Were Jonathan, Amy, and Eliza just an alliance of necessity or convenience?
Yau-Man: They were an alliance of necessity. Basically at that point I said I really had not made any friendships with any of these people going in, so I have to say whoever is willing to adopt me; I have to go along with them. Plus, they're all strong players, so there's nothing to lose by aligning. At some point, I probably should have gone up to Ozzy and so on just to make an alliance with them. They were all coupled up. It was really weird that they coupled up so early.
Yau-Man: He wasn't hit that hard actually. We were both diving for the idol, and I just got there first. It really was an accident and I wasn't [meaning] to push his head into the boat like he's telling everybody. I think he was just [finally] sober. [After] many years, he was finally sober for a few weeks... and he finally realized it was a stupid idea to be on an island with a seven-month pregnant girlfriend.
Reality TV World: Who do you think would have been voted off that night if Jonny hadn't quit? Would it have been Eliza?
Yau-Man: It probably would have been Parvati.
Reality TV World: So you think you had Cirie at that point?
Yau-Man: At that point, Cirie was with us on it. See, at that point, until Jonny Fairplay came around and said, "Hey, I've had enough of this. I'm really worried about my baby and so on," we had enough votes for Parvati and Cirie was with us.
Reality TV World: Do you think Jonny's quitting is what ultimately set up the scenario that led to your own elimination?
Yau-Man: Yes. Definitely. Also, what they showed a little bit, Jonny took individual people and walked down the beach talking with them. I think in that episode they show him talking to Amy, but he did that with everybody and he disclosed everything we told him in confidence. Basically, he's telling everybody what everybody else's strategies are.
Reality TV World: During your first Tribal Council, you also made no secret that you were skeptical that Jonny's quitting talk wasn't just a "scheme." Did you ever end up believing him?
Yau-Man: Yeah, in the end. Going into Tribal Council, I sort of mostly believed him. But on the other hand, there's always that doubt that he was going to pull a fast one somehow. But I couldn't figure out how he could pull anything at that time. The other people in my tribe thought that he would pull a fast one by making an alliance with me, and in the end, I would give him my [Individual Immunity Idol] that I grabbed off the boat. So as people had the doubt that, "Hey maybe at the very last moment Yau-Man will give him the idol so he gets to stay and whoever he votes for gets to get booted out." So that was the worry on everybody's mind I guess.
Reality TV World: Ozzy really seemed to go out of his way to try and deflect the vote away from you before your tribe went to Tribal Council. Did you have some type of side-alliance with him?
Yau-Man: No. He later on... I think either before or after the Immunity Challenge, he sort of made a gesture that he would like for me to be a part of his alliance. But I pretty much turned him down, my thought being, "If I'm in your alliance, you guys are four very tight people together. I'm on the outer fringes." Maybe I should have taken him up on that and made it to the merge with the five of us.
Reality TV World: During Thursday night's Reward Challenge, the momentum really seemed to have swung the Fans' way until Erik Reichenbach kind of seemed to begin smacking some of the women around. Was that some type of turning point for you guys?
Yau-Man: It was a brutal challenge. It went back and forth.
Reality TV World: It really seemed to fire James up quite a bit, when Erik hit Eliza in the face and flipped Amanda over his head...
Yau-Man: And not only that, what they didn't show is somebody tried to pull my head under the water at some point!
Reality TV World: Who was that?
Yau-Man: I don't know. Eliza was the one who kept screaming, "They're trying to drown Yau-Man!" I asked Eliza who it is trying to drown me and they stopped the game and changed the rule and said, "No sticking people's heads under the water." (laughing) That was a very brutal challenge. What they didn't show of course is that the water is [only] like a foot-and-a-half deep -- but underneath is not sand -- it's like broken coral rock. So it's sharp. Most of us were wearing shoes, people who don't wear shoes would have gotten their feet cut up. Any many of the times when we were holding the pillow, we were kneeling down, so our knees were all cut up.
Reality TV World: Geez, that doesn't sound like too much fun.
Yau-Man: Ya... and at first, it was supposed to be best two-out-of-three. But the first round took so long they changed it and said, "Oh no, we'll just do it once" and everybody agreed.
Reality TV World: Was life at the Favorites' camp really as easy as it looked during that first week? Your tribe looked pretty comfortable out there.
Yau-Man: I think with our experience, we were able to... Because we got on the beach and we were able to build a shelter quite soon. Then we found a cave -- the infamous cave -- and so we were able to move into the cave and keep dry. I mean the weather was horrible.
Reality TV World: How much weight did you lose this time around?
Yau-Man: This time around I only lost a couple of pounds.
Reality TV World: Did you prepare any differently the second time around?
Yau-Man: Not that much. I did manage -- because I had more advance notice -- I did try to start eating a little bit more. But I don't have a big appetite, so it's tough for me.