By Dalton Ross
February 18, 2017 at 09:00 AM EST

She wasn’t supposed to be there. Sierra Dawn Thomas made it all the way to the casting finals of Survivor: Game Changers, only to be told “Thanks, but no thanks.” But then fate intervened. After San Juan del Sur champ Natalie Anderson backed out at the last minute, Sierra was tracked down at a rodeo to rush out to Fiji and fill the 20th and final spot.

We asked the Blue Collar barrel racer about her race to Fiji. Sierra also promises to “do something really big” this time and spills the beans on why she changed her entire strategy after being at Ponderosa during pre-game. Watch the video above and read the Q&A below to see for yourself. (Also make sure to follow @thedaltonross on Instagram to see exclusive on-location photos, including one of Sierra casting her pre-game vote for whom she’d like to vote off first.)

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Okay, Sierra. Why are you gong to win Survivor: Game Changers?
SIERRA DAWN THOMAS: I will win Survivor: Game Changers because people are going to underestimate me. What they’ve seen of me is me playing a quiet, calm game, and this time I’m going to come guns blazing. I’m going to play a great social game, physical, and I am ready to make some big moves.

What’s going to be different this time?
There are a lot of things I’m going to do different this time. I’m really going to work on my social game that I had last time that came super-natural to me, and I love obviously making friends, but I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in my entire life. I think I’m going to be a strong competitor in all of the challenges. But I’m also willing to do something really big. I don’t know what it’s going to be and when it’s going to happen, but when that opportunity comes, I’m not going to hesitate to jump.

How annoying is it to have another Sierra/Ciera this season?
I wish it bothered me that there was another Sierra/Ciera, but it doesn’t.

You were a very late addition to the cast when Natalie Anderson had to back out at the last minute. So what was that like?
I was a very late addition, so I am super-grateful to be here, but it was crazy. I went out and I did the finals and got the vaccinations and did everything it entailed, and then I got a phone call that they weren’t going to use me, that I was an alternative — so keep living my summer, but be ready. So I went on living my summer. I was actually at a rodeo, a couple of hours from home, got the phone call Friday afternoon, my flight left on Sunday. I had to get everything in order and it was absolutely mayhem. But I’m here and I’m ready to play.

Do relationships outside the game carry into the game?
I do have real relationships with a couple of these people who are my really good friends, so we’re going to see how that goes. But I just hope that everybody is under the understanding that this is a game and it’s going to be full of deceit and big moves, and hopefully friendships will still live after.

RELATED: Meet the cast of Survivor: Game Changers

How do you think the other players size you up?
I think people look at me and just see sweet Sierra — somebody who’s easy to talk to and easy to get along with, and per my season probably think I’m not going to do anything big, which I think is going to help me this season. I think they’ll not feel too threatened by me. I played a very loyal game my season and hopefully they’ll see that and I can use that and get really far and make a really big move and surprise everybody.

Who do you want to work with in the game?
You know what? It’s changed since being out here at Ponderosa. Because I have my people. Me and Troyzan are very close. I get along with guys generally way better than girls anyways, and so I want to work with guys. But as I was sitting there — which is so rare and so far it’s only happened once — I thought, how badass would it be if the girls just freakin’ dominated and came together and had this crazy alliance and made it to the end? So I’m hoping that can happen. Probably not, because girls are freakin’ crazy and can’t keep their s— together, but I’m hoping that works.

For more Survivor scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.