If anyone understands the importance of an immunity challenge it would have to be Sophie Clarke. As one of the final contestants left on Survivor: South Pacific, the 22-year-old medical student from Willsboro, New York, was no frontrunner. But after winning the last immunity challenge of the season and ousting fan favorite and Survivor veteran Oscar "Ozzy" Lusth at the 11th hour, the game was suddenly Clarke's to win. We caught up with Clarke right after she beat out Benjamin "Coach" Wade and baseball coach Albert Destrade for the grand prize of $1 million to find out what she was thought her chances of winning were after the final tribal council, how the show changed her life and why she would return to Survivor in a heartbeat.
TV Guide Magazine: How did you feel going into the finale?
Clarke: I was so nervous. I was watching the show backstage and I started crying watching myself cry. I thought I would break down.
TV Guide Magazine: Did you think you were going to win?
Clarke: I had a good feeling. You never know, right? You never know if at the last second these people that you're getting a good read on write down Albert's name, or something. So, I felt like I was going to win, but it was a close vote.
TV Guide Magazine: That last tribal council was kind of gnarly.
Clarke: I don't think you saw all the gnarl that was there! Everyone was lighting into everyone. I think the only comfort... well, there were two things that were comforting. One was that Coach was getting it much worse than I was. Albert was getting it much worse than both of us. And I had champagne in my water bottle from the breakfast, so that was calming my nerves as well.
TV Guide Magazine: Your personality came under a lot of scrutiny during the season. What did you take away from all that criticism?
Clarke: I've always considered my confidence to be an attribute, and I've always kind of been proud of how blunt I was. I just felt like it was me. I haven't changed that but I'm just more aware of how it comes off to people initially. I'm more aware of my first impressions. I'm trying to be a little more like Dawn [Meehan], a little sunnier.
TV Guide Magazine: There seemed to be no love lost between you and some of the other contestants on the show, but now you all seem chummy again.
Clarke: It is a game, and part of my game was just to be a hard-ass and observing people and staying the course and being serious and calm. I didn't want to align with the Savaii [tribe]. I didn't want to be friends with them. I wanted them out. So it's very different in the game and out of the game. Also, I really felt like I, more than anyone, had my personality stripped of me because of the [lack of] food. I didn't feel like myself out there. I'm usually a very funny, joyful person, and I felt the whole time like I was Mrs. Potato Head — expressionless. It was really awful.
TV Guide Magazine: What happened?
Clarke: We were starving. Physically I looked different, I lost so much weight. But emotionally, it's overwhelming.
TV Guide Magazine: I've been told you feel emotions like you've never felt before?
Clarke: Oh, exactly! I was saying to Dawn, I'm terrified that I'm never going to feel such extreme emotions again in my life. I participated in this charity event, fasting for a day for health clinic, and I was so excited by it because I thought, maybe by the end of the day I'll feel the same kind of joy about eating a banana that I felt on the island. And of course, I didn't. You can never recapture it. I think that's why all these Survivors keep going back. When we were out there we thought they were crazy. This is sadistic! Why would you ever want to do this to your body again? And now I understand. It's really the emotions. I can't describe them and they can't come across on TV. Watching the show and being on the show are two different experiences. It's life-changing.
TV Guide Magazine: You mentioned that on TV. What is the greatest change?
Clarke: I think you're at your weakest, you're at your most vulnerable. You learn so much about what you can do physically and emotionally — what you can handle. It gives you so much confidence in your everyday life. It's hard to say anything else is a challenge.
TV Guide Magazine: Would you do Survivor again?
Clarke: I would do it again in a heartbeat. It sounds so ridiculous to say. I have nothing to prove, it's more about recapturing the emotions and meeting a whole group of new people.
TV Guide Magazine: What are you going to do with $1 million?
Clarke: I'm in medical school right now, so I have a lot of loans. Well, I'm not going to have a lot of loans. It eases my mind a lot.
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