Survivor: South Pacific - Sophie's exit interview (spoiler alert)
I have to admit I found it a bit anti-climactic when Sophie Clarke won Survivor on Sunday night. She hadn't been on my radar much until she started winning immunity challenges. But I have to give her credit for outplaying and outlasting the two veterans. She seems very intelligent, well-spoken and she says it was she and Albert who kept Coach safe in the game, not the other way around. Who am I to keep a good woman down? Here's an edited version of our chat:
DY: Did you in your gut know what was gonna happen when you left that (final) tribal council?
SC: Yeah, I had a good feeling. I definitely got the least amount of heat and I think I was the only person who had something positive said to me. So yeah, I definitely had a good feeling. I mean, you never know for sure. I thought I had one more vote than I got, so when three votes came up for Coach I actually got pretty nervous. I thought maybe I misread the jury, maybe I didn’t win and I I started to get pretty terrified and tried to think up a gracious loser speech on the spot, but luckily that wasn’t necessary.
DY: No, that became Coach’s job.
SC: Exactly. Coach just does his little dragon move and he shuts up.
DY: Even though you did get something positive said about you at that final tribal council, Ozzy wasn’t saying nice things about you. He seemed to change his tune at the reunion show, but with what happened at the earlier tribal council, what made that so hard for you to hear?
SC: Ozzy and I clashed and a lot of that was just part of the game. We ... talked about it, we were both very serious competitors, we were both very hard-headed and we were very similar people and we clashed. And I knew that and I tried to call him out on calling me a brat and he called me out on calling him an asshole and that was all kind of game play ... but then when he mentioned that it wasn’t coming from him and it was people who had gone through Redemption Island, then it became very personal to me because I had spent most of my time out there with a bunch of guys, and I loved coming to the merge and being able to sit on the beach and talk to Whitney and Dawn. I had such great memories from that. And I really thought we had become friends, so to hear these people I thought I had become close to thought really negative things about me, it was really hard to hear. And at that point in the game you’re so exhausted and tired and hungry, any little thing can really set you off and I just had a little breakdown.
DY: Understandable, but what I’m reading today is that people are saying they actually think that helped you.
SC: Exactly ... it’s funny because at first I left tribal thinking, "Gosh, I’m screwed. What jury person wants to vote for the crying, whining 22-year-old girl?" and then I started to think about it more when I got back to the beach and I realized that their problem with me was that I was too guarded; I didn’t show vulnerability; I was too blunt. And so actually, by crying and by being vulnerable in front of them, I think actually proved to them that maybe their opinions of me weren’t right, so I think I definitely won over some jury votes. At the time, I was so overwhelmed I wasn’t really paying attention to what they were thinking, but watching the show I do notice that they seemed to be genuinely sympathetic.
DY: There’s been things said in the past by other contestants about women sometimes coming in with a bit of a disadvantage perhaps, because there tends to be an assumption that if you’re female you’re just gonna ride somebody’s coattails to the end. What do you think about that?
SC: Exactly, I mean it’s so hard to talk about. I feel I need a women’s studies major to answer this question properly, but it’s interesting what makes people decide who was the person who carried who to the end, 'cause they’re both there at the end and what’s to say that the person who was a little louder and a little more vivacious was actually the one who’s doing the carrying? It’s really impossible to say. I do find there seems to be a pattern; everybody assumes that if two people go to the end, a man and a woman, it is the man who brought the woman and not the other way around. I think I was fighting that battle at tribal council. I remember being quite shocked actually when I first came in and hearing Ozzy saying, "Coach this is your game to lose," because I really felt like it was my game to win or his game to win.... When he said that it made me feel like I was a non-entity, I was the backup vote, and I definitely didn’t feel that way playing the game.
DY: There was a perception that Coach was in charge on Upolu. In fact, I felt that way watching most of the season. Was he, do you think?
SC: Albert and I had a very strong alliance in the beginning and we talked a lot about, because a lot of people on our tribe wanted Coach out, pretty much all the girls did and Rick wasn’t too fond of him at first. And Albert and I talked a lot about it and I said, "Listen, this guy is a bit of a nutty guy. He is fiercely loyal. He’s over the top. This is kind of the perfect guy to deflect the attention." And we made a decision that we should align with Coach and we formed a close relationship with him, but we definitely always considered him more of a figurehead and I think we always felt like we were really making the decisions. And it’s a tricky game to play because it’s hard to convince people that the man who looks like he’s making the decisions isn’t necessarily doing that.
DY: To some extent, it's the way it’s edited, because it always seems like people are going to Coach and saying, "I want to do this, what do you think about it?"
SC: Exactly. I guess the only thing I can say to that is, they never showed this, but Edna and I had a final three alliance, and Albert, Rick and myself had a final three alliance, so Coach wasn’t necessarily in the centre of the Upolu 6. There were many alliances that did not include him. In addition to that, I think everybody approaches the game a different way. Sometimes when they showed me I would say, "Hey, what do you want to do?" And you’re playing a game, saying that doesn’t actually mean you’re asking someone "What do you want to do?" Often I would approach Albert or Coach or someone that way because I knew that their personality was such that they wanted to feel in charge. I made sure when I talked to Coach or Albert in the beginning, before we had a falling out, I never said, "Hey, listen, here’s what we should do." I always made them feel like it was kind of their decision, but I tried to plant seeds. I think the most effective strategy is often really subtle, it’s how you make people feel about decisions and that’s hard to come across on camera.
DY: I would think it probably is. Obviously it turned out to be a good decision to take Coach because you’re talking to me today.
SC: Exactly, but it was definitely a risky decision. I think I didn’t even realize until the final tribal how much Savaii saw Coach as cult leader. Because I really was working from the background. It worked out for the best though. I have nothing to complain about.
DY: In the bio that I saw of you, there was one quote, it talked about you saying you were going to ... mentally mess with people and beat on their bodies, and it would be easy. So the question I was going to ask you was how easy was it?
SC: It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. It was physically the hardest thing and emotionally the hardest thing. Strangely, I think that the easiest part of it was the strategy. And it was kind of the nicest part of it too. I mean, you have nothing to do all day except strategize so it was a way to keep yourself occupied. And I think also I was very lucky in that I managed to form an alliance that was very cut and dried. And I didn’t have the same kind of stress, I think, as the Savaii members had, 'cause over there things were changing every day. I was playing with people who weren’t very variable and they wanted to stick with the plan and it made for a more relaxed kind of easy pass, at least for the first 20 days or so.
I'm scheduled to talk to Coach and Albert Tuesday, so keep watching this space for that.
The photo of Sophie with Jeff Probst was taken by Greg Gaynes for CBS.