We still have more Fan Friction, our series of essays where one of our columnists writes an ode to one of their favorite Survivor players while defending them against any potential naysayers (both real and imagined). When I thought of the idea for this series, I knew a must have would be to get Other Scott to write about one of his bland-ass faves. So glad he could bless us.
Why He’s Great
Why do you watch Survivor? I think the heart of all Survivor arguments lie there. I think people always look for different things in their favourites, whether that be players or seasons. Here at the Purple Rock Podcast, we tend to want to see people be good at stuff, particularly strategic and social maneuvering. The standard favourites are Yul, Rob C, Denise, Kim Spradlin, Todd, Earl, Cirie, Tony, pretty much a who’s who of people who have defined how Survivor is played. And I love most of those people as well, because the other thing those people have in common for the most part is they are extremely entertaining and pull the viewer in a way that the viewer can feel like they relate to that person.
But speaking for myself, I don’t only gravitate to the people who are good, because I don’t really watch Survivor just for strategic maneuvering. I want the season to tell me a story, I want a season to tell me about people, I want the season to have specific rooting interests and people you can get behind. There’s people that are easy to cheer for and people who just sap the fun out of things. And that is completely independent of how intelligent they are.
So let’s have a nice chat about Yung “Woo” Hwang. Because I think this guy is incredible, he embodies everything I want to see in a player. Here are the five things you need to know to love Woo.
He’s a huge fan of Survivor
There is a cute little moment right before the Cagayan idol hunt where Woo says “I’m a huge fan of Survivor”. The reason it’s cute is that Woo is 100% definitely not remotely anywhere close to a huge fan of Survivor. It’s not just that he thinks the jury will respect his “honorable” game after Survivor history shows that’s failed time and time again. No, in the finale, Woo has no clue what the Final 4 tiebreaker is. I don’t doubt Woo has seen some Survivor, but boy if he thinks he qualifies as a huge fan, he’s pretty naive to what fandom is nowadays. And I think that kind of blank naivety is part of what draws you to him. He’s a cute thing that must be protected.
He once fell out of a tree
No further explanation needed. But rewatch this scene someday, it is an absolute joy watching him narrate this event. And for how much it must have hurt, he still manages to find reason to laugh at it.
The second episode of Cambodia is Woo’s greatest triumph in a way, even moreso than making the finals of Cagayan. In Cagayan, Woo was constantly seen as easy to manipulate, Tony could make Woo do whatever he wanted. Whoever was the last person to talk to Woo, got Woo. So Shirin and Spencer, fighting for their lives on Ta Keo thinking, they just need to go to Woo, give him a semi-convincing argument, and he will go along with them. And he shuts them down HARD. It’s a beautiful moment that not only shows that Woo isn’t QUITE as dumb as he seems that he’ll just be convinced by whatever anyone tells him, but also gives more credit to Tony to show that it really isn’t that easy to make Woo do whatever you want.
His blindside face
He just enjoys being out there
This is the number one reason Woo is one of my favourites. He is having the most fun out there, no matter what is happening. It rains hard early in Cagayan. Jefra is basically breaking down crying because of it on the beauty tribe. Woo? He’s like jumping up and down excitedly because of it!
The whole major idol clue fiasco? Spencer is down there being Mr. Grumpy-Gills about losing the clue and everything? Woo is doing a Tony Spy Shack improvisation, he’s sprinting through the forest.
He took something that was crucial to the game and basically had the time of his life with it. Or the falling out of the tree talked about earlier, when he’s describing it in confessionals he making it into this dramatic affair. You know those blindside faces? Almost every time it’s followed but a laugh, including the time Cliff gets evicted. It’s not personal to him, it’s all a game. That applies to the strategy, the challenges, the island life, the rewards. He’s determined to have fun and enjoy himself through all of it.
Haters Gonna Hate
Why do people dislike Woo? Well there’s two reasons, they think he’s bland and they think he’s dumb.
For the blandness, he doesn’t initially pop off the screen. But you know what happens when you get a season full of “characters”? A season of people who are more in it to be on TV and cause drama and not just enjoy themselves out there? You get Gabon. You need the people who are laid back, settled. And Woo is undoubtedly FUN. Like there’s no way you can look at some of his confessionals and his line deliveries and think “that guy is never entertaining and adds nothing to the season.”
As far as being dumb, I think it’s overblown by the surfer dude persona. For the most part, perception is that if a person talks in big words and has a scientific approach to the game, they are a smart strategist and the strategy lovers in the audience will flock to them. And if someone talks in “yeah, bros” the audience will see them as unintelligent. And I don’t think that’s true. I think Woo knew his strengths and limitations out there. And guess what, how often do those “strategists” win? Not very often. The smart players, the true smart players are the social players, the ones who can form bonds with everyone. And that’s what Woo did, he formed bonds. He was on both alliances on the Brawn tribe in the early going, and managed to be a swing with Tony in the late game. He was able to work with pretty much everyone but Abi that he had more than 3 days to interact with in Cambodia and just ended up getting in a bad swap situation. Woo knows what his strengths and weaknesses are and plays to them, he’s no dummy out there.
Except for bringing Tony to the end, I have very little defense for that
I love Woo, not because he’s the smartest or best Survivor player, but because despite his limitations that he knows he has, he’s out there to have a good time. He has a once in a lifetime opportunity and he’s going to savour every minute of it. Falling out of a tree is an experience. Getting blindsided is an experience. Stealing idol clues and running through the woods with it? That’s playing Survivor, that’s what he came out to do and what all those people watching at home would kill for. Woo understands that, and Woo is gonna celebrate every minute and every part of it. And that’s the kind of person I want to see succeed. That’s the kind of person I want to cheer for.
Favourite Seasons: Heroes vs Villains, Samoa, Palau, Amazon, Cagayan
Favourite Players: Jon Misch, Aubry Bracco, Woo Hwang, Ian Rosenberger, Monica Culpepper (you know, the regulars)
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- Survivor Fan Friction – Woo Hwang - August 23, 2017
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