Bi Nguyen is a fighter. No, seriously, that’s what she does for a living — pummeling people in an octagon as an MMA fighter. But she could not fight through an injury she suffered in a Survivor: David vs. Goliath challenge, choosing to leave the game and rehab properly rather than risk doing any more damage and impacting her career.
So what exactly happened there? Bi leaving the game was classified as a quit rather than a medical evacuation, so what did the Survivor medical team tell her and why did she then decide to leave the game? We asked Bi exactly that and a whole lot more when she called into EW Morning Live (EW Radio, SiriusXM, channel 105). Here are some highlights from our chat.
EW RADIO: Very interesting situation here because you left the game due to a knee injury, but this was not a medical evacuation. Instead you chose to quit rather than risk further injury that could impact your professional career. So tell me what the Survivor medical team told you about your condition and then about your decision.
BI NGUYEN: So right after the challenge as I was limping off I could feel that something was not right. I’ve injured this knee before. I tore the MCL before so I recognized it and knew it right away. I went to Dr. Joe and he was fidgeting with it and it was unstable. What he said was that he did not believe it to be torn, but it was sprained. I definitely sprained it and it was unstable. So we wrapped it up and I asked him for some time to think about it and see how it would progress. I went back to camp and it got worse.
So at what point did you decide, I’m calling it?
I took a lot of time to myself. At camp there are a lot of hills and sand is not easy on the knee either, so I took a lot of time to think about it, and a lot of emotions, and a lot of crying and I was just scared that the tear was coming because I had just torn it. It was so emotional. I was so scared for my career. And I didn’t want to leave the game because I felt I was doing good in the game. It was just a tough decision and it took hours and hours of a lot of crying and a lot of thinking, and I decided that my knee wouldn’t last the island and it wouldn’t last the competitions.
What did Jeff Probst say when he found out what was going on and that you didn’t want to risk continuing on?
I actually never spoke to Jeff. I wouldn’t know but I don’t think Jeff knew until the day of. He knew I was hurt after the challenge because we had the medic team check me out, but I don’t know when Jeff knew. I didn’t speak to him prior to showing up the next day for the tribe swap that was happening. The producers were aware of it and were very supportive and let me make my own decision. I didn’t speak to Jeff prior at all.
What about your fellow tribemates? As you told them what was going on did they try to convince you to stay?
I told my tribe right before going into publicly announce it to Jeff and I don’t think they had enough time to process what was going on. The David tribe is so sweet, just so supportive, and I was just balling and so sad to leave them. No, they didn’t try to convince me to stay, but they were just [saying,] “Are you sure, Bi? Are you sure?” And I was like, “Sorry, guys. I just have to make this decision for my career and for my life.”
How much did that weigh on you in terms of I need to do this for me, but it’s a numbers game and they may need me as a number?
That was so much of my thought process. I’ve come to love this team and up until that point I was very much the physical player in the challenges. Most of my career I’ve fought with injuries and my body has suffered, so at some point I need to be smart about it and make the decision to make these tough calls and make this decision for myself and for my body.
What happened after you left the game? Were you staying at Ponderosa or did you go somewhere else to rehab your injury?
After I left, I went to Ponderosa, but the medical team did come and help me rehab my knee back. It’s a sticky situation because the sprain was so close to tearing, but if you heal it and rest it, it will get better, and my knee did get better fortunately. So I went to Ponderosa and we did some physical therapy and got it back on track.
And how is the knee now?
Right now, it’s good, but knee injuries are lingering so I can’t run on concrete. It aches when it’s cold, but as far as it being stable, it’s good now. It’s strong. I spent a lot of time rehabbing it. I think I made the right decision and I made it at the right time to take care of it and it got better. And my last fight, the knee felt good. It buckled a little bit, but I don’t think it was due to what happened on the island. Like I said, I tore it before, so this knee was already crap. [Laughs]
I was freaking out when I hurt it on the island. It didn’t tear. I wasn’t medivaced. But I was freaking out because it was a prior injury and anybody listening that has had a knee injury knows that it is very scary to even have it go unstable or sprain it again.
Well, it’s a unique situation because if you work in an office and tweak your knee playing Survivor, you’re probably continuing on, but this is potentially threatening your livelihood so it’s a much tougher call to make.
If I were going to go out I wanted to be outplayed by my teammates. I wanted to be blindsided. I wanted to be betrayed or tricked or something, but not have it be physical. This was not ideal for me at all and not ideal for anyone.
Was there anything we didn’t see about your Survivor experience that you wish had made the show?
There was a lot of physical stuff. I fished! There was a lot of stuff we had to do to survive that I wish would have made it. But as far as what made it on the show, I think they represented us socially so well. And as far as what little air time I had, who I was was represented well. But I dove into water! And I fished and threw a spear! I climbed a tree! But that didn’t make it. I just want everybody to know that I did fish.