Say it isn’t So! (See what I did there?) On Wednesday night’s premiere episode of “Survivor: Worlds Apart,” it was So Kim who became the first person to be voted out of the game. Today I talked with her about her experience during – and before – her time on the island.
In case you missed it, here is the full Episode 1 Recap. And follow me on Twitter (@tomsantilli) for all of my Survivor coverage, including my exclusive exit interview each week.
Yes, the Survivor story of So Kim begins long before what we saw last night. So was in fact supposed to be on last season (San Juan Del Sur: Blood vs. Water), before a last-minute problem with her loved one forced her off of the show just days before it started. What happened? I’ll let her explain.
But So is a determined, hard-working woman. That unfortunate circumstance didn’t deter her and she was chosen to be a part of this season, placed on the White Collar tribe, despite having had to quit her job in order to appear on the show. As fate would have it, her fellow tribemates chose her to be one of their team leaders, along with Joaquin, and this would ultimately seal her fate in the game.
Because she was chosen, her and Joaquin had a choice of “Honest” or “Deceive” to pick from. So wanted to go the honest route, but Joaquin coaxed her into giving into the dark side. It was all downhill from there, as lies began to build that would immediately put her on her tribe’s watch list. Her only real ally was Joaquin and despite doing well in the Immunity Challenge, So was just not able to work her way back in with her tribe.
Despite pleading her case and getting into a heated argument with Carolyn at Tribal Council, Tyler and Max ultimately sided with Carolyn and So was voted out 4-2, becoming the first person this season to have their torch snuffed. I spoke with So Kim today, the day after her episode aired:
Tom Santilli, Survivor Examiner: Hi So! Very sorry to see you go so soon!
So Kim: Thanks, I appreciate it. I’m pretty bummed.
Tom Santilli: I could imagine. Let’s go back a bit even before the show. It’s come out that you and your sister were originally supposed to be cast last season, on Survivor: San Juan del Sur, but that something happened right before shooting began. What happened?
So: My sister and I were originally slated to be part of the cast for Season 29. Unfortunately something happened with my sister medically. It was a situation that she had to take care of. Ultimately we couldn’t go through with it. But I was fortunate enough to be asked back for Season 30. So I waited a few more months and then flew back up to Nicaragua.
Tom Santilli: Now that you’ve played this season and have probably watched Season 29, do you feel like you may have fared better in a Blood vs. Water situation as opposed to what you got with Worlds Apart?
So: It’s hard to say. Of course the dynamics of the game are so different. With Season 29, you had two tribes of 10. So if you lose that first challenge you have a lot more places to hide than if you are on a tribe of six. All of a sudden you don’t have anywhere to hide and you have to make sure your alliance is all locked up. So yeah, it could have been much different. I could have been on a tribe where we didn’t lose that first challenge and I could have made it a lot further. To have regrets about that though, just doesn’t accomplish anything. So I guess I just have to be OK with the fact that I was lucky enough to be considered for two seasons. I sort of got the short end of the stick in terms of how things worked out on Season 30, but you make the best of what you can, right? (Laughs).
Tom Santilli: You have to, always! And of course, there is no guarantee that they are going to ask you back for Season 30 so right there that has to be pretty exciting.
So: Absolutely, absolutely.
Tom Santilli: Now it is pretty special to just be a part of the show, millions of people would die for a chance to play Survivor. But there is a certain level of embarrassment I’m guessing no matter the circumstances, when you are the first person voted out…
So: I could have never have guessed what happened. It was my worst nightmare coming true. No, you never think that you’d be voted out first. Sure, you’re lucky enough to get cast on the show, but you just can’t imagine that you’ll be unlucky enough to be the first person voted out. For me, it was tough. I mean, I was the reason we were winning that first challenge, and then to get voted out first, what can you do? It was made worse when we sort of became the team leaders, and unfortunately, yeah, it happened.
Tom Santilli: In one of your interviews on CBS.com, you described yourself as a “careerist,” and that you actually had to resign from your job in order to be on Survivor. So you had a lot at stake. What’s the update there, were you able to get your job back?
So: That’s why I think that everything works out the way that it’s kind of supposed to. After everything with Survivor, I kind of took a step back and re-evaluated. I was living in New York and decided that I had always wanted to move out to LA. So I thought, what better time than to move out there now? So I actually moved to LA and took a job with Billabong. But I’ve always been a careerist. I was anxious to get back to work and I started interviewing right away and just moved out here a few weeks ago. So yep, I’m back to the grind (Laughs).
Tom Santilli: Well congrats on the move and on you new job! Let’s talk about your so-called “deal with the devil” that you made with Joaquin. You seemed against choosing Deceit and seemed to give in to Joaquin a bit. Was that a lose-lose situation for you at that point, or how could you have played that differently?
So: In retrospect, I didn’t realize that Joaquin didn’t know the game as well as I did. And what you don’t see, off-camera, is that I really tried to convince him that maybe we shouldn’t take the Deceit, and to go with the Honest, and he was actually willing to go along and do whatever I wanted. But because he was so excited about the clue, and I was too as a big Survivor fan, I kind of got swept up in the excitement of getting an advantage. But what we should have done though is taken that clue and shared it with the rest of the tribe.
Tom Santilli: So to be clear then, it was your decision to go with Deceit, and not really Joaquin influencing you to do so?
So: I mean there was a bit of influence, but we just both got so excited. I should have listened to my instincts, and my instincts were to say no, you should be Honest, being dishonest this early is going to spell trouble for you later on. So did I get swayed a little bit? I think so, but I’m also not going to blame anyone else for decisions that I made myself along the way.
Tom Santilli: You were sort of thrown into an alliance with Joaquin because of that. Did it ever cross your mind to distance yourself from him and maybe throw him under the bus in order to win back the rest of the tribe?
So: You know, I could have done that, but by that time we had started talking and I realized that he didn’t know the game all that well, and that he would be on board to follow me and go along with whatever I wanted. I thought that would have been a really good person to have in my pocket. You don’t see this, but I also thought that I was in an alliance with Shirin, I actually show her the clue back at camp. But she got so paranoid when we got back from the challenge, and that’s why you see me going so hard after Carolyn. I was trying to show Shirin don’t worry, I’ve got your back.
Tom Santilli: Do you feel like you had underestimated your other tribe mates?
So: As I was starting to get to know them, I realized that they were the biggest Survivor fans that I had ever met, and some of the most strategic players probably that have ever been cast.
Tom Santilli: Do you think you got voted out for any other reason other than your big lie, or to what else do you attribute them voting you out?
So: I do think that there were several factors. Needing to keep the tribe strong, almost automatically it came down to voting out one of the women, because you know the first couple challenges are going to be physical and we would need the guys. The other two girls got very paranoid once we got back to camp, and because they were so paranoid they sort of got together and approached Max. Max had always wanted to work with two weaker girls so that he could save them at any given time and they’d be indebted to him. So the three of them got together. With Carolyn, good on her, but by finding the Idol, she was able to use that to bring Tyler on board, so that’s what I think happened.
Tom Santilli: What did you think when you saw how Carolyn found that Idol? Did you know any of that when you were out there?
So: No, that was a complete surprise to all of us, actually! I don’t think any of us knew except for Tyler, and it was brilliant! She played it perfectly. All you can do is laugh.
Tom Santilli: Everybody out there seemed to really embrace their “collar” label. In your opinion, other than income, what separates a white collar person like yourself from a blue collar person?
So: In the game of Survivor, it was very apparent. As white collar, we all know how to delegate to get things done, but we were all delegating and none of us knew what to do! We couldn’t make a shelter, or a fire, we would stand around like idiots. The other two tribes immediately started making things happen. I remember standing on that mat just going, oh no, we are in so much trouble with this group. It’s going to be six against 12 (laughs).
Tom Santilli: Being so close to Season 29 and then just getting three days this season, you can’t possibly feel like you’ve lived out the full Survivor experience.
So: No. Just a taste, I only got just a taste. If I was asked back I would be there in a heartbeat, not even a question. It was an amazing experience but a short three days that I was out there.
Be sure to join me next Wednesday for another episode preview, full recap and instant analysis, and of course, the next exit interview next Thursday.
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