NEW YORK (AP) - His former competitors awarded Yul Kwon, the "godfather" of the CBS game "Survivor: Cook Islands," with the $1 million top prize Sunday in a classic finale that pitted brains vs. brawn.
Kwon, a management consultant who was the soft-spoken strategic whiz in the 13th edition of the game, bested Oscar "Ozzy" Lusth, the effortless athlete who dominated physical challenges as the game neared its end.
With the money on the line, it was a 5-4 vote.
"It's the first time I've ever felt bad that somebody didn't win," host Jeff Probst said. "It was so evenly matched."
Kwon, a 31-year-old management consultant who lives in San Mateo, Calif., was the brain with degrees from Stanford University and Yale Law School. He controlled the strategic aspect of the game, particularly after he found a hidden piece of jewelry that guaranteed him one-time immunity from being voted off the island.
"The key to winning the game is maximizing the good luck and minimizing the bad luck," he said later.
Lusth, who has two years of Santa Barbara City College on his resume and works as a waiter near the surf in Venice, Calif., mastered the tropical game's challenges. He won two very different ones on the show's final two-hour telecast Sunday: winning a race to complete a complex puzzle, and showing his endurance by standing on a tiny platform for two and a half hours.
For the first time, "Survivor" brought a third contestant into the final vote, but 28-year-old Rebekah "Becky" Lee was a non-factor.
For a game that began in racial controversy, it turned into a showcase for the nation's diversity, according to Kwon.
"Survivor" producers were criticized for segregating four, four-person teams along ethnic lines at the game's start: white, black, Hispanic and Asian American.
The game's final four contestants included a black woman, Mexican-born man and two Asian-Americans. The fourth was Sundra Oakley, a 31-year-old actress from Los Angeles.
Those four people made up the game's Aitu tribe, which at one point competed against the eight-member Raro tribe. Methodically, that core group of four voted all eight of the others out of the game, the final one Sunday being Adam Gentry, 28, a copying machine salesman who lives in San Diego.
Lee hoped to garner votes by convincing her former tribe members that she had mastered the social aspect of the game, in order to survive so long.
They weren't buying it, particularly after Lee and Oakley had to compete in a tie-breaking contest that required them to build and sustain a fire. After an hour failing with a flint, Probst gave them matches. Lee won because Oakley ran out of matches.
"After 35 days out here, you should both know how to make fire," Probst scolded.