Last night’s Survivor: Game Changers episode was incredibly exciting, given that we had multiple idol finds, an extra vote, a random John Cochran appearance, and then the departure of arguably the greatest Survivor player ever in Sandra Diaz-Twine. Even though she didn’t make the merge this time, some of the impressive moves that she pulled off this season almost further cemented her legacy. She was almost an impossible target this season, but even with that she made it past multiple Tribal Councils. It ultimately felt like the biggest thing she was victim to last night was a tribe swap that shifted the numbers outside her favor.
In our Sandra Diaz-Twine interview below, you can see our full conversation with the two-time winner. As she would say, the Queen stays Queen. This is a fantastic chat, and one we really enjoyed given that we hadn’t spoken with her since the end of Heroes vs. Villains almost seven years ago.
CarterMatt – How have things been for you since last night’s episode aired? I’m sure that you’ve gotten a lot of love from the Survivor community?
Sandra Diaz-Twine – Some people [are sad to see me go], some are like ‘better late than never.’ I get it. I gotta put my big-girl panties on. Not everyone loves me and that’s okay.
How do you feel about your game this season looking back right now? It’s sad that you’re gone at this point, but you also made some of your most impressive moves this season.
Sandra Diaz-Twine – I’m happy with my performance, and I actually liked last night’s episode other than me getting voted off. The fact that these people actually feared me to the point of throwing the challenge to get rid of [me], it speaks volumes. (Note: More on that later.)
I never thought that I was so feared, but I love it. I think it’s a great cast and a great season. I think it’s going to drive up to #1 and take Heroes vs. Villains out. I’m really happy.
CarterMatt – When you were voting last night, you seemed confident that Tai was going home. Was that the case?
I thought Tai was going home, because I had a conversation with Ozzy where I told him ‘look. Malcolm’s gone and he was my #1. I want you to be my #1. I’ll protect you. I know they love you when you’re bringing them fish, but they’re going to come after you. I’ll do whatever you say, I’ll write down whatever name you want. I won’t question anything. I’m your girl.’ I thought he understood what I was offering, and I thought he was sincere when he said yes.
I didn’t know that Tai was so insecure until watching it on TV, but he blatantly said he was fearful of Ozzy. I thought that was the nail in the coffin, and all Ozzy needed to hear [to vote him out]. Then, Zeke tried to spin it like ‘who do you trust, Tai? You need to stick to the plan.’ That’s when he didn’t play his idol and that’s when my name started coming out.
It was a fantastic Tribal Council, and Tai kept grabbing onto his pocket like he had a rock or a shell in there. I think Ozzy got scared. When I left my interview [after being voted out] I was like ‘I don’t know what happened, I think Ozzy got scared that if Tai played an idol, he could potentially go home.’ There are just so many things that are running through your head at Tribal Council that you really can’t put your finger on it.
Even watching Tribal Council back this morning, I was still somewhat confused as to how everything went down. Do you think there was any sort of plan or production that they put on to try to throw you off, or was everything with Tai and the rest of the players organic?
I don’t think any of it was planned. After the fact I found out that they threw the challenge to actually ensure that nobody from their alliance — which was Culpepper, Sierra, or Cirie — got voted out, since they would be outnumbered by Troyzan, Hali, Michaela, and Aubry. In a way, it was a two-for-one. They could throw the challenge and get rid of me, and then their people could stay in the game.
There are so many ways that they could have gone to get rid of me, but they didn’t want me anywhere near the puzzle. Jeff and I were laughing [after the fact] because we look so dumb while everyone was ‘pulling’ that thing through the sand. So what you saw was me and Varner pulling that doggone thing through the sand all by ourselves.
You’ve found an idol before, so was that something you were doing before Tribal Council?
They don’t show how much you look for idols. We actually looked for an idol as a group — we actually spent two hours looking for it. It wasn’t a big secret. I had looked for the idol before.
When I was in the Mana tribe I actually made a fake idol, and it was probably the best fake idol ever made on Survivor. I put it in my bra, I start looking for the real idol, and I forgot I had it. Then Caleb [confronted me about having it later] and I had to come clean. It was like I was the criminal in front of jury, and they were asking ‘why would you do that? What was the purpose? Who was your target?’
Before the swap [after Tony’s elimination], Michaela was like ‘I think it’s a swap, so let’s take everything.’ I didn’t want to touch that idol since it had brought me so many problems, but Troyzan wanted to keep it. The good thing is that he ended up being outnumbered on this new tribe, and he had this idol that nobody from our old tribe could snitch about. No one knew that this idol was fake. Then, he had the real idol, a fake idol, and a clue — and a clue is just as powerful as an idol. He could do anything moving forward.
Let’s say, hypothetically, that Tony doesn’t get super-paranoid and go off his rocker. That alliance with you could’ve been one of the most entertaining ever! How long do you think you could’ve worked with Tony?
Yes, because I understood what Tony was talking about. For a winner to win, you have to have winners up there at the end. I never said Tony’s name until after we lost the challenge. That’s when Tony came up to me and said it was either Varner or Troyzan, because they were both over fifty years old and [didn’t contribute to the challenge]. I go back and tell Varner and Troyzan because they were my guys! I told them that they needed to catch him individually and figure out who he wants to go home. He was telling them that I needed to go because I was worthless.
Tony came after me before I even said anything about Tony. He kept saying that he had an alliance of five people. Malcolm was my main guy, and I told Malcolm everything. I told him that Tony was going to offer him this alliance of five people of me, him, Malcolm, Aubry, and Caleb, and when he does to let me know. He had several opportunities to talk to them about this potential alliance, but he never did until he wanted to get rid of me. He said he needed four people to vote me out.
Tony said that he offered him this five-person alliance — everyone sees things differently, but as far as I was concerned, Malcolm and Caleb each told me that he never broached the subject.
In your three seasons, have you experienced a Tribal Council similar to the one that you had with Malcolm being voted off?
That was the worst. We went in there with so much confidence, we knew that nothing would go wrong. How could six people lose somebody? Lo and behold, there’s always JT to screw things up. We’re not even sure how he won his first season. I said ‘if anybody screws this up, I’m going to beat your a–.’ That’s what I said.
After Malcolm goes home because of all the whispering, I was devastated. Then, JT was like ‘it’s okay guys, we have to move forward from this. I’m going to make sure we win and you guys would be fools to get rid of me.’ I was thinking ‘if we don’t win the next challenge, you’re going to pack your crap and you’re going home.’ What was the reason to keep him if we lose? It Malcolm had still been in the game, we would have easily been in first or second in that challenge because it would’ve been Malcolm and JT against Culpepper and whoever he had left, which would’ve been either Hali, Debbie, or Tai with Sierra gone.
One of your biggest strategies on the show’s always been ‘as long as it ain’t me.’ Did being such a big target the entire season make you change that in any way?
Well, nobody was really coming after me until after I ended up on the new Nuku tribe at that swap last night. Other than that I was with a good group of people. We all respected each other and talked to each other, with the exception of Aubry — I never had a good connection with Aubry. I had the numbers with me and was 100% and doing great.
As soon as I got over [to the new tribe] Sarah was like ‘I can’t believe you’ve made it this far after so many Tribal Councils.’ That is when I knew that these people weren’t going to let me put my foot in the door. They’re not going to let me make the merge because the merge was looming.
Let’s say you make it through last night — do you feel confident that you’d make it to the final three?
Man, I was already set up to make it to day 39. I really was. I was set up nicely.
Does losing this time make you hungrier to come back and play the game for a fourth time?
When I first got voted out I was like ‘I wouldn’t do this again,’ but after a month or so I was like ‘yeah, I’d go out there and do it again.’ I really would have to think it through and figure out who’s out there playing. Sometimes you think ‘yeah, I could go out there and play with these people,’ whereas other times you think you could be the first one out.
I would go out there and play again. I just wouldn’t say yes right off the bat without knowing what I’m getting myself into it.
More Survivor coverage
You can check out both our review for last night’s episode and a preview for what’s ahead over at the link here. Thanks to Sandra for her time today, and for being amazing throughout the season. (Photo: CBS.)
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