Interview: So Kim talks ‘Survivor: Worlds Apart’

The first player eliminated in any “Survivor” season usually doesn't leave a good impression or a bad impression. Since their torches were snuffed after only an hour-ish of screentime, our reaction to that first booted castaway is usually a little more… Neutral?

Apologies to So Kim.

At least the first “Survivor: Worlds Apart” contestant sent home doesn't try to defend the questionable web of, um, deception that she and Joaquin spun to their fellow White Collar tribemates to attempt to justify their choice at the season-opening Honest/Deceive choice. So and Joaquin decided to pick “Deceive” and collect an Immunity Idol clue and a small bag of beans — instead of a bigger bean bag and no clue — but returned to camp and claimed that they'd actually selected an imaginary third option, “Neutral.”

“You mean the worst lie that's ever been told?” So laughed when I asked how that particular prevarication came to be told.

It probably wasn't that lie that got So sent home, but it made her seem untrustworthy, which was enough to put a target on her back when White Collar lost inaugural Immunity Challenge of the season.

In her exit interview, So talks about the move to pick “Deceive” and then the resulting lie, as well as her own amusement at discovering that even without a clue, Carolyn was able to find that Immunity Idol. Not surprisingly, So wasn't all that enthusiastic to find herself in the White Collar tribe, but she protests that this isn't a repeat of the fate that befell the Brains tribe in an earlier “Survivor” season.

Oh and which member of her White Collar tribe did So already recognize? Well, probably the same one that many “Survivor” fanatics recognized.

Click through for the full Q&A. You'll probably find yourself wishing we got at least a few more weeks of So on “Survivor”…

HitFix: Okay, you guys are trucks going off to the initial start of the episode and you were able to at least eyeball the other people in your tribe. Had you been able to figure out anything about the season's twist based on that?

So Kim: Yes, by that time we had gotten our buffs and it said “Worlds Apart.” And the first thought that went into my head was, “Oh my God. This is gonna be a status thing.” I was looking around at the people in my tribe and somehow I missed the suit memo, because everyone on my tribe was wearing a suit except myself, who had full athletic gear, sweats on. So I could tell that just by looking at how we were dressed and how the others were dressed and the theme being Worlds Apart that there was going to be some sort of socioeconomic status theme that was going to be applied, which immediately made me nervous.

HitFix: And then Jeff does that sort of breakdown of what the three tribes represented. How did you feel like you fit in with his description of what it means to be White Collar?

So Kim: You know in my job, I'm white collar so if that's how we were defining White Collar, Blue Collar, No Collar then yes, I could very much be on the White Collar side. But I have to say that immediately I felt like I was the odd one out. I did not want to be sitting on that mat with the other five people. I desperately wanted to be part of the other two tribes just because I knew that it almost became a game of six versus 12, because we were gonna be immediately hated by the other two tribes. And as far as the way I live my lifestyle, I felt like I was much more No Collar in the sense that yes, I am corporate. Yes I have that. I went to an Ivy League school. I have a corporate job. I'm the boss and I manage different people. But as far as the way I like to live my lifestyle and in the past year I feel like I have kind of taken more of an approach towards No Collar. So, you know, it was interesting to see, because my tribe was also the older tribe out of the three tribes out there. And on that older tribe I was one of the youngest people. So of course I was going to feel a little uneasy.

HitFix: And had you had a strategic approach that had to be thrown out the window when you saw who you were with and how you had to interact with them?

So Kim: Yeah. I mean I recognized Max Dawson right away and after speaking to them I kind of realized that if people in my tribe were real gamers. But what we talked about at the tribe was also that if we ever lost a challenge that we had to keep our tribe strong. And I knew that I would be an asset in that sense, that of the three girls, the three boys were always going to be the strong ones, but of the three girls I was clearly at an advantage. So I actually felt safe in the fact that, “Okay, if we actually lose a challenge and our numbers have to go down to five we really have to make sure to keep our tribe strong.” So that's what I started to rest more on as my approach versus the other approaches. And what they don't really show is that there are several different alliances going on. And the three boys had approached me as being a core four alliance. And the two girls had approached me as working an alliance, as sort of a girls-only-plus-Max alliance. So I was trying to navigate what would be the best once it got down to the fact that we lost our first challenge.

HitFix: OK, you said that you recognized Max. And I know about Max and Max's reputation and what Max does, but what had you known and what were you able to make of that?

So Kim: What I knew, I didn't trust Max after the first day, because I had known going into the game that he had taught a course on “Survivor,” that he was very linked in with the “Survivor” world, that he was friendly with everyone, that he watched the game and that he was a true fan. But when he told us that he was a media consultant and then didn't reveal any more that kind of raised a red flag with me that, “Oh, he doesn't want to tell us. So this guy's going to lie and he's going to be a lot more strategic” and I was very wary of him from that point on.

HitFix: But then you still went into the Tribal Council presumably thinking that he was a vote on your side, right?

So Kim: Yes I did. I did go in thinking that we were pretty locked solid with Carolyn being on the chopping block. But unfortunately I guess at some point during that day the two girls, Shirin and Carolyn, got paranoid and they linked up with Max and then looped Tyler in. So yeah, I mean I guess I did break some of the cardinal rules. Like you don't get seen as a strong pair and Joaquin and I were seen as a strong pair. Unfortunately between the two of us, it was the girl who had to go. 

HitFix: At the beginning, you volunteered yourself to join Joaquin in the spotlight. What was the thought process you had there and did you immediately regret it?

So Kim: You know you get out there and you think that you know how to play the game. I am a huge “Survivor” fan and I know you're not supposed to be aggressive right away. You're not supposed to be seen as a pair. But you get out there and you're so excited and you see someone else, there was already one leadership position out there and I hadn't volunteered for that. But then when we heard that there can be a second person I figured, “Oh, okay, well there's two of us standing up here, not just one. So it's not just my neck on the chopping block.” What I didn't realize and what I should have done is stepped outside of my tribe and looked at how Joaq and I were already on the outs. And I think Max at one point described us as sort of the prom king and queen. So when I put myself out there yes, it kind of solidified the fact that the two of us were the odd ones out. And in retrospect, you know, hindsight is 20/20, absolutely that may not have been the best move. But I don't know that that would have saved my game in the end because I think ultimately we lost that first challenge and when we got back, it really was the two girls getting very paranoid and Max has always had a plan to work with two girls, two weaker girls who he hoped that he could save at one point that they were indebted to him. And so those three were always going to sort of be in lock step. And once Carolyn found the Idol and showed it to Tyler it kind of sealed the deal.

HitFix: How much of that had you actually had any awareness of at all and how much of that did you just find out last night?

So Kim: I had no idea about the Idol. Yeah, none of us knew except Tyler that she got that Idol. That was accurately portrayed. We absolutely did not know and it didn't get brought up in Tribal Council because honestly none of us thought we had it so that was actually a shock to me.

HitFix: Is that the kind of thing that when you play hypothetical in-hindsight in your mind could you have done anything with that knowledge if you had known it or not?

So Kim: Had I known, yes. The way the episode airs it seems like it's like a Carolyn versus So type-of-thing going on. But what really happened was that Shirin approached me and I had actually told her about the clue, because she was the one that I wanted to work with. Shirin and Joaq were the two people that I wanted to work with. Joaq, I knew was going to be loyal to me, and I thought Shirin was going to be loyal to me. And I wanted to make Shirin feel like she was protected so I did. I went after Carolyn. The three boys wanted to vote Shirin out once we got back to our camp. But I tried to convince them that Carolyn was the one. Now had I known absolutely I would have gone with the boys and said “Yeah, Shirin,” instead of trying to pit it against Carolyn. And then having her sort of then work with Shirin to go against me because they knew that one of them were on the chopping block after the challenge.

HitFix: Talk me through the process of workshopping the lie that you guys were going to tell coming back from the Honest/Deceive choice.

So Kim: [Laughs.] You mean the worst lie that's ever been told?

HitFix: Well who was responsible for “Neutral” and why did you think that was a good idea?

So Kim: You know you have like five seconds in that moment to come up with something and I just knew that if we were going to choose Deceive we couldn't come back and it was something that Joaq was very committed to not telling them about. So I said, “We have to come up with something and we have a little bag of beans. Usually if you choose Deceive you don't get anything. And at least we got this little bag of beans. Let's go with saying there is a Neutral option.” And yes, in retrospect, it's nothing that we obviously got away with but it was just the best thing we could come up with. Again it's one of those things, hindsight is 20/20. The lie got really complicated and when things get too complicated and you have people who know the game as well as they do, well things start to add up and unfortunately it didn't work not in our favor.

HitFix: Do you think that it was the word that you guys chose because “Neutral” really stood out for me. Do you think you could have named the third option something else and maybe the lie would have floated better?

So Kim: It's possible, you know. I hadn't really thought about it that way. I really just thought about the fact that the best thing we could have probably done on a tribe of six when we're trying to keep our tribe strong is come back with the clue and the little bag of beans and just be honest about it. Because even when if you're honest you come back with a big bag of beans but no clue, the tribe's still going to question you. So the only really other option we should have really considered and really gone with is choose to get at least a little bag of beans, come back with the clue and share it with the rest of the tribe.

HitFix: Going back to that moment, Joaquin spoke so fast out there and said, “Deceive.” Had you had even a second or two in your mind to process instincts of your own regarding what you would have done in that situation if he had kept quiet?

So Kim: Absolutely. And they don't show that, you know. There's only limited time on air, but we actually sat out there for a little while and I sat there hemming and hawing about, you know, “I don't think this is the right decision. Joaq, I really think that we need to go with 'Honest' because it's too early and these people are gamers. They're going to see right through us.” So I actually tried to convince him for a little while. But then again the excitement and the lure of having the Idol clue kind of gave in and he was so convinced on it so I was like, “Alright.” I kind of got swayed in that direction. But yeah, should I have listened to my instincts? Yes, I should have.

HitFix: What was your reaction last night to seeing the way that Carolyn found that Idol when you guys were unable to?

So Kim: Oh I mean what can you do but laugh. It was amazing. Good for her. It was amazing. It's awesome that she found it. You know I think it's brilliant and the fact that none of us at camp had any inkling that she found a clue but at some point … And our campsite was very, very small. There was nothing you could do without other people being seen. So it was obvious that Joaq and I were looking for the Idol. But let me tell you that Max and Shirin were right there with us looking for that Idol. So at some point she must have gone off and found it immediately and to me it's just… What can we do but laugh knowing that we were furiously digging for that idol knowing that it was supposed to be right there and going how the hell are we not finding it? Well little did we know it's because the Idol had already been picked up by Carolyn. So that's what happens. Sometimes that's how the game rolls and she had some luck.

HitFix: And in the Brains, Brawn, Beauty season we saw Brains struggle almost immediately. Now we've seen White Collar struggle at least out of the gate. Do you think that's a coincidence or do you think that's an inherent dynamic that would happen any time “Survivor” split tribes in kind of comparable ways.

So Kim: I know that White Collar has been compared to Brains. I think that there are some parallels. Like you're going to have people who are aggressive and who like to be leaders and like to be strategic. And you do see some of that coming out, so there are some parallels. I don't know that I would say that we felt destructed sort of the way I thought the Brains tribe did in the very beginning. Did I like being the first one out? No but the first person they got out was a male and you kind of start to see what happens. The first two people that they get out are males. And unfortunately when you have physical challenges you need those guys to help with the physical aspect of the challenge. In White Collar, I think that we were smart enough to know that regardless, “Okay, we have to keep the tribe strong.” Unfortunately it was me that had to go but, you know, at least it wasn't a guy in that sense.

HitFix: As you say it, do you think that that's an inherent problem with “Survivor” if inevitably in a circumstance like this it has to be a girl, a woman who goes out in this circumstance. Does that seem like a weighting that's problematic to you in “Survivor” structure?

So Kim: Oh absolutely. You kind of heard Tyler say this. Tyler said that I kind of helped carry that challenge, that I was physically very strong. And I actually do think that it's unfortunate that that's how it comes across, but the challenges sometimes are built so that you need manpower. Like there are heavy things that need to be lifted. And you know you have to consider that. So on a tribe of six, it just becomes that much more obvious and the pool becomes that much smaller who you have to get rid of. Later on in the game I think it doesn't matter as much as things start to get a little bit more strategic and there are more puzzles involved and it's not as physical. But in the beginning parts of “Survivor,” a lot of the first challenges are very physical and there are a lot of heavy objects and things like that. So that has to be considered. It's the nature of the game.