Sarah Lacina barely made it past the merge her first time playing Survivor (on season 28, Cagayan), and some, therefore, questioned why she was brought back to play again for Survivor: Game Changers. But the cop from Cedar Rapids, Iowa — who first showed her smarts when she saw through the lies of eventual Cagayan winner Tony and pegged him as a fellow police officer — proved the doubters wrong, showcasing a dominant strategic and social game and riding it all the way to the million dollar prize.
Less than 12 hours after being crowned the Game Changers champ, Sarah called into EW Morning Live (Entertainment Weekly Radio, SiriusXM, channel 105), and you can now hear the full interview right here on the EW Morning Live podcast. Here are a few highlights from our chat, including the stuff we didn’t see — like swearing on her kids and the fact that she had Brad Culpepper’s wedding ring as collateral — and how Jeff Probst fooled her into thinking she didn’t win.
On how she was feeling about her chances heading into the final Tribal Council:
“I was probably 90 percent sure I had won because I felt that I played the best game, but what doesn’t come across very well on TV is people’s emotions, and how hurt they actually were. And so as I’m sitting there at the final Tribal Council, I’ve underestimated how bad I had hurt people. And you could hear it in Andrea’s voice, she was really emotional. And I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, did I do unrepairable damage?’ And then I just had to get to a point where I was like, ‘Okay, this is called Game Changers. It would be a disservice to this season to not reward gameplay. They’re not going to do that.’
“So for the past 10 months, every single day I’ll talk to my husband and say, ‘Okay, I think I won.’ And he’ll go, ‘Okay.’ And then the next day: ‘Okay, maybe I didn’t win.’ So Jeff even gives me a heart attack as he’s reading the votes because he had played it out — because I figured Brad had three votes for sure. I was like, ‘Okay, it’s going to go, Sarah, Brad, Sarah, Brad, Sarah, Brad, and then Sarah, Sarah.’ So when he pulled Sarah out first and I was like, ‘Yes, I just won!’ when he did that. Well, then he goes, ‘Brad, Sarah,’ and then he goes, ‘Brad, Brad.’ And my heart sunk. I was like, ‘My worst nightmare is coming true right now. I have gone the last 10 months thinking I just won this game, and I didn’t.’ And then it was, ‘Sarah, Sarah, Sarah, Sarah,’ And I was like, ‘Jeff, c’mon, man! Why do you have to do that to me?’ But I probably deserved it.”
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On not getting Sierra’s vote at the end:
“I figured, if she’s going to give me this Legacy Advantage, then how does she not vote for me? And honestly, had I not had that, I would have gone home at six. They voted for me. And so getting that was huge for me winning because I would have been out instead of Cirie because we didn’t vote for Cirie. Then for her to not give me her vote at the end because she felt betrayed when she found out that I had actually voted her out and not Brad.
“So another thing that I did when they were asking me about the Legacy Advantage, I never, never said it came from Sierra, because I didn’t want anyone — if I went to the end — thinking, Oh, she’s got Sierra’s vote then because Sierra gave this to her. So I played it off like, ‘No, I don’t know how I got this thing.’ Because nobody knew what it was because we had never seen it played. Millennials vs. Gen X had just wrapped up filming when we played. So it was easy to keep that under wraps.”
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On if she was shocked that Brad brought her to the end instead of Tai:
“Yes. I remember sitting out there doing a confessional saying how Tai was trying to convince me to vote out Troyzan, and Brad and Troyzan are trying to convince me to vote out Tai. And I remember looking at the camera and going, ‘How is my name off the chopping block?’ Like, are these people playing the same game I’m playing? I just was baffled. It was insane.”
On why she did not vote for Troyzan at the final four to force a tiebreaker in case she was going to be blindsided:
“I had destroyed my word so bad with everybody that I had to move on to material items. I gave Brad and Troyzan a bracelet I was wearing and I was like, ‘Here, if I turn on you guys, throw this thing in the fire. This means the world to me. I wore it on my first season, blah, blah, blah. But if we’re making this pact, it’s only fair that you give me something.’ So I actually had Brad Culpepper’s wedding ring. And I told him, ‘If you turn on me, I’m going to throw it in the ocean.’ And we all see how much he loves Monica. I had to do that to solidify, so I actually felt very confident they weren’t going to turn on me because I had Brad Culpepper’s wedding ring. And I had one of Troyzan’s bracelets. So I had both of their items. So if either one of them screws me over everyone is getting screwed too ‘cause I’m keeping both of their things. And then they have one item of mine together. But at the day 39 breakfast we all gave each other the items back.”
Listen to the entire interview with Sarah — as well as our chats with Brad, Tai, Aubry, and Cirie — above. Or subscribe on iTunes to listen on the go. Also make sure to check out our full Survivor finale recap as well as intel on next season from Jeff Probst. And for more EW Morning Live podcast news, follow us on Twitter @EWMLPodcast.
On Brad’s comments that Sarah was swearing on her kids during the game:
“I swore on anything I could.… Nothing was off the table for me this time, and I think that was what helped me to success was that I was willing to go to whatever lengths it took. But I also had the permission from my friends, my family, my coworkers that they were not going to be embarrassed or ashamed of me for stooping low or for what other people think is crossing the line. If it’s the first time you’re playing, I can see how you can’t separate the game and real life, but we’ve been here two, three, and four times now for some people, and to sit there and say, ‘How dare you do this?’ and ‘What kind of person are you?’ — well, maybe you shouldn’t be playing if that’s how you feel because this is a game. And that’s just how I view it. And Tony viewed it the same way and you saw how successful he was. To future players out there, a major key to success is separating game and real life. It truly is.”
On if she will play again:
“Of course! How do you say no to Survivor? They just took care of me and they just awarded me with a million dollars. But right now, no! No, I can’t. I’m still exhausted. Mentally, I’ve thought about Survivor day in and day out since Cagayan, which was three years ago. I need a little bit of a mental break. But give me a shout down the road, and definitely, I would play again.”
On her plans for the money:
“It’s really boring. Just responsible things. Someone asked me, ‘Are you going to splurge on anything?’ Honestly, no. I just want to be really smart with it.”