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Survivor 42's Hai Giang Explains How Religion Played Into His Falling Out With Romeo Escobar

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(Image credit: CBS)

Early on in the Survivor 42 merge, a bond was clearly struck between castmates Romeo Escobar (of the former Ika tribe) and Hai Giang (of the former Vati tribe). Their heart-to-heart over the difficulties of being openly gay in fact saw Escobar remark at one point that he’d remember the conversation for the rest of his life. Yet, their friendship quickly turned sour as the game continued, and Giang has since explained how religion actually played into the falling out.

Because, in truth, it wasn’t exactly clear in the edit how their tentative friendship went bust. Sure, they were on opposite ends of the power hierarchy so they couldn’t exactly work together. But calling each other “weasel” and “snake” – how did it come to that? Well, speaking to Entertainment Weekly upon his own ousting, Hai Giang said that what it came down to was, first, an unaired game of telephone that saw Giang throw Chanelle Howard under the bus to Romeo Escobar who then told Tori Meehan who told Howard who told Giang. Full circle. Then Escobar’s later throwaway vote against Giang at a tribal didn’t go over well. The Survivor 42 player reflected to the outlet, 

I love Romeo today, but he really played a game tied to his religion. And as someone who is an atheist, I came out there saying that no one is going to use their personal beliefs to persuade me. And when I confronted Romeo about the information being relayed back to Chanelle, he was swearing up and down on his faith that he did not tell Chanelle this information. Same with that night. I asked him straight up. I'm like, ‘Did you vote for me?’ ‘No, Hai. I swear on my creator. I did not vote for you.’

The game of telephone was all the more a betrayal to Hai Giang because it was also immediately after their major bonding moment early on. As the Survivor 42 contestant described it, “Romeo wasn't paranoid because he was at the bottom; he was at the bottom because he was paranoid.” Nevertheless, Giang underscored that how faith was used against him was actually the most hurtful aspect, saying,

I took that very personally. I'm like, ‘Don't do that. Don't use religious whatever to persuade me because I don't buy it, first of all. And second of all, it's really out of bounds.’ So that was part of where my intense reaction was coming from because I felt as though people were trying to use their personal beliefs to gaslight me. And that is something that I did not appreciate.

In the real world, it’s technically not good form to swear against things in good conscience, but as Survivor fans and former players can attest, anything and everything is fair game in a competition for $1 million. And it usually makes for some of the most interesting and memorable moments in the history of the show. I mean, Jonny Fairplay’s famous “dead grandma” lie to incite sympathy on Pearl Islands? Enough said. However, it also manifested religion-wise last season as well. Naseer Muttalif had claimed after his elimination that Pastor Shan Smith was able to dupe him precisely because of her religious background.

As things stand now, Romeo Escobar’s apparent lies to Hai Giang have indeed bought him more time to play. The biggest strategic threat in Giang is out, and physical threat Jonathan Young is probably next, which sets a clear path for Escobar to slip to the end. And according to fans, real-life veterinarian Omar Zaheer is the frontrunner who will take home the win.

It is possible. Drea Wheeler has a lot of remaining advantages. Maryanne Oketch just found another hidden immunity idol. And Lindsay Dolashewich had back-to-back challenge wins in the last episode. So, really, your guess is as good as mine, especially given the upset that occurred last season. Stay tuned for the final legs of Survivor 42, airing Wednesdays at 8 p.m. EST on CBS or streaming next day with the Paramount+ subscription.

Freelance writer. Favs: film history, reality TV, astronomy, French fries.