I would have bet money that Parvati, Sandra, JT, and Tom didn’t have a shot at winning “Survivor: Heroes Vs. Villains.” Why? Because “Survivor” cast members hate the idea of someone being a two-time winner.
And yet here we are. Sandra Diaz-Twine managed to survive the stigma of being a former winner, the break down of Boston Rob’s alliance, and the hatred of “Survivor” juggernaut Russell Hantz to win the whole thing.
I had a chance to speak with an exhausted Sandra the morning after her record-breaking victory to find out why she won the jury vote, how she kept her nails so nice in the Samoan wilderness, and how Russell’s attitude ruined her second “Survivor” win.
Gordon Holmes: Good morning, Sandra.
Sandra Diaz-Twine: Good morning!
Gordon: How are you doing, champ?
Sandra: I’ve got a little cold, but I’m going to do my best. My throat is sore.
Gordon: I figure a million dollars in exchange for a sore throat is a fair trade.
Sandra: Oh, it definitely is. I’m not complaining.
Gordon: So what are your plans for that second million?
Sandra: You know I’ve gotta pay my taxes. I can’t be looking like Richard Hatch.
Gordon: Now, you’re the first-ever two-time champion in “Survivor” history. Which win meant more to you?
Sandra: The first one.
Gordon: Why’s that?
Sandra: Because it was sweet the whole time. This one was bittersweet. It was tainted. I feel Russell kind of put a damper on things.
Gordon: What was he doing?
Sandra: There was just a bad vibe. It wasn’t a happy place over here because everyone is upset with him for the most part. And of course he always has things to say. And I was told by people that he said, “She’d better bring her A-game because I’m going to make her look stupid on TV.” So then I was already in my defensive mode. I guess I was ready. And the first time it wasn’t like that, it was serene, quiet, and pleasant. This time it was a bunch of All-Stars and everyone had gotten their feelings hurt.
Gordon: How were things left between you and Russell?
Sandra: I really don’t speak to him, and he makes his little comments and I make mine. He feels like he got robbed. All he says is, “Millions of viewers got it right because I’m the player of the season.” Well then, you know what? You need to have been the real player of the season to get the million dollars.
Gordon: I spoke with Russell a few minutes ago, and he said once the game is over the game is over and that he wishes you well. He said he met your family and he enjoyed them. Is there a chance you two could make peace in the future?
Sandra: There’s a possibility for that, but it’s news to me that he said that. My daughters know who he is, and they took a picture with him. But when he does his interviews, all he does is talk smack so I don’t believe it. He’s really mad, his face is really sour. Yesterday (Sunday) we didn’t speak. I talk to everybody, I’m a very social person, but I feel like “Why should I have to go to you if you’re already badmouthing me?” Because I personally wouldn’t change a thing. But, whenever he’s ready for friendship, here I am.
Gordon: Former champions usually don’t do well in All-Star seasons. Did you think you had a chance heading into “Heroes Vs. Villains?”
Sandra: You know how in the first “All-Stars” they got rid of all the winners first?
Gordon: Yes, absolutely.
Sandra: So, coming into this one I said, “If I’m nice, of all the winners there, they’ll keep me around for a while.” And not only that, I’m the kind of person where I play day-by-day and I’ll do what it takes to get to the end regardless. And I listen to what’s going on and I go from there. And a lot of the time they’d say, “They’ll never vote for you, you’re perfect to take to the end.” And I’d say, “Oh, definitely.” If that’s what you want to hear, that’s what I’m going to tell you.
Gordon: You said that performing badly in challenges was a part of your strategy…
Sandra: Well, I’m not a physical person, so that’s natural for me. But I honestly feel like that’s a good strategy. Yes, everyone loves you when you’re strong, but the minute you’re on your own you’re going to go home when you lose a challenge because you’re outnumbered by weaker people. And that’s why Colby went to the end this time, because he didn’t dominate.
Gordon: Is there a concern that being weak in challenges might be a liability earlier in the game?
Sandra: It is, but at the same time remember Randy was there and so was Courtney. So among the weak you can’t be the weakest.
Gordon: Why did you have so much trouble getting the Heroes to go against Russell?
Sandra: Because no one believed me. But I told Rupert, and he believed me, and he told JT, and JT told Russell. So right there and then my plan was foiled. The second time it was Candice who told on me to Russell. But when JT went home, everyone realized I was telling the truth. And when Amanda went home, she realized “Sandra was trying to help me.” So, when I go up against Parvati and Russell I got their votes. I got all five Hero votes and Courtney’s vote.
Gordon: So, last night when you burned Russell’s hat…it was almost like a perfect symmetry to Samoa where Russell burned Jaison’s socks. Now, of course you hadn’t seen “Survivor: Samoa” so you had no way of knowing, but do you think Russell appreciated the irony of that moment?
Sandra: He might not have, but Jaison did, because when I saw him at the CBS 10-year reunion I went up to him and I said, “He burnt your socks, but don’t you worry because I’ll get him in the end.”
Gordon: I know you have a very busy day ahead of you, but this may be the most important question you’re asked all day; how did your nails stay painted throughout the game?
Sandra: (Laughs) That’s the most important question?
Gordon: It is.
Sandra: My blue fingernails were from when they gave us the paint to paint the flag. But after a couple of hours it started to chip.
Gordon: OK, let’s do some word association. Let’s start off with Parvati.
Sandra: (Expletive deleted)
Gordon: Flammable hats?
Sandra: (Laughs) Polyester.
Gordon: It did burn up quick.
Sandra: That’s because it was sweaty and dirty and nasty.
Gordon: Boston Rob?
Gordon: What was it like being in Samoa while your husband was serving in Afghanistan?
Sandra: The first time my husband was home, and this time was different because he had left for Afghanistan. So I’m going to go all of these days without talking to him, whether I’m in the game or not. And I wonder if he’s OK, and if he wasn’t OK would they tell me, and when would they tell me? And how are my kids doing? It was rough.
Gordon: It seems like your Uncle Fernando has a bit of cutthroat game play in him too. He hadn’t been on the show for two seconds and he’s trying to swipe water from the other players.
Sandra: (Laughs) I kept throwing water and it wasn’t reaching him. And I told him the only way he was going to get water was to get it from the other people. So that was my fault.
Gordon: So that’s how the Diaz family throws down when it comes to challenges?
Sandra: I was hoping he’d have to do it himself because I didn’t want to do it.
Sandra: It should have been a bug-eating contest because he would have won hands down.