Liz Kim: “I’m a type-A personality so it would hard for me to be a follower”

This is the 12th in a series of interviews with Survivor Samoa cast members.

Elizabeth KimFor someone who I completely forgot about, was recruited, and hasn’t seen the show since Survivor Australia in 2001, Elizabeth Kim really seems to understand Survivor. It’ll be interesting to see if her book knowledge, basically, is more effective than the strategies other people bring.

Liz was recruited because she has “friends who work in the entertainment industry” and casting was looking for someone from New York. “I’ve never been one to slam the door shut when the opportunity knocks,” she said. “I’m not a super fan, I don’t even know if you could call me a fan,” she said after noting that she hasn’t watched since Australia.

Although she received the call to be on the show just two weeks before going to Samoa, Liz said she “started preparing” two months earlier just in case. Among other things, she hired a trainer, gained 10 pounds, and read books (Treasure Island, The Prince, psychology books, survival books). She also spent time “watching as many seasons as I could,” nine altogether, and found blogs and forums that she had “never known existed” but “I read all of them.” Citing the fact that she’s a lawyer, she said, “I have done my due diligence.” That is an understatement.

Her strategy involves “a number of mantras I’m trying to keep in mind,” including “be flexible.” But Liz will not fly under the radar, talking with disdain about that strategy: “I think that’s rather pathetic, it’s unfortunate … it’s not really a strategy. It’s a passive way to play the game, and I’m anything but passive, so in that sense, I guess people would say I’m confrontational.”

Instead of playing passively, she said, “I will try to be a stealthy leader … one who emerges at key times. … I’m a type-A personality so it would hard for me to be a follower, that’s not going to happen.” Liz knows that the “herd mentality will reign” and said “this is, in some ways, high school distilled.” So, she said, “My energies will best be suited to playing the social game. The people who tend to win are the ones who can manipulate the social alliances,” not “the alpha males or the meatheads” because “they’re obvious targets.” Despite watching nine seasons, she did not mention Parvati once, and said that flirting as a strategy is “rather lame and gets you only so far.”

Liz is an urban planner in the Bloomberg administration, and said she’ll “just be a lowly city worker, a bureaucrat” to others in the game, rather than revealing her education or the fact that she’s a lawyer, because “it would probably breed resentment … I just don’t think those will be helpful.” But she does want to be “somebody who people want to rally around,” and hopes her athleticism will help, too.

I called Liz “shy and demure” because that’s what I wrote in my notes, but when I re-listened to our interview, I realized that was actually how she wants people to think of her, but the way she faded from memory led me to incorrectly associate that with how she actually was. “I’m actually very nervous I won’t be the shy, demure, petite Asian girl, the stereotype that I’m trying to portray, and also at the same time trying to dismantle, because I’m not,” she said.

And she isn’t. Instead, Liz describes herself like this: “I’m a brash New Yorker, type-A personality. I’m a lawyer and I’m very opinionated. I come from the school of tough love and I call it like I see it, and that’s just the way it is. So, some people call me abrasive, other people call me assertive; I like to think I’m somewhere in between.” She expects “that will be a problem going into this game, so one of my other mantras is, listen more, talk less.”

Liz is worried about being annoyed by fellow competitors. “I don’t like motormouths. Eliza is a prime example … it’s rather aggravating and annoying. I think people who talk ceaselessly. There’s a time and place, and when you’re stuck and it’s one big, dysfunctional family, you just gotta shut up. And I’m really afraid that we’ll have one or more of those types and that will be really hard.” She also said, “I’m concerned about the food element,” and “if I go a long time without food, I get super-cranky.”

She was already annoyed by the people treating their time at Ponderosa like a vacation (“it’s not Club Med”), and cited a “blonde, long hair” who was “picking at her food” and “reading the calories on snack bags.” Liz assumes that woman and others are “really not prepared,” while other people are “kooks, loose cannons” who “I can’t ally with them. They’re just crazy.”

Listen to Liz describe a “key mistake” she’s noticed people make while watching nine seasons of the show, and her “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” strategy:

The Quest ends its journey stronger than it began

Verlox from The Quest

A review of the finale of summer's best reality series, which wasn't always perfect but was thoroughly entertaining right down to the finish, which included phenomenal challenges and special effects. Will ABC give it a second season?

Plus: an interview with the actor who played Verlox and the ogre.


Shark Tank is getting a spin-off

Shark Tank

Companies that get deals on the show will be followed for this new spin-off.

Also: Before the show began, Shark Barbara Corcoran was cast and then replaced--but then she sent this amazing e-mail and won the job.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.