Sierra who? That was the reaction from many viewers when the cast of Survivor: Game Changers was announced. Hell, even some of her fellow Season 34 castaways didn’t recognize her despite having previously finished in 5th place on Survivor: Worlds Apart. If she was so forgettable, why was she possibly picked to compete on a season known as Game Changers? Even she doubted herself, but it was also what motivated her to make stronger moves this time around. In our one-on-one interview with Sierra, she was openly frustrated with that strategic fumble by telling Sarah about her special legacy advantage.
SheKnows: Was your elimination a true blindside or did you have an idea it was coming?
Sierra Dawn-Thomas: I had a feeling. A couple people hadn’t talked to me all day. When you don’t get talked to on Survivor, you understand that you’re getting talked about. I was scared, but I legitimately thought the case I was pleading about Andrea had some merit to it. She’s a huge threat; she’s doing great in challenges, and I was hoping people would see that.
SK: Before going to Tribal Council, you secretly told Sarah about your legacy advantage. Then you revealed you would give it to her should you be voted off. Were you concerned that maybe she would see value in eliminating you to earn possession of the advantage?
SDT: What was I thinking? You would think that the normal, average person would think that. Here’s the deal. I was sitting with Sarah for about an hour before we even started talking about the advantage. We were crying; it was emotional. I was vulnerable, and I had no intention from the moment I found that secret advantage to tell anybody the entire time. I don’t know what came over me. When I watched it, I saw the confusion and fear in my eyes as I started speaking and telling her. I don’t know why I did it. If I was gonna tell her anything, I should’ve made up a lie.
SK: Looking back, what lie would you tell her?
SDT: I would’ve kept my mouth shut, but if I was going to say anything, I could have said, “I found a secret advantage. It’s an Idol that I can play for two people. I will play it for me and you.” I did have a connection with her. You don’t see it much, but we were really close. It’s frustrating. I can barely talk about it I’m so frustrated with myself.
SK: Why give it to Sarah instead of somebody else in your alliance? You were very close with Brad, so why not give it to him?
SDT: I was very close to Brad. As silly as it is, it all came down to that final moment when I was sitting there and Jeff Probst told me I was voted off. I looked at Brad and he gave me nothing. He showed no emotion, no shock, nothing. I looked at Sarah, and she was about to cry. For that moment, that’s what I was going off of. I thought Brad voted for me. I forgot the whole game I was super-close to him. I went off that moment, which I obviously shouldn’t have because Sarah did vote for me.
SK: Why did the tribe target you when there are other serious threats, like Cirie, left in the competition?
SDT: Cirie is playing a great game. She’s not being the one in charge. I came in saying, “I feel like I don’t deserve to be here on Game Changers. I’m gonna have to make some big moves.” I came in guns blazing from day one, and that was my mistake. I put a target on my back. I was telling people what to do. I was being super-strategic and open about it. Everyone saw that and realized I was playing really hard. It took the target off other people who were sitting back riding coattails for the most part.
SK: Was that your strategy all along, or did you play that way to live up to the season’s title of Game Changers?
SDT: Before I went, I had a lot of ridicule from people. I questioned myself if I deserved to play again before even knowing the theme. At that moment I said, “OK, Sierra. You can go into this thinking you don’t deserve to be here, or you can prove to everybody and yourself why you deserve to play again.” Even before knowing the theme of this season — which did light a fire under my butt — but for that moment, I just wanted to play hard and do more than I did the first time.
SK: Was there any strategic move you’re proud of that didn’t air on TV?
SDT: Yeah! I feel like a lot of people can back me up on this, but I was the sole purpose why Malcolm went home aside from the Idol being played. It was his name I had to sit around camp and argue for 20 minutes with Brad and Tai about why we should vote for him. Also with Caleb. They wanted to go Hali, but I fought to get rid of him. There’s a lot of things I did strategically that I was the main person behind.
SK: So would you label yourself as a game changer now?
SDT: I wouldn’t take it that far [laughs]. I feel like I did really well, and I am proud of myself, but I can’t confidently say I’m a game changer. I made a really big mistake. I’m still pretty upset about what I did [telling Sarah about the advantage]. It has outweighed all the good things I did. It’s a little raw, but maybe in the long run I can look back and say I was a game changer.
SK: Was there anybody on the cast who you didn’t believe was a game changer?
SDT: No. That cast was insane. I look at all of the names, even when I got there and saw all of their faces, I was privileged to be in the presence of these people.
SK: Who did you want to go to the final three with?
SDT: It was me, Brad and Troyzan or me, Brad and Sarah. In the game, I feel like I could’ve beaten them.
SK: How did you end up on the show this season? Walk us through what happened when CBS called.
SDT: Goodness gracious, it’s kind of a crazy story. I got the call in January. I went through the whole process of getting ready. Then, I got a call in May and they were like, “We’re actually not gonna use you.” So I went on living my life. I rodeo and I was on the road living in my horse trailer. Then I get a phone call on a Friday that they were actually going to use me. I was getting ready to compete in the rodeo when I answered my phone and they said, “Hey, you’re actually leaving on Saturday.” I had less than 48 hours to get home from a rodeo and get my life in order. I wish I was a little bit fatter going into the game. I would’ve eaten more and put more weight on before leaving.
SK: There’s a lot of talk that you were a last-minute alternate for Season 29 winner Natalie Anderson. Is that true?
SDT: It’s never been confirmed, but I’m pretty sure that’s what it was.
SK: Would you play again?
SDT: The second time was really hard on me, but I would love to see how far I can change and grow. What would my third season be like? I would love to yet again surprise myself and everybody else with what I could possibly do.