Sarah, Tony, Michele, Ben, and Denise discuss their first 34 days on the island.

By Dalton Ross
May 13, 2020 at 10:00 AM EDT
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We are not on the jury and will have no role whatsoever in determining the victor of Survivor: Winners at War when the 40th season of the reality franchise concludes Wednesday on CBS. (Although with a massive jury that will top out with 16 people, it may seem like everyone in America is rocking the vote.) But that didn’t stop us from peppering the final five with a few questions heading into finale night, and their answers could provide a window into how they may handle such queries should they make it to the end and face them at the final Tribal Council.

Of course, there will be another player reentering the game from the Edge of Extinction, and who knows what sort of chaos she or he will bring, meaning these final five may not even turn out to be the final final five. But enjoy the for now final five as they discuss their first 34 days on the island.

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SARAH LACINA

What is the move you were most proud of in the first 34 days?

The move I was most proud of in the first 34 days was voting out Rob. After the swap, Sophie and I were in the minority on Yara with Ben, Adam and Rob. It was clear Rob wanted to keep the boys together and vote one of us girls out. Sophie and I had our work cut out for us. Not only was Rob blindsided and voted out unanimously, but we didn’t have to use and idol or advantage to do it.

What was your favorite non-game related interaction you had with someone out there over your first 34 days?

My favorite non-game interaction during the first 34 days was when Wendell, Sophie, and I hiked up to the top of Dakal. The view was insane and the three of us sat there talking and enjoying the view. It wasn’t shown much, but I followed Wendell around all the time. He was always teaching me how to build things (like I was his apprentice). We laughed a lot and had real life conversations, just like you would with your friends back at home.

What was your lowest moment out there over the first 34 days?

I hesitated to play season 40 because of the aftermath from Game Changers. It is not fun making bonds and relationships with people, then having to vote them out. I didn’t want to go through that again. Around day 28ish, I completely broke down to Kim. We were at the point in the game where the only people left are your friends. I had to be cutthroat to win Game Changers and vote out people I cared about. I took a lot of heat from the cast, fans, and myself for that. I’ve carried the guilt of that for three years and didn’t want to feel that way again. I lost it, I almost quit, but Kim was there for me. She talked with me for about two hours, just talking through the guilt and hurt. Kim freed me that day. She assured me that it was ok to play the game and you’re not a bad person for playing the game.

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BEN DREIBERGEN

What is the move you were most proud of in the first 34 days?

After dealing with Rob and playing his game for the whole first half, we swapped to three tribes and I ended up on the tribe with Rob and Adam, Sarah, and Sophie. I remember feeling so relieved that I was with the girls and then blindsiding Rob. Playing his little game where he put us all in the kennel for the whole day was so fun. I even had my fingers crossed at one point talking with him at the well, so fun! So, yeah, blindsiding the infamous Boston Rob with Sarah and Sophie is the move I’m most proud of!

What was your favorite non-game related interaction you had with someone out there over your first 34 days?

My favorite moment in the first 34 days was probably again at Yara. Sarah, Sophie and I had a lot of fun out there, but the snake scene — I believe it was a secret scene where Sophie was scared of snakes but still was able to touch the snake while I was holding it — was such a fun human moment. You could tell she was nervous, but she powered through those fears and ended up touching the snake, which was really neat on a human level. Sophie is an amazing person.

What was your lowest moment out there over the first 34 days?

Probably my lowest moment in the first 34 days was not winning an individual immunity challenge. I wanted that necklace so bad, and so many times I came in second and third, but up until this point I still hadn’t worn it and that has to be the most frustrating thing for me in the game as of now! But gotta stay positive!

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MICHELE FITZGERALD

What is the move you were most proud of in the first 34 days?

I clearly have been struggling getting on the right side of the votes post-merge, but I am pretty proud of my pre-merge game. Not only did I break up an old school alliance, but I was able to navigate my way through a tribe swap where I was in the minority and entered the merge with the most Fire Tokens. Out of everything though, I think my favorite moment in 34 days was winning the immunity when my back was against the wall. I was the “easy target,” so I loved watching everyone who felt safe have to scramble.

What was your favorite non-game related interaction you had with someone out there over your first 34 days?

My favorite non-game related moments were probably Ethan’s nightly stories. They are way too inappropriate for EW, but they had us constantly laughing. Also, girl talk with Parv was as wonderful as I hoped it would be.

What was your lowest moment out there over the first 34 days?

I had so many lows during the season. I feel like I cried daily. The moments that stick out to me are when I was blindsided on the first night, when I knew Parv was going home and felt like I was betraying her, when I voted out Yul, and when I was on the bottom and everyone was telling me I was the next to go. But the more that I think about it, the more lows come to mind. Jeremy, Nick, Adam, Kim, and Wendell leaving were all really hard too. Being on the wrong side of votes sucks for morale, so I just had to keep picking myself up and reinventing my game.

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TONY VLACHOS

What is the move you were most proud of in the first 34 days?

It’s very hard for me to narrow down all of my craziness to the move that I’m “most proud” of. After watching the season up to this point, I would have to say it was that crippling “Sucker punch” that I talked about since day one! The Sophie blindside was such a powerful punch, that most of the players legs became jelly, throwing them off balance. From that point, up to now, it had caused them to hold on to the ropes, making it very difficult to recover, especially when the flurry of punches didn't slow down. The minute a player put their guards down in front of me, BANG! (Except when it came to my partner, Lacina.)

What was your favorite non-game related interaction you had with someone out there over your first 34 days?

I had a few favorite non-game related interactions (which actually helped me stay in the game for as long as I did), but my absolute favorite was with Nick JC Wilson. Without getting into the details, I was speaking with Nick about life, finances, family, and I provided him with a strategic plan that could better him with all three of those issues that he was conflicted with. During that conversation, he told me that what I just explained to him was exactly the clarity he was praying for, and it was me who answered those prayers! Needless to say, I was so touched by how receptive and appreciative he was, that my knees buckled. What an amazing feeling to know someone as intelligent as Nick valued my “life” advice as much as he did. Our conversation was genuine, heart-to-heart and I will never forget it.

What was your lowest moment out there over the first 34 days?

Contrary to what we saw on TV, I had a lot of low moments, which collectively were my “lowest moment,” if that makes sense. I must have cried every other day, tremendously missing my family. The last thing I remembered was how my little daughter was crying so hard, hyperventilating, struggling to breathe, gasping for air when I was at the airport ready to fly out to Fiji. It was a constant struggle within myself. I was so hard on myself questioning why I left my family behind for money.

What if something happens to me and my family doesn’t see me again? What if this? What if that?! I tried keeping my mind into the game as much as I could, but those two, three hours that my mind did drift away from the game and into missing my life at home, I would break. I was broken. That all changed after the family visit. Once I saw my family at the “loved ones visit” and my daughter was telling me how she’s having SO MUCH FUN with Mommy and I’m not there restricting her (in fear of her getting hurt), it was ON! I turned ON and I was not looking back!

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DENISE STAPLEY

What is the move you were most proud of in the first 34 days?

Without a DOUBT...the move that I am most proud of is being able to be the one to take out the Queen. It's a move that in hindsight could so easily have never happened. Sandra could have played that idol for herself, or I could have stupidly passed on the deal. Because let me tell you...that idol looked fake as can be! So I was torn: Do I take the risk and possibly look like an idiot on National TV? Or do I take the chance to finally get to feel like I'm playing the game? LUCKILY...I took the chance. And I'll proudly own the title of Queenslayer!

What was your favorite non-game related interaction you had with someone out there over your first 34 days?

There is so much that viewers at home don't see. They don't see the conversations that fill those long… often boring days off. They don't see the laughter as we are talking about our families or our kids. They don't see the connections that are made out there that have nothing to do with the game. So it's really hard for me to identify any one non-game related interaction…it's really a mix of them. And layers of them with every player out there. I just feel so lucky to have walked away from another season with what I know are new lifelong friendships and genuine bonds. The check at the end of it all is just a bonus.

What was your lowest moment out there over the first 34 days?

My lowest moment in the season began at the Tribal Council where the world saw that Mama D was just "Done..." My system was on overload and I was truly just maxed out, exhausted, & overwhelmed. When we arrived back to camp that night...I lost it. No joke. I. Lost. It. Angry tears welled up and overflowed. It may not have been rational… but it was real. Very real. I was just fed up with the lying that is required of the game & the constant mistrust that is there. It's just not how I'm wired. I was a hot Mama D mess that night. But… it's funny how those lowest moments can turn into your best moments. They become valuable lessons if you're open to it. What came out of it for me was that mantra of "Endure" and "Let Go." And a mindset shift that helped me keep putting one foot in front of the other for the remainder of the game.

Make sure to also read our remote roundtable of 10 former Survivor all-stars previewing the Winners at War finale and watch the opening credits you won't see on TV. And for more Survivor scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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