NEW YORK — His former competitors awarded Yul Kwon, the “godfather” of “Survivor: Cook Islands,” with the $1 million top prize Sunday by a 5-4 vote in a classic finale that pitted brains vs. brawn.
Kwon, a management consultant who was the soft-spoken strategic whiz in the 13th edition of the CBS skein, bested Oscar “Ozzy” Lusth, the athlete who dominated the physical challenges as the game neared its end.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever felt bad that somebody didn’t win,” host Jeff Probst said. “It was so evenly matched.”
Kwon, a 31-year-old management consultant who lives in San Mateo, Calif., has degrees from Stanford U. and Yale Law School. He controlled the strategic aspect of the game. “The key to winning the game is maximizing the good luck and minimizing the bad luck,” he said.
Lusth, who has two years of Santa Barbara City College on his resume and works as a waiter in Venice, Calif., mastered the tropical game’s challenges. He won two very different ones on the show’s final two-hour telecast Sunday: winning a race to complete a complex puzzle, and showing his endurance by standing on a tiny platform for two and a half hours.
For the first time, “Survivor” brought a third contestant into the final vote, but 28-year-old Rebekah “Becky” Lee was a non-factor.
For a show that began in racial controversy, it turned into a showcase for the nation’s diversity, according to Kwon.
“Survivor” producers were criticized for segregating four, four-person teams along ethnic lines at the game’s start: white, black, Hispanic and Asian American. The game’s final four contestants included a black woman, a Mexican-born man and two Asian-Americans.