‘Survivor: Worlds Apart’ exclusive: So Kim on journey, mistakes, truth about idols

So Kim -It’s never easy to be the first person voted off on “Survivor.” It’s also not easy as a writer to admit to being so off-base with our prediction. We had So Kim in the final three! On paper, she has everything to do well in this game: She is smart, athletic, and aggressive. She just fell victim to a few poor decisions, but also some unlucky circumstances at the same time.

We had a chance to speak at length with the department store buyer on Friday morning, and we learned quite a few things about what really happened out there. There are a few interesting behind-the-scenes details that further inform you why she was sent home first, and not all of it was because of her coming up with a lie the first day at camp.

CarterMatt – You’ve had a crazy journey the past year or so, so let’s start all the way back with season 29. You were originally set to be on that season, but it didn’t happen. Was it hard to go back home after being so close to being on?

So Kim – When I first started seeing the other castaways at casting [before the game started], I was thinking ‘I’m going to do really well. I just don’t feel like there’s a lot of gamers here.’ Then to get pulled from the game, it’s heartbreaking, and then I hear ‘oh, we think we want you to come out for season 30.’ It was a spark of hope that maybe I could still play this game that was a dream of mine.

So I go home, and you’re sitting around waiting while season 29 is playing out. That’s frustrating, because I should have been out there playing in challenges. But instead I’m training, hoping that I get asked back for season 30. I’m fortunate to get asked back.

So then when I’m out there for season 30, and I’m sitting around in pregame again, I have a much different feeling looking around at the cast. Every person there is a gamer. Every person out there … you can see it in their eyes, you can see it in the way they interact with people and the staff and crew. It was such a completely different vibe. The season 29 cast had a very laid-back vibe. There weren’t nearly as many people who were taking it as seriously. Everyone came on season 30 looking for blood. That’s what happened, and I ended up feeling really nervous about it. I ended up saying such to Jeff Probst, ‘this is a lot more intense. Everyone out here is assessing each other and sizing each other up.’

Clearly, you were on the intense tribe. Everyone on the White Collar tribe was aggressive. Did this specific twist, breaking the tribes down like this, hurt you even further?

The minute I figured out what tribe I was on, I was like ‘get me off, and get me on any other tribe.’ Not only did I end up on a tribe with the older people, but it’s all some of the savviest players who have ever played. These people know ‘Survivor’ better than anyone. I had Max Dawson on my team! I had Shirin on my team, who was not only paranoid, but … yeah. Also, I had Joaquin on my team, and we were the clear [outcasts]. I didn’t realize that what I should have done was step outside of myself, and realize that Joaquin and I were the odd ones out. You just get so excited and wrapped up that you don’t do that in the first couple of days.

Was there any hesitation at all with being with Joaquin [at the start]? Typically, being among the chosen few in a twist like this doesn’t go well.

I actually volunteered, so it’s all on me. (Laughs.) I am someone who learns with experience, and unfortunately for ‘Survivor,’ you have to experience it. You go into the game with the cardinal rules, knowing what you are not supposed to do. I’m such a hyper-competitive person that a few minutes into the game you have so much adrenaline going, and your baby starts to do things that you just don’t quite anticipate. My hand just went up on its own before I knew it. I was volunteering. It was a stupid mistake; I made a lot of silly mistakes, and unfortunately we lost that first challenge.

Is it weird to be back now watching the show, and then having from friends and family to the media saying ‘oh, you should have done this or that,’ given that they weren’t there and only know [so much of the experience]?

It’s funny, because our cast is very unusual. We’re very, very close. You can see from the first episode that Joaquin and I are very close. He’s one of my best friends. Carolyn and Tyler are now two of my closest friends. When you spend those three days [out there], you don’t really get to know people. And so you’re doing things based on little comments or little things. And even now hearing now things like ‘oh you didn’t do this thing’ or ‘I didn’t realize you were this kind of person,’ it’s like ‘guys, I don’t want to hear that ‘I could have done this.’ The decision was already made. I already got voted out first.’ It is what it is, and it’s okay. I don’t lose sleep over it. If I ever get a chance to play again, it would be much different (laughs), but someone has to be voted out first. I was the unlucky one.

I’m sure you’ve talked about this already, but what was it like watching the show and seeing Carolyn basically take the immunity idol how from under you and Joaquin?

Okay, so what you see is a little bit manipulated. Carolyn actually found the idol on day one. Right away. She found it before Joaquin and I started to look for it. It had nothing to do with what Joaquin and I were doing. They also don’t show that Max and Shirin are right next to us looking for that idol. It’s all the power of editing.

You also don’t see that when I get back to camp after telling that terrible lie, I showed Shirin the idol clue. I wanted her to trust me, so whenever she talked about if [we were lying], I would say ‘Shirin, I showed you the clue.’ There’s a lot of stuff that you don’t see. Max and I were a part of the final four alliance with [Carolyn and Shirin]. I was supposed to be a part of a core four alliance with the boys. At one point everyone wanted to be in an alliance with me. Once we lost that first challenge the two girls [started to think] the guys were targeting one of them. They start getting paranoid. Max wanted to work with two girls. What did he say to me … ‘I’ve always wanted to work with two weaker girls … I’m going to be like a Russell Hantz and have these two girls follow me and do whatever I want them to do.’ So [Carolyn and Shirin] got him in. Then Carolyn showed Tyler the idol, and she got him in as the fourth vote. Carolyn played it beautifully.

With that in mind, it seems like Max perceived you as a threat and sent you home. Is that flattering?

I think that it’s absolutely what it was. They talked about us lying, but that had nothing to do with it. Shirin knew about it. It was still a long decision, but I think that Max and Shirin were playing the game hard from the beginning, and Tyler just needed to be on the bigger side of the vote. And Carolyn had what she needed to show them.

So what did you think about the other two tribes that we’ve seen?

I think that you’re going to get a pretty fantastic season because there’s a lot of personalities on each separate tribe. I remember sitting on the White Collar mat thinking ‘why can’t I be a part of Blue Collar,’ because Blue Collar [typically] knows how to work as a team and it’s exciting and they’re high-fiving each other. When I found out we were White Collar I was immediately thinking it was six versus twelve, because those teams want nothing to do with White Collar. I wanted no part of that. And you’re already seeing conflict on the No Collar tribe between Joe and Vince. We’ll see how that plays out! These two long-haired alpha males, and then two young girls. Are Will and Nina in trouble? Who knows?

The last thing that I have for you is something that I thought about a lot last year with ‘Cagayan.’ When you are put into a tribe like the Brains or White Collar, is there a certain expectation placed on you to be super-strategic? Does that change your game at all?

I think first and foremost, this is a social game. What does brains mean? What does being strategic mean? If you don’t have social skills and you don’t know how to be smart socially, you may make it far enough on ‘Survivor,’ but you will never win that million dollars. I think that what you can see on a tribe like Brains or White Collar is that while these players are smart, they may fall short on the social end of the stick. The game is not just about strategy. It’s about knowing how to be likable and be relatable. Sometimes people from the White Collar world don’t know how to do that because they get so wrapped up in their head and want to be intellectual. They don’t know how to relate to the Blue Collar on the No Collar tribes, whereas some of these other people know how to be relatable.

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