‘Survivor: South Pacific’ Winner Interview – Sophie Clarke

'Survivor: South Pacific' (CBS)

'Survivor: South Pacific' (CBS)

I’m almost always wrong when it comes to predicting “Survivor,” but I had a hunch about Sophie Clarke pretty early on. She was nestled comfortably in the Upolu alliance. She had a hand in calling the shots without taking much of the heat.

And that was before she became an individual challenge force.

Her last challenge victory sent Hall of Famer Ozzy Lusth packing from the game for good and pretty much wrapped up the million-dollar check. I spoke with “Survivor’s” newest winner the morning after her victory and had a chance to find out how she intends to spend her new-found wealth, if the use of religion in the game went too far, and what it’s like to win one for the smart girls…

Gordon Holmes: Hey Sophie, anything interesting happen lately?
Sophie Clarke: Not much. I did, for the first time in my life, make some purchases out of the mini-bar this morning. I bought like a twelve-dollar Diet Pepsi and a can of Pringles.
Holmes: Wow, now I don’t have the means to purchase such lavish items…
Clarke: I was hungry, I looked at the mini-bar, and I said go for it. I didn’t go for the jumbo cashews though. They’re probably twenty dollars.
Holmes: I feel like you’re going to flitter away this million dollars by the end of the year.
Clarke: By the end of the year. I hear that’s what Fabio (Birza) did. That was his goal.
Holmes: It’s so weird. They teach you how to crack open a coconut. They teach you which leaves to avoid. But, they don’t teach you not to blow your money on expensive Diet Pepsi.
Clarke: Exactly, I need more millionaire friends to teach me the ways.

Holmes: There’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you based on our initial conversation in Samoa; do you still think “Survivor” is easy?
Clarke: Gosh no. Well, I feel like I may have had one of the easiest strategical paths, only because I was playing with no variable. I was playing with all of the people who were answering to God. I don’t want to sound like a pretentious brat now, but physically, emotionally it was the hardest thing I’d done in my life.
Holmes: Was it pretentious or condescending?
Clarke: Did you know that she (Whitney) was actually going to use the word “bitch.” But, she had to hold back a little bit.
Holmes: My goodness. She’s got that country-singer, girl-next-door thing going, she can’t run around calling people “condescending bitches.”
Clarke: Right, right.

Holmes: That did seem to get to you last night at the final five. You got a little emotional.  Was that more because you were worried you might be going home or did those words really get to you?
Clarke: I think it did hit close to home. You can’t fake that on Day 36. I mean, I was talking as much trash at Ozzy as he was talking at me. But at first when I was calling him out, I was doing it for the jury. I’d reached a point in the game where I had to show people that I was playing the game. They didn’t show it a lot, but in the last four or five Tribal Councils I got very vocal. So, at first it was for the jury’s sake. But then when he said it wasn’t him, it was the people coming to Redemption who were saying this, that really hit close to home because I felt like I’d made good bonds. Especially with Dawn and Whitney in particular. It was so nice to be on a tribe with women at the merge. I was stuck on a tribe with men and Edna. So, to hear that hit very close to home.

Holmes: Before the game you’d said that something that drives you crazy is smart girls who act dumb. Was it extra sweet for you to get to prove that a smart girl can win by acting smart?
Clarke: Ooo…you know, it was. I think I’ve gotten some flack from people calling me a Coach coattail rider. But I don’t think that’s true. I definitely think I acted smart. I think I was subtle. But yeah, it’s nice. I think it’s rare on “Survivor” as well.

Holmes: Last night when you hollered at Albert to help you with your tiles and then later yelled at him for getting in your way during the ropes course…I got this image in my head of you two as an old married couple…
Clarke: (Laughs) It got to that point! You see Keith and Whitney, look at the strong relationship they formed. I think in 39 days Albert and I went from the honeymoon phase, to the married phase,  to the I-want-to-rip-your-head-off-and-divorce-you phase. He was such a pain in challenges. He was terrible in challenges. Albert’s a nice guy, but the whole point was we had to beat Ozzy. It sucked that he wouldn’t bend down and get my tiles. I had about twelve tiles on the ground and that would’ve gotten me to the top. Albert’s thing is he thinks he’s fantastic but there are some challenges where he’s not fantastic. Same with schmoozing the jury. He still doesn’t understand why he didn’t win.
Holmes: Even in the pre-game interviews I remember thinking, “I like this guy, but I wouldn’t trust him in the game of ‘Survivor.’” And, it seemed like that kind of carried through the game. Everyone I’d talk to in exit interviews seemed to think that he was a schemer.
Clarke: I think Albert seems to be a great guy. He’s attractive, he’s well-spoken, but then you realize that Albert has a superficial take on the world as well. His logic was, “I gave Cochran a massage, there’s a jury vote.” Everything was black and white. He didn’t think about what does Cochran really want? Does Cochran really want to be sent out with a massage? I think that’s very telling about who Albert is. He’s too smooth.

Holmes: Religion was a real big deal this season. I wanted to ask you if this was something you believed in? Was it a means to an end to get further with your tribe?
Clarke: This whole religion thing was great for strategy. These people thought they were answering to God. All these people on my tribe answered to a higher power, so I recognized the strategical value in that. And I knew that promoting it was good. But I did feel icky about it. It was overboard. I really do think that Coach and Brandon and Albert were well meaning. They all led each other on and it was kind of this rolling ball of fury. But I was raised going to church and I think when people are in very vulnerable situations that praying can be very comforting. I think some of the praying we did was for strength and was appropriate.

Holmes: We do a word association here…
Clarke: I know, I actually have a word doc open here. I’m quickly glancing over it.
Holmes: Clarke! That goes against the purpose of this whole exercise!
Clarke: I don’t like that I only have one word!
Holmes: You can give me one word, several words, go off on a tangent, have a ball.
Clarke: OK, that’s much better.
Holmes: Let’s start with Coach.
Clarke: Coach is a well-intentioned, fourteen-year-old boy.
Holmes: Edna?
Clarke: Oh gosh…Edna has never watched “Survivor” in her life. I don’t know what else to say about her.
Holmes: Brandon?
Clarke: Brandon’s a sweetheart. He’s well-intentioned.
Holmes: Whitney?
Clarke: Whitney is biting. And that’s a compliment from me.
Holmes: Rick?
Clarke: Rick was on a camping vacation or something. Rick’s hard working.
Holmes: Cochran?
Clarke: (Laughs) I don’t know. Let’s say…annoying.
Holmes: Let’s finish with Ozzy.
Clarke: Ozzy’s like my male twin. He’s hard-headed…competitive.
Holmes: See, that was painless.
Clarke: I was stressed out about the word association.
Holmes: You are the third person in a row who has told me that. What is it about this process that is intimidating people and how do I make it worse?
Clarke: I think it’s because every week I read the exit interviews, and that’s the thing I love to read. I love to see people sum me up in one word. I take it very seriously. So, I want to give as many people as many compliments as I possibly can.
Holmes: Is it accurate to say that the word association has become the must-read exit interview for the “Survivor” cast?
Clarke: You know what? Screw Rob Cesternino’s podcast.
Holmes: Right?!
Clarke: Screw Stephen Fishbach’s blog. The word association is where it’s at.

Holmes: Agreed. Have you figured out yet what you’re going to buy me with the million?
Clarke: Well, I have a whole mini-bar here in L.A.
Holmes: I heard there’s a big thing of cashews with my name on it.
Clarke: Yes, I’ll bring you some cashews.
Holmes: Nice. If there’s any money left over is there anything you intend to buy for yourself?
Clarke: A medical education.
Holmes: Worthwhile. Any particular field?
Clarke: OB/GYN. I want to deliver babies. Bring a little happiness into this world.
Holmes: Awww…
Clarke: Aren’t I sweet?
Holmes: You are adorable.
Clarke: I don’t know what Whitney was thinking.

Holmes: What did you learn during your time in the game?
Clarke: I hate this question. How do I answer without sounding cliché?
Holmes: You can’t. Cliché away.
Clarke: I think you learn what your limits are and you learn how far they can be pushed. You’re just in such a vulnerable position. I don’t know, I hate this question.
Holmes: Too bad, I asked it.
Clarke: Why don’t you make up something really clichéd. Say whatever Ozzy said last night. Say I learned that when I fall down I can always get back up.

Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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