All it took was Tai whispering in Sandra’s ear at the latest Tribal Council to send a ripple of chaos through camp. With Ozzy’s name tossed up as a potential goner, Sandra felt steadied by her "as long as it isn't me" mentality that helped her win two previous seasons of Survivor.
In what ultimately came down to a matter of trust, the votes were tallied and Sandra learned her unfortunate fate: she wouldn’t see a third Survivor win and her chapter on Game Changers had come to a close.
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As you left Tribal, host Jeff Probst said he had no idea what just happened. Can you shed some light on how things unravelled from your perspective?
Sandra Diaz-Twine: Well, it was supposed to be Tai going home. I had a conversation to Ozzy where I offered him my allegiance and he told me that I was good. Everyone kept telling me I was okay, but honestly, I believe what freaked Ozzy out was Tai constantly grabbing his pocket like he had a shell, rock, or Idol.
The way Tai blatantly said Ozzy’s a threat and he needs to go home... I wanted to say that Ozzy panicked. If Tai would have been truthful and we would have wrote his name down, Tai would have used his Idol and saved himself and Ozzy would have went home.
I think Zeke saying, "Who do you trust? Stick to the plan" was what Tai needed to calm down, do what the tribe said they were going to originally do, and take me out.
Your motto, "As long as it isn’t me," has helped you win two games of Survivor, but unfortunately not this third go-around. What was your gut reaction to being dethroned as the queen of Survivor?
Sandra: I’m not used to seeing my name on parchment unless it’s for me to win. It was weird, but at the end of the day, I kind of had the feeling like, if you’re going to take me out then now’s the time.
The fact that Sarah told me, "Sandra, I can’t believe you’re still here after going to so many Tribal Councils"—that was very telling to me. So I knew if I was going home, it was because they were scared of me.
At the end of the day, I still think I played beautifully. I went as far as I could have gone.
Looking back, would you have done anything differently?
Sandra: I would have played the same way, I just would have tried to pick a different buff or gone to Exile Island.
How did this season of Survivor compare to your previous two?
Sandra: These people are awesome and each and every one of them pays tribute to the game. At first I was like, "Game Changers?" Some of these people—I don’t even know their names or who they are, but at the end of the day, I think it’s going to pan out to be a superb season and it’s going to easily be the number one Survivor season.
What game changing move are you most proud of?
Sandra: JT going home because that didn’t have to happen. When JT did that and Malcolm went home, it ruined so many games moving forward. Me getting rid of JT had to happen. I warned him.
There was no reason why we weren't going in six strong and coming out six strong. So by that happening and him saying, "It’s gonna be okay, we gotta move forward. You guys would be fools to get rid of me. I’m the only strong one left..." Okay, so now, you better win that challenge or you’re going home.
Definitely sending JT packing was the best move I could have made.
What surprised you the most about your time on the show?
Sandra: The fact that so many people wanted me out and were afraid of me. I’m such a pleasure to play with. Yeah, sometimes they catch me off guard and I’m mad about something, but for the most part I’m really just a pleasant person.
It surprised me watching last night how everyone—Zeke, Sarah, Andrea, Tai, Ozzy—everybody wanted me out. I was like "Dang," I never realized that I had such an effect on the game to the point where people felt that they had so much respect for my game that they needed to get me out.
I don’t blame them one bit. I would have voted each and every one of them out and wouldn’t have thought twice about it.
Did you learn anything new about yourself this season?
Sandra: No, I never learn anything new about myself because I know me.
What advice do you have for future castaways?
Sandra: Make your three minute video. Talk, don’t stutter. Say what you have to say. It can happen.
I applied for Survivor and got picked up. I made my video and kept messing up until I said exactly what I needed to say and it came out perfectly. I was always a fan of this show and I knew this was what I wanted to do.
Would you come back to play a fourth time?
Sandra: I would, but I don’t think I’d be stoked to play on an all-winners season out of fear that I’d be voted out. But I don’t think that would happen. It all depends. I’d definitely have to think it over for 24 hours. I wouldn’t jump into a quick "yes" like I did this time around. This last game was not easy.
Watch all-new episodes of Survivor: Game Changers on Wednesdays at 8/7c on CBS and CBS All Access.