Survivor Winners at War: Yul Kwon is episode 1’s MVP

Photo: Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment ©2020 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Photo: Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment ©2020 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved /

Several great players had impressive moments in the premiere of Survivor: Winners at War, but it was Yul Kwon who made the biggest impact in season 40 so far.

What makes Winners at War such a special season is the fact that this theme brought several winners back who wouldn’t have returned under normal circumstances. Kim, Parvati and Yul were all believed to be done with Survivor until the tides changed. One of those compelling winners in particular proved exactly why so many fans wanted him back.

Yul Kwon may have played before the iPhone was invented, but his logical and brilliantly strategic mindset hasn’t changed a bit from his first appearance in Cook Islands. It didn’t take long for the wheels to start turning for Yul. He’s back to expertly forming alliances without appearing to be trying too hard.

A huge theme in the season premiere revloved around the alleged Poker Player alliance. It’s the fear that Tyson, Boston Rob (and by extension Amber), Jeremy, Kim and possibly Adam formed a pre-game alliance when they played in a televised poker match fairly recently. This fear scared most of the group into thinking that some of the castaways potentially involved in this alliance need to go before it’s too late.

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Who do we have to thank for creating this paranoia? Mr. Kwon himself, who quoted Tyson’s exact line about the castaways at that poker table forming a power alliance. It’s clear that Yul did his homework, but there’s more to it than that. What made this move so effective was its subtly.

We saw how Danni’s determination to take Boston Rob out completely crumbled after that news reached Rob. Yul didn’t make that same mistake. First of all, Yul patiently took the time to feel everyone out and decide who he could trust before throwing out names. When he did develop trust with Sophie, Wendell, Nick and others, he used his words cautiously.

Yul took his time in his conversations to reason and discuss his point of view. Instead of just blurting out that they have to split up the Poker Player Alliance, Yul used his words in a way that let the other castaways come to that same decision on their own understanding. For example, he would ask questions like “what do you think about this Poker Player alliance” and allow the other person feel like they are driving the conversation.

This strategy is so effective because it can convince others of an idea without painting a target on the source of the plan. Yul was not even considered to be on the chopping block, and nobody even linked the idea of this Poker alliance coming from him either.

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No matter how great a move Boston Rob, Parvati, or Adam pulled off, they still walked out of Tribal Council with something that Yul didn’t: a target on their back. What’s great about the move that Yul made and the alliances he built is that it not only helped him survive this Tribal Council, but it began to ensure his long-term survival. Not to mention, Yul proved that he is still a beast in challenges. I’m beaming with excitement and nostalgia to see what this smart winner has in store for us moving forward.