HitFix Interview: Julie Wolfe talks ‘Survivor: Redemption Island’

Another week, another “Survivor: Redemption Island” exit interview with a departed member of the Zapatera tribe.
Following the ultimately ill-fated decision to throw a challenge to accelerate the departure of Russell Hantz, the tribe went on a barely interrupted string of evictions with Redemption Island dominator Matt and Ometepe mastermind Rob continuing the process that began at their own hands.
This week’s interview is with Julie Wolfe, the lone member of the Zapatera main alliance to express reservations about losing on purpose and tempting “Survivor” karma. Julie wasn’t able to save her tribe, but at the end of Thursday’s (April 27), she indicated that she’d been saved herself, through the influence of agent-of-God Matt.
What did firefighter Julie have to say about her new faith, challenge-throwing and Phillip’s race/rice war? 
Click through…
HitFix: In this week’s episode, you appeared to have undergone a Redemption Island conversion experience. How long did that last?
Julie Wolfe: It started while I was there watching Matt and Krista in their Redemption Island challenge, when she gave Matt her Bible. And then it’s lasted until today. It’s lasted until today. I came home and I found a church and I have a reborn relationship with God and everything is good.
HitFix: How you surprised were you to have gotten that out of your reality TV experience?
JW: I’m shocked. That wasn’t even a reason for going on the show. My whole reason was that I wasn’t there to make friend, like I said. I wasn’t there to be on TV for the glamour or the experience or the adventure. I went for one reason: That was for the money. And to come home not caring about the money and just having this life-changing experience, where you can’t put a price on what I’ve gotten from the whole “Survivor” experience, is not what I had planned. It’s not what I expected. I’m very grateful for it.
HitFix: How do you interpret what has happened with and to Matt in his 21 days, and counting, on Redemption Island?
JW: I interpret it the same way Matt does: That is God working in his life and Matt is giving God all of the glory for all of the success that he’s had so far in the game. Yeah, I think it’s all God’s plan.
HitFix: So you showed up on Redemption Island and you were pretty strong from eating fish and eating rice. How ticked off were you when you saw that the Duel was just playing shuffleboard? 
JW: [Laughs.] I was actually thrilled that it was shuffleboard, because we played a stupid game at the fire station… We play games for dishes and the three people who lose have to clean all the dishes… We play that stupid game on our dinner-top table. So I was like, “Alright! Shuffleboard! I’ve got this!” Yeah. Oh well. So much for counting my chickens before they hatch.
HitFix: Let’s go to a different sort of spirituality.  You were one of the people who was most wary about throwing the challenge to get rid of Russell. You were worried about game karma. Do you attribute the three-week Zapatera slide that followed directly to that decision?
JW: You know what? Nobody has talked about throwing the challenge since except for me. I think it was a total mistake and I’m guessing that everybody else, it was worth it for them to get rid of Russell. For me? Russell was going to go first anyway. It was just a matter of time. But throwing that challenge for the reward of a tarp and blankets? It was a huge mistake. It was even then, but looking back at it more, we were cold, wet and miserable the whole game. We didn’t sleep because of the conditions. Throwing that challenge was a big mistake. It was a big mistake in my opinion. I can’t speak for anybody else. It was bad. And then whether it was karma or not, it was bad.
HitFix: But given how long you guys were in a slide after that, when you look back, do you think about things you maybe could have done differently to stem that tide? Or were you guys just in a hole from that minute on and it was unavoidable?
JW: When we threw that challenge and lost, we were still really confident. I still am now, looking back at the show and knowing what has happened. From that point, from throwing the challenge, we were still very confident that, “Hey. We are way the superior, stronger team and we’re gonna continue  winning challenges.” Well, the first one we won and we were like, “Right on!” And then we started losing. But we were still like, “OK. That one challenge, Grant was awesome at catching those balls, but we’re gonna win this obstacle course. We’re definitely gonna win this obstacle course. This is us!” And, sure enough, we raced to the end and we won the difficult part, the surviving part of that obstacle course. But then it came to that stupid circus game of throwing the balls up in the net and that was just all luck and when we lost that, it was like, “Oh my gosh. What do we have to do to win a challenge?” But once we threw the challenge, there was still no doubt in our mind that we were going to win the rest of the challenges, so we were fine with it. Looking back now? It was a mistake.
HitFix: Russell in his “Survivor” run was always best known for strong-arming people, but you got to be in the rare position of having Russell pretty much come and beg you to save his life. He may not have done it exactly in that was, but that’s what the gist of it was. How did that feel at the time and how seriously did you consider joining him? 
JW: Well, Russell came to everybody. He went to everybody. But he came to me last. I’m not sure the reason, but everybody else basically told him “No” or said “Yes,” but he didn’t believe them. When he came to me, I thought that he had an Idol. I really thought that he already had an Idol. Even though I knew that Ralph had one, I figured that Russell had one. So I was doing everything I could to convince Russell that I was on his side, that I was in his alliance. But not for one second ever was I. I was never, never, ever, ever gonna vote with him. I was never going to do it. But I did everything I could… I told him, “We’re throwing this challenge. Everybody wants to get rid of you. We’re gonna go into this challenge and if we put up No. 1, that means we’re gonna play, and if we put up No. 2, that means we’re throwing it.” I did everything I could to make him believe that I was on his team, because I did not want him to play that Idol at Tribal. We had to get rid of him.
HitFix: But why *wouldn’t* you have joined him?
JW: You know what? I’m the biggest Russell fan. I respect his game. Not many people like his game, but I respect his game, because the game of “Survivor,” you do whatever you can to win that million dollars, to get to the end. Everybody else in my tribe? Mike and Steve? They never liked that man. I went into the game “I’m not here to make friends” and by the third day, I was real good friends with Mike and Steve. I just loved them. And Ralph. And I could not stand Russell in camp. He was lazy. He didn’t do a thing. He was almost like a Phillip. He was disgusting and the show was all about him. It was not “The Rob/Russell Show” to us. They had their chance. this was our chance. So there wasn’t a minute that I was going to go with him. I did not like him and I ended up making really good friends with Mike and Steve and I wasn’t going to vote against those two guys.
HitFix: But then you ended up borrowing a page from the Russell playbook when you stole and hid Phillip’s shorts… Did that thought cross your mind?
JW: [Laughs.] That never crossed my mind. You know what? Life with Phillip was… to say the least, it was a challenge. It was miserable. And when we got into that race war and all of that tension at camp, it was just like, “You know what? OK. You want to make this war? OK. You got it.” And I just decided I was gonna get back at Phillip. But what I did was I got back at everybody else, because now he shows up at Tribal in those stupid pink underwear. And nobody likes to see him like that. Yeah, there were opportunities for him to put his jeans on, but he didn’t, so burying those shorts probably wasn’t the smartest move. That just gave Phillip more attention, that he loved.
HitFix: You’ve had the chance to rewatch everything on TV. Does Phillip make more sense on TV than he did in person or does he make less sense?
JW: Phillip makes no sense. Rob’s strategy makes sense. Who’s gonna vote for Phillip? Really? Phillip makes no sense to me. He’s crazy. He’s a lunatic. And I think he’s really like that in real life. It got to the point where we were scared of Phillip. We were really scared for our safety. So… yeah. He makes no sense to me at all. 
HitFix: You say he’s like this in real life. You think. Do you think he meant what he was saying when he thought that Steve was being racist? Or do you think he was just causing trouble? What do you think is going through his mind? I know that’s asking a lot…
JW: At that time… and I still do… I have experienced it in real life. I experienced it at my fire station. Like “Survivor,” at the fire station we’re all a bunch of people from different backgrounds, from different cultures and some people you can joke with and some people you can’t. And with Phillip, I really believe that he went there and that he believes that. And I really believe Steve that he’s not a racist and that whole thing. But yeah, I do believe that that was an issue with Phillip. I do. Unfortunately.
HitFix: That feels like a different interpretation if you at least believe that in his mind, he believed what he was saying.
JW: In his mind, I do believe that he thought that it was a black and white  issue. I don’t believe that he made that race thing. I believe that that was real for him.
HitFix: Was that as big a deal at camp as it was made to be on TV? 
JW: It was a bigger deal at camp than what they made it on TV. It was so uncomfortable. The camera showed me putting my head down and biting my tongue, but it was very uncomfortable and there was a lot of tension and it got to the point where really we were concerned for our safety. We were concerned for our safety with Phillip. There are machetes laying around and there’s this guy going postal? It was all real and it was very uncomfortable and it was very ugly. It was a lot lighter on TV than it really was at camp. At camp, it was true racial tension. It was very uncomfortable and it was lighter on TV than it really was in life.
Previous “Survivor: Redemption Island” Exit Interviews: