She can be blindsided and booted off Survivor, but Sandra Diaz-Twine will never be dethroned.
On the Wednesday, April 5, episode of Game Changers, the two-time winner — she’s the only contestant in the show’s 34-season history to hold that title — was sent home.
Still, “I’ll always be the queen,” Diaz-Twine, who has competed in 94 days of the game, tells Us Weekly. “Find somebody else that wins two times, not only win two times but win their original season and then the second season they appear on. Just because you won down the road after two tries, three tries, that doesn’t mean anything. You have to win like I won, and then we can think about if you’re really better than me.”
The North Carolina–based office exec, 42, talks game play with Us.
Us: You’ve already won $2 million. You should have been the first one out. How did you last 15 days?
SDT: Because I really tried to get to know each and every one of them and let them know, “Hey, you don’t have to fear me. I’m an ally. I’m a friend. I’m not your enemy.” Sometimes a lot of the things I say on TV don’t sound great, and the fans don’t like me. For people to say I’m nasty, that only happens when you’ve come at me, and now you have to feel my wrath. I’m really approachable. I’m a nice person, and I give everyone the benefit of the doubt. It’s when I’m screwed, that’s when you should have known better, and it’s over.
Us: Going into tribal council, did you have any inkling you were on the chopping block?
SDT: Watching the episode gave me a lot of clarity. I wasn’t that sad about it. I’m still not sad. I thought that I was solid with Ozzy [Lusth]. We had a conversation, and I said, “Look, they’re smiling in your face now, and they’re in your alliance now, but when it’s every man for himself, they’re going to come after you. This is your fourth time playing. If you don’t get it right this time, you’ll never get it right.” It sounded like he understood what I was saying, and he told me I was OK, and I believed him. I was like, “Finally, I’ve got someone on my side. I can move forward.” But at tribal council, Tai [Trang] was constantly grabbing onto his pocket like he had an idol. I think Ozzy got scared. In my eyes, that’s what had gone down. Not that they were plotting against me.
Us: At tribal council, Tai said he was going to vote with you. But he ended going against you. Surprised?
SDT: I guess he stuck to his plan. There wasn’t too much conversation that didn’t make it on the air. The fact that he was even whispering and saying out loud that he was after Ozzy — I was like, “Ozzy, this is all you need to hear to see that these people are already thinking about you. We haven’t even gotten to the merge.” I can see why Tai voted for me after Zeke [Smith] spoke to him, like, “Don’t do this. Everything is solid.” If Tai really felt like he was in serious trouble, he would have played his idol. He had two, so it’s not like using one and not having a backup. Either they were playing me the whole time or at the end, he just said, “OK, I’m going to go with them and show everyone I can be trusted.” Season after season and episode after episode, Tai cannot know the important information because he will open his mouth. You can’t say too many things in front of him, because he’s a loose cannon.
Us: When you saw Jeff Probst hold up your name, did you know this was the end?
SDT: I had a little bit of faith. Until he reads all the names, you’re really not out of the game. These people did the right thing. I would have voted each and every one of them out and not thought twice about it. Sarah [Lacina] told me to my face, she said, "I can’t believe you’ve been to so many tribal councils and you’re still here." If that doesn’t mean pack your crap then I don’t know what does. I knew that I had done everything that I could have possibly done, and I knew that the only reason I was in that position was because I grabbed the wrong buff. Had I gone to exile island or had I been lucky enough to go back to my Mana tribe, I would have been OK. I grabbed the wrong buff. I blame the twist more than I blame being with these people. Now I know that they actually threw the challenge because they were afraid if the other tribe had lost, one of theirs would have been kicked off. So the fact that that would even have had to go down for them to get rid of me speaks volumes. Little old me, the person nobody worries about at a challenge, you would actually throw a challenge to get rid of me? That’s how much you fear me? It’s awesome.
Us: Your tribe threw the challenge?
SDT: Well, I didn’t find out until after the fact, but that’s really what went into me going home: Get rid of Sandra plus make sure we still have the numbers and our people are not kicked off on the other side.
Us: What was your game-changing move this season?
SDT: I had so many! The biggest thing for me was taking out J.T. [Thomas, on the March 29 episode]. I would not have had to have that happen had J.T. not done what he had done. At the [March 22] tribal council, we were going in six strong, and there was no reason we shouldn’t have gone home six strong. We never let on that it was supposed to be Sierra [Dawn Thomas] until J.T. opened his mouth. The minute he did that, not only did he screw up Malcolm [Freberg]’s game, but he screwed up a bunch of games moving forward. All he had to do was be quiet. He didn’t have to give out her name. The minute he did that it was like, “Dude, if we don’t win the next challenge, you’re going home.”
Us: Would you play a fourth time?
SDT: I would. I won’t say that I would like an all-winners season, because then there is potential for the queen to not be the queen anymore. Right after I got my torch snuffed, I was like, “I’m done.” It keeps getting harder and harder as I get older. But then after a month, I’m ready to go back out there. I wouldn’t say yes right away, but I wouldn’t say no. I would have to think on it for 24 hours.
Us: What have you done with your $2 million?
SDT: I still have a lot of my money. I’m always couponing, and I’m always at the clearance racks. I live a very simple life. I’m not a wasteful person. I bought my house. Everyone has a car. I work every day, Monday through Friday. I didn’t let this money go to my head, and I’m not broke just yet!
Survivor airs on CBS Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET.
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