Woo Hwang may have essentially given away $1 million during the Survivor: Cagayan finale, but you'd never know it from speaking to him. The Season 28 runner-up says he's still proud of his game, and that his goal was to play with the same traits he values in his everyday life.
"I didn't walk away with the million dollars, but with all the Team Woo fans out there, all the love and support I've been getting about being an inspiration to their life, that I'm a hero to their kids, that they look at me as a role model — wow," Woo tells TVGuide.com. "And to play a game that's so grueling and [requires] lying and cheating and stealing to win a million bucks, to be portrayed as someone who people can to look up to ... deep down inside, I've won it all. I feel like a millionaire already."
One of the most unlikely final two candidates in the show's history, Woo was the season's spiritual advisor surfer dude of sorts. Though he was arguable the tribe's most universally liked member, Woo's lack of big moves ultimately cost him votes from the jury.
Read our Q&A with Woo to find out which blindside he regrets the most, and why on earth he decided to bring Tony with him to the final two.
Sorry about the end result, but congrats on making it all the way to the final. The one thing on everyone's mind is, do you regret bringing Tony with you over Kass?
Woo: Absolutely not. I don't regret one thing, and I don't think I've ever regretted anything I've done. [I picked Tony] because he was deserving to go to the end. And picking someone like Tony over Kass, the impression from the jury is, "Wow, I can respect that from Woo. He took Tony because he was deserving." If I were to stick with Kass, I didn't think they would really appreciate it. I didn't make many major moves throughout the game, so picking someone like Kass and thinking I was just going to run away with it, I think they would have voted against me.
That's the case Tony said he made to you. But that actually wouldn't have been the case, according to the jury. Did you really think you had a better shot at beating Tony than Kass?
Woo: It was clear at the live reunion show, when Jeff said, "Hey, if Woo takes Kass, who votes for Woo?" And everyone raises their hand. Ouch. That was the toughest feeling. But Tony played a good game. He also had a lot of ... blood on his hands, and he fooled a lot of those guys on the jury. My thought process was, there's no way they'll want to get fooled again by actually voting for him. But at the end of the day, hats off, congrats to Tony. He played well.
You promised Kass you wouldn't let Tony talk you into bringing him to the final two. How did he change your mind?
Woo: You hear both cases, and obviously you want to choose correctly. When he said, "You take Kass, no one's going to respect that decision and give you votes," did that register? Yeah, a little bit. At the same time, I'm looking at previous Tribal Councils. And each time Tony would say anything, you look off to the side very discreetly at the jury's reaction ... every one of those guys on the jury would make these facial expressions with Tony, like "What is this guy talking about," slash, "I hate this guy." You're registering that in your head as well. You're thinking, man, he is not liked. Each time Tony would say anything, the jury would just cringe like this guy's possessed. So, you take Tony in the hopes of, the jury just doesn't want to deal with him. He played a good game but he also took advantage of a lot of their trust. ... I think that just doesn't sit well with people. It doesn't sit well with me.
The jurors really laid into Tony at the final Tribal Council. What was going through your head as you were hearing their comments?
Woo: (Laughs). Good question. Leading up to Spencer's closing statement, I felt good. And then once Spencer makes that compelling speech to the jury ... I wish there had been an opportunity to say something. But he had the last word, and did it have a major impression on all those jury members? Yeah, maybe. But I was pretty sure that they went into that final Tribal Council with a pretty [good] idea on who they wanted to vote. Did [Spencer] help my case at all? Absolutely not. But that's water under the bridge. That's yesterday's news. I'm alive and well. My mom is doing awesome. My dad's doing awesome. ... I'm living the dream.
The final two aside, do you wish you could have done anything else differently, looking back on the game?
Woo: Absolutely not. Regrets, not one bit. To play this amazing game, to even be cast is remarkable. I think out of good luck and being who I am and being true to myself, I managed to get that far. I played the game as best I could in the spur of the moment, seized the moment. Everything was instinctive. Everything came off as who I am, how I feel comfortable living life, playing the game, whatever. It all comes down to just the type of person I am. So, if I were to sit here and contradict that by being regretful, man, that's just not how I am. I'm someone that just tries to look into the positive side of things. And the positive side of things is my being on the show, right then and there. Million bucks or not, that opportunity to be on such a remarkable show ... and to be on set with Jeff and the crew, that was remarkable. So, if I were to sit here and say I regretted some of the things that I did, that would be pretty selfish of me, because I had the absolute time of my life.
Are you surprised that you made it to the final two?
Woo: You know, every day you make it further in the game, of course you're happy. You're shocked. ... Seeing that I went all 39 days, am I surprised? Abso-freaking-lutely. That's unbelievable. What an accomplishment to play such a gnarly game with just the most outrageous conditions, and just the whole setup of deprivation of sleep, water, food. And to be able to keep it all together, have the wherewithal to push forth and still be the person that I am, without having to change my character to benefit myself, that's awesome.
Tony pulled you in on a lot of the blindsides he orchestrated. Which was the toughest vote for you?
Woo: When we decided to take out Sarah at the merge. I knew it was going to be tough to realign with Sarah after Tony had shouted out, "[Top] Five." I did everything I could to get on her side. She's just such an awesome person. I really wish she would have stuck with us. Putting down her name was tough. Putting down Trish's name was tough [too]. ... The jury loves her. I love her. I would give it to Trish any day. So writing Trish's name was tough. And for the rest of the votes, I would say no. It was probably just Sarah and Trish.
What did you think of the Survivor: Cagayan finale? Do you think Woo should have brought Kass instead of Tony to the final two? Sound off below — and catch up on episodes of Survivor here.
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