He said he would be the stupidest Survivor ever to take Tony to the end with him. And then that is exactly what he did. So what exactly was Woo Hwang thinking? And if he could go back in time, would he make the same mistake all over again, especially after learning at the reunion that he would have won unanimously over Kass had he brought her instead? We spoke to the man himself in the wake of his second place finish on Survivor: Cagayan and while Woo may not have had the best handle on this game and the how the jury would react to the move, he seems to have a pretty great handle on life in general. (Also make sure to check out our interviews with winner Tony Vlachos, the controversial Kass McQuillen and fan favorite Spencer Bledsoe. Plus read Dalton’s finale/reunion recap as well as Jeff Probst giving his take on the finale and Probst giving intel on NEXT season.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So, first off: Did you get engaged or what?
WOO HWANG: I’m currently not engaged yet. But sometime in the near future when the time is right I am looking forward to popping that question.
EW: Okay, so dude, I have to ask, and I want an honest answer. If I could give you Doc Brown’s time-traveling DeLoreon and you could go back 8 months and do it all over again, would you still take Tony instead of Kass to the finals?
WOO HWANG: You know, you play the game and you take every step of the game and it so necessary to live in the moment, and that’s what I did. It was spur of the moment, taking Tony to the end. It was the thing I needed to do because I thought then and there that taking Tony would give me points from the jury by taking somebody who deserved to go. Another reason I took Tony was that he had a lot of blood on his hands. He fooled a lot of the jury members once by betraying their trust and my thought was, there’s no way they’re going to let him fool them twice by voting for him. In the same respect, I wanted to take who I thought was deserving, but also take on the best. Like I said last night, I went up against the best and if I won that would have been a phenomenal victory, and if I lose I can walk away with my head up high knowing that I gave it my all.
EW: You looked a little shell shocked last night. And I know it’s an emotional thing because you’re watching it all play out and then have to go up on stage and on national television. Was it difficult watching it happen and then having to go out there for the reunion?
WOO: Absolutely. The hype and anticipation settles in and you’re a little more vulnerable because the stakes are so high. I was trying to soak it in. When the lights are on and the crowd is cheering, at times you get a little excited. I was trying my best to compose myself. I was actually stoked out of my mind that I made it that far. I was trying to contain and conduct myself as proper as I possibly could.
EW: You said at one point that you would be the “Stupidest Survivor player” to bring Tony to the end. These are your words, not mine. Did you believe that at the time or were you just lying to Kass?
WOO: [Laughs] At the moment, before I had any discussion with Kass or Tony, in the back of my mind I thought there is no way I am going to take myself to the end with Tony. Because he played such a terrific game and the jury definitely respected that. But then again, trying to figure out if Kass would be a good option, I was thinking about it and the jury didn’t have much respect for Kass and I thought they would vote against me with the idea that I picked Kass because it was the easy way to go. In the back of my mind, I was thinking to take someone who is deserving and get points from that instead of taking someone who is not so deserving and not get the votes because they didn’t respect that decision.
EW: You realize that if Kass is two seconds faster in that last challenge and she wins, that she takes you and you win the money. So in essence, you lost the million dollars by winning that challenge.
WOO: You know what? Lose a million dollars? At the end of the day, when I get this positive feedback from every single person I see on the streets or through Twitter about what a good impression I set on their kids or on them — I walk away without the million dollars but I feel like a million dollars inside with a doubt.
EW: And you bring that up and you definitely were the most popular guy from the very start of the season. Even my daughter loves you! You’re the ultimate great guy, which makes me wonder: Are you just too nice for Survivor? You really seemed to personally struggle with some of the cutthroat aspects of this game.
WOO: When I first got cast and Jeff asked me, “Hey, Woo, do you know understand what this game consists of?” with all the backstabbing and stuff. And that was the biggest challenge for me going into this game and being a martial arts instructor and trying to figure out, what kind of impression am I going to set on my students going forward? I know everything we do in our lives — today, tomorrow, the next day — will dictate the course of our life forever. So I knew that no matter what, I’m going to be a martial arts instructor for the rest of my life. Money is great, but money goes. Your reputation and what you say and how it impacts people will last forever. And I knew that as long as I stuck to my five codes of Taekwondo, that at the end of the day, win or lose, I’m always going to win inside.
EW: Spencer was pretty harsh in his assessment of your play and compared you to a dog. How do you feel about that and have you two spoken since then?
WOO: Yeah, absolutely. All of it is water under the bridge. We’re all living in the moment and you really see people’s true colors when things are on their mind. Did I appreciate it? No. Did it help my cause? No. But at the end of the day it’s water under the bridge. I know Spencer for Spencer. I don’t hold grudges. That’s not fair for anyone. Everyone does things for a particular reason. Like I said, Spencer didn’t help my cause but he needed to say what he needed to say. Yeah, it hurt and it stung but just like anything, I’m an avid surfer and I understand that a wave can last no more than 5 or 10 seconds at most. The wave’s gonna end. But the mentality is charging back out and waiting for that next set to come in and when it does, BOOM! Charge it. Jump on it. Have a good time. Roll with it. Because everything will come to an end, but as long as you keep charging, life will prosper.
Click on the video player below to watch an exclusive deleted scene of Tony from last night’s finale. Also make sure to check out our interviews with winner Tony Vlachos, the controversial Kass McQuillen and fan favorite Spencer Bledsoe. Plus read Dalton’s finale/reunion recap as well as Jeff Probst giving his take on the finale and Probst giving intel on NEXT season. And for ‘Survivor’ scoop sent directly to you, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.