Sandra Diaz-Twine is the queen of Survivor. Just ask her, she’ll tell you! And as the only two-time winner the show has ever seen, she has earned the title. But what happens if she does not end up victorious in Survivor: Winners at War (premiering Wednesday on CBS)? That would mean there would be another two-time champion beside her, and if that were to happen, Sandra has one wish: She wants it to be a man. The way Sandra sees it, then there can be a king to her queen — and that way no one can ever question her title.
“I don’t want there to be another queen,” Sandra told me out in Fiji before Winners at War. “There can only be one queen.” And that’s not all that Sandra told me. She also talked extensively about her time on Island of the Idols, revealed that Boston Rob was the reason she applied to Survivor in the first place, and shared her surprise at seeing Amber out to play again. She also says this is her last time ever playing the game… while also admitting she can’t say no to Jeff Probst, so make of that what you will.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What’s going on, Sandra?
SANDRA DIAZ-TWINE: Nothing much. I was kind of a little sad coming up to the island today to do these interviews, only because I passed by the Island of the Idols, and my totem was still there, and Boston Rob’s totem was still there, and the house we built on season 39, which we put a lot of heart and soul in to building that house. And I was mainly the labor, because Rob was the mastermind, and he does construction. He has his own construction business. But, seeing it, and I actually thought that’s where we were going to go do the interviews. And I was like, “Oh my God, home sweet home.” I never thought I’d call it home sweet home because I remember I couldn’t wait for day 36 to come, to finally go back home.
But then, pulling up, I was like, “Oh, man, there it is, it’s so beautiful.” And I kind of got a little bit sad inside. But that was the past and now I’m here for season 40. So I really have to just do my best. I’m going to take it. This is serious for me. After this, I’m going to definitely retire. I spent two weeks at home after 39, and I was talking to my husband, and I could tell that now that my kids are grown and gone, it wasn’t easy for him to have an empty house. Empty! No dogs, no me, no kids. And he started to say, “You’re going to leave again, and every time you leave it’s for 45 plus days.” Because, this last time it was a little bit longer.
So, it’s been more than half a year. So, I said, “You know what, Marcus? I’m going to go out there this last time, I’m going to take it day by day, I’m going to play as hard as I can, in hopes to making it to day 39, and bringing home that last million dollars that I need to retire.” I mean, I can still retire. That’s not going to change, but it would just be icing on the cake if I took home a third million dollars.
Tell me about the discussions you had with Jeff and production and CBS about coming back for 39, Island of the Idols, and then to play again in 40. What were those talks like?
Well, I was invited to be a mentor on 39, and that was all the talk. That was it. And a little bit in between 39, I guess everything had been put in to motion to do 40 and bring back maybe some winners, and then they started getting more winners, and realized that maybe they could do a season of all winners. But I was already on Island of the Idols, and so Jeff mentioned to me one day like, “Would you come back? Would you play?” And I said, “If you’re inviting, I’m there.” But I hadn’t talked to my family or anything like that, I just made that decision. And, it’s like whenever they ask me, I could say no a lot of times, but when Jeff calls me, it’s like I can’t say no.
And, I jumped on it. I was like, “Really, Jeff?” So, in the process of doing 39, I really started to open my eyes more and watch Boston Rob do just about everything. It was like I was the student, and there I am mentoring other people, yet I’m watching, from my standpoint, one of the best players ever. And, people don’t know when I applied for Survivor the very first time, and they would ask the question, “What survivor are you most like?” And I was like, “Boston Rob.” He was the reason why I applied for Survivor. Not only for the money, but because I felt a connection to him. Not in a weird way, you know? So, it was just like, “I’m going to do it because I think I can do it. If he can do it, I can do it.”
And, so being out there for 36 days on Island of the Idols, I was like, “You know what? I gotta take this seriously.” Usually, you depend on others to make fire or open up a coconut, and it was just me and him. And after building the house, I’d sit there, make fire, or he’d tell me, “Do it this way, this is the better way.” Or, “This is the easier way.” Or, opening up a coconut, it used to take me maybe about an hour. I think now I can get it down to seven minutes. Like, that’s really, really good. So, I kind of was preparing myself for 40 in 39.
It’s interesting watching your evolution, because obviously, the only two-time winner, so your face is on the Survivor Mount Rushmore. But my favorite game of yours was Game Changers. Because the anybody but me strategy worked for you a few times, and then, you were so aggressive in Game Changers.
Well, Game Changers was different because I didn’t have anywhere to hide. By then, I was already a two-time winner. And even when Tony would talk to me, he wouldn’t address me as Sandra. From the beginning, he just started saying, “Yo, Queen, yo Queenie.” Which, kind of set me up, because then other people would also start calling me Queen instead of just Sandra. So, a lot of times I’m like, “Okay, the Queen stays queen.” But, it wasn’t because I went out there, “Oh, I’m the queen, I’m this, I’m that.” That became my name instead of Sandra. And so, I wanted to work with Tony, and Tony was telling me things that I wanted to hear, and behind my back, unfortunately for Tony, he was trying to get rid of me. But he was telling this to my alliance, because I was the majority already. So, he’s telling this to people that are already on my side. So, that’s where Tony screwed up. I don’t think Tony will make that same mistake again.
Does it still sting, getting voted out for the first time in Game Changers?
No. There was not one single person that was there or that waited for me at Ponderosa that can tell you that I never said anything bad about being voted out of Game Changers. I expected it. The only thing is, I wish it wasn’t under the circumstances where there was a tribe swap and I was outnumbered. I would’ve liked it to have been better, where people actually came after me and I didn’t have all my ducks in a row. I feel like I did everything right. I had people protecting me, I was loyal, I had the majority alliance the whole way through, and then I ended up tribe swapped five to two, and that was it. And Sarah took me out. Sarah did that to me, and here she is.
Who are some people that you want to work from this group of women?
To be honest with you, I have to be open to an alliance with anyone that will offer one. Because of coming off of 39, I’m glad that when they did show the promo on TV, they showed the promo on TV Wednesday and on Thursday at 6:00 in the morning, we were already heading out to the airport. Some people didn’t see it, but others did, and I’m glad the promo said that I was out there only as a mentor, not playing for the million dollars. Because I wanted it to be a secret. I didn’t want them to know that I had just come from living out here, because they could easily think that I have an advantage over them.
Which maybe I do, maybe now I’m more acclimated to the area, I know a little bit more about what foods and what to do, what not to do, and so on. But at the same time, I felt like, “Oh my God, if we can just keep it under wraps that I was out there on 39, maybe that’s something that they won’t hold against me.” But at the end of the day, like Jeff said, “Sandra, you’re a target no matter what.” And it’s just something else for them to nitpick at, as a reason for them to get rid of me.
Like, “Oh wow, this is Sandra’s fifth time.” Yeah I wasn’t playing my fourth time for the million dollars, but I was still out here. So really, it’s my fifth time playing when there’s others that are just getting a second invitation for the first time. So, I mean, the girls all smile at me, I smile at them, but at the end of the day, I don’t know if that’s one of those, “You’re the first one going home” kind of smiles, or, “Wow, it’s Sandra, maybe we want to work with Sandra” kind of smiles.
How do you think other players see you?
It’s so hard, because I do know a lot of them personally. And not personally to where I would catch a flight and go to their house and visit them for Christmas or anything like that, but we do charity events and things where we do come in to contact with each other, for a weekend let’s say. But, it’s like a round table, you chat with this one for five minutes, you go and chat with that one for ten minutes. You click with this one and you go out to dinner with that one, so it’s on a different level. But, I don’t know every single player out here. I know Boston Rob, and I’d never met Amber. When I seen Amber at the hotel that Thursday morning, I didn’t even know who she was. I wasn’t wearing my glasses and she was off at a distance, and it wasn’t until she got on the bus, because I was the first one with my luggage to get on the bus. So I went all the way to the back to look, to see everyone, that I realized it was her.
And I was in shock, because Rob told me out here, he had always said no. And he told me out here, “Amber has no desire to play after she won All-Stars. She would never leave our four girls to come out here and play.” So, for me to see her, I was like, “Where’s Tina?” I’m looking for Tina, and here’s Amber. So, I was really, I had no idea. Absolutely zero idea that she was going to be out here. So, like I said, I don’t know every female and male player that’s out here. And, at the end of the day, anyone that will want to play with me and want to protect me, will have my loyalty, because that’s what I can offer.
What’s your biggest weakness in this game?
My weakness has always been that I don’t have any physical strength. And, again, talking with Boston Rob, he would tell me all the time, “Sandra, you always put yourself down about hating challenges and hating this and hating that, and not being comfortable doing certain things. But, you’re really, really good, you just don’t give yourself enough credit for it.” Usually I’m not one to go and snorkel and stuff like that, but I would put on the snorkel set and he’d go fishing with the spear, and I’d be right there snorkeling and looking around. Until I saw a big fish, then I’d turn around and go away. Because, there’s sharks out here.
So, I would do things because, I mean, we had a whole 36 days in Fiji, we had a beautiful island, it was just me and him. So, you can’t help but to say, “Okay, today I’m going to do this.” So, I did a lot of things out of my comfort zone. We even went to the top of the mountain. It took us over two hours, and every day from the minute we got here, Rob said to me, “Before we leave, we have to climb the top of the mountain.” And I was like, “Yeah, you go ahead, you knock it out. You do you, because that’s not me.” And he was like, “No, you have to, you have to, you have to.” And the day that he was given permission to go up there, we didn’t have anything happening, we had a guide and Rob was like, “I’m going.” And he was like, “Are you sure you don’t want to go?” And I was like, “No, I’m sure I don’t want to go.”
And he just turned his back on me and started leaving, and I ran to get my clothes, and I was like, “I’m not going up there in shorts. I need to put on pants and long socks and stuff.” And before you know it, I was right behind him. And he looks back and he’s like, “I thought you weren’t coming.” I was like, “You’re right.” I always think of it as a game, and I don’t take advantage of the beautiful things that there are to do and see that you can’t regularly do on game because you’re so focused on strategy and getting to the end. But, I was like, “I’ll regret if I don’t go up there with him.”
And, it took us a while. We went up, we took a lot of pictures, the drone came. I mean, I know we’re going to have some great pictures of us sitting at the very, very top of the mountain of the Island of the Idols. And then, on the way down, I took three good tumbles. I woke up with a lot of black and blues, but I felt like it was really, really worth it. And I’m glad that he convinced me, and then he left it up to me. He never pressured me. He said, “Either you’re coming or you’re staying.” And then, when he walked away I was like, “I’m coming.”
And, the Island of the Idols, with those statues still up, is right behind us as we’re speaking.
And our shelter! Our shelter has withstood. I mean, Rob can build anything. So, if you want a little beach side front property put in your backyard, call Boston Rob Mariano.
How do you feel about the possibility of there being another two-time winner if you don’t pull this out?
Well, you’re right. If it’s not a three-time winner, there will definitely be a two-time winner. But I feel like maybe the guys might have the upper hand, and… in a way, me being mean, I kind of hope we have our first Survivor King. I mean, Richard Hatch was always called the King, I guess, ’cause he was the first winner ever. But if another guy comes along and wins a second time, then he will be the Survivor King, which is what Tony wanted to be. Like, King T.V., King Tony Vlachos. So, if I can’t pull it out, I would hope that a guy can do it, because otherwise I’d be hand in hand with another female. We can’t be equal, I don’t want there to be another queen, there can only be one queen. And, then people would just start tearing our records apart like, “This one did that, and Sandra never won challenges. And this one did this.” So, if I could help it, there will not be another Survivor queen.
—Boston Rob is back to ‘kick everybody’s ass one more time’ on Survivor
—Natalie Anderson opens up about medical issues that delayed her Survivor return
—Adam Klein on why he is ‘blessed’ to be sen as a goat in Winners at War
—Denise Stapley wants to prove she earned her spot in Winners at War
—Jeremy Collins blasts Edge of Extinction twist on Winners at War
—Sarah Lacina on overcoming her ‘resting bitch face’ for Winners at War
—Ben Driebergen wants to prove he’s not just a ‘lucky twist guy’
—A ‘crushed’ Sophie Clarke on finally get the call to play Survivor again
—Nick Wilson on the perils of being the most recent winner in Winners at War
—Danni Boatwright reveals her one weakness heading into Winners at War
—Tony Vlachos on why ‘losing helped me’ for Winners at War
—Parvati Shallow wants to slay the Night King (a.k.a. Sandra)
—Wendell Holland on why he needs to ‘chill’ on Survivor: Winners at War
—Kim Spradlin-Wolfe on defending her best Survivor ever crown
—Tyson Apostol on why he’s ‘one of the best Survivor players of all-time’
—Michele Fitzgerald wants to prove she deserved winning Survivor
—Yul Kwon on why he feels liberated heading into Survivor: Winners at War
—Amber Mariano on why the timing was perfect for her to return to Survivor
—Ethan Zohn on how ‘I didn’t feel I’d be alive long enough to play Survivor again’