There are four players from Survivor: Kaoh Rong on the upcoming Game Changers season, and seventh place finisher Julia Sokolowski played with each one of them at one time or another. One of those players was eventual runner-up, Aubry Bracco. Julia and Aubry first met after the tribe swap, when Julia and her allies, Scot and Tai, tried to get Aubry to flip on her former Brains tribemate, Peter. Aubry was indecisive in making the flip, leaving her decision until at the voting booth where she infamously wrote and then crossed out Julia’s name, before writing Peter underneath. After writing Julia’s name, the two women never fully trusted each other, even though they did vote together at the first two merge tribal councils. They saw each other as threats, with Aubry believing Julia would flip on her if given a chance. In the end, Julia was eliminated by Aubry and her allies, becoming a member of the jury where she voted for Michele to win over Aubry at the Final Tribal Council.
Inside Survivor reached out to Julia to get her thoughts on Aubry’s return to Survivor: Game Changers.
Disclaimer: This interview was conducted in June 2016 while Survivor: Game Changers was still filming in Fiji.
1) Hey Julia, thanks for doing this. You’ve said in other interviews that your relationship with Aubry was tense after she crossed out your name at that post-swap tribal. But how was your relationship with Aubry before that tribal council?
Before that tribal council, my relationship with Aubry was fine. I had only been on camp with Aubry for less than three days, so our relationship had no depth. We tried to find common connections – like she is from New Hampshire and I’m from Vermont – but in general, it was small talk.
After coming off of Brawn beach, I naturally gravitated toward Tai as he was the only other original Beauty tribe member, and at that point, he had built a relationship with Scot. I felt safer going with Scot or Tai, than approach Peter, Aubry and Joe who were three original Brain tribe members – it’s a numbers game, and at that point, I needed to feel equal within an alliance. We had talked bits and pieces of strategy, but truly, Aubry and I were kind of like ships that pass in the night.
2) You’ve also said that you didn’t fully appreciate Aubry’s game until you saw it on TV, that in the game you just had “bitterness for her.” What did you see on TV that you didn’t see on the island that made you respect her game more?
I’m not going to lie, as painful and difficult as it was waiting for our season to air (after getting pushed back because of Second Chance), it was a blessing in disguise. Many of us used the time to heal wounds and mend relationships. Aubry and I both happen to be Boston-based, and when you go through an experience like Survivor, the only people who truly understand your mindset and can process the game with you are people who have played it.
Living so close to Aubry in real life, I wanted to be able to talk to her about the experience. I ended up developing a relationship with Aubry that wasn’t game based. I went into the season airing with fresh eyes as Aubry’s friend, not as her opponent. During the game, I was never on Aubry’s side, and she is a very intellectual and logical thinker, whereas I am more of a trial-and-error type. So I never understood her strategy because I wasn’t part of it, and I couldn’t see it blatantly play out in front of me.
On TV, I was able to follow her game step-by-step without feeling threatened in the moment, and that’s what made me appreciate it and gain more and more respect as each episode aired.
3) Do you think Aubry had a problem highlighting her moves for the jury? What could she have done to make people more aware of her game?
I think we’ve gotten this reputation that we were a bitter jury, which bothers me because we weren’t. I think Aubry did have a problem highlighting her moves for the jury. Scot, Jason and I were all in the same boat (as I said before, we were never part of her strategy and could never see it blatantly play out in front of us; therefore we didn’t really know how she had been contributing). And then obviously she burned bridges with Debbie and Cydney. Neal and Joe clearly had standing relationships with Aubry, so their votes were (and in Neal’s case would have) locked into Aubry, so the only person who could look at Aubry’s game from a neutral perspective was Nick.
We voted based on what were we seeing. When more than half the jury has a good relationship with Michele, and you come back to tribal day after day, and she has the necklace around her neck, it was easy for us to look at the situation and say “Okay, Michele is pulling it together – the girl is going for it.” Whereas Aubry still wasn’t straightforward when justifying her actions, (I think) in an effort to maintain relationships she thought she had. I think we needed to see more of Aubry’s emotional self shine through. If we saw her raw, genuine character, we would have been able to connect with Aubry and be more aware of her game.
4) So could she have potentially earned your vote? Or were you never planning to vote for her?
Unless Michele and Tai really messed something up, I was never planning to vote for Aubry. Michele, Anna and I had a rare occurrence in this game and developed a stronger friendship than I ever could have imagined I would take away from Survivor. We promised each other (about Day 3) that if only one of us made it to the final three, they would automatically have the others vote – and Michele happened to get there!
Would I play that way again? Absolutely not. I was naive, and I’ve learned (the hard way) that it’s not a game about friendship, but regardless… from the moment I left the game, Michele had my vote.
5) There was obviously a lot of talk about “the social game” after Kaoh Rong. Did Aubry have a bad social game? Or was it just that Michele had a better one? What was Aubry like to live with day-to-day at camp?
Aubry focused on developing close relationships with a few people, while Michele focused on connecting with each person. It wasn’t that Aubry had a bad social game at all, it was that it wasn’t widespread enough and Michele maintained good relations with almost everyone.
Personally, living with Aubry day-to-day at camp was fine – we didn’t have the strongest relationship, so we didn’t spend a ton of time hanging out. Her relationship with Joe (or as some say her “extra vote”) was always the elephant in the room. However, I will say, when you crack the intellectual wall with Aubry, she has a fun, quirky side that is amazing. She is honestly so witty and quick – it’s impressive.
6) Aubry finished as runner-up, and there was a section of the Survivor fanbase that believed she was “robbed.” How do you think that perception will influence not only Aubry but the other players going into this season? Will that make her a target?
Aubry is in an interesting position because her Kaoh Rong game was so strong and people know what she is capable of (she is silent but deadly). Her game should be fresh on their minds, and that makes her a target. Yet, this season is packed with power players, so if those strong personalities and physical threats can mask her for a while, I think she could set herself up to be in a great position.
7) What is Aubry’s most positive attribute, and her most negative attribute?
I think Aubry’s most positive attribute is her humor. She is insanely intelligent, and it shines through in her sarcastic, eccentric attitude. I hope she showcases that fun side to this cast because it came out during Kaoh Rong, but it took her time to warm up. When she lets it out, it’s the kind of energy you just admire and gravitate towards.
As for a negative attribute, I think Aubry overthinks. Sometimes overthinking can be a good way to process a situation thoroughly, but there are also times in Survivor in which following your gut may be the better option.
8) Who on this cast are her biggest threats and why?
I think Sandra will be a big threat to Aubry. Aubry is someone who processes her decisions, and Sandra is more of a wildcard (she plays the “as long as it’s not me” game). The Sandra type of player threatens the logical players. They are the ones who (in the words of Cydney) “blow the whole game up,” which would be likely to impact someone like Aubry’s plans. I think Sarah Lacina could be another threat to Aubry – both players read others and situations very well.
9) On the flip-side, who here should Aubry align with and why?
Aubry needs to align with people she can easily manipulate (i.e. Joe). I think Aubry could easily take people like Hali, Varner, Ciera or Brad under her wing. I would LOVE to see her work with Cirie; I think that would be an awesome combo, not only strategically but also entertainment wise.
10) How far do you think Aubry will make it? Could she get to the Final Tribal Council again?
I think if Aubry can wiggle her way to the merge, she has a good shot of getting to final tribal again. It’s going to be that first chunk that’s going to be difficult for her, after coming in hot off Kaoh Rong. She’s a smart girl and knows what she needs to do differently this time around. I hope she makes it. I’m team Aubz all the way.
11) Who is your overall winner pick?
Of course, I would love to see Aubry win because she’s my home girl. I’m excited to see what she will do differently this time around. As of right now, I don’t really have an overall winner pick. I have good vibes about Sierra Dawn-Thomas for some reason… but I should probably put my money on Sandra, right?
12) Lastly, before we let you go, what is new in the world of Julia? How have things been since we last saw you on Kaoh Rong?
Added 02/09/17: Things have been great! I’m now President of my sorority and have been working as a bartender, which keeps me busy. I spent the summer backpacking Southeast Asia – which was incredible! I spent so much time in Cambodia during Survivor, but never got to really experience the country, so I felt like I owed it to myself go back and explore that culture a little more. I’m finishing up college and graduating early, so I’m on the job hunt now. Just taking it day-by-day and waiting for Survivor 34 to air, of course! Oh, and Michele moved in with me!
Thanks again to Julia for taking part. For more on Aubry, you can check out her cast retrospective and official cast bio. Stay tuned to Inside Survivor for more Playing With Game Changers interviews. Survivor: Game Changers premieres March 8, 2017, on CBS.