At just 18, Julia Sokolowski was the youngest castaway competing on Survivor this season. But that didn’t mean she was a pushover. Not at all. She made it deep into the game having played both sides, but it finally caught up to her as the tribe sent her packing. In our one-on-one chat with Julia, she revealed her end-game strategy, explained why Aubry is the biggest threat left in the game and discussed whether or not she was really going to create controversy by eating Mark the chicken.
SheKnows: Was your elimination a true surprise or did you expect it might be coming?
Julia Sokolowski: I wouldn’t say I was blindsided. What I was blindsided by was the fact that Michele voted for me. I was really caught off guard, and never in a million years would I have thought she was gonna vote for me. She did. Of course, I had this glimmer of hope that it was gonna be Jason over me because we were clearly both on the bottom. I really, really, really had this thought that my Tai plan could really pull through and be an awesome blindside. I was bummed, but I had suspicion.
SK: When did you realize it was Michele who had voted against you? Did you know immediately?
JS: I did not know until way later on at Ponderosa when I kind of put the pieces together. I think they only read four of the Julia votes and then there was one vote left. That vote must’ve been for me, too, otherwise they would’ve read it in between. Then I realized later on that she grabbed me, she hugged me, she was crying. Wait, she voted for me. I was bummed. I was so devastated. I was very salty and mad at Michele, but it didn’t take long for me to switch my complete opinion. I realize Michele made a great move, and that’s what she had to do to progress her game to prove her allegiance. We both had this fear of being on the bottom, and she acted on it right away. She maybe took the safe route by getting rid of me, but that’s what she felt was best at the time.
SK: When it came down to the final seven, what was your plan at that point? Who did you want to take to the final Tribal Council?
JS: I would’ve loved to go with anyone but Aubry at that point. I would’ve loved to sit next to Michele. She was in my original alliance, and to sit at the final three with her would’ve been so cool. I would’ve loved to go with Jason, because even though he has a very compelling story, I would have a good shot to win because I played the middle and had relationships with people on the other side. I would have gone with Joe because he hasn’t had much of a strategic game. I had many, many options. I think I had a good shot against anyone except maybe Aubry at that point.
SK: Why don’t you think you could’ve beaten Aubry?
JS: I think that her strategic game is so, so, so strong. I think she has a lot of people right now on the jury who are aware of that strategic game. I definitely think it could’ve been close, though, because of my relationship with Scot and Nick. It could’ve been very, very close, but I think she’s definitely more of a threat. She’s played an awesome, phenomenal strategic game.
SK: If you didn’t think you could beat Aubry in the end, why is she still there? Why hasn’t she become the prime target?
JS: I think the reason for that is because she has Joe. He’s, in so many ways, her shield and extra vote. She’s smart. Aubry has power, but it’s a silent power in Joe. That’s brilliant in so many ways. People aren’t concerned.
SK: How does somebody like you land in an alliance with Scot and Jason, who are some of the most hated contestants Survivor has seen in years?
JS: I don’t know. I immediately had a great connection with both Scot and Jason. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that they have daughters. Scot’s oldest is not that much younger than me. I was able to kind of look to them, even though they have this villainous game play that’s aggressive and intense, I didn’t view it that way out there. I just looked at them as being immature and stupid. I still had a good relationship with them, and I didn’t mind working with them. I really didn’t.
SK: Scot and Jason have been pounded by viewers on social media and labeled as bullies. As you’ve been watching the show play out, do you believe they’ve received an accurate portrayal?
JS: At times, it’s hard for me to watch them on the show to be portrayed as such villains because I do have a soft spot for the both of them. But what they did was accurate. They really did sabotage us and it was really awful to deal with. It was not mature in any way, shape or form. I think it’s very, very accurate, but it rubs me the wrong way watching it sometimes. I feel bad. I love them as people.
SK: Debbie told me Scot and Jason are far worse in person than they are on TV. What’s your take on that?
JS: [Laughs.] I looked to Scot as a complete father figure out there. Scot has this crazy journey, and he’s so aware of it. He’s unfiltered and will say anything and everything. He also has these nuggets of wisdom that I really, really appreciated and needed. That was the kind of guidance I needed as an 18-year-old out there. With Jason, he has these young daughters he’s trying to raise to grow up to have aspirations. I think he respected me in a lot of ways for doing what I was doing out there at my age. We had this level of mutual respect for each other. Once you get past the villainous game play, which is a superficial exterior thing they do, some people are loyal coattail riders. Some people sabotage the entire camp. No matter what your game play is, that’s just the way it goes. I don’t think it really reflects who they are as people. Maybe Debbie didn’t get along with them, but I did. I love them.
SK: Scot has said some viewers have sent him death threats. What would you say to the people who have been so quick to bash him and Jason on social media?
JS: You see 42 minutes in the episode made up of 72 hours. So much happens. You only see the most important nuggets of strategy that have a result in the game. It’s not like you [viewers] really have a full idea of what’s going on out there. We have a lot of down time. We get to know each other on a deep, personal level. I would say to keep that in mind. You don’t know these people. I’m the kind of person you’d see in real life and say, “That girl would never be friends with someone like Jason or Scot. They just look like they’re from completely different planets.” But we had a great relationship. You can’t judge a book by its cover. You can’t judge somebody based on their game play. It’s a television show.
SK: We saw you play both sides quite a bit, so where did you really lay your true loyalty?
JS: With Michele. She was my No. 1. Our relationship was a lot deeper than just an alliance. She was my friend. She still is my friend. She’s one of my best friends to this day. I love her to death. She was the glue that kept me intact with the other side. She gets a lot of props for that one. Then again, I think after Michele it was with Jason and Scot.
SK: This season actually filmed a year ago. Has it been torture waiting all this time for your elimination episode to air?
JS: It’s been tough. I’m not gonna lie, it was kind of a bummer when we found out we were pushed back [to air after Survivor: Second Chance]. In a way, it’s given me time to rebuild my relationships with a lot of people on the cast. I really feel close to everyone now. It’s almost more rewarding because I’m able to look at it from a different perspective. It’s not so raw anymore. I’ve settled with what’s happened, and I feel satisfied. It was hard, the waiting process, but it was worth it.
SK: Was there any one person that was hardest to rekindle a relationship with?
JS: Not necessarily harder, but I would say that I really wanted to have a good relationship with Aubry. I do. She lives in Cambridge, and I live in Boston. She’s like 10 minutes from me. To have a person that went through the same thing live so close to me, it was really important to have a good relationship with her. I consider Aubry a huge role model for me, and one of my close friends. I really love her and admire her.
SK: After Scot was voted out, you vowed to eat Mark the chicken in an act of anger. Would you have really done it?
JS: [Laughs.] Mark the chicken was gonna be eaten multiple times throughout the show. We were thinking of eating him right before the merge, but we got a bunch of food at the merge. He got to stick around for a while. He became very domesticated. He’d sleep in the shelter with us. Tai would call him and he would respond. I don’t think anyone would truly have the guts to kill Mark the chicken. He became this vital character in our camp. He was fun and goofy. It was so weird to have a pet chicken. I don’t know if I would’ve actually been able to do it. I probably would’ve gotten ready and freaked out. If something happened at the next Tribal Council and I was still around, who knows? [Laughs.] That was immature of me, and I’ve gotten so much backlash for wanting to kill Mark. People are commenting on my Instagram like, “Oh, I hope Mark haunts you.” Chill. He made it farther than me.
SK: Would you have eaten Mark in secret or would you have openly done it in front of everybody else?
JS: Maybe the killing would’ve been done in secret, but the cooking would’ve been in front of everyone [laughs]. Oh, that’s so horrible [laughs].
SK: How did you get on the show?
JS: I actually just applied. I was in the very early stages of college. It was my first semester, freshman year, and I was catching up on a Thursday on Survivor. It was San Juan del Sur, and I was watching Baylor Wilson. I was like, she’s young. I was like, I think I’m old enough to apply. I did it. The process was very fast for me. It was my first time applying, I got cast and I was on a plane in March going to Cambodia. It was kind of surreal, to be honest.