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Survivor Season 39 Spoilers: A Castaway Goes Home With An Idol In Their Pocket But Head Held High

The latest cast-off reflects on their epic Survivor moment, meeting Survivor idols, and how they hope to impact future castaways.
Posted on Oct 11, 2019 | 09:20am
As fans know, Survivor can be a game full of soaring highs and crushing lows.

For 27-year-old castaway Vince Moua, those two milestones happened in quick succession, first taking him to the Island of the Idols where he was tasked with completing a top-secret covert mission in exchange for an Immunity Idol, only to later be blindsided at Tribal Council and take that Idol home with him, unplayed. 

We caught up with the charismatic admissions counselor for a debriefing on his covert op, how the Island of the Idols impacted his game, and how he hopes to parlay his Survivor experience into inspiring young people. 

STREAM: Full Episodes Of Survivor: Island Of The Idols On CBS All Access

It must be hard to leave the game relatively early, but do you take any solace in knowing that you had a truly awesome Mission: Impossible moment infiltrating the Vokai camp? What was going through your head as you were sneaking in?
Vince Moua: You mean, "Mission: Vincepossible"? [Laughs.] Yo, I don't think anyone has ever been tasked with such a seemingly impossible mission and I am happy to have been given that opportunity by the Survivor gods! I may have gone out third but I was able to do more things in those first eight days than many players who get to Day 39!
It went something along the lines of: "Oh dang, it's really dark! Oh dang, I can't see anything! Why is it so muddy on this island? Don't tell me their fire's out! Their fire's out! Take Sandra's advice and hide behind something. Darn these shoes! Where's their fire pit? I guess I'mma just have to get ashes since the fire is out and I can't find their flint to make fire before leaving the island. How much should I grab? Did I hear something? Go go go go!" [Laughs.] It was an incredible experience that I would 100 percent choose to do again! Gotta risk it for the biscuit!

You got emotional when you met Rob and Sandra. Can you elaborate on why that moment meant so much to you?

Vince: Yeah, Survivor has been an integral part of my life and I know that lots of people probably scoff at such a statement. However, as a poor kid, Survivor provided me with 45 minutes of worlds, spaces, and communities outside of my small Central Valley town.

It gave me the ability to see beyond the confines of Merced and to dream about the possibilities of traveling abroad, taking big risks, and representing the communities that I come from. I grew up watching Sandra and Rob.

As a woman of color, Sandra, in particular, showed me that you should never give up, you should speak up for yourself, and you should always remember where you come from. Her tenacity and will to persevere definitely rubbed off on me. [Laughs.] So it was a lot to see them there on my own journey through Survivor.

I just also kept thinking about possibly being the same kind of mentor for future players who may say that they saw me playing while they were growing up. It was a bit meta! [Laughs.]

It seemed like you were on solid ground with most of the women in the women's alliance—why do you think they went after you instead of Tom?

Vince: I was! I came in wanting to work with women and made sure to advocate for them whenever I felt that I needed to or when I felt that they were in danger. I was 100 percent loyal to them and would say that it was more like a-women-plus-gay-guy's alliance [laughs] because I actually aligned with the women on Day 2 after hearing that Aaron and Ronnie were throwing my name out there.

It wasn't shown but I led Ronnie's blindside and was hustling to get Aaron out. However, when that route was cut off, Tom became the next target because I knew he didn't have my back, it was getting increasingly difficult to work with him, and he was getting more and more fatigued.

I thought that I had secured all of the votes from the women on Tom. However, Aaron had a strong authoritarian voice on our island and it seems like he instilled a bit of paranoia and fear amongst the ladies.

Ultimately, I think the afternoon just went by too quickly and—after having lost a whole day at Island of the Idols—I just didn't have enough time to thoroughly convince the women that loyalty was far more important than perceived physical attributes. It was hard because I came in wanting to work with women and underrepresented minorities. So you could imagine how confused and shocked I was when those were the folk who came after me.

You made it clear that representation was very important to you and part of why you wanted to play this game. What do you hope young people take away from seeing you on Survivor?

Vince: I hope that young people start watching Survivor again! [Laughs.]

But more than anything, I hope that they learn to take up space. Kids like me grow up never being told that they belong at places like Stanford, that their lived experiences are worthy of recognition, that they can aspire to be more than another statistic, that there is validity in the stories that they are a part of, and/or that they could ever dream of seeing themselves on television.

Kids like me grow up being told to bear with their struggles, to not speak up, to not go against those in power, to wait patiently until your turn comes, to not ruin the faces and reputations of their families, and/or to simply appreciate what they've been given.

However, I have three messages for them:

"It only takes one person to create change."

"If Vince can do it, yo ass can do it!"

"Don't let anyone take away your self-agency and self-love."

I've had a lot of young Southeast Asian folk message me about how wonderful it was to see another person like himself or herself on TV and I honestly am humbled every single time! I truly hope that more future players will come on with similar reasons for playing the game.

What was the most surprising part of playing Survivor?

Vince: How little of your personal character and quirks actually change. [Laughs.] A lot of people come into the game with this mindset of "It's a game! My family and friends know who I truly am!"

I think that's total BS because what Survivor does is that it allows you to start a new society, of sorts, without the confinements of modern-day folkways and morals.

What you do while playing the game is the truest reflection of what you are capable of in the real world if all societal boundaries were suddenly thrown out the window.

What did you learn about yourself on Survivor?

Vince: I learned that I was and am capable of just about anything. [Laughs.] Who would have known that I'd be such a beast with the ax? Or that I'd be the person whose personal upbringing as a son of Hmong refugees would allow me to provide for the tribe? Or that I'd be such a natural at being a stealth boss!

I didn't want to fit stereotypes often pushed upon Asian-Americans in the game and am happy to be breaking so many barriers by simply being me. I am hoping that more people will see the importance of representation and inclusion and will start fighting for good social causes!

Don't miss all-new episodes of Survivor: Island of the Idols on Wednesdays at 8/7c on CBS and CBS All Access