ET hopped on the phone with Sandra the morning after the moment she said would never happen, where she opened up about the fateful moment host Jeff Probst finally snuffed her torch -- and answered all our burning questions about her hilarious stunts this season.
ET: Jeff Probst said multiple times that you were so eager to jump back into Survivor that you even blindly said yes to joining this season without knowing what they were asking you. When you heard the title of the season was Game Changers, did that give you any pause?
Sandra Diaz-Twine: No. It didn't matter to me. It's just some of the people I saw, it was like, “How are they game changers?” or “I don't even recognize that person.” So some of the people I felt didn't deserve to be in Game Changers, but that opinion changed for me very quickly.
Who were the people that you weren't so sure about when you started?
Like Hali or Sierra Dawn Thomas, like Zeke and Michaela, not knowing what they were all about. People like that, Michaela even, why are you a Game Changer? But some of the other ones, it was obvious why they were Game Changers, but now after the fact, I want to say that this is probably going to be the number one season.
That's a big statement coming from you.
Yeah, considering I've been on the top seasons, you know, Peal Islands being one until Heroes vs. Villains came along, and then that became number one, and I want to say that I hope Game Changers will be number one, followed by the other two.
It seemed like from the beginning, you were the one to beat. You obviously had a lot of confidence this season, but from an outside perspective, are you surprised they waited so long to vote you out?
That's the thing -- the only reason I got voted out was because I pulled the buff. Had I gone to Exile Island or went to the Mana tribe, I wouldn't be going home sixth. I would've made it past day 16. So really, them taking me out was just the opportunity that they took once I ended up getting this raw deal. So I had a feeling that they were going to come after me, just being that it was five against two, why not? I don't know these people, I don't have any connections with any of them. So they just did to me what I would've eventually done to each and every one of them. They didn't give me the opportunity.
You took an interesting approach in your final tribal council, sort of flying under the radar, and pointing out the bigger threats…do you think that was the best move looking back?
Once I got there, I had a conversation with Ozzy, and I said, “Ozzy, I'm trying to offer you the same deal I had offered Malcolm.” Malcolm, to me, was my number one guy. Malcolm was gone. I said, “Ozzy, I will protect you, if you would just take care of me now. You know, help me get to the merge, and I will turn around and repay the favor, because they like you, they love you, you're feeding them. You're taking care of them, you're winning the challenges, but when push comes to shove, and it's every man for himself, they're going to come after you, and you need someone on your side. And I will do anything you want. I will vote the way you tell me to. We don't even need to have a discussion. You tell me what you want, I'll do it and I'll get it for you.” And I thought I was good, so I didn't expect it to be me, but I still wasn't 100 percent sure, you know, maybe he is blowing smoke. So I was totally prepared, but at the end of the day, there was not one other thing I don't think I could've done to save myself from that tribal council. From the minute I got over there, they knew they wanted me out, and they weren't going to let me get my foot in the door, because once I do, it's over.
So going off that, is there anything you really regret?
The only thing I could've done differently was pick a different buff, pick the Mana buff and go back to Troyzan and Hali and Michaela and Aubry, or go to Exile Island and wait for Cochran to give me, you know, some advice on how to win a third time.
The funny thing is that people were pointing out that they're not sure what advice Cochran could've given you, a two-time winner. What do you think you would've talked about?
He brings a different perspective to the game. I could've told him how I felt, how it was going thus far, talk about the players that were out there, just for him to give me maybe different alternatives to move forward. Sometimes I'm just one-sided, it's just what's good for Sandra, and as long as it ain't me, I don't care. But Cochran could've given me some different options, you know, that I could work with. He does have a different way of playing the game, so I would've definitely soaked in whatever knowledge he sent my way. I would've loved to go to Exile Island, and I would've never told anyone what I did... I would've said it was so horrible, forget it. “You don't want to be there. It was lucky it was me and not them.” Like, I would've lied about that, but that would've been so awesome. That would've been for me.
Debbie had the choice between a fake immunity idol kit, an extra vote or an advantage for her tribe. Did she make the right decision? Which would you have chosen?
She did [make the right decision]. I would've taken the extra vote. That's like certainty, like that one extra vote. Sometimes that's all you need, you know, for the game to go your way when you're down in numbers, so she definitely picked the right one. And I'm sure... Debbie doesn't need help from Cochran, but I'm sure that they spoke about it or she took it anyway, but that was the best choice.
Bringing it back to tribal... That moment where Probst finally snuffs your torch was torture to watch. Describe that moment.
Once he said my name, really, the only other time my name was ever written down was by Rupert and Colby on Heroes vs. Villains. Like, unless they're giving me the million dollars, my name never comes up. Like, it's not a thing. So I was like, “Dang, they played me.” But I think it all boils down to Tai constantly grabbing his pocket and squeezing what we thought was either a rock or shell or the actual Immunity Idol, and if Tai had gone through with what he said by throwing out Ozzy's name, Ozzy would have been in bad shape, so I think it ended up being me after the fact. Once I got voted off, I was like, “I don't understand what happened. I'm still thinking it was going to be Tai. Tai kept grabbing his pocket. If Tai were to really write down Ozzy's name, and Ozzy would've panicked and thought me and Varner were going to do the same, then Tai would've played his idol, and Ozzy would've gone home.” So out of fear of that happening, once he chimed in and was like, “Tai, who can you trust? Let's follow the plan,” it just came down to me going home.
You received applause from your tribe while leaving. What did that feel like? Did you know they all had you up on a pedestal?
Yeah, well, I actually prepared to be voted out. My husband, every night we would talk about it, he'd be like, “Baby, you have to be OK with it, because you would've done to them what they're going to try to do to you.” Like, I'm always the one sending people packing, and I don't think twice about it. Like, I don't care. You're going home and that's it. So it's only fair that I leave with dignity. Like, I loved that episode last night, actually. To see how much they feared me, like, my god, I didn't even know I was that... for someone to have that much fear of me being in the game... and Sarah told me, “I can't believe you've gone through so many tribal councils, and you're still here.” That was so tough to me. I was like, “Oh my god, if I'm going to collect kills, I better go do it now, because Sarah ain't having none of it.”
Almost every person I’ve spoken to tapped you for their final three or winner. Who's at the top of your list now?
Oh my god, there's so many people playing good games out there right now. You know, Aubry's playing the game. Aubry knows how to play the game to get to the end, she's awesome. Sarah's playing a good game, Zeke's playing a good game. Culpepper's playing a good game. Troyzan's playing... everyone's out there because they contribute different things to this game, and no one's out there by accident. They're all Game Changers for a reason. We probably didn't see that at the beginning, but as they get deeper into the game, they're having to pull from these, you know, bag of tricks, and they're having to come and play the game. So there's no one out there that's not doing what they're supposed to be doing.
You had a lot of great moments in the 16 days you played this season, including eating the sugar. Do you have a favorite stunt?
Yeah, I think the sugar was the best. And it was just that, you know, J.T. was the one drinking all the coffee, with the exception of the little seven drops Michaela had that one time. He was the one enjoying all the sugar. Then I saw Aubry's interview, where she had gotten into the sugar herself, but all that time, I thought, 'You know, J.T.'s the only one enjoying all this coffee and sugar. You know? No one else is touching it.' So I just had a spoon of sugar... Varner was drinking just a little bit, but not a lot. I took this one spoon of sugar, and forget it. I was so happy, I was like, “Man, I'm going to have to get into this sugar again.” And then it just... J.T. just had something for Michaela. Like, he would open up a coconut, and he would purposely bring it to me, I'd take a sip, he'd walk it over to Varner, give him a sip, take it to Aubry, give her a sip, take it to Malcolm or whoever and give them a sip, and Michaela could be standing there, and he would not offer her some of his coconut. And he'd finish it. There was something about Michaela, that, in his eyes, he just could not stand her. I don't know why.
He told me last week that he still doesn't think that she deserved to be on this season.
Yeah, but does he deserve to be on this season? You know, a lot of people are saying that now after he screwed up Heroes vs. Villains and he threw this one too, like -- and I don't even want to bring up Stephen [Fishbach's] name, but Stephen maybe deserved the million dollars, so maybe J.T. owes Stephen money. So J.T. can't say that no one is deserving, because look how he screwed up his game. Always coming after me when I never was coming after him. I didn't even know he was coming after me until I saw it on TV, to be honest with you. He came after me in Heroes vs. Villains, but I forgave that, because he did vote for me to win the million, so it was a wash, but to come after me again a second time for no reason... when we got over there, and it was five to one, I told him straight up, “You don't have to worry about anything. We've been trying to get rid of Aubry for quite some time. This is our chance.” And what does he do? He turns around right back and tells Aubry everything. J.T. is a snitch!
Those are some fighting words, Sandra!
No, I mean, I get along with everyone. I love them all. I spent 23 days in Vietnam with these people, everyone who got voted off, so you get to know them on a different level, more intimate. You really get to know these people separate from the stressful game of Survivor. But at the end of the day, I honestly believe that J.T. does have a problem with any woman that's in charge, or any woman that's vocal, you know?
I have to ask -- do you wish they would've let you kill the goat?
I would've, like, never actually killed it, like with my own hands. I was going to eat it, but here's the thing: on that episode when Malcolm went home, we're eating big pieces of meat, and that's not chicken and that's not fish, OK? And I didn't have nothing to do with any of that. So, my thing is we got onto that new Nuku tribe, and J.T.'s showing us around the island, and showing us around camp, and he takes us to where they already had a trap set up for the goats. They just hadn't caught one. So we didn't know there were goats there until J.T. said it, and even after they caught the goat, we kept the goat for 24 hours, and then it spent the night making noises. The mama wasn't eating, the mama wasn't drinking the water we were giving her. She wasn't letting the baby nurse, and J.T. was the one that said, “The baby has to go first because the meat is more tender and the baby will die anyway if we kill the mama.” So I'm just repeating what I'm learning. I am not a farmer. So it just all came out of my mouth wrong, and that's what happened. But all this stuff that I'm saying is stuff that's being already told to me, and I'm just repeating it.
Would you play again?
I would. When I first got voted off, I said I wouldn't, but a month later, I'm like, “Yeah, I'll go out there again.” I don't think I tarnished my record, because at the end of the day, I won twice. No one else has done it. So I felt like I played a successful game. Although I did get voted off, which I totally expected to happen, eventually, there's nothing I would've done different, other than pick the right buff or go to Exile Island. That's the only reason I was sent packing.