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Known for his brilliance and calm manner, the Sole Survivor of Cook Islands, Yul Kwon, will return for Season 40, Winners at War. The last time viewers saw him, he found a powerful Hidden Immunity Idol, nicknamed the God Idol, that he used to gain the numbers at the merge and solidified his position in the Final Tribal Council. Does he stand a chance without it during Winners at War?

Yul Kwon
Yul Kwon | Frederick M. Brown

Yul Kwon won ‘Survivor: Cook Islands’

On Cook Islands, the tribes were divided by race for the first time in Survivor history. Yul was placed on a tribe with four other Asian-Americans and they won two consecutive reward and immunity challenges

On Day 5, he went to Exile Island and solved clues to a broken compass to receive a stronger Hidden Immunity Idol, nicknamed the God Idol. Similar to Survivor: Cagayan winner Tony Vlachos’ Idol with “special powers,” Yul could use the idol after host Jeff Probst read the votes instead of before.

After a double elimination twist, Yul’s ally, Cao Boi Bui, came up with an idea, then called “Plan Voodoo” to split votes between two contestants to override the owner of the idol’s vote.

His plan is now a staple in Survivor, but because Yul had the idol, it backfired and he was eliminated. Yul entered the merge with three other allies and needed someone to flip to gain the numbers advantage.

Therefore, he successfully convinced Jonathan Penner to join his side by showing him his God Idol. For the first time, the Final Tribal Council included three people instead of two, and Yul’s Idol helped secure his spot.

In the end, Yul’s strategic gameplay won over Ozzy Lusth’s physical dominance in a 5-4-0 vote.

Yul Kwon will return for ‘Survivor: Winners at War’

After 27 seasons, Yul will return for the first all-winners season, Survivor 40: Winners at War. During his hiatus, the Sole Survivor got married, had children, and raises awareness for issues important to him, including diversity in media and the need for more minority bone marrow donors.

According to his CBS profile, Yul is excited to return for the 40th season because “it’s gratifying to be part of something that changed the media landscape.”

Additionally, he loves that Survivor shows that “we’re all human beings who share a common capacity for connection, inspiration, and glee over well-executed blindsides.”

Does Yul Kwon stand a chance without the God Idol?

Even though Yul has been a fan-favorite since his season, some viewers can’t help but wonder how much the God Idol played into his success. On a roundtable episode of Rob Has a Podcast, a Survivor lover, Liana explained that Yul is “known for his mental calm” but acknowledged at least some of that came from the God Idol as he never had a sense of anything going wrong.

While that may be true, Parade writer Mike Bloom noted he believes Yul will reflect on his experience before returning because he beat Ozzy by only one vote.

Even though Yul had the protection of the God Idol, he showed he’s incredibly smart, is good at managing allies, and could lead a small group well as he did with the Aitu Four during his season.

However, his reputation may precede him, and others may eliminate him early as he doesn’t have any ties to anyone. Even so, Yul still stands a chance to return to the game due to the Edge of Extinction twist and has proven he knows how to further himself with advantages.

Watch Survivor: Winners at War on February 12, 2020, at 8 p.m. EST on CBS.