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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 “Game Changers” (2017)
Name: Sarah Lacina
Hometown: Muscatine, Iowa
Current Residence: Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Occupation: Police officer
Gordon Holmes: It’s been so long since we saw you…in this exact same jungle…with this exact same recorder, actually.
Sarah Lacina: (Laughs) But I am the most recent female winner.
Holmes: That is true. As far as we know.
Lacina: And there are people out here from a long time ago.
Holmes: Yeah, it’s kinda awesome.
Lacina: I’m thinking, “You’re still alive?!”
Holmes: Maybe don’t start off your introductions like that.
Holmes: What kind of trouble have you been getting into since that “Game Changers” win?
Lacina: My life is the exact same as before. But, I love it.
Holmes: Is it different when you have a job that interacts with the public on a daily basis?
Lacina: I work investigations now, so I’m not out there pulling people over. The contact I have isn’t as much as a patrolman would have. But, sometimes people will go, “You look really familiar.” And I’ll just say, “Well, I’ve been a police officer for thirteen years.” Cause, I never want to say it. It could probably completely ruin an interview.
Holmes: I’m not going to tell you anything, I’m still mad about what you did to Troyzan.
Lacina: (Laughs) Right.
Holmes: When I think of Sarah Lacina, I think; played once like a cop and went out at the merge. Played a second time like a criminal and won the whole darn thing. So, now what?
Lacina: I feel like I have a target. People are looking at me like I’m a criminal, so I feel like I’m on probation now. I have to behave for a little bit until I can get off of probation. How you played last can be very damning. Going into “Game Changers” I was known as loyal. I came out and did the opposite. So now, people aren’t going to remember Cagayan. I have to overcome that hurdle of people not wanting to trust me.
Holmes: Yeah, but it’s tough to put the trust toothpaste back in the tube. Wow, where’d that analogy come from?
Lacina: Really? I’ve got my work cut out for me. You don’t go from day one to day thirty nine, you have to go day one to day two to day three. I have to play every day for that day. Don’t worry about three days ahead, let’s worry about this day.
Holmes: What advice would you give to someone who’s going into their first returnee season?
Lacina: Don’t trust anyone. People will always say on the flip side, “But you have to trust someone.” No you don’t. These people are the best at the best at deceiving. They won because not only did they play a great game, but they were likable. We’ve seen plenty of times where the person who played the best game didn’t win because they were a jerk to everybody. These people are good. And no matter how good you feel with somebody, do not trust everything that comes out of their mouth. Also, be willing to work with anyone, even if you don’t like them.
Holmes: You are a former champion…wait, that’s not right. You’re still the champion of your season.
Lacina: Let’s just call me the reigning female champion, because I’m the last one.
Holmes: When you’re figuring out who to work with, is there a concern that some people might be more interested in making a name for themselves by making big moves rather than trying to get to the end?
Lacina: Absolutely, I’ve been thinking about that. After Cagayan I had something to prove. I was out here for business and I wanted to show that I was the best.
Holmes: How’d that work out?
Lacina: Pretty well. But, it was not enjoyable. I did not enjoy those 39 days. It wasn’t dark the whole time, but it made the season really taxing mentally. I want to have more fun. If you win and have fun, then you’ve really won.
Holmes: Will you sacrifice fun to win?
Lacina: I will sacrifice fun to win. I’d sacrifice anything to win.
Holmes: You haven’t officially heard a theme for this season.
Lacina: They haven’t, but the investigator tells me that it’s going to be all-winners season.
Holmes: Interesting theory. If that’s the case, it’s just ten female winners?
Lacina: No, ten women, ten men.
Holmes: If there are men here, any guesses as to who we might see?
Lacina: Richard Hatch…Tyson…Rob…maybe Rob. You’d think Rob is here, but Amber’s here. Who’s watching their kids? Maybe they’re old enough to watch each other.
Holmes: Maybe you just leave a bowl of food out in the backyard and let them run free.
Lacina: (Laughs) Yeah, like cats. Jeremy, Wendell, Tony, JT (Thomas) maybe…
Holmes: Anybody you want to see? Don’t want to see?
Lacina: I want to see my boy Tony out here. Cops R Us! If he’s out here and we play, we’re the only two people here to play three seasons together. But, we didn’t get a chance to play together last time.
Holmes: That’s probably his fault.
Lacina: It’s entirely his fault. (Laughs) Because he was a lunatic! But, he is a lunatic. I love Tony. He’s like the little brother that you want to strangle, but you just love him. I think Cops R Us can bury the hatchet. And if he goes rogue? Well, when you bury something you can always dig it right up.
Holmes: Cops bury hatchets? They don’t bury nightsticks?
Lacina: I can’t tell you all the secrets.
Holmes: In returnee seasons there’s always the potential for pre-game alliances. Have you been partaking in any of that?
Lacina: I’ve talked to two people, but I don’t stay in contact with the “Survivor” community. After “Game Changers” I went back to my life. There are a lot of people involved with the “Survivor” community that go to every event. So, that is a scary thing that lines are already drawn and people have said, “No matter what I’m with you, you, and you.” There are friends. I know Jeremy and Natalie are practically family. If Rob’s here, he’s playing with his wife. You will not break them up. You can say Ciera voted out her mom, but Rob ain’t voting out his wife.
Holmes: Unless he wants to sleep on the couch for the rest of his life.
Lacina: Exactly. That’s the scary part. You could be doomed already.
Holmes: Who are the two people you talked to?
Lacina: Are people really telling you?
Holmes: Some people do. Nobody’s going to hear a word of this till next February.
Lacina: I’ve talked to Tony and I’ve talked to Sandra. And that’s it. I think that’s a good trio. The Three Amigos.
Holmes: It seems rare that these pre-season alliances pan out.
Lacina: Yeah, but Brad (Culpepper) and Troy (Robertson)?
Holmes: Oh, they had the Monica (Culpepper) connection.
Lacina: Brad’s wifi password was (A Troyzan themed term). And that helped me. Pre-games can help someone that’s not in the pre-game. Brad and I…we didn’t not get along, but we’re very alpha. We would butt heads and Troy was like the glue that held us together. It got to a point that Brad and I wouldn’t even talk to each other because there’d be an argument. We’d talk through Troy. And I think that’s why Troy feels like he didn’t get the credit that he deserves, because he did a lot of the middle-man stuff that kept us together. So, their pre-game alliance helped me. I didn’t have to be good with Brad, I just had to be good with Troy. So, if there is a foursome that’s tight, you just have to be good with one of them for them to bring you in.
Holmes: You’re in lockdown here, you’re not allowed to talk to anyone. But, has anyone been trying nod or wink at you?
Lacina: Yeah. Here’s the problem, I have a really bad resting bitch face. So, when we’re not allowed to talk, it does not benefit me at all. I have to do certain gestures to show that I’m not intimidating or hard. So, I try, but then you get it back. You get the hard looks back. And I’m thinking, “OK, you might be barking up the wrong tree.”
Holmes: Who’s giving you hard looks?
Lacina: I feel like Michele is, believe it or not. There could be a little animosity there. I’m good friends with Aubry (Bracco)…and Aubry should be here.
Holmes: You said that.
Lacina: (Laughs) But, maybe I’m fueling that and I don’t know it. I don’t know Michele at all. We might meet on day one and become best friends. You know, I think Aubry should have won, but I only saw the edited version.
Holmes: We only get 42 minutes of three days.
Holmes: You’ve got that cop sixth sense.
Lacina: Oh yeah.
Holmes: Have you spotted people sitting together, sharing food, that kind of thing?
Lacina: Kim and Amber…which is scary. If Rob’s out here, then that’s three people that are going to be tight. And the thing is, Rob and Amber won’t even have to talk. They’re on the same page no matter what. That scary, they’re double numbers. I’ve seen Denise with them a little bit.
Holmes: You know I like my games.
Lacina: I do.
Holmes: Alright, here are the nine ladies you’ve had under surveillance.
Holmes: We’re gonna play Align or Malign, you tell me the four you will work with and the five you will not.
Lacina: Parvati…I just get a good vibe from her. I think she has a big target and she knows it. She’s smart and will try to align with big targets. Sandra, same, plus I’ve talked to Sandra. I feel like we’re on the same page. Danni…I get a good vibe from her. And I feel like she’ll be loyal. It’s been a long time since she’s played. Maybe she needs someone to show her the ropes. I could help her out and she’d stick with me. And this one really surprises me, but Sophie. I think Sophie and I are a lot more similar than what everybody would think. I think we operate the same way. I can just tell. Coming out here, she would have been in my malign group. But seeing her out here? We might become a duo.
Holmes: Alright, why are we avoiding the other five?
Lacina: Amber? Out. She just has too many connections. Michele? Out. Vengeance for Aubry. Kim? Out. Big target, I feel like she’s in with the big group. Same with Natalie, she’s in with the big group. I also feel like she is super alpha. She has something to prove, she thinks she’s a bad ass. I would work with Denise, but you only let me pick four. Denise and I are actually from the same area. But, if you’re from LA and I’m from LA, big deal. There are millions of people there. We’re from the same town in Iowa. Iowa has a million people in the entire state. So, Denise was the one person from Cedar Rapids who had played “Survivor” and won, and then I came along…
Holmes: Are we sleeping on this? Is Cedar Rapids a hotbed of “Survivor” talent?
Lacina: There’s something in the water. So I play, I get called back a second time, and I won. As much as we want to win, you always want to go back as Cedar Rapids’ best “Survivor” player. So, that’s the only reason I wouldn’t work with her.
Holmes: Of these five, who’s first out?
Lacina: Oh man…it’s a toss-up between Michele and Amber. But, I’m not going to make an emotional decision. I’m going to make a strategic decision and take Amber out. She just has too many connections. If she doesn’t have an in with somebody, then Rob does. Even if Rob’s not out here, they still know the same people.
Holmes: Of these four, who is your ride-or-die?
Lacina: You’re going to say this is a dumb move.
Holmes: Not to your face.
Lacina: (Laughs) Whoever wins this season besides Sandra has tied Sandra as a two-time champion. So now there has to be a third showdown, right? Unless, I beat Sandra. So, if I take Sandra to the end and beat her? It doesn’t matter because we’re both two-time champions, but I beat her twice and she’s never beat me. I’m the only one who can walk away from this season as the best “Survivor” player if I win.
Holmes: There are some mega-stars out here. You don’t seem like the type of person who would be intimidated by that.
Lacina: I was intimidated when I came into “Game Changers,” but I don’t feel it now. And I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I’ve gone into both season completely scared. The fear of being the first person voted out. I don’t have that now. Is that confidence? Am I that good? Or am I being naïve?
Holmes: Tell me about this seven marathons on seven continents in seven days. That’s insane.
Lacina: (Laughs) So, do you remember David Samson?
Holmes: Yes, from the Marlins.
Lacina: Right, him and I have kept in contact. He put together a group to run the World Marathon Challenge. At first I said, “Nope.” Can you logistically travel to all seven continents in seven days? You have to go to Antarctica.
Holmes: A marathon in Antarctica sounds like my worst nightmare. How is that even possible?
Lacina: You run around the runway where the plane landed. We had to do four laps around it. All of the drinks and food froze. Marathon runners will drink Coke to get some sugar in them. It all froze. 183.4 miles in seven days. You could do it. If you truly decided to do it, I bet you could do it.
Holmes: Oh yeah, I believe that if you get inspired to do something, you can master any skill, any physical feat. I just couldn’t imagine getting inspired to tackle something like that.
Lacina: Right, but if you wanted to, you could.
Holmes: If you were allowed to choose a twist, which twist would you choose?
Lacina: A super idol if I get it. (Laughs) I would rather see an Extinction Island over Exile or Redemption. Redemption you’re knocked out as you go. Extinction you’re still playing until day 35, so you’re never really out of it.
Holmes: We’re gonna play “Best Defense.” I’ll give you a reason someone would use to vote you out, you counter it.
Holmes: She’s a cop, she’s a criminal. I don’t know who this Sarah is.
Lacina: That’s hard. Look, I am going to play as straightforward of a game as I can. If I lie to you and I’m sitting in the end, don’t give me your vote. You can swear on everything and take that back, but if I’m telling you, “Don’t vote for me” I’d be sinking my own ship. I think people think I’m unpredictable. So, I have to say, “If I lie to you, don’t vote for me. And go tell everyone I’m a (expletive deleted) piece of (expletive deleted).” I don’t want to be super nasty and backstab a ton. There’s a way to do it and not be nasty about it. I don’t want to be nasty.
Holmes: Sarah’s a cop. She’s got a sixth sense. She can read people’s mannerisms.
Lacina: I’m a cop, I’m not a psychic. I don’t have a crystal ball.
Holmes: She a challenge threat, I even heard she ran seven marathons on seven continents in seven days like a crazy person.
Lacina: I’m not a challenge threat, I’ve never won an individual immunity challenge. Never won one. That’s what my husband said before I came out, “Try to win an individual immunity challenge.” Most spouses would say, “Try to win the money.” Win immunity? We own a crossfit gym, so he says, “You’re making us look really bad.”
Holmes: So many of the challenges are stand here and hold this thing, not hit this giant tire with a sledgehammer.
Lacina: Not only that, but when he came out for the loved ones visit he said, “Do you have an idol?” And I said, “No.” And he’s like, “Are you looking?” What do you think I do around here all day! You think I just sit on my ass and sunbathe? I think he thinks I’m on vacation out here. I am looking all the time! I’m trying to win challenges!
Holmes: I love that when the family comes out they show us hugs and tears, meanwhile you and your husband are duking it out over strategy.
Lacina: But that’s exactly it! When he found out I didn’t have an idol he started looking. I said, “You’re not going to find it.”
Holmes: How pissed would you be if he reached into a stump and pulled one out.
Lacina: (Laughs) I would never hear the end of it.
Holmes: We run a challenge while we’re here against the Dream Team. The last time we were out, my wife said to me, “If you lose that challenge, don’t come back.” No big deal, we’ve won before. We get to see the challenge and it’s the first one from Ghost Island with all of that pulling. You have to be really strong. It’s a muscle challenge and we are not muscle people. We’re kinda fast, we’re good swimmers, we’re good at puzzles. Andrea Boehlke was with us.
Lacina: She’s good.
Holmes: She’s really good. She saw how big the Dream Team was and she literally tried to switch teams. She’s saying “Shouldn’t I be on their team because I’ve played the game before?”
Lacina: Did you win?
Holmes: Hell no. It was a disaster. Fortunately, my wife showed pity and let me come home.
Holmes: If an alien landed and you had to show them one scene from “Survivor” to prove how awesome the show is, which scene would you show them?
Lacina: I would show them..it’s awesome…it’d be Cagayan when Trish (Hegarty), Tony, LJ (McKanas), and Jefra (Bland) voted out Cliff (Robinson). and Woo (Hwang) and Lindsey (Ogle) were completely blindsided and then they all came back and Trish and Lindsey got into a huge fight over it and Lindsey ended up quitting the game. I think that encompasses everything. The blindsides, the real emotions, how angry people get. And Tony is there just pouring fuel on the fire. Anytime there was a lull he’d say, “Yo Trish, what about this?” (Laughs) That’s what “Survivor” is. Throw everyone under the bus and just blindside people.
Holmes: We were talking a while ago. Back in the day, Probst would seem actively upset at quitters. But, with Lindsey he was like, “That’s a wise decision.”
Lacina: Well, I truly think she would’ve gotten physical. And Brandon (Hantz) too, it was a smart decision for him too.
Holmes: I interviewed him before that, and it seemed like he had every intention of making a scene.
Lacina: I think that was Tony’s intention. I think that was his downfall. Tony, you’re good being who you are. You don’t have to hit the beach running. You’re sinking your own ship. Chill out for a bit. The first time it wasn’t forced.
Holmes: Sounds like you’re ready to rock and roll.
Lacina: I am. I have a huge book. I know everybody’s handwriting from their votes, I know their kids’ names. I know everything. I should’ve brought it with me and showed you.
Holmes: Really? Holy crap.
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