'Survivor: Cagayan -- Brawn vs. Brains vs. Beauty' crowns Tony Vlachos the winner over runner-up Yung "Woo" Hwang
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 05/21/2014
Survivor: Cagayan -- Brawn vs. Brains vs. Beauty crowned Tony Vlachos the winner of its $1 million grand prize during the live portion of Sunday night's finale broadcast on CBS from CBS Television City in Los Angeles, CA.
"You heard the crowd [boo]. It was a game, [Jeff Probst]. I've been getting a lot of hate tweets on social media and a lot of boo's from the audience. I mean, it was a game. I distinguished the game from real life. I did a lot of dirty stuff on TV. I did a lot of lying, a lot of manipulating, a lot of backstabbing. I took no pleasure in that at all. I did what I had to do to advance myself in the game," Tony, a 39-year-old police officer from Jersey City, NJ, said during the reunion special.
Tony beat Yung "Woo" Hwang, a 29-year-old martial arts instructor from Newport Beach, CA, in the season's final jury voting results, which Survivor host Jeff Probst revealed live during the broadcast. Both Tony and Woo had begun the game on the Brawn tribe.
Jeff revealed Tony had received five votes from the jury, while Woo only earned one. It's unclear which way the other three votes went.
"I'm feeling fantastic. The love, the support beyond this show -- I can't ask for any more," Woo said during the reunion special. "Give it up to Tony one more time for a heck of a game. Well done, well done. The decision that I made was based on how I live and how I compete... challenge yourself and compete, but compete against the best. So with that being said, I took Tony, because I said in my head, 'We all know he played a great game and if I beat the best, boom! There we go! If I lose, I keep my head up and know I lost against the best."
Survivor: Cagayan -- Brawn vs. Brains vs. Beauty's special two-hour finale broadcast began on Night 36.
Tony revealed he had voted for Trish Hegarty at Tribal because he wasn't playing the game based on emotions -- he was playing based on strategy. In Tony's eyes, Trish -- his closest ally in the game -- hadn't hurt or blindsided anyone, so she was too likeable to take to the end. Tony said he was sad to oust his most honest, sincere and genuine ally, but he believed he had no choice other than to stick with the majority vote.
Meanwhile, Spencer Bledsoe, a 21-year-old student from Chicago, IL, was amazed he was still in the game as a former Brains tribe member. However, the underdog felt "demoralized" when Tony had pulled out his special idol at the previous Tribal Council. Tony told the group he was guaranteed a spot in the Final 3 because of his special idol although he didn't want to disclose its specific instructions. In reality, all the special idol was worth at this point in the game was a souvenir.
Spencer believed Tony getting to the end would present a big problem for him. Tony, on the other hand, knew that if people didn't believe his bluff, he'd probably be next to go.
On Day 37, Kassandra "Kass" McQuillen, a 41-year-old attorney from Tehachapi, CA, called Tony "an idiot -- paranoid and emotional." While Tony thought everyone loved Trish, Kass thought the exact opposite. Kass was convinced everyone had made a mistake in voting out Trish. She also wasn't intimidated by Tony, saying he had played on a winning team all the way up to the merge, so he really didn't do much.
All of a sudden, the castaways got a big surprise. Kass' husband, Spencer's sister, Tony's best friend, and Woo's little cousin arrived at their camp. It was an emotional moment for everyone. Tony was actually disappointed, however, because he had hoped he'd get a visit from his wife, but she was apparently at home with their four-month-old baby.
Kass sat down with her husband in private and explained she wasn't a goat but was definitely hated. Kass also noted if she was a man in the game, she'd be considered strategic, but since she's a woman, she's dubbed a bitch. Kass had faith people would give her some credit although she self-admittedly played a chaotic game.
The four remaining castaways then met Jeff for an Individual Immunity Challenge. Spencer knew he needed to win immunity in order to stay in the game because he was the biggest threat still remaining.
For the challenge, each player was perched ontop of a pole in the ocean and required to use a bucket to retrieve water and then pour that water down a shoot -- raising a key. Once they had the key in hand, they must swim back to shore, unlock a bundle of puzzle pieces, and then use those pieces to solve a complicated block puzzle. The winner would be guaranteed a place in the Final 3. Each castaway's loved one watched the challenge from a distance.
It was a showdown at the puzzle between Spencer and Tony, just like at the prior Individual Immunity Challenge, which Spencer had won. Kass was pretty far behind the pack, starting the puzzle in last place. However, Kass made up some major time during the puzzle portion, and making a major comeback, Kass ended up winning the challenge.
Spencer said it was the worst scenario possible to lose to Kass, "a braindead weasel." Although Spencer pretty much knew his fate was sealed in the game, he was still going to do everything he could to survive.
"My plan when I flipped was to try to go to the end with two Brawns. Today, I sealed my fate. I'm going with two Brawns and I feel good going against either Woo or Tony," Kass, a former Brains tribe member, said in a confessional.
Tony felt safe because of his alleged "Final 3 idol," but he was still upset he didn't win the challenge. In a last-ditch effort to save himself, Spencer then pulled Tony aside to talk. Spencer insisted the game was going to come down to a Final 2 and explained that if he was the next person voted out and Tony went to the Final 3, if Kass won the next Individual Immunity Challenge, she would definitely take Woo to the Final 2 with her. Likewise, Spencer claimed if Woo ended up winning immunity, he'd definitely take Kass with him to the end.
As a result, Spencer was planting a seed in Tony's mind to keep him in the game as a safety net. Spencer, believing he was even more of a threat than Tony, argued that Kass and Woo would try to get him out first regardless -- allowing Tony the chance to sneak into the Final 2. If Tony voted with Spencer to knock out Woo, it'd be a 2-2 tie at the Final 4. Spencer, a self-declared student of the game, explained there would most likely be a fire-starting challenge to break the tie. Tony understood Spencer's point completely, and Spencer realized Tony was his last hope.
Meanwhile, Kass and Woo agreed it would be stupid not to get rid of Spencer, however, they feared Tony might side with Spencer.
The castaways then met Jeff again for a Tribal Council session.
Spencer reiterated Tony's position and then laid on the begging extra thick. He announced in front of the jury that if they ended up in a situation where Spencer got to determine the Final 2, he would absolutely take Tony to the end. Spencer said the jury members would have a right to not cast any votes for him to win if he dishonored that deal.
Before Jeff revealed the votes, Tony came clean about his special idol and explained it could've been used after the votes were read right up until the Final 5 Tribal Council. Despite Spencer's initiative, three votes were cast against him, and he was forced to leave the game.
"I gave the only argument I could give at Tribal Council. It was tough. I'm heated. Survivor isn't a game to me.Survivor is a passion to me, so 37 days ofSurvivor being my life and then that being over is a tough pill to swallow. I think I learned a lot from the game and something can come of this misery that was Survivor," Spencer said following his ouster.
On Night 37, the group was pretty depressed that it could only be a Final 2 at the end. Kass felt the two guys would go after each other and she'd definitely be taken to the end. Kass was convinced both guys thought they could beat her in the jury vote. Therefore, Kass and Woo agreed that Tony could not win the Individual Immunity Challenge because he was a huge threat.
On Day 38, Kass, Tony and Woo met Jeff for the last Individual Immunity Challenge of the season.
For the challenge, each castaway was required to race through a maze of turnstiles only some of which actually turned. They had to collect four medallions along the way and then use those medallions to open a chest. Inside that chest were cogs, that when arranged correctly, worked together to raise a flag. The first person to raise his or her flag would win immunity and be guaranteed a spot in the final Tribal Council where he or she could plead a case as to why that player is deserving enough to win the million dollars.
Kass gained an early lead but she ended up losing by half of a second to Woo. Woo was so thrilled he collapsed in the sand. It was up to Woo who would join him in the Final 2.
After the challenge, the three castaways returned to camp and Woo said he "won the ultimate prize." Woo was psyched to be wearing the necklace, but then he had an uneasy feeling in his stomach -- the fact he'd have to choose between saving Kass or Tony. Tony realized his back was up against the wall, so he told Woo that they had been close allies throughout the game. Therefore, Woo's case of being a loyal, honorable player with integrity would fly out the window if he got rid of Tony. Woo told Tony he was going to consider every word spoken but not make any promises.
Kass then reiterated to Woo how she was unlikable and pretty much hated by everyone. Kass told Woo that Tony wanted to take her to the end all along and it was only now -- when Tony was in trouble -- that he argued taking Kass to the end would be a mistake.
"I would feel more comfortable sitting at the end with Tony. This is the guy I started. This is the guy I committed myself [to]. But at the end of the day, taking Tony means my chances of winning are not so great. If I take someone like Kass and I break my loyalty with Tony, it completely contradicts who I am and I've become the biggest hypocrite. I want to be the 'Sole Survivor' and have a million dollars," Woo said in a confessional.
At Tribal Council that night, Tony admitted he was a bit worried the exact scenario Spencer had preached to him earlier might happen. However, Tony suggested he had faith in his close ally, Woo, to finish the game side by side. Kass wondered whether Woo was loyal enough to Tony he could potentially lose a million dollars over it.
The only person voting that night was Woo because it was clear Kass and Tony's vote for one another would cancel out. Instead of letting Kass and Tony talk and explain their positions, Woo asked Jeff to just get straight to the vote, and Jeff allowed it.
After a quick vote, Jeff revealed that Woo had voted to oust Kass from Survivor. Spencer looked completely shocked from the jury, and Tony was thrilled. Woo and Tony had made it to the Final 2 together.
"Woo, stupid, stupid, stupid," Kass said following her elimination. "I think you made a horrific, million-dollar decision. I think you actually could've beaten me. I'm very pleased with the game I played. Some people will hate me, some people will appreciate that I'm a fan and I played hard. I played to win, and in the end, I had a hell of a time."
That night, Woo said in a confessional he wanted to make a big move that would gain respect from the jury, and that move was to be loyal to his closest ally, Tony, and just take out the goat in Kass. He knew taking Tony to the end might jeopardize his chances of winning a million dollars, but he wanted to go up against a stronger competitor in the end to hopefully earn a sweeter, more honorable victory. Winning would be less significant to Woo had he faced Kass in the final vote.
On Day 39, Woo and Tony enjoyed a feast. Tony told the cameras he wanted to win the million dollars for his wife and baby girl. Woo explained he'd love to open up a martial arts studio, propose to his girlfriend and help his father retire with the money. Woo tried to remain positive all the while staying true to himself and never losing hope.
On Night 39, Woo and Tony gathered with Jeff and all the jury members for the final Tribal Council session. In addition to Kass and Spencer, the jury members were Sarah Lacina, Morgan McLeod, LJ McKanas, Jeremiah Wood, Jefra Bland, Latasha "Tasha" Fox, and Trish Hegarty.
The power shifted to the jury, who were the nine people Woo and Tony had a hand in voting out. They would decide who was the most worthy of the title of "Sole Survivor" and the million-dollar check. The jury planned to ask tough questions, and Woo and Tony's job was to persuade them with compelling answers.
In Tony's opening statement, he explained all his moves and vote-offs were purely strategic, not emotional or personal. He also graciously thanked Woo for taking him to the end although Woo had repeatedly heard he'd lose against Tony in the final Tribal.
In Woo's statement, he told the jury he abided by respect, loyalty, integrity, discipline, and harmony between mind and body throughout the game. Woo said he was not perfect but he put forth a valiant effort to abide by and honor those codes of conduct. Woo also explained his mother had suffered a heart attack last year and underwent a major heart transplant and grueling recovery process. He said that was a constant reminder to fight to survive and never give up.
Afterward, Sarah stepped up to the plate and told Tony she wasn't sure if she could write his name down because he had sworn on his badge he'd take her to the end, but didn't. Woo then suggested Sarah should vote for him because he got to the end without ever having found a hidden Immunity Idol.
Jefra then announced that she wasn't bitter but wanted Tony to own his game -- his lack of loyalty, how he had backstabbed basically everyone on the jury. Tony basically owned it but said he felt like he was 50% a villain and 50% "a good player."
Morgan then asked Tony how he got the men to follow him so blindly, and Tony explained he was genuine with his friends but put strategy first when it came time to advance himself in the game. Morgan told Woo she'd take into consideration how he didn't take the easy way out by bringing the goat to the end.
Next, Jeremiah brought up the fact Tony had sworn on his wife and kid during the game but broke that promise as well. Jeremiah asked Tony to verify whether he actually has a wife and child back home. When Tony admitted he does, Jeremiah was outraged and called that lie "pathetic" and unacceptable. Jeremiah quickly shut Tony up and allowed Woo more of an opportunity to say how much he wanted to win the million dollars.
Tasha was up next. She asked Tony how he managed to keep his alliance intact after backstabbing people within that alliance on his own. He explained for every vote-off he orchestrated, he told his alliance why he did it. Tony also noted that the only time he broke alliances with someone -- besides Trish -- was when they had tried to break a promise first. He used Jefra as an example, saying she had considered jumping ship and joining Jeremiah and Spencer at one point. Woo then explained to Tasha he had managed to adapt and mold himself throughout the game.
Kass then asked Woo why he didn't "cut the head off the dragon" and make the one power move of the game that would've won him a million dollars. Woo just reiterated the fact he wanted to show his loyalty and Tony was deserving of that Final 2 seat. Woo also bluntly said Kass didn't deserve to sit next to him.
Woo then admitted to Trish it was his idea to blindside her because she had a great reputation amongst the jury. Afterward, Trish scolded Tony by insisting she had played a big role in his ability to get to the end because the castaways had trusted her and she had taken care of the little fires Tony was constantly starting because he was so paranoid. Trish then got teary-eyed and brought up how Tony had broken promises on his wife, daughter, mother, and deceased father. That issue hit home for Trish personally because she had lost two brothers.
"Was it worth it to you for a million dollars to sacrifice your own father to get you here?" Trish asked Tony.
When Tony tried to talk or explain himself, Trish interrupted him and asked him to answer the question.
"Is it worth it to you to be here, to play a game for a million dollars, on your father's soul and memory? Yes or no? It's a million-dollar question," Trish repeated.
"Yes," Tony shockingly replied.
Spencer then got up to bat, telling Woo that Tony had basically been his master -- the LJ vote, the Jefra blindside and Woo's "dog-like behavior" around camp. Spencer said that when it became time for Woo to take the goat to the end, he did "what a good dog would do" by sticking with Tony. Woo wasn't sure he'd gain the jury's respect if he took a goat to the finals, but Spencer said, "As a student of the game, yes, I would expect you to take a goat to the finals."
Spencer didn't ask Tony any questions, but instead, addressed the seemingly-bitter jury.
Spencer explained that Tony had played his ass off in the game -- love him or hate him. Spencer said Tony had found three idols simply because he had searched extremely hard for them. Spencer noted that Tony was behind every great strategic decision, and had blinded his alliance in terms of what was happening around them like a puppet master. Lastly, Spencer announced that Tony had played Survivor with a ferocity the game rarely sees and the jury should vote for a guy who truly played the game and honored the game's purpose.
When the jury cast their votes for who should win Survivor, only two votes were shown. Spencer voted for Tony to win and Tasha voted for Woo.
Once inside CBS Studio Center, Jeff revealed six of the votes live, and Tony was given his million-dollar check. In a couple of updates, Tony revealed he had lost 45 pounds during the game and sought medical treatment for about three months because he was in such bad shape after the game.
Woo's million-dollar mistake was also confirmed, as either seven or eight of the jury members admitted they'd vote for him to win the game had he brought Kass to the end.