“Survivor” Champion Sophie Clarke – “I’m Happy to Be the Weird Nerd on the Tribe”

“Survivor: Winners at War” (CBS)

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Editor’s Note: The players were separated by gender and didn’t officially know the theme of the season when this interview took place.

Another Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted across from the giant “Boston” Rob and Sandra heads at the Island of the Idols.


Winner of “South Pacific” (2011)

Name: Sophie Georgina Clarke

Age: 29

Hometown: Willsboro, New York

Current Residence: Santa Monica, California

Occupation: Healthcare Consultant


Gordon Holmes: Wait…I have the wrong bio. I was about to ask you about Kaoh Rong.

Sophie Georgina Clarke: Sounds like a nice place.

Holmes: I’m sure it’s lovely. But, what do you think people remember about your time on “South Pacific”?

Clarke: I think people remember that I beat Coach (Wade) and Ozzy (Lusth). And I think a lot of people remember that with anger. They probably remember there was a girl, who broke down a little bit at the end. Who maybe told some guy to pick up her pieces. And then she probably beat their hero. I’d say that’s my legacy.

Holmes: My take was always, you’re super smart. You managed to turn it on in the end and win the challenge that kept Ozzy out of the finals. Are these things you can lean into as you head into this game?

Clarke: I think on my first season I really had the advantage that people didn’t know that I was smart or really with it. I remember the first day on the beach people thought I was a water colorist. I remember thinking, “Great, if you think I’m some flighty artist, go for it.” But, the most challenging part of a returner season is that everyone has these pre-conceived notions about you. I think the hardest thing is to figure out what people think about you. And, they have to think that I’m smart. I think there aren’t that many nerds out here, which makes me stand out. There are a lot of smart people out here, but they have other attributes that define them as well. So, I think I have to be really aware of that. I don’t think I can shy away from that, because I think it comes off as phony and makes people question. So, I’m happy to be the weird nerd on the tribe.


Holmes: What’ve you been up to since the viewers saw you last?

Clarke: It’s been eight years. Holy (expletive deleted). I went to medical school, really didn’t like it. Realized I didn’t want to be a doctor. It was totally the wrong career.

Holmes: Fortunately, medical school is so affordable that it isn’t a big deal if you change your mind.

Clarke: (Laughs) Yes. Honestly, leaving medical school was the hardest decision I ever made. So, thank you CBS, because I don’t think I could have done it if I had been saddled with $250,000 of debt. I would have been too scared. I did finish, but I never went to residency. Instead I tried my hands at a few different jobs and ended up where I am which is business consulting.

Holmes: And are you married now or just engaged?

Clarke: I am engaged. I’m getting married in August.

Holmes: Congratulations!

Clarke: Thank you. I met my fiancé at work. He’s lovely, his name is Bobby Shady. I’m hoping some kind of shadiness will rub off on me.

Holmes: That’s like a cool rap name.

Clarke: It’s an amazing name. I don’t want to take his name…

Holmes: Who wouldn’t want to be Sophie Shady?!

Clarke: I don’t. I don’t.

Holmes: You arrive on the beach on day one and people are asking, “Can I trust Sophie Shady?”

Clarke: (Laughs) Probably not. I want us to combine our names and make “Sharke.” I feel like “Sharke” would just be a killer last name.

Holmes: I wouldn’t trust Sophie Sharke either.

Clarke: (Laughs)

Holmes: But, it’s better than “Clady.”

Clarke: Yes, “Clady” is bad. But, I feel like coming on this show is the perfect thing to do before I get married. My fiancé quit his job maybe a month ago and he’s trying to start his own business, and I’m out here doing my thing. So, I’m really excited that in this period, where traditionally you’re supposed to be preparing for the white picket fence, we’re off doing these wild adventures and supporting each other.

Holmes: What’s his new business?

Clarke: It’s in health care.

Holmes: Shady Health Care?

Clarke: Yeah, how about we not call it that.


Holmes: This is your first time in an all-star season. How do you think that is different?

Clarke: I think it’s totally different. Everybody has these pre-conceived notions of you. So, you’re not really able to hide things as well. I think that was to my benefit the first time. I was underestimated most of the time. And then only at the very end did I become a threat, and by then people didn’t have the opportunity to vote me out. And that kind of strategy just doesn’t work on a returner season. Especially an all-winners season. Literally, every single person is a threat.

Holmes: Oh, you’re assuming it’s all winners.

Clarke: Well, all I’ve seen are winners so far, so I have to think so. And I just think there’s no way to hide like there is in a regular season. Plus, there are a lot of women out here who have played returner seasons. They frighten me a little more. I think the experience of being voted out is probably really helpful. I don’t know what that feels like. I don’t know what it’s like when that eerie wind comes through and it’s telling me that it’s my time to go. I’m definitely worried that I’m not going to be able to recognize when that happens. Also, I had Coach and Ozzy, so I’ve had some exposure to returnees. I think they come back playing a little more for their families and more for themselves. I think the first time you can get really wrapped up in the experience. And the bonds you form are so close. You form this real community. And I’m expecting in a returnee season for people to be more cutthroat. I think they know that while the relationships you form are important and they’ll get you through the game, they’re not your best friends.


Holmes: Is there any former “Survivor” player that you bounce ideas off of?

Clarke: I’m very good friends with Stephen (Fishbach) and (John) Cochran. I get advice from them. They’re both incredible players. I would like the record to say that Gordon winced when I said that. (Laughs)

Holmes: (Laughs) There’s no way I’m including that.

Clarke: They’ve both become good friends. I talked to them and they gave me a little bit of advice, but more than that they gave me some good friendship support. Like, “We’ll still be your friends if you get voted out.”

Holmes: Was that a concern?

Clarke: I don’t know, if you don’t make the merge you’ll never get a boyfriend.

Holmes: I’m asking the wrong person, you wouldn’t even know what it’s like to get voted out.

Clarke: I don’t know what happens. I hope to never know.

Holmes: Do you hope you’re greeted by two signs?

Clarke: And one leads me to the Edge of Extinction. Yeah, I actually do hope they do it again. I didn’t get to watch the finale, but I know how it ended. I’d be curious to know if they’d try it again. What does that mean as a winner that only played 13 days? I think part of the reason you come back as a winner, you’ve already won, you’ve done the thing. There has to be something else that you’re out here for. Of course I want to win, but I’m also really excited to have the experience again. The first time I did it, I was 21 years old. I was so young. I thought I really knew who I was, but I got totally broke down out here. I realized that a lot of the strengths I thought I have I didn’t have. There were a lot of weaknesses I didn’t know about. It seems like the Edge of Extinction lets you explore those things. Which is half of the fun of the “Survivor” experience.


Holmes: You guys are in the dark as far as twists. What do you think is going on here?

Clarke: It has to be all winners. It’s season 40, it’s time for Hunger Games season two.

Holmes: Good reference.

Clarke: Thank you. We can’t all walk the Earth…at some point one of us has to be crowned the winner. And I know Sandra thinks she has the crown, if I was Sandra I’d be shaking in my boots. I do think the person who wins this season will be the best “Survivor” player of all time.

Holmes: So, just ten ladies and that’s it.

Clarke: Yes, that’s what I’m hoping for. I mean, maybe we should just totally discount the men.

Holmes: Oh, you think there’s men?

Clarke: What would the point be? Why even bother bringing them out here?

Holmes: Because they’re about to get smoked by the women.

Clarke: Exactly. It’s basically a ten-person season.


Holmes: In returnee seasons there is always chatter about pre-season alliances. Have you taken part in any of that?

Clarke: I have not. But, there’s one person here who I’m actually friends with outside of the game. Parvati used to live in New York. We hung out quite a bit, but I haven’t seen her in a while. She’s always moving around. She lived in New York for two years. We didn’t talk before the game. We’ve spoken a little but, like congratulating her on her baby. But, I haven’t seen her in over a year. So, I’m going into the game, thinking it’d be really nice to go into the game with a friend. Somebody you could trust. My mind is on that wave length with her, but I don’t know how cutthroat she is. Maybe out-of-the-game friendships don’t mean anything to her.

Holmes: Have you heard whispers of any other potential pre-game partnerships?

Clarke: Not that I’ve heard, which must be a good thing. I was very worried about that coming out. I think in “Heroes vs. Villains” there was something, maybe that’s why Sugar (Kiper) was voted out first. I don’t know. More to the point is, I don’t participate in a lot of the “Survivor” charity stuff. I think one of my biggest fears was that everyone was going to know each other. And even looking at this people, it doesn’t seem like it’s true.

Holmes: There have been a few times where I’ve interviewed people in previous seasons where they’ll break down all of these partnerships they’ve made, and it never seems to work out.

Clarke: That’s one of the things Cochran said, “Honestly, the people who pre-seasoned in my season got voted out because they played too hard too quickly and they came in thinking they were going to align with someone and that’s the stupidest thing ever.” He said the more you can come in as a free agent the better. He’d better be right, or else I’m gonna…wring his neck.

Holmes: He’s writing for “Star Trek” now.

Clarke: Yeah.

Holmes: You and him, he went from Mr. Harvard to writing a TV show. And you went from medical school to business.

Clarke: I honestly think “Survivor” inspires that because it’s such a high. It’s such an incredible experience, that when you recognize something in your life that’s not quite right, because you’ve done this, you’re better able to recognize that. Then you have the confidence and the courage to be like, “I’m not going to do that thing. I’m going to follow my passion.” There’s something about starving on a desert island that makes you not put up with (expletive deleted) things for long.


Holmes: You’re in lockdown, you’re not allowed to talk to each other, but there are always winks and nods. Are you winking and nodding at anyone?

Clarke: I am. I think on my last season I was pretty straight in lockdown and I don’t think that served me well. I try to smile at everybody. I’m trying to be friendly, but not too friendly. I think some people are being over the top. Natalie Anderson is mothering everybody! “Oh, you’re wet, let me get you a towel.” It’s too much. So, I’m trying to ride the middle. I’m trying to imagine what the first conversation will be like with each person. How do I make it genuine?  There are some people where I’m thinking, “Shoot, how am I going to connect with this person?” You just get a vibe off of them…there are some people that when we hit the beach, I’m going to be excited to be with them. I get good vibes from Denise and Danni. There’s something about the way they carry themselves that I can just imagine going up to them and talking to them and saying, “I want to work with you” in a way that feels genuine and thus is genuine. And then there are people like Amber who for some reason I’m getting a weird vibe. I don’t know how I’m going to connect with this person. And I don’t know if it’s because she’s such an iconic “Survivor” player that I’m intimidated. Sometimes if I’m intimidated or I feel like that person is too cool, I’ll try to shy away.

Holmes: I get that. I remember in college, I was never a cool kid, believe it or not. And I remember my first day in the dorm there was this huge, buff, in my mind, a meathead. I immediately assumed he would hate me based on my biases.

Clarke: Exactly, I do that.

Holmes: And he ended up being the nicest guy and a friend to this day.

Clarke: I do that all the time. I had a new job and a friend gave me a pep talk where she said, “You have to assume that everybody wants to be your friend.” It’s not that I think people don’t like me, I just think they have their own stuff going on.

Holmes: Oh, I just assume people don’t like me.

Clarke: (Laughs) Or that sometimes.

Holmes: We moved around a lot when I was young, so I was always the new kid. I was always an outsider.

Clarke: I’m sort of having that issue with Kim. She just looks like the coolest girl. Even her clothing…her rain jacket is awesome. The one time I ever met Kim was at her finale and we were in casting together. And she said to me, “I knew I wasn’t going to get on that season because we were too similar.” And I was like, “Kim…”

Holmes: “Thank you.”

Clarke: (Laughs) “Thank you. But come on!” So, I’m noticing when I’m around her I get shy. And I’m thinking, “No, you can be friends with Kim.”


Holmes: Alright, game time. Here are the nine women you’re about to square off against. Tell me the four people you will work with and the five people you will avoid.

Clarke: I’m going to work with Parvati. She’s been a friend in the past and she has a big target on her. She’s Parvati.

Holmes: That’s a good point, she is Parvati.

Clarke: I hope she’s like, “I want to work with you.” Because I’d imagine a lot of people don’t want to work with her. Danni, I’m getting really good vibes from her and I’m into the old-school players. I feel like in this group I’m basically an old-school player. I’m also into people who are kind of like me, the people a lot of people think shouldn’t have won their season. I think people loved Stephenie LaGrossa. In my season a lot of people loved Coach.

Holmes: Did we watch the same “South Pacific” that everyone loved Coach?

Clarke: Everybody loved Coach and Ozzy!

Holmes: I love Coach too! I don’t think everybody thinks he should have won.

Clarke: OK, well thank you. Denise, mostly because I get a good vibe off of her. And I remember her season the way she talked to Malcolm (Freberg). I want to have an alliance partner like that where you can be really practical and really open. Sandra, I put her in the Parvati category where she has this massive target on her back and will be happy if people want to work with her. I also think there’s something about having bigger targets than you.

Holmes: Alight, who aren’t we working with?

Clarke: I’m going to say “No” to Sarah and Natalie. Mostly because they were bad asses in their seasons and they both cut their good friends. I’m all for blindsides, but I wouldn’t have seen that coming if I was their friend. I just watched Natalie’s season and the way she took Jon (Misch) and Jaclyn (Misch) to dinner in that bed and then voted them out the next day? Michele, she’s close in age to me. I think I met her before her season started. She’s reading a book a like, but she’s taking a long time to read it. I think she also feels like people thought that Aubry (Bracco) should have won her season. I disagree with that. I recently watched her season and there are three episodes before the finale where Aubry says, “Michele is going to win, we have to take her out.” I feel like that alone says that Michele should have won that season. Amber and Kim…I’m getting slightly better vibes off of, but I don’t know how to deal with it if Rob is here. It’ll make things a lot more complicated. Kim is just too cool for me. Maybe that’s not true. Maybe I’ll become a cool person.

Holmes: Maybe you’re already a cool person.

Clarke: Maybe I’ll start my own cool kid alliance.

Holmes: Of these four, who do you take to the end?

Clarke: I wouldn’t take Sandra, she’s won twice and she wins because she’s likable. You usually go into a game and half of these people can’t win. Half of these people are idiots. Nobody will vote for them because they’re awful. The problem with winners is every one of these people have proven that they’re likable enough that somebody could vote for them. I’ll probably go with Denise. She’s probably the most similar to me, so it might be easier to fight my case. Rather than someone like Danni who seems like a sweetheart. Nobody’s calling me a sweetheart.

Holmes: Awww…that’s not true.  OK, who’s first out of this five?

Clarke: I feel so bad. I voted Sarah out for Dalton Ross’s thing, and I don’t have any problem with Sarah. She’s a perfectly pleasant person, but she played a bad ass game. And she played the most recent returner season. And, she won that season. So, sorry Sarah.


Holmes: Everybody here has won the game. Is there any concern that someone is more interested in making a big name for themselves instead of winning the game?

Clarke: I was talking about this with a producer yesterday. I hope people have other motivations other than winning the game. I think that makes it a lot easier to maneuver, especially when you figure those out. I felt like on my season, part of the reason I was able to make it to the end was because Coach wanted to be a big character and he wanted to be lauded for his honor and loyalty. He was not going to give that up ever. Mikayla (Wingle) was someone I pegged as caring a lot about her Playboy modeling career. I’m worried that nobody out here has a secondary interest. Obviously there are people out here who do more reality, but I’m worried that everyone out here is truly here to win it. I do think there are people out here who have something to prove. I look at someone like Michele, and people who played less flashy seasons like Danni. I do wonder if they think this is their time to prove that they’re not some under-the-radar player. That’s one of the things that makes me really nervous about aligning with Michele. I worry that she’d make a big move to make a big move and that would eff up my game.


Holmes: My favorite “Survivor” press story is when we were heading out to Samoa for “South Pacific,” we met up in LAX to grab something to eat. We knew two players were returning to the game, but we didn’t know who it was going to be. I ran into Mara (Reinstein) and asked her who she thought the players were. She said, “I think it’s Ozzy and Coach.” And that was such an odd pairing I asked, “What makes you say that?” And she responded, “Well, Ozzy is over there.” And sure enough, Ozzy was sitting there reading a magazine or whatever. “And Coach is over in the corner doing yoga.” And I look over and Coach is doing his moves in a corner.

Clarke: (Laughs) Of course he is.

Holmes: That had nothing to do with this interview, I just love that story.


Holmes: OK, an alien lands and you have to show them a clip that will prove that “Survivor” is awesome. Which clip do you show them?

Clarke: I have the worst memory ever. I guess you show them Erik Reichenbach giving up his immunity necklace.


Holmes: Let’s say Probst decides to do you a solid and lets you choose a twist. What do you go with?

Clarke: Ooo…any twist?

Holmes: Any twist. One that has existed in the past or one you make up yourself.

Clarke: I’d like to see something where everyone gets a really difficult clue to the immunity idol. Immunity idols weren’t much of a thing on my season. And I was in an era where I was afraid that looking for one would make me a total target. That’s still probably true. And I’ve heard that it’s more difficult for women to look for idols because they’re more expected to be at camp. So, one of my fears is that I won’t be able to figure out how to look. So, I’d like a twist where everybody has some kind of treasure map so it’s more out in the open that people are looking. Either that, or I’d like to see…what was Candice (Cody) and (Jonathan) Penner’s twist where they stepped off of the mat?

Holmes: Wasn’t that the mutiny?

Clarke: Yeah, the mutiny. I’d like to see that again.


Holmes: Alright, I’m going to give you reasons someone could use to target you. I need you to argue against them. Sophie, won three individual immunity challenges. She isn’t all brains.

Clarke: We’re in Fiji and almost all of the challenges have to do with water. My season was in Samoa, they were on land. One of them was a quiz. I barely know how to swim.


Holmes: Remember when she told Albert (Destrade) to drop his damn stack? That’s some outside-of-the-box thinking. I’m not comfortable with how clever she is.

Clarke: Yeah, but I want to strategize with you. You’re so much more likable than I am. I’ll help you strategize and you help me be nice to people.


Holmes: She pretended to like the worst Adam Sandler movie…

Clarke: (Laughs) “Jack and Jill.”

Holmes: I can’t have someone around who’s capable of that level of deception.

Clarke: I have no defense. Vote me out.


Don’t miss the premiere of “Survivor: Winners at War” – Wednesday, February 12, 2020 at 8 pm ET.

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