Picking Sierra Dawn Thomas as the winner of Survivor: Game Changers before the season seemed like a great idea at the time. She entered the season as a last-minute replacement for Natalie Anderson without a big target on her back, and she was someone who made it fairly far into the show and seemed like a capable physical threat.
Yet, unfortunately, none of these attributes matter when you’re on the wrong side of the numbers and you’re getting duped by someone in Sarah Lacina who you perceive to be your friend. Sierra was voted out on Wednesday night; to make matters worse, she gave up her Legacy Advantage to Sarah, thinking that she was one of the people still on her side. Suffice it to say, there was a LOT to get into today with Sierra about that moment, some of her other alliances this season, and a whole lot more.
CarterMatt – So what do you ultimately think happened?
Sierra Dawn Thomas – I had no intention of telling anyone about my secret advantage, and then I tell [Sarah], and then I tell her ‘if y’all vote me out, I’m going to give it to you.’ I feel like that is solely the reason I went home. I am very upset about my choices, but it is what it is.
Let’s get into the psychology into this, because I’m sure now it’s easier to see all of that because you’re rested and not out there now. After about a month in the game being hungry and exhausted, what sort of impact was that having on your brain?
I’m losing a lot of weight at this point, I’m feeling very week physically and mentally. Me and Sarah are having an hour-long conversation, and she’s crying talking about home and making me cry. We had this beautiful connection, and out of nowhere I just start telling her. I could see it in my eyes when I was watching it last night: I knew I shouldn’t be telling her. It took me back to that moment. The second after I said it I was like ‘what are you saying, Sierra’? I had no control over it. She hook-line-and-sinkered me. She made me feel comfortable, vulnerable, and then I Hail Mary’ed it and did it in the wrong way.
I should have lied and said I had one, but made up some sort of cool lie [or twist] about it. I shouldn’t have told the whole truth.
How much more fluid was the whole alliance situation out there? From our end it looks like there’s two very clear sides, but I imagine that wasn’t actually the case and it was really complicated.
It was. Sarah was one of my go-to people along with Brad, and I spent a lot of time with her. We had conversations every night and every morning. I really connected with her, and I thought that she had my back. Obviously my connection with Brad was really good, and I was close with Troyzan. Even with Andrea, I love the girl to death. Like you saw last night, we’re trying to say why the other person deserves to go home and we can’t even do that because we love each other.
Socially, I do get along with a lot of people. I tried to reach out to everyone.
You talk about Brad in there. How different was the guy that you saw versus the who many people perceived him to be going in?
Brad is an amazing man. My connection with him was from day one. Most people know that I gel with guys a little bit more than I do with girls; I just generally hang out with guys more. I was also really close with JT in the amount of time that I got to spend with him.
I think Brad learned from his first season what he had to do differently, just like I learned. He was great. He was a great listener, and he did everything that he needed to do to change from his first time around.
The first time you played, the perception was that you stuck with one alliance the whole way through. How much of that influenced your decision to come out this time, be ‘the new Sheriff in town’ as you said at one point, and really try to play big?
A lot. I knew that I could be the social girl who everyone loves and wants to keep around; but, in the end, what am I going to have to speak for my case at the end? I was going into the next game with all of these ‘Game Changers’ who have played this game multiple times, so I needed to have a million reasons why I deserved to win a million dollars. I needed to have all of these little reasons to tell people why I deserved to win the game. The first time I played, I [didn’t have them]. I would’ve just said ‘I love y’all and we’re friends,’ but that doesn’t deserve the title of Sole Survivor. I wanted to have legit reasons this time.
I want to start by going back to the very beginning for a minute. Did coming on the show last minute change your preparation in any way?
100%. After getting the call so last-minute, mentally I wasn’t prepared. I would’ve put on some more weight, and I feel like other people may have had pre-game alliances. I didn’t really get that chance. I felt like the underdog, especially since I didn’t feel like I deserved to be there. Hello! Look at some of the other people out there — I’m going to go play? I started questioning myself.
If I had more time, I could’ve talked myself up and had more confidence, but in the end being thrown in there last-minute was probably the best thing. I didn’t have too much time to question myself. I just started playing hard.
One of the interesting things, and one of the reasons why I thought you could win this season, is because you look back at seasons like Micronesia and All-Stars, they were won by people who were under-the-radar the first time. Did you feel like that in some ways made you more of a target?
I think so. I watched a lot of the interviews from before the game started, and a lot of people said the person who didn’t deserve to be there was me. Hearing them say that, maybe they were intimidated! Maybe they were thinking ‘here comes this girl who played this social game, but what is she going to do this time? Is she going to play harder? Is she just going to get by?’
How much of an awareness was there about Tai’s idols?
I had no idea he had two in his pocket, honestly. You question it — it’s Game Changers. There are going to be idols, and everyone is talking about it. Your mind questions everything. If someone walks off, you’re like ‘are they looking for an idol? Did they find an idol? Where are they going? Where do they put their stuff?’
Even with my secret advantage, I was terrified to leave it in my bag, so I ripped the seam of my boots, put it in the seam, and then wore my boots all of the time. I was so paranoid that someone was going to go through my stuff — I was even scared to bury it somewhere because I thought someone would find it!
In terms of the family visit, I imagine that it had to be hard not getting to spend time with your loved one, but did that experience of being left behind influence why you thought Michaela and Tai were with you?
For sure. This was also our second time not going on reward — the same group of people. We were let down the first time, and we were let down even more this time.
When you are let down emotionally and you’re at the bottom, you reach for everything. We were connecting out there, and I truly feel like Michaela would’ve voted for Andrea if I hadn’t told Sarah [about the advantage] and Sarah hadn’t told her. I had Michaela, and Michaela had Tai at that point.
Who was your ideal final three?
For sure Brad, and that point probably either Sarah or Troyzan. Probably Troyzan honestly.
Troyzan’s been almost a ghost this season. What was your take on what he was doing out there?
Troyzan had my best interest at heart out there. He was very loyal to me. As far as strategy, he just went with the flow. He wasn’t trying to put a target on his back and was playing the social game, trying to help out around camp. He was afraid to do too much to put a target on his back.
So you’ve done this twice now. Is there any desire to go through this madness again?
Call me crazy, but I think so! I think I’ve seen so much growth from my first time to the second, so I can’t imagine the type of player I’d be the third time. I learned a lot this time, and I feel like I could really do some amazing things if given the opportunity to play again.
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