Survivor's Woo Hwang responds to fans who call him clueless
In our one-on-one conversation, Hwang discussed his strategies, explained the conversation with Kass McQuillen that led to his elimination and addressed why the four former Cagayan players didn't have a pregame alliance. Plus, he revealed the painful reason he didn't wear his FiveFingers toe shoes this season despite bringing them to Cambodia.
SheKnows: Much like Monica, you have drawn some criticism on social media. Some are mocking your Survivor strategy, saying you weren't aware of the game happening around you. What is your reaction?
Woo Hwang: I don't take it [personally]. The game is a lot tougher than what you think it is on TV. Was I on the wrong side of the votes? Yeah, absolutely. Was I having conversations with people before Tribal to be on the same page? Yes. A lot goes down. The very first Tribal we went to when Vytas got blindsided, I was aware that we were voting out Abi. But I was on the wrong side of the vote. Of course it cuts off and makes it seem like I'm not quite sure what's happening around me. That's the information that I'm given, and I can only work off of what I know. If I know, "Hey, let's write Abi's name down," then all of a sudden Vytas gets blindsided. Yeah, it definitely comes off that I'm pretty unaware of what's happening around me. Like I said, if somebody says we're voting Abi and you want to stay with the numbers and move forward in the game, that's what you're gonna do.
SK: Walk us through the moment you were eliminated. Was it a true blindside?
WH: I had no idea it was me next. It was a legitimate blindside that I was not expecting.
SK: When the majority of votes fell against you, who did you think turned on you?
WH: Where it went wrong, and they didn't air this, was a conversation I had with Kass when we made that swap. Kass and I were just catching up. "Hey, how are things? It's been a long time. How crazy is it we're playing this game again together?" Kass goes on like, "What's your relationship with Savage?" I'm like, "Kass, things are good. We started together at Angkor and we're so happy to be out of there." She was taking it all in. She was like, "How is your relationship with Tasha?" I said, "We're solid. We're rock solid, don't worry about it." I remember having a conversation with Tasha and Savage at the old Angkor camp. They pulled me aside and said, "Play with us and we make the merge, we guarantee you will be safe because we have a lot of alliance members from the original Bayon tribe." That's Jeremy, Keith, Fishbach, Ciera, Tasha and myself. I felt that was the best thing I heard of all 14 or 15 days I was out there. I remember having the conversation with Kass about being cool with Savage and cool with Tasha. I walked away thinking, did I just reveal too much? I don't remember Savage ever saying that Kass was a part of his alliance. Maybe she was thinking since Savage wanted to throw Spencer under the bus, and Woo is already admitting how close he is to those guys, Woo is going to be aligned with all those other guys. I'm thinking the reason behind flipping and voting me off was simply to start phasing out Savage's alliance members. That included myself.
SK: On the show you talked about trusting Savage. Why were you so connected to him?
WH: Trust is a tricky word in the game of Survivor. He communicates really well. He just seems like such a straightforward guy. We had built a relationship at Angkor and the experience of not having much food. Our shelter was very poor. When they decided to vote off Jeff and keep me, that really kind of bonded my trust with Savage. I felt like I could play with him and he was willing to play with me.
SK: On the flip side, who did you feel most threatened by going into the game?
WH: I was threatened by Spencer. He's really popular in the Survivor world. I know he's got a lot of ties and relationships with a lot of the Second Chance members. I was threatened by Joe. I was threatened by Tasha, Kass, you've got so many great players. Vytas. Jeff Varner. You name it, there's just so many great players you almost have to go in being threatened by everyone.
SK: Since there were four castaways, including yourself, from Survivor: Cagayan selected to be on this season, was there any talk of an alliance together?
WH: Before the game started, I didn't have a conversation with any of those guys. Looking back, maybe I could've snuck a Twitter message to Spencer, Kass and Tasha saying, "Maybe we should definitely consider working with one another. Maybe at the second stage when we hit the merge we can join forces, but maybe in the beginning keep it on the discreet side so we're not targeted." I definitely had that in my game plan that once I got those guys in the right position on the right day that we could right there, being four of us, we could run the show. That was definitely in the back of my mind as a strategy. Spencer and I, we started off on the show together.
SK: If CBS called tomorrow and said they were doing Survivor: Third Chance, are you in?
WH: Come on! Get me on there! Please! I'm sure the viewers are probably sick of seeing my face, but are you kidding me? If Survivor called me again, hands down I'm there. Maybe I can be one of those third chancers. 10 years from now I'll be 41, and I'll be one of the dads coming in for my revenge.
SK: In Cagayan, you wore those FiveFingers toe shoes, which seems like a very smart decision. Did you bring them this season?
WH: I did. I had those. Once I suffered those cuts on my feet, they weren't very helpful. I had a bunch of cuts on my toes, so sliding my feet into those FiveFingers shoes was just too much. I just decided to wear my other shoes, which were Nike cross-trainers.
SK: You made it all the way to the final Tribal Council the first season you played. But your decision to bring to the end ultimately cost you the $1 million prize. It's something you seemed to take very hard when you lost. How long did it take you to get over that loss?
WH: When the votes were revealed, I was shocked. I was surprised and very disappointed. A lot of that went away pretty quick when I looked in the audience and saw my mom, dad and cousin who flew out. I had my girlfriend in the audience. They came out there to be with me at the finale. They were just as upset as I was, but there's no point in hanging on to that. Things happen. They happen for a reason, and you can choose to accept it or not accept it. If you choose to accept it, take it for what it is and stay positive, or let it affect your mood and the whole vibe of the trip for everyone else. When it was over, I needed to click back into who I was personality-wise to keep a smile on face and be happy for my family and friends.
SK: Anything else you'd like to say?
WH: Just to take the time to thank all my fans who are out there for tuning in and making my Second Chance dreams come to reality. Thank you very much for all your support and love. Until next time.