Interview: Julia Landauer talks ‘Survivor: Caramoan’ and vanilla ice cream

Nobody’s ever been cast on “Survivor” to be “vanilla.” But sometimes it happens. Not everybody can be a Phillip or a Brandon or a Shamar and in a season that happens to have a Phillip, a Brandon and a Shamar all battling simultaneously for screentime, it’s hard for anybody to keep up.
It’s even hard to keep up if you happen to have the daredevil spirit of a race car driver and the intellect of a Stanford undergrad.
Julia Landauer is both of those things, not that you’d know either fact from her time on “Survivor: Caramoan.” In fact, all you’d probably know about Julia is that she didn’t get along with Shamar, she didn’t get along with Phillip and Cochran didn’t think too highly of her.
“I’m tempted to say that she has a vanilla personality, but that would be doing a great disservice to the flavor of vanilla,” Cochran cracked during Wednesday’s “Survivor,” just moments before Julia was voted out of the game, just missing out on the Merge.
In this week’s “Survivor” exit interview, Julia certainly comes across as sharper and funnier than she appeared to be on the show, attributing what was perceived as “vanilla” to varying parts strategy, youth, an unfortunate game situation and a lack of outrageousness compared with other contestants. It seems like a plausible combination of factors.
Check out the full conversation after the break…
HitFix: On Wednesday’s show, you talked about the difference between the game you entered the season wanting to play and the game you ended up playing. Could you go into a bit more detail on that?
Julia Landauer: Yeah, for sure. I went into the season expecting to kinda lay low for the first little bit until we got closer to the Merge and Merge and then I really wanted to play a more offensive game, making the big moves and taking control. However, you know, I wasn’t really expecting to lose every challenge with the Fans and then go onto another tribe that was clearly weaker and therefore losing more challenges and also being in the minority — three Fans versus four Favorites. So with that being the case, I just had to reassess and understand that, “OK. Now it’s really just how do I made it to the Merge? And what would guarantee that?” So that’s why I had to be a little more defensive and trying to figure out, “OK. How do I get these guys to want to take me with them, when clearly a Fan’s at their mercy?” There were no cracks in the Favorites’ alliance. And then, when I realized it wasn’t looking great for me, I was like, “OK. Everyone was complaining about Phillip, who was being awful to everyone, so why not try and blindside him?” So I didn’t have the best of great options to go to in terms of just trying to blindside him and get more of the Favorites on my side, so I thought Dawn would be the best bet.
HitFix: Had you begun to figure out what the more pro-active, offensive strategy was going to be post-Merge? Or were you too busy just scurrying and trying to stay alive?
Julia: By the time I knew that Fans would be in the minority at the Merge, I was focusing on just making it to the Merge. But then, had Michael been voted out instead of me, I would have planned on staying with the Favorites and making them very comfortable, but if I saw an opportunity for myself or an opportunity to really swing a vote and blindsides become very crucial, that would allow me to start making calls more. But it was kinda clear once Matt was voted off that my chances weren’t looking good, so then I immediately started focusing on how I could stay, which did not work.
HitFix: You said in that last exit video that you couldn’t have done anything differently. You’ve had months to reflect on it. Has that opinion changed at all?
Julia: Not really. I’ve definitely had many months to think about it. The only thing is… Unfortunately I came off as “vanilla” according to Cochran, but really trying to take the game by the reins… There’s not much I would have done differently. Maybe I could have approached Corinne instead of Dawn and started planning things on Phillip, but I really felt at the time that had I not tried to make a move and just continued to suck up to Phillip, he was getting frustrated with me talking and he got mad at me for talking about how we played in the challenge. He literally said, “OK. You are not in a place where you can critique our challenge performance.” So clearly before I did anything, I was on his bad side again, which I felt was completely outrageous. So yeah. That was kinda the position I was in. But I wouldn’t have done anything different.
HitFix: As you think back, do you think there was any sort of right or correct move when it came to handling Phillip and handling that kinda absurd double-agent test?
Julia: It’s hard to say, because who knows what’s going on inside that brain. I will always question had I really just continued to suck up to him, make sure that I made it very clear that I would be his double agent, would that have offset whatever was bugging him about me? And I don’t know. Maybe I would have made it at least one night further, but I was not convinced I would. So I don’t think there’s a right move with Phillip. You could try to stay under the radar with him or try to suck up to him… So I’m not sure. He’s over twice my age and I think I operate on a very different level than he does.
HitFix: In what respect?
Julia: I think his reference to me as “The Girl,” kinda showed his impression of me, being maybe a little more submissive and that’s definitely not the personality I take on in real life and I wasn’t going to have it on the island. So I wonder if there was like a tension there. I’m not sure. I had a really hard time sitting back and letting him bully over everyone when there was a really good chance I was going to get voted off anyway.
HitFix: Along those lines, how is Real World Julia different from the person we saw on “Survivor” the past few weeks?
Julia: I work extremely hard. I’m a race car driver. I go to Stanford, which is an incredibly difficult university. I’m a go-getter. I wouldn’t have made it this far, I wouldn’t have this many wins in racing, I wouldn’t be at a place like Stanford if I wasn’t a go-getter who was really engaging around people. I’ve built Julia Landauer Racing as my business and I wouldn’t have been able to bring in really quality people if I didn’t have a personality. No one wants to work with someone who’s boring. So it was really interesting that my real life and “Survivor” life didn’t correlate. I’m not a particular drama queen and maybe that worked against me. Maybe I need to be more blatant in my opinions of people. But that’s another thing, being so young, I have lived — I’ve been in school and I’ve been racing — and so maybe some more real world experience would have helped me out a little bit on “Survivor.” Who knows? If I could play the game two years from now, it might be totally different from the one I played now, because I’m so very young.
HitFix: Could you sense as you were out there that maybe you weren’t being yourself? That you were being quieter and more reserved than you might be in your actual life?
Julia: Well, in the beginning I was intentionally staying under the radar and working hard at camp. But then, I didn’t think that I was being particularly quiet, definitely through these things I started getting a little burnt out, especially with all the losses that we had. I think that if you compare me to a Corinne or to a Phillip, I’m much less outrageous than they are. You know? I wonder if some of that worked against me. Also, by the time I got to Bikal… They didn’t show a lot of me at Gota. They didn’t show that there was singing, there was making voices with each other and they don’t show any of that. And once we got to Bikal, it was really scrambling. So I think that situation kinda worked against me in terms of letting personality show.
HitFix: You mentioned Cochran’s “vanilla ice cream” monologue earlier. Once you heard that very, very, very long monologue…
Julia: Seriously!
HitFix: What was your reaction to seeing that?
Julia: My first reaction was, “Wow. I don’t think of Cochran as being the most engaging personality on the island,” so it was interesting coming from him. And two, I was surprised he went on as long as he did. I would have moved on to bigger and better things. I mean, as I’ve said many times, why beat the dead horse continuously. I don’t know. I knew that it was more likely to have me be a little offended in “Survivor” than not, so I kinda just prepared for that. I have pretty tough skin. Corinne calling me “nasally” beforehand was good preparation for what Cochran had to say. But I was surprised, I’ll be honest.
HitFix: You started to hint at it a couple minutes ago, but tell me a couple things about your “Survivor” experience that you really wish people had gotten to see…
Julia: Yeah! Back on the original Fans tribe, Michael and I strategized a whole lot. We really thought out the whole game, what would be the best move long-term and short-term. The cameras showed Sherri calling a lot of the shots and I think Michael, Matt and I actually did a lot as well that was not shown. I was really happy that they showed Eddie saying that I was the strongest female in the tribe, because I really did contribute in the challenges and worked my butt off around camp, so I was really an asset, but that was clearly not portrayed at all. Even on Bikal, I was trying to mesh with them and it might have just been that the personalities were not meant to mesh very well, but I really wish some of the strategy had been shown more, because obviously that’s what you go out there to play, but unfortunately they didn’t want to show that.
HitFix: You found yourself in the original tribe in that really awkward alliance in which everyone was sorta pretending that they could tolerate Shamar just to stay as a majority. When did you realize that that was a dangerous alliance to be in?
Julia: The fact that no one could talk to Shamar, who was in the alliance, is clearly a red flag. I almost think that an alliance of six is almost too big to try and handle. I started to realize that. We had a lot of stuff hitting the fan, everything from wondering whether or not he was going to quit, that was back and forth several times, and then if he quit and we lost we had to get rid of another player and there was a lot back and forth. I think we almost had to take a break from strategizing just to make sure that we would all be there the next morning. It was tough and it was starting to become clear, right before he left, that maybe this was not as good of an alliance as it could have been.
HitFix: Do you think you had alternatives back then? Or is that another place that you didn’t have alternatives?
Julia: No, I don’t think so. I’ve been thinking about for months, obviously. There’s not a whole lot I feel like I could have done different. It was very clear that I was not at the Cool Kid Table at lunch, so I couldn’t join them. Sherri and I got along, but we never had a great bond and so staying with Laura, Matt and Michael was my best bet and I tried to make that work.
HitFix: And as a last question: What are your feelings about vanilla ice cream in your everyday life?
Julia: So vanilla ice cream is delicious. I understand why people hate on it, but it’s so good. I really liked the tweet that maybe I’m more like mint chocolate chip, because I did that graceful bow as I left. I don’t know if he was just proud of his analogy, if that was really creative of him and he’d been thinking about and planning it out for a while. Like I’ve said, I dealt with all the “pale” comments and needing to shave. It’s like “Come on, people. We don’t have razors out there.” I don’t know. Now it’s amusing. I’m glad I can say that I’m amused by what’s going on.
HitFix: It’s probably much healthier that way.
Julia: Yeah. Seriously. I’m glad I’m not losing a whole lot of sleep over this.