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Editor’s Note: The players were separated by gender and didn’t officially know the theme of the season when this interview took place.
Another Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted across from the giant “Boston” Rob and Sandra heads at the Island of the Idols.
Winner of “Pearls Islands” (2003) and “Heroes vs. Villains” (2010)
Name: Sandra Diaz-Twine
Hometown: Stamford, Connecticut
Current Residence: Riverview, Florida
Occupation: Case Manager at a Law Firm
Gordon Holmes: So, when you win this are they going to give you a bigger giant head? Will they replace Rob’s with a second one of you?
Sandra Diaz-Twine: The totem that I have, you don’t get a totem unless you’ve made it. But, I suspect if I win a third time I’m going to have a bigger crown.
Holmes: If you win a third time?
Diaz-Twine: (Laughs) When I win a third time.
Holmes: How is that not in your contract that that thing gets airlifted back to your house?
Diaz-Twine: I didn’t think about the totem, I didn’t think about taking it home because it’s so big. I believe it took them three barges just to get them out here. I was told that the head came on one barge, then the shoulders, then the actual machine that brought them out and set them down. And, if I’m not mistaken, they said some of the people that did “Game of Thrones” actually made them. So, we’re on that level.
Holmes: Is there any concern that the last thing people saw before coming out here was a trailer of you and “Boston” Rob being celebrated as idols?
Diaz-Twine: The first mention of the promo being put out there prior to us coming out to play…I didn’t take it so well because I wanted it to be a secret that I was out here for 36 days. These players are looking for any excuse to vote me out. That would just be something else for them to be jealous about. But, Jeff let me know early. And he said,” At the end of the day, you’re going to be a big target regardless.”
Holmes: It’s true.
Diaz-Twine: And then he said, “Before they come out to play, I’ll let them know that you were out here only as a mentor. You were never competing for the million dollars. You never competed in challenges or Tribal Council.” So, he was going to make that clear. There was no crazy twist where me and Rob were going to come back into the game.
Holmes: The last time we saw you play was in “Game Changers.” What’ve you been up to since then?
Diaz-Twine: Since “Game Changers” I went back to work, my regular life. I’ve been at the same law firm for the last seven years. That hasn’t changed. The only difference is when I did “Game Changers,” my husband is still active duty Army, we were stationed at Fort Gordon, Georgia.
Holmes: Hey, my favorite Fort.
Diaz-Twine: (Laughs) Yeah! But now we’re in Tampa. And come February we’re moving to Texas.
Holmes: When people think of you and your gameplay, what do you think they think of?
Diaz-Twine: I think they think of “The Queen.” A lot of fans have embraced it. Those who don’t like me, they wanted someone else to win, those are the ones that have negative things to say. But if someone sees me on the street, they say, “Oh my God, the Queen!” And they either want to bow down, or they’re like “Knight me!”
Holmes: (Laughs) Knight me?
Diaz-Twine: You don’t know how many times…they’ll get down. And I’ll do it. Or they want a picture or a hug. I get along with just about everybody. It’s rare for someone to recognize me, but if they know “Survivor,” I do give them my time.
Holmes: As the game’s only two-time winner, you’re obviously going to have a target on your back. So, what’s the plan? Do you switch things up?
Diaz-Twine: This time around I need to play from the bottom up. I play my best games when I’m at the bottom. When there’s no hope for me. That’s when I grind the hardest. I can’t come in like on “Game Changers” I had what I called “The Queen’s Army.” They were protecting me, but I was loyal to them. It wasn’t just a one-way street. You take care of me, I’m going to take care of you. They gravitated toward me, and I think that will happen again. I don’t think I’ll be one of the first ones out.
Holmes: You’ve played two all-star seasons. What’s the difference between a new player season and an all-star season as far as gameplay?
Diaz-Twine: In an all-star season, everything moves very fast. You have to roll with the punches or you’re going to get left behind and voted out. That’s simply how the game is. You have to adapt. Everyone is coming out here to play their own game and they have a lot of tricks up their sleeve. The game throughout the years has evolved. You can’t play the way you played back in the day. And a lot of players here, either they have a chip on their shoulders because they’re not loved as winners. You’ve got a couple of those here. Like Michele hears that Aubry (Bracco) should have won. You don’t want to hear that. I know what that’s like when people say that Parvati should have won or Russell (Hantz) should have won. You’ve got Ben, people are saying that Chrissy (Hofbeck) should have won. There’s a stereotype that, “Oh, production rigged it so he could do this fire-making challenge.” You know what I’m saying?
Holmes: Yeah, my counter to that is, aside from it being illegal to fix a gameshow, if production is rigging things, why don’t we have a loved winner every season?
Diaz-Twine: Right. So, they have a chip on their shoulder. They have something to prove. And, we have winners who know what it’s like to have been voted off. Tyson, Rob, if he’s out there, Amber, Parvati, Sarah, Tony…there are a bunch of us and we don’t like how that feels. We’ve won before, we know we can do it. This game it’s going to be; who can grab the majority first and destroy everybody else?
Holmes: They haven’t told us an official theme yet. Any guesses?
Diaz-Twine: The theme is definitely all winners. Every female here is a winner. I can only imagine from reading spoilers who the men are. But, those lists can be deceiving. I expected Tina (Wesson) to be out here. And instead I saw Amber, which I was shocked to see. We can’t talk yet, but there are winks and smiles and hmm…
Holmes: (Laughs) Who are you winking at? Who are you smiling at? And, who are you hmm-ing at?
Diaz-Twine: I think I’ve smiled at everyone just to see if I get a smile back. I smiled really hard at Sarah and I was thinking, “Yeah…you took me out on ‘Game Changers’…yeah…Sarah.”
Holmes: Did she read that telepathy?
Diaz-Twine: (Laughs) Oh no, she smiled back. She was probably thinking, “Oh Sandra…I like her…she’s coming to get me.”
Holmes: Have you noticing any groups sitting together?
Diaz-Twine: No, there’s always someone different. It’s a controlled area and we’re constantly having to go do this and do that. So, it’s like musical chairs. And, you’d be stupid to always be sitting next to the same person.
Holmes: That doesn’t stop people from being stupid.
Diaz-Twine: It never stops people from being stupid.
Holmes: You spent 36 days with Rob, right over there, does that open up an avenue to work with Amber?
Diaz-Twine: The crazy thing about the Island of the Idols is that “Boston” Rob told me, we’d bet a lot out there, we’d bet on hermit crab races and silly things. We were playing cards before we got out there. So, there was a bunch of money that had to be exchanged between the both of us. And he knew I was going to play. Halfway through the game Jeff said, “Would you play again, one last time?” And I said, “Jeff, you know I can’t say ‘no’ to you.” So, halfway through the game Jeff mentioned it to me. And at that point they had been talking about some winners and maybe some runners-up, it wasn’t an all-winners season. And somehow in the time I was out here it became a lot more winners than runners-up. So, Rob says to me, “Bet me money that you will not see me out here playing for the million dollars.” And I said, “Why not?!” And he said, “I have a huge target, it’s not worth it for me to come out here and be one of the first ones out. I play the odds and if it’s not in my favor, I’m not going to do it.” And I said, “What about your wife?” He says, “Once she finished playing ‘All-Stars’ she had zero desire to ever play again.” So, you can imagine my shock when I saw her as we were going to the airport. I’m expecting to see Tina, but I see Amber. I’m one of the first on the bus, and then I see her face. So in a way I was like, either the odds changed in Rob’s favor, cause he’s a poker player, he’s really good at math, to where it was worth sending her out here. And if he’s out here as well, the odds just increased in his favor. Cause now he has his wife out here and he has his poker playing crew which is Jeremy, Kim, and Tyson. So, if “Boston” Rob after 36 days out there kept saying, “No, no, no.” And then he got home and called Jeff and said, “Yes, we’re in.” That only means that something is going on. My eyes are wide open. Does that make sense?
Holmes: It does. It’s interesting to be alone with someone for so long…
Diaz-Twine: And we never fought one time. We got along really great, but three’s a crowd. And I’m a crowd. And not only that, he also explained to me that he regretted apologizing for everything that went down on “All-Stars.” He wanted to own his game. But, he was made to feel bad. And he would never, ever apologize again because his alliance is to his children and his wife. And if he ever played again, it would be for them. But, I love my family too. So, I’m not going to play to make sure that Rob is OK and Amber is OK and that they make it to the end. And when this is all said and done and I retire, I’ll be like him and say, “I don’t care if I speak to these people ever again.”
Holmes: Retire? So, this is it?
Holmes: I’ve heard you can’t say “No” to Jeff Probst.
Diaz-Twine: (Laughs) I told Jeff after these 39 days, this is it. My husband is getting ready to retire, I’m getting ready to retire. When I was home for those two weeks we really talked about “Survivor” a lot. It kept coming up. My husband kept bringing it up about how much time I’ve spent out here. My kids are gone, it’s just me, him, and the dogs and the house was empty. I could tell that he was missing me. So, I said, “This is it. This is for my retirement. Whatever happens, I’m going to say ‘Goodbye.’” But Jeff, if you ever need me on some boat called Exile Island for three hours, then you call me.
Holmes: Alright, let’s play Align or Malign. I’ve got the nine women you’re sharing a tent with. Tell me the four people you will work with and the five people you will avoid.
Diaz-Twine: That was easy. I’ve known Danni for a long time. I’ve known her since she won her season. I’ve done some charity events in Topeka, Kansas. I’ve worn some of her shirts from her business. I’d try my hardest out here not to hurt her. Michele, I don’t really know her, but I know that “Survivor” left a bad taste in her mouth. Like I said, Aubry should have won and not her, so she feels like she’s not deserving. To be secluded from the “Survivior” world, she might need people on her side and so do I. Denise I’ve known for a couple of years. We do events down in Florida. For some reason, although I don’t know her, know her, I don’t have her phone number. But, I get a good vibe from Denise, she worked with Malcolm. And Malcolm out in “Game Changers” was my guy. So, if Malcolm could work with Denise, I can work with Denise. Like a love triangle. Natalie, she’s stupid, I love her. I love the way she talks. She’s so ghetto, like me. She’s like “I don’t give a bloody (expletive deleted)!” And I’ll say, “Me neither, (expletive deleted).” I’ve spent time with Natalie, we did an event together and we shared the same hotel room. Separate rooms, but we were in the same hotel. I felt like I was a twin because her twin wasn’t there. She’s used to having that other person and that was me. I think we could work well together. The only problem with Natalie is she’s close with Jeremy and Jeremy is part of that poker crew.
Holmes: OK, why aren’t you working with this five?
Diaz-Twine: Sarah got rid of me in “Game Changers.” She was the one solely responsible for making that happen. Amber is with “Boston” Rob. That means that I’d be a third wheel. Parvati…should have won “Heroes vs. Villains” according to a bunch of people, but I’m glad that I did. She’s a force to be reckoned with. She was the alpha female until Kim came along. Kim is the alpha female, she’s part of that poker crew, she’s got to go. My only issue with Sophie is that she didn’t like that I’m called “The Queen.” She made a couple of statements on Twitter and the fans sent it all to me. She made amends by being Sandra Diaz-Twine for Halloween, so she dressed as me and wrapped herself in twine, which I thought was cute. I don’t know that it’s water under the bridge. I don’t know how she feels about me. I really don’t have any issues with her other than she lashed out at me first.
Holmes: Of these five, who’s out first?
Diaz-Twine: I looked at Parvati…but, there was a time that Parvati saved me, but I saved her first, so she owed me that. Kim first because there’s no attachment to her. I don’t call her, I don’t text her, I don’t say “Merry Christmas.”
Holmes: Of the four, who is your ride or die?
Diaz-Twine: Oh (expletive deleted), I like them all. It wouldn’t be Michele…or Denise…I would take Danni over anybody. I’ve known her the longest and our relationship is the most intimate.
Diaz-Twine: Am I giving you good stuff?
Holmes: Great stuff!
Diaz-Twine: I’m giving you the truth, I don’t care if it’s out there for everybody to read.
Holmes: I really hate people that don’t appreciate you.
Diaz-Twine: Thank you.
Holmes: And I’ve always appreciated you, but when we were out here doing interviews for “Game Changers” there was a point where everything clicked for me and I thought, “Wow…she is so (expletive deleted) smart.”
Holmes: Just the way you approach all of the angles. And there was a scene where someone approached you and said something like, “Who do you want to target, Sandra?” And you responded, “Who are you thinking?” And that’s the best way to explain it to people.
Diaz-Twine: You never want to throw out someone’s name. That’s what happened to Ciera (Eastin). That’s why Ciera went home first. When people were walking around saying, “Who do you want? I’m with you. Whatever the majority wants.” Ciera said, “Tony and Caleb (Reynolds)” and that was all Aubry needed. She took that information and went straight to Tony and straight to Caleb, that’s how Aubry secured herself.
Holmes: I feel like the way you threw it back is something that comes with experience. Don’t give anyone anything they can use against you.
Diaz-Twine: Don’t say a name until you really know these people. Until we lost a challenge, nobody would throw a name.
Holmes: You were a member of the first class of the “Survivor” Hall of Fame. Now, if I just won season 39, I’m not in the conversation for the greatest player ever. You’re one of a handful of players that have endured, have stayed in the public’s memory. When you get to that level, do you take that into account if you’re squaring off against another big name?
Diaz-Twine: Here’s my dilemma. If I feel threatened, I’m going to align with anyone. Anyone who will protect me. At the beginning I have nothing to offer. But, with all these tribe swaps before the merge, people don’t care about getting rid of the physical threat that you want to keep in the game because of challenges. You keep these people around, tomorrow they might be on the opposite tribe. So, in essence I’m going to try to find people who want to work with me. And it’s easy because if someone wants to work with you, it’s warm, you can feel it. But when Tony or Caleb didn’t want to work with me, they didn’t speak to me until they had to. People make that mistake and they don’t realize it. Don’t come to me to be my friend now because you’re on the bottom. Because by then I had Malcolm, Troyzan (Robertson), Jeff Varner, Hali (Ford), Michaela (Bradshaw), that was six. We didn’t need anybody else. You don’t need everybody, just like you don’t need every vote at the end. You just need the majority.
Holmes: But in the case of a Parvati or someone else at your level, do you take their outside-of-the-season notoriety into account?
Diaz-Twine: I just want to get to the end and get that million. If I have to align myself with someone like “Boston” Rob and Amber, even if I’m telling you that I’d love to target them and get them out first? If for me to get to the end, I have to go with this poker crew, then so be it. I have to save myself at the end of the day. There are still going to be nineteen upset people. I have to fit in wherever I can fit in and then work my magic where there’s an opportunity. I’m not going to close any doors.
Holmes: This is a dumb question.
Diaz-Twine: There are no dumb questions.
Holmes: Just you wait. An alien lands…
Holmes: They’ve never seen or heard of “Survivor.” What scene do you show them to prove that “Survivor” is awesome?
Diaz-Twine: (Laughs) Tribal Council where Parvati plays an immunity idol for me and Jerri (Manthey) and that’s when JT (Thomas) goes home. What’s yours?
Holmes: Jonny Fairplay’s grandmother lie.
Diaz-Twine: Oh! That was good! But, I didn’t believe that lie because her had already said that his grandmother had died. Christa (Hastie) has a tattoo from…maybe her grandma passed away? She was talking about it on like day two or one and I remember him saying that he was going to play his game in memory of Grandma as well because she was a big “Survivor” fan. And then Thunder D comes out and now another Grandma died? Or are we talking about the same damn Grandma?
Holmes: People have two Grandmas.
Diaz-Twine: Yeah, but by then he was always playing these characters and loud wrestling voices and I already couldn’t stand him. So, I was like, “He’s (expletive deleted) lying. Throw Thunder D in the water.”
Holmes: Great moment though.
Diaz-Twine: It was, but I’ve been saying this (expletive deleted) for seventeen years. I knew he was lying about Grandma being dead.
Holmes: If Jeff let you pick a twist, what would you request?
Diaz-Twine: I’m already preparing for Edge of Extinction. There’s no way they brought 20 great players back and the first person voted off goes home and that’s that. What I would like to see is, if I made it to the family visit I’d like to be with my family for a little while and then maybe you do a challenge where you get to go off with them for the night or something like that. I would hate for them to bring out these loved ones and children, because they’re bringing the children. I would love that if they brought the families, especially the little kids, that they actually got to spend more than two minutes, because that would be devastating.
Holmes: Yeah, especially with all the travel time to get out here. And real little children probably wouldn’t get why they can’t spend time with their parents.
Diaz-Twine: You know what? They told me they were doing something different, they were bringing the children to the visit. I was like, “Oh my God, that would be great!” My girls are 21 and 24 years old. My husband right now with all the stuff going on in Iran, I knew he probably wouldn’t be able to make it. I don’t want to see my uncle, I want my girls to come. So, I was happy about the whole thing. Then a couple of days later it became, “If you had to choose between your two girls because your girls are adults, which one would you choose?” So, does that mean everyone else doesn’t get their kids? They say, “No, someone like Jeremy would get his four kids plus his wife would have to escort. And Rob would get his four kids.” “OK, so hold the (expletive deleted) up. You’re telling me that someone like Jeremy and Rob who have four kids apiece but you’re telling me I have to choose between my two girls because they’re adults? Absolutely not. I love my kids just as much as Rob loves his kids.” How the (expletive deleted) do you do that? I said, “Let me make this clear, if they get there’s, I get mine.” Well, then they say, “Oh calm down, calm down, we were just seeing…there are logistics.” My kids don’t need logistics. You give them the tickets and they’ll get here.
Holmes: OK, I’ll give you a reason someone could use to target you. I need you to argue against it. Sandra isn’t helping much in challenges. I don’t want to go to Tribal.
Diaz-Twine: That’s ridiculous. Once the tribe swap comes tomorrow, that same person you’re saving because of their physical attributes is the same person who’s going to send your ass to Tribal Council episode after episode.
Holmes: She’s the only two-time winner there’s ever been. I’m not here to give her a third.
Diaz-Twine: If you want to be a two-time winner, you want me to sit next to you in the end. I won’t win again, I’m one less person you have to worry about. (Laughs) Which is (expletive deleted).
Holmes: (Laughs) I’ve heard that before. I remember before “Heroes vs. Villains” I thought they’d never let someone win twice.
Diaz-Twine: That’s why Russell took us to the end. He thought a winner will never win again.
Holmes: That’s how much of a disastrous social game he had.
Diaz-Twine: And Parvati was an (expletive deleted) too. At that point, everything he did came back on her as well. It was like the snake with two heads. Everything he did, even if she wasn’t a part of it came back on her. And vice versa. I was the safest bet.
Holmes: Sandra just spent 36 days out here with Amber’s husband. We need to break those two up.
Diaz-Twine: You don’t have to get rid of me. I’ll help you get rid of him and his wife.
Holmes: If this is an all-winner season, when it’s all said and done either you’re going to be a three-time winner or we’re going to have our second ever two-time winner. Where are you with that fact?
Diaz-Twine: I’m going to make sure every female out here is voted out one by one. There won’t be another queen. That’s for sure. I’d hate for a female to win. You know what, if I’m on the jury and she’s the best player, I’ll give it to her. But at the end of the day I don’t want there to be another queen or for my wins to be compared to someone’s else wins because now there’s two, two-time winners and we’re both females. So actually, I’m here to help the guys make it to the end. Then we’ll have our first king, other than Richard Hatch, he’s the original.
Don’t miss the premiere of “Survivor: Winners at War” – Wednesday, February 12, 2020 at 8 pm ET.
Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @GordonHolmes