Sarah Lacina explains origin of her gender bias Survivor speech
The Game Changers champ says "Rob would rather get beat by a man than a woman."
She wanted to either shoot or get shot by her partner. Unfortunately for Sarah Lacina, she’s the one who got shot. Sarah and her Cops ‘R’ Us partner Tony were pit against each other in the final four fire-making challenge during the Survivor: Winners at War finale, and when Tony emerged victorious, it meant Sarah’s game was over.
It was a super emotional exit for one of the greatest players in Survivor history. Sarah was targeted by other winners before the game as the one player they were most worried about, and yet she still made it to the final four, was never voted out of the game, and shone a light on inherent gender bias in the game along the way.
But why was Sarah so eager to go to fire? How does she think she would have done with the jury had she beaten Tony? And does she think there were people on the jury that did not respect her gameplay because of her gender? We spoke to Sarah — excuse me, Lacina — after the finale aired and got the scoop straight from the source.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What's going on, Lacina?
SARAH LACINA: Well, it's an honor that I've come into the last name club. So I'm glad that you took that upon yourself. I didn't have to correct you. So, nice job, Dalton.
There are so many questions, but we'll start with the obvious one, and I'm sure you've run this through your head a million times over the past 10 months from when this all went down. How do you do with the jury if you beat Tony at fire?
The only way I had a shot at winning the game was to beat Tony at fire. Clearly, I made my push at the final six because I did not realize the perception of what the jury was seeing. I knew what I was doing, but it was not being perceived as a big play. So at this point I'm already having to start campaigning for a win. But the problem is, final six is day 36. You've got three days to go. And I was realizing that it was maybe too little too late. So at that point I knew that I have to make fire. Natalie's original plan was to have Tony and Michele make fire, which, quite honestly, makes the most sense.
So I just knew if I beat him, then we would not be splitting any votes at the end because I think the people that would've voted for me if we sit in the end are loyal voters to me and he doesn't get those votes and we would have split. So there's no way we could have sat in the end together. And if I beat him, then I would have had to cross that bridge and I would have expected help from, I guess, my voters on the jury, because everybody on the Edge has gotten to influence each other this whole time. But the people that have been in the game, we haven't had that opportunity to influence the jury like they have. So I would have just hoped that Tony would go to work for me, like I did for him.
So you think that you not definitely win against Natalie and Michele at the end, not definitely lose, but a toss-up in there and you would have had a shot?
Yeah, I definitely think I have a shot at beating Natalie. She flat out said at the final four, she doesn't feel confident in making fire. And she had to come in and play the perfect game. Well, she didn't survive a single Tribal Council without safety. Everybody talks about how awful and boring the Edge is. Well, then why didn't you sit there and practice making fire all day, every day so that you could have used that to capitalize and have the cherry on the top?
Instead you left that for me to take. So that would've been my pitch to the jury is, she definitely did not outlast me, and to say she outplayed, I guess, that’s playing when you're not playing the game [on the Edge]. So it would have just come down to, honestly, this is not going to be a popular answer, but it's the honest to God's truth, is it would have come down to a bitter jury.
Obviously, Tony did beat you in fire. Tell me about what was going on and what you were feeling in that moment? I spoke to Tony about it and he said that he was devastated, and you can see it on his face. What were you feeling, Sarah?
Tony and I started our friendship seven years ago during Cagayan. And then when we were both brought back to play Game Changers, we were looking forward to getting to play together and we never got to connect. So when we were brought back for Winners at War, this was going to be our last shot to play together, let's go out with a bang. Let's be loyal to each other. Let's have each other's back, and that's what we did. And it was a very tough season. Everybody out there is much older. The majority of people have families now. And it just takes such a physical and mental and toll on you out there that by the time you're at day 39, you're wiped out.
And to know that it's coming down to this, we wanted to sit next to each other in the end. And that was no longer a possibility. And so coming to terms with that wasn't fun, and it was going to break both of our hearts to take the other one out. We just took $2 million from the other person. So yeah, it was emotional, but I'm so proud of him because if it couldn't have been me, that's who I wanted it to be, was Tony, and so yeah, if it's not me, I'm glad it's him.
Let's talk about your big speech at the final six about the gender bias. Do you feel there were people on that jury who had spent a lot of time on the Edge that weren't giving you the credit you deserve? And if so, do you feel that was due to that sort of alpha dog mentality that can sometimes permeate this show?
Yeah, absolutely. I think where it really clicked was when we swapped tribes and Rob really didn't treat Sophie and I the best, which was fine. He could play the game however he wants, but when we're sitting at Tribal Council, the night that we voted him out, the speech he's giving me — I know he had written my name down because both Adam and Ben told me, and he's basically talking to me saying it's a numbers game and you're just not right by the numbers, but it's just a game and game respects game.
He's basically giving me a speech of, "I'm writing your name tonight, but you need to respect me. And when I'm sitting in the final three, you need to vote for me." So he gets voted out, and then when Natalie comes back in, she tells me that all Rob had done over at the Edge was say horrible things about me to everybody. And this was verified after the season. And even Parvati — and I never played with Parvati — and I'm sitting there going, "What is this all about?"
It's really not fair. So when it comes down to it, I am a woman, and Rob would rather get beat by a man than a woman, but he would have expected me to vote for him. But I guarantee you, he would have never voted for me. So that's where that speech starts coming from. When Dom and Wendell played, they split credit that entire season of Ghost Island. What did Dom and Wendell do different than what Tony and I did? But why don't we get the split credit?
To say that I would beat Tony, like “Sarah's delusional, she can't be Tony.” No, if I'm sitting next to Tony and it's just me and Tony, no, I don't beat him. He played a great game. He won four immunities. But guess what? It's not a final two. It's a final three. And I can beat Tony in a final three if we're sitting there with the right people. Because if I'm not sitting just next to him, I'm taking votes away from him that he would typically get. Everybody likes to Monday Morning Quarterback, but at the end of the day, we did the same thing that you see a lot of male duos do, but I really got dragged to the mud on it and zero credit, which is amazing to me, especially from the people that treated me that way. I guess the reputation that they have really disappointed me that they would behave that way.
You made great points with that gender speech, but also — and you sort of alluded to this already in terms of getting to work on day 36 — but super smart on your part to do that early jury work then instead of waiting to day 39. That was pretty calculated, right?
Oh, 100 percent. If I sit at the end at 39, look, I've been on a jury. I know how the jury operates, and the jury is pretty well decided when they walk into day 39. So when you're giving your speech on day 39, it's too late. And so I knew I have got to start now. And, unfortunately, it wasn't brought to my attention that that's what the jury was thinking until Natalie came back in the game and I'm going, "I'm in trouble right now." But like I said, the reason it wasn't brought to my attention is because I viewed myself as an equal to Tony.
So I figured, so does everybody else. But clearly that's not the case. And I was one of the biggest threats coming into the season, I never had immunity, I never had an idol, but yet I wasn't voted out. In three seasons I've been voted out one time. I didn't get voted out this season, Tony took me out in fire making. And so it's like, at what point do these players not go, "You know what, okay, she is, right"? I'm not saying you have to like me, but I think you should at least give me the respect of a game player.
But again, it doesn't matter because Survivor's not my identity either. I guess I don't want to get off topic about it, but I'm tired of the battle with it. And so I don't care if people think I'm the best player in the world or the worst player in the world, it really doesn't bother me anymore.
What are some things you wish we could have seen that didn't make it into an episode?
Going into the Ben vote-out, you could be watching it and say, "Well, why didn't they think of getting rid of Sarah?" Tony had saved his paperwork from his immunity idol. And then made another one. So I got that from him after he won immunity. I acted like I was trying to hide something in my bag in front of Natalie and Michele. And they were like, "What are you doing, or what's that?" I was like, "Oh, clumsy me. I just accidentally showed you this idol I have." And then I show them the paperwork and whatnot. And so the reason I couldn't have been on the chopping block on the Ben vote was because they thought that they couldn't vote me out. And I needed that because up until like an hour before Tribal, I was going to vote with Ben and Tony, for sure.
But had my name been on the chopping block, that would have been scary if Natalie would have been able to play her idol or had played her idol for Michele, if we decided to vote out Michelle and whatnot. So that was a calculated move that I insured my own safety because they thought I wasn't even an option.
And then going into the final fire making challenge, I convinced Natalie in the last like 10 minutes at camp to let me make fire against Tony. She told me earlier on in the day that it would be Michele and Tony. She said basically, “If Michelle makes fire, it’s no big deal. And if Tony makes fire and wins, yeah, it's a cherry on the top for him, but he already has a good résumé.” And I think she thinks she can't beat him anyway, but she's like, "But you have a game."
She thinks that she could beat me. But if I made fire against Tony, then I could maybe beat her. So then why would you have me and Tony make fire? It makes no sense. Well, Michele was having a heck of a time and crying and had freaked out Natalie and whatnot. So then I just started working on Natalie and I'm like, "Look, Tony's killing it at make a fire. Michele's not in the head space, she can't do it." I'm like, "Do you think you can do it?" And she's like, "No." And I just told her, "I can do it, 100%. I can beat him. I've been making fire next to him all day. I could beat him." That's not shown, but I totally convinced her to let me make fire against Tony so that I have a shot at winning.
Because if Tony and I sit in together at the end. we split votes. It turns into like an election where you've got a Democrat and a Republican running. And then somebody from one of the parties decides to run as an independent and then the votes get split. And that would have happened with Tony and I. You probably would have seen Natalie win had Tony and Michele made fire and Tony beat Michele in fire. Me, Tony, and Natalie sitting in the end probably results in a Natalie win, because of Tony and I splitting votes, I wasn't going to let that happen. So that was another move that I wish I would have gotten shown.
Watch an exclusive deleted scene above, and make sure to also read our full finale recap as well as finale interviews with winner Tony Vlachos , runner-up Natalie Anderson, finalist Michele Fitzgerald, Ben Driebergen, Denise Stapley, and host Jeff Probst. And for more Survivor scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.