ďI Made Very Few Mistakes in the GameĒ Ė An Interview with Survivor: Cook Islandsí Winner Yulby David Bloomberg -- 12/18/2006
Anybody who reads RealityNewsOnline knows Iím a big proponent of the highly strategic game. And that includes Yul! We probably could have discussed strategy for a couple hours, but the winner of Survivor doesnít have that kind of time. So we cut right to the chase, and here it is for you.
Yul: Thanks. I read your columns and I know youíre going to have a lot of questions, like about why we eliminated Jonathan when we did.
RNO: Well then letís just jump right to those. A lot of people watching thought you eliminated Jonathan too soon, though in retrospect it obviously turned out okay! What made you decide to get rid of him at that particular time?
Yul: I think that was actually the move Ė aside from getting Jonathan to flip Ė it won me the game. Adam was the pivotal vote, he told me if I hadnít made that move, he would have voted for Ozzy. I knew getting rid of Jonathan was a risk, but I was incurring greater short-term risk for promoting long-term success. Adam had made it clear that if I got to the end, they would all vote against me. Whether that was true or not, they had labeled me as the puppetmaster, which I didnít think was true. I donít think thatís the way I worked, I think I was an effective leader but I built consensus and listened to what people had to say. It assured our alliance was really tight because they werenít under the control of some dictatorial leader. I donít think anyone felt the incentive to defect from our alliance. So the possibility of someone flipping if we got rid of Jonathan was very remote.
I knew they were going after Ozzy, but I didnít see a strong possibility he would flip. They didnít show all the stuff because if they did, it would have made for a pretty boring series of episodes. I knew we had the numerical advantage and we could get rid of him.
People were saying Jonathan was a perfect final two vote. But you have to assume I could get there with him, which would have been hard. I would have had to screw over my alliance. And people donít give Jonathan enough credit. He wouldnít have stood idly by, he would have been able to flush out the idol. He would have mounted a campaign and tried to take a weaker player in his perception, like Becky or Sundra, to the finals. He could have made a compelling argument to the jury. In order for me to get to the final two with Jonathan, he would have had to be a very passive participant, which he wouldnít have done. I needed to eliminate the biggest strategic threat.
I had this deal with Adam and I felt I could arrange [Adamís] ouster in a way that would retain his vote. I set him up such that even though we voted him out, he felt it was outside my control. I felt with Adam at least, whatever you might think of him, heís a man of his word. He has a sense of honor and integrity in his own fashion. I was able to read him and know that he would stick to his word. That ended up working out. That was my thought process for why we voted out Jonathan.
RNO: So, as youíve said, the decision was a group one to get rid of Jonathan, but you took credit with Adam?
Yul: Yeah. I did have a lot of influence, the reason was that I really did listen to everybody. If it wasnít a big deal, Iíd be more than happy to let them go with their decision. I think people wanted to get rid of Jonathan, and if I didnít, it would have required the expenditure of a lot of social cap and it would have raised suspicion. It seemed like the tide was going against Jonathan and the others perceived me as the puppetmaster, so I might as well use it to my advantage. So everything I could think of weighed in favor of voting out Jonathan.
RNO: What other subtle plays like this one did you make?
Yul: When we were trying to flip Jonathan, I actually did come up with the scenarios and probabilities. Basically it was mutually assured destruction Ė youíre going to get screwed too if we do. The thing that I told him that cinched it for us was there was all the danger he would tell [the Raros] I had the idol. I told him you think they havenít voted you out because you work hard? Bull$#!t. They didnít vote you out because they think you have the idol. Youíre going to get screwed. So thatís one of the reasons why he didnít tell them I didnít have the idol. I think that was a subtle story I came up with against him lying to us.
Another subtle thing, when we flipped Jonathan and voted out Nate, it appeared like we gave Jonathan the discretion to vote out whoever he wanted. But we decided to get rid of Nate together. When we were trying to decide who to flip, I pushed for Jonathan but Ozzy was pushing really hard for Nate. I couldnít understand it, but I said if you can do it, okay. But I asked him how he would do it. At that point, Ozzy was saying he would try to pull in Nate by saying he felt outside our group and stopped mid-sentence, like a bird had flown into his mouth. I realized that it was a great story and could work, so I ran back to Becky and said we had to eliminate Nate.
Jonathan didnít want to flip to our side if Ozzy would flip back, so we decided that part of the bargain was we would tell Ozzy that Nate had to go next. We went back to Ozzy, who was very strongly against it, but we said we had no choice. It seemed like Jonathan had the decision, but it was all very manufactured. I think it was the right choice. They had at least the beginnings of an alliance.
RNO: You talked about how you had to lie and deceive even though you didnít want to, but I donít really think you did that much of it Ė what sorts of things were you talking about?
Yul: I donít think I did. I got very legalistic. I wanted to play a clean game but I quickly realized I was being naÔve. I know Iíve been blasted on some message boards for saying I would be Mr. Integrity [and not playing clean]. My goal was to play the game and play well and do it with as much integrity as the game allowed. There was no case where I misled someone where I didnít think it was absolutely necessary to do so. I was very careful in parsing my words so I didnít have to lie. That was sort of my Ė at least for me it helped. But at some point I realized I was just splitting hairs.
RNO: I know time is short for you today Ė is there anything else youíd like to tell us about your time on Survivor?
Yul: I think I made very few mistakes in the game. I know people questioned some decisions but there was always a rationale. Sometimes it was hidden because otherwise it would have made it too apparent.
The other thing people might ask is did I throw any challenges? I wouldnít say I threw any, because that would say I could have won them. But from a strategic standpoint, it wouldnít have made much sense for me to win them.
When we were down to the Aitu four, once we got to the numbers, it didnít make sense for me to win. I had hidden immunity and nobody felt threatened. So I didnít need it. If I actually won it, it would have put me in the awkward position where I felt the pressure to give it to somebody. But who would I give it to? For me, my goal was to come in second place Ė close enough such that if Ozzy faltered, I could win and keep the Raros from claiming it. But as long as he was winning, [that wasnít necessary.]
Heís the strongest competitor to ever play. I didnít want Ozzy gone from the game. The worst-case scenario was to go to the finals with any Raros because they had so many in the jury. Even against Ozzy, I felt I could make a pretty compelling argument. So for me, having Ozzy around was great. He was the single best insurance against any of the Raros making it to the finals, and he deflected so much attention away from me. As long as Ozzy was there, [any discussion about splitting the four] was always talking about voting out Ozzy, never me. It really did serve my own strategic interests.
I donít want to take anything away from Ozzy. I went all-out for the first 2/3 of a challenge, and once it became clear Ozzy would win, Iíd kind of take my foot off the gas a bit. Iím not saying I could have beaten him. The guyís just incredible. But it worked out very well.
One of my biggest fear was to be seen as too much of a threat. I could deflect attention from me to Jonathan as a strategic mastermind and Ozzy as a challenge threat. For me, one of the things that helped me succeed was I honestly donít think I have a big ego. I think I tend to be more low key by nature and for me I never had trouble subsuming my ego to advance my long-term interests, so I could give credit to other people, especially Ozzy. That helped early on. When we got rid of Cecilia, he felt alienated, but I think overtures like that helped him feel like part of the tribe.
RNO: At the beginning of our interview, you mentioned you read RealityNewsOnline. Did you see that four out of five of our writers picked you to win before the show even began?
Yul: Yes, I saw that. I would never have predicted myself to go very far in the game!
RNO: Thanks, Yul!
If you havenít already, be sure to check out these other recent Survivor: Cook Islands articles here on RealityNewsOnline:
David Bloomberg is the Editor of RealityNewsOnline and can be reached at RNO@pobox.com.
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