Survivor: Island of the Idols interview: Sandra Diaz-Twine on the mentor experience

Sandra Diaz-TwineTonight on CBS,  Survivor: Island of the Idols comes roaring back with another new episode, and hopefully that means that we will see more of this season’s central twist! After a week off following the tribe swap, rest assured that there will be a chance to see Sandra Diaz-Twine and Rob Mariano educate some select players on the game … with some challenges mixed in there for fun. It’s a chance to get advice from two of the best players ever!

Now that we are getting deeper into the game we felt that this was a good time to hear from Sandra herself. In our interview, the two-time Survivor champ takes us through her journey with Rob, why players are keeping the twist secret, and the one task she’s enjoyed this season the most.

Have you seen our weekly Survivor videos? Check out an exclusive sneak peek at tonight’s episode below, plus our own discussion about our interview with Sandra! Be sure to subscribe to CarterMatt on YouTube so you don’t miss our new videos every week and visit our Survivor playlist!

CarterMatt – You’ve been around Rob for a long time now, and mostly separate from just about everyone else. How has that relationship evolved going into where we are now?

Sandra Diaz-Twine – Rob and I played together on Heroes vs. Villains, but he got voted out on day 16. From the moment that I saw him and we were on the same tribe, we clicked. When I applied originally for Survivor, they always ask that one question of ‘what Survivor player are you most like?’. I always said Boston Rob and Boston Rob only; I saw a lot of similarities between me and him.

Sixteen days we spent together, and now we’re going to be out there for a long time. I didn’t get in his way and he didn’t get in mine. If he walked off and didn’t invite me, I didn’t go — we always had our separate time and our together time. He would tell me what he was doing and I would tell him what I was doing.

The part of the island we were on was small, so it’s not like he could go far without me seeing what he was doing. He always thought about his family, with his girls being so small and Amber being alone with them. He’d walk up and down the beach and pace. Then, we’d get to work. I never, never had a fight with him or anything of that nature.

So, no recreations of you versus Johnny Fairplay?

No, no, no. We knew that we were there for a specific reason, which was to wait for someone to come to the Island of the Idols while also building a better shelter for ourselves. So we’re just going to be working, and keeping busy. We did a lot of island beautification too — for some reason the wood around the islands would end up on our island. We constantly had bonfires, just cleaning up and collecting shells — just making it pretty, you know?

What’s been really curious about this season is watching people come to you and Rob, do these tasks, and then go back to camp and try to lie about it. Then, with Noura it was a situation where I was just like “what are you doing?”  when she was trying to convince people to let her be the caller. What is it like watching that back, and what would you do if you were in that situation coming back from Island of the Idols?

Well, that’s the thing not everyone understands — everyone’s telling the same lie because you don’t want to say something different than the previous person. Me and Rob kept telling them ‘knowing that we’re out here is knowledge and power. It can hurt you or you it can help you.’ People are not going to believe that we’re out there if someone else is telling a different story and, in a way, we wanted to see how long the secret would last.

Let’s say after Noura came out, what if she was like ‘Oh my god, now I gotta go back and talk to Kellee about this.’ In essence, it’s like maybe you want to reach out to this person, but do you really want to tell the whole world? Not everyone’s going to come out here. And, another thing about Island of the Idols is that every experience for every player is going to be different. So, they don’t know that they’re going to meet both of us. We just told them that what happens at Island of the Idols stays at Island of the Idols. Nobody is ever going to know anything from me or Boston Rob. We won’t acknowledge that certain people came or what happened.

What if you came, Matt, and you only met Rob and not me? Why would you divulge that information? Everyone’s information is going to be different. Also, why would you go and tell the truth since it could actually hurt you? Now, you have enemies since you don’t know what position they were put in or what kind of lesson they learned.

A lot of people at home are like ‘oh my gosh, why are they telling a stupid lie?’ — well, it works because people can relate. They’ve watched previous seasons and they realize it’s the same situation all over again — you play or you don’t play.

Is it fun for you and Rob to just live within the world that you’re in? I don’t know if it’s hard to just get a little bit of information and have to keep so many different conversations hidden. Is it fun to live in that environment?

It is, but you have to understand one thing too — we’re only learning things from the players, or what we’re learning in Tribal Council. Whatever they tell Jeff that they think is going to happen at Tribal is the opposite of what actually happens, so you can’t even believe what they’re saying. You get what I’m saying? It’s very confusing.

A lot of times when they come to see us, we’re trying to get to know them, asking them about their Survivor experience, or if they were a fan — we want to get to know them first. Then we want to get to know what’s happening on the tribe and it’s their perspective, but it could be the opposite of what they think because they got voted out! Just because they tell us one thing, it doesn’t mean anything.

We’re also trying to keep track of who the players are. I can’t remember what our conversation was with Elizabeth! If she says she’s in a tribe with certain people, we’re trying to remember who she had an alliance with! It took me a couple of days to put names to faces. Even when I was playing in the Pearl Islands, I couldn’t remember Trish’s name for a long time and I would call her Tricia. Just because they’re telling us stuff doesn’t mean I’m going to be memorizing it — every situation and player is different.

One of the weird quirks with you and Rob both is despite you being incredible players, neither of you has ever been on a jury. How weird is it to be a spectator at these Tribal Councils and is it hard to even accept that role after playing?

It’s easy for me to accept this role because everyone knows I love Survivor and I love winning Survivor. Everything else I hate. I hate challenges. For me, having to sit there and wait for a visitor, I’m okay with it! I don’t have to strategize and have no issues with Boston Rob.

We call [where we watch the players] the hotbox — it was really hot. We were surrounded by lights. They can’t see us, but we could see them, so it was a struggle. People are always like ‘why are you going in there with no shoes?’ — well, our shoes are soaking wet and we don’t want to sit there in the hotbox for hours in soaking wet shoes.

We’re sitting there and we’re watching them. We’re paying attention but, like I said, whatever’s going to happen is the opposite of what they’re saying.

I really enjoy seeing the behind the scenes stuff, and just seeing how big and how difficult Survivor really is. I don’t know how Jeff does it and he does a wonderful job at it. I don’t know how he keeps them straight- there will never be another Jeff.

But, it’s easy for me to watch them. I don’t have to worry about being voted out. When I play Survivor, I don’t play to be on the jury; I play to win and that’s it. I don’t think about being on the jury.

Out of the tasks so far, what was the most enjoyable one? I gotta say, I loved the one that Vince was tasked with.

I actually wanted to go with Vince — I really wish I could’ve gone with him. I would give him more encouragement like ‘you could do this.’

My favorite, though, was the one with Noura. What you guys didn’t see is that we actually practiced with Noura as a caller, [as well as] with Rob as a caller and with Noura actually doing it. I’m hoping that will show up eventually as a secret scene, because we went out to the beach and put coconuts in different places and put little logs, crisscrossed like a tripod. We were trying to help her because we knew she needed help as a caller.

By the time we finished, we thought that she was going to be straight — but then, watching her go back to the tribe and screw it up, we were like ‘oh my god, all that practice for nothing.’

What sort of fun stuff is going to be coming up for you and Rob there? I know you can’t give too much away.

Not this week, but next week if I remember — that one is going to be awesome. Everyone is going to enjoy that one from beginning to end. It’s going to have something that happens that usually happens on Survivor and people are usually glued to the TV waiting for it to happen. (Update: Sandra was actually talking about the Island of the Idols this week — which did live up to the billing. We won’t spoil it if you haven’t seen it already.)

What do you want to see on Survivor: Island of the Idols next?

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