100 Most Entertaining Survivors #86: Yul Kwon

Sorry for my longest entry yet, I just have a lot to get off my chest from Survivor: Cook Islands.

Yul Kwon is the first winner that you see on the list. He won one of the least auspicious seasons of Survivor to date, Survivor: Cook Islands.

For those of you who don’t remember, this is Yul Kwon. He was the winner of Survivor: Cook Islands. He played arguably one of the best strategic games in the history of Survivor. He was able to maneuver his 4 person alliance to the final four despite being outnumbered. He did this with a Hidden Immunity Idol, but unlike Russell Hantz, who achieved the same feat, Yul was able to get his four through the game without actually using the Hidden Immunity Idol.

Survivor Cook Islands became famous for being the first season where contestants were divided by race. There were four tribes, Aitutaki (Hispanic), Puka Puka (Asian), Rarotonga (White), and Manihiki (Black). Survivor fans did not know how to approach this twist. Survivor producers were probably shaking their heads because they were losing sponsorships and viewers. Then we see Yul, a member of the Asian tribe, make some of the most apropos and astute comments ever made by a Survivor contestant. The comments that he made were about how the Puka Puka tribe was racially diverse within itself. He also said that this was going to be an interesting social experiment. I believe that this legitimized this season. Viewers saw a well-spoken Asian man discussing legitimate social issues and advocating for what the Survivor producers were doing. I honestly believe that Yul is the sole reason that many people continued watching this season of Survivor. It is no wonder that he is now a politician.

Yul found the Hidden Immunity Idol incredibly quickly in the game. Once he found the HII, I knew that he was going to be a huge threat within the game of Survivor. The HII this season had different rules than it does now. At this time, you could play it AFTER the votes are read. This means that it is basically complete power over the game. There is no chance that you could play it uselessly. This made Yul an incredibly powerful person in the game of Survivor.

When there were twelve people left, Jeff announced a mutiny. This meant that anyone could leave their tribe and join the other one immediately. The tribe count was 6-6 at this time, but Candice and Jonathan left Aitutaki and went to Rarotonga. This left Yul’s tribe at an 8-4 disadvantage. Ozzy, Sundra, Becky, and Yul were left alone.

The next few episodes were tense. Everyone liked some of the people on  the Raro tribe, but the Aitu tribe provided a wonderful underdog story to be told. Never in the history of the game had such a disparity been overcome. And never until Russell would it be overcome again. There were two more tribal councils for the Raro tribe before the merge. However, at one of those tribal councils, there was a twist and they were forced to vote off two people, Rebecca and Jenny.

Aitu made what they thought was a very strategic move at this point in the game. I, however, disagree.  (Yul was the obvious strategist in the Aitu alliance, which is why this is going in his blog post.) This is the only point in which I believe that Yul played with his heart rather than his head. It seems obvious to me that there was no way in hell that they were going to merge with 8 people (which would, in a perfect world, mean that there would be a 4-4 tie. Yul sent Candice to Exile Island twice before the merge happened. This left Jonathan incredibly vulnerable to being voted out by Raro. Yul should have known that his best bet of getting someone to flip at the merge would be Candice and Jonathan, as they have friendships and they both have wronged the Aitu in some way. However, he sent Candice to Exile Island, which meant that she wasn’t getting to bond with her tribe, and he left Jonathan vulnerable because Candice wasn’t there to go to bat for him. I think that Yul should have sent one of the original Raro people to Exile Island to give Candice and Jonathan the best possible chance to stay in the game until the merge. I know that this isn’t a reason that Yul is necessarily entertaining, but it is something that I have had on my chest for a while now. Thank you for letting me rant. Back to the fun stuff.

Yul obviously has a way with words. He is a natural speaker, and it seems that he could sell condoms to a nun (One of my favorite sayings). This made for a very entertaining moment as he attempted to persuade Jonathan. He was so persuasive, in fact. that I, as an audience member, wanted to jump up and vote with Yul. The man has a way with words. This is probably why he won, he was able to articulate his points very well. Anyway, he pulled out his Hidden Immunity Idol for the first time in the entire game and showed it to Jonathan. This provided us with literally the only suspenseful moment in the entire season: would Jonathan flip to AItu or not. He was ultimately successful, of course. He also illustrated a brilliant move in sacrificing Jonathan when he was no longer necessary in order to appease the Raro tribe. Although this probably should have been done one tribal council earlier, it was enough to get the votes from the jury.

Ultimately, Yul was the mastermind behind the entire season. Anyone who was voted off, Yul had a hand in. In fact, Yul has a rare distinction (I haven’t officially counted, but I believe that about 15 people have done this EDIT: I did do an official count, the total number of people who voted the correct person out every time is 38. However, there is a caveat to most of these, leaving only 15 people to do it legitimately (Yul is one) to see the whole list, look at the thread on Previously on Survivor or e-mail me) to have cast his vote for the person leaving at every tribal council he attended. This simply goes to show just how flawless his game was. In fact, I would argue that his only shortcoming was the fact that Ozzy won all of the challenges. If there wasn’t a huge physical player sitting next to him in the final three who was much more visible throughout the season, I believe that he would have swept the jury a la Earl or JT.

Thank you all for reading, please comment.


PS: Clue to Number 85: This person was the biggest proponent of a specific alliance I have ever seen. Unfortunately for them, the entire alliance was smuffed in the end.

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