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‘Survivor’ winner still holding on to his money

Yul Kwon has yet to spend most of his "Survivor" cash.  Plus: Which shows pay best, and "Amazing Race" launches an all-star edition.
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Wondering about how a certain reality show pulled something off? Have a question about a certain contestant?

Whether it's "Survivor," "American Idol," "The Apprentice," "Real World" or another show, . Gael Fashingbauer Cooper,'s Television Editor, and Andy Dehnart, creator of ,will try to answer them.

Before you send in your question, — you may be able to get your answer right away.

Q: For the first time, I enjoyed a reality tv show. Yul on "Survivor" was great. My pick all the way for his actions. What is he doing with his money?    —Jo, California

A: Andy says: Yul Kwon is the 13th millionaire minted by "Survivor," and he impressed everyone with his game play and strategizing.

After receiving his check on The Early Show, that he will first and foremost use the money "to provide [his parents] with some things they weren't able to [have] on their own," because they "came over here as immigrants and didn't have a lot of money. They made a lot of sacrifices to provide opportunities for me and my brother."

He also said, though, that he'd like "to use the money and my position right now to try to serve my community and do socially constructive things with it."

He's not yet announced any plans for charity or similar work, although he's expressed an interest in advocacy for bone marrow donor registration. He did similar work in college to help a friend who later died of leukemia.Update, Feb. 20, 2007: Yul announced that he was giving $50,000 of his winnings to bone-marrow charity, the Asian American Donor Program.

But for now, Kwon isn't going to run out and spend it all right away. As Yul told the New York Times, "I plan on sitting on the money for a while so I can get my feet on the ground. I don't want to be rash about it."

Gael says: According to , Yul is "contemplating buying a hybrid car." He also had laser eye surgery, as did his fellow "Survivor: Cook Islands" contestant Becky. They both had the procedure done by Dr. Michael Woodcock, father of yet another "Survivor" from their season, Candice.

fans will find a funny parallel in that article, too. Apparently Yul was too busy to go to the bank after he won the million, "walking around for weeks with the check in his wallet." OK, so "Grey's" Izzie's check was for $8-plus million, and she kept hers on the fridge, but maybe that plotline wasn't as silly as I thought.

Q: How can shows like “Amazing Race” and “Survivor” get away with giving away one million dollars for a month’s work as compared to getting a million dollars for a paltry 20 minutes work on “Deal or No Deal” or “Show Me The Money”?    —Kraig, Arizona

A: That’s a good question, and it extends to other reality shows: How does “Big Brother” get away with giving away $500,000? Or why did the now-cancelled “Fear Factor” have a prize of just $50,000? Kind of cheap, really.

Ultimately, I think $1 million is still a lot of money for one person (or a team of two), and seems like a big reward. Plus, game shows such as “Deal or No Deal” rarely give away anything close to that amount, whereas it’s awarded every season on “Survivor.”

There’s another factor, too: production costs. Staging a race around the world for 11 teams and an entire crew is a lot more expensive than paying 26 models to smile, another guy to sit in shadow, and a person to put makeup on Howie Mandel’s head.

But you do make an excellent point, especially considering that, during its last couple years, the cast of “Friends” were each getting $1 million per episode. That’s $7 million times 24 or 18episodes per season. Obviously, part of the appeal of reality TV is for networks is that it’s less expensive, but at $2 million an episode, NBC’s “The Contender” was the most expensive realityseries ever produced, and that pales in comparison to “Friends” or any number of other fictional series. You’d think the networks wouldn’t mind offering a little more cash to their new stars.    —A.D.

Q: When will “The Amazing Race” start?    —Carolyn, N.H.

A: Set those Tivos now: The All-Star edition of "Amazing Race" kicks off this Sunday, Feb. 18, at 8 p.m. on CBS. Eleven teams from previous seasons have returned to duke it out for the $1 million prize.

Thos teams are: Rob and Amber (season 7), Charla and Mirna (season 5), David and Mary (season 10), Uchenna and Joyce (season 7 winners), John Vito and Jill (season 3), Oswald and Danny (a.k.a. Team Cha-Cha-Cha, season 2), Kevin and Drew (season 1), Teri and Ian (season 3), Eric and Danielle (season 9), Joe and Bill (a.k.a. Team Guido, season 1), and Dustin and Kandice (season 10).

While Uchenna and Joyce are the only winners invited back, many viewers are upset that Rob and Amber, who've competed on "Survivor," "Survivor: All-Stars" and "Amazing Race," are getting yet another shot. Some would have preferred to see another team compete — season-9 winners Tyler and B.J., best known as "the hippies, are mentioned most in e-mail from our readers.    —G.F.C.

Gael Fashingbauer Cooper is's Television Editor. is a writer and teacher who publishes , a daily summary of reality TV news.