Survivor: David vs. Goliath cast assessment: Bi Nguyen has a fighting spirit

Photo: Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment ©2018 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment ©2018 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved. /

A recruit who’s had a whirlwind trip to make it on Survivor: David vs. Goliath, Bi Nguyen is an MMA fighter with a lot on the line.

I’m glad that Survivor casting for David vs. Goliath veered off a bit from the Australian Survivor: Champions vs. Contenders route. That season is currently airing, and the tribal phase represented the slow car crash-like demise of the underdogs against the athletes, likable people and Russell Hantz on the Champions tribe.

Bi Nguyen joining the David tribe as a professional MMA fighter proves that CBS knows there merit to a narrative meta as opposed to strictly airing a competition of the meek versus the mighty. It rings true down to her CBS bio, stating that she was a huge underdog against an experienced fighter in her first match, took her down, retired her and won 22 matches since.

It’s very much a testament to Jeff Probst’s theory that we will see a David become a Goliath over the course of this season, and professionally, Bi is in the prime position to do so. The big drawback to her physical prowess is that she’s a self-admitted recruit who’s very new to the game. She recalls her first season being Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers; the recent season that aired before being sent to casting finals.

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She did binge six seasons in the month before flying out to Fiji, but on another meta-level, her inexperience with the game does put her in a “David among Davids” situation. Her physicality will be an asset in the early game, as having strong women on your tribe can be a tipping point more so than strong men, in some cases.

The dedication to her craft will prove a personal asset over the rest of her cast. MMA fighters have to go through rigorous fasting and starvation in the days leading up to a weigh-in, as they’ll often lose 10% or more of their body weight in order to bulk back up and rehydrate in time for their match.

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Being able to lose that much weight that quickly is an unhealthy habit, but it’s an integral part of Survivor; a lack of food and water is a punishment everyone must endure. Who knows if she’ll be built for a long-term stretch or if her abilities are better geared as part of a scheduled training regimen, but having that experience is a huge leg up on the competition.

What may help round Bi Nguyen as a competitor and as a character is the hardship she’s gone through. Jeff alludes to making it in America after leaving home at 14 as the daughter of Vietnam refugees, and her First One Out interview with Josh Wigler indicates the struggles coming with recently losing her father and jumping headfirst into this new challenge shortly after his passing.

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Though she seems very muted and calculated, it may be a great strategy on an island where rubbing people the wrong way will get you in trouble early. I think Bi has the right training, adaptability, and cunning to keep afloat in Survivor: David vs. Goliath. Whether or not she can offer a quick jab when opponents are expecting the uppercut remains a mystery until she enters the island-shaped octagon.