Interview: Rodney Lavoie Jr. and Sierra Dawn Thomas talk 'Survivor: Worlds Apart'
"Survivor: Worlds Apart" fourth and fifth place finishers Rodney Lavoie Jr. and sierra-dawn-thomas" class="autolink">Sierra Dawn Thomas called me as a package deal on Thursday (May 21) morning following the "Survivor" finale.
The pairing probably spared Rodney lots of repetition about the various sexism and misogyny charges leveled through the season and discussed through the finale. Those issues came up in our conversation, but it wasn't the meat of the exit interview.
In a season with a 6-1-1 vote, I let Sierra and Rodney defend casting their respective votes for Carolyn and Will instead of eventual winner Mike.
We discussed a few strategic points in the game, we circled around the sexist comments, the edit and who apologized to whom.
And we talked about Rodney's birthday and his feelings about Tom Brady's suspension in Deflategate. Which Rodney compares to excessive attention to "Survivor" sexism.
Paired interviews are a good way to deflect problematic questions!
Check back over the next few nights for my exit interviews with Carolyn, Will and Mike.
And check out my full Q&A with Rodney and Sierra below...
HitFix: So, okay. It was a 6-1-1 vote last night and you guys were the two votes that didn’t go with the winner. So off the top, tell me about your votes, how hard they were to decide, et cetera.
Rodney Lavoie Jr.: Well, I put the bash on with the ladies so let’s have Sierra go first. I’m a gentleman, so let me start off by letting my girl Sierra go.
Sierra Dawn Thomas: Oh thank you. Thank you. You know I went into that final Tribal honestly not knowing who I was going to vote for. I mean I was leaning towards obviously Carolyn even going into it. But I spent a lot of time with Mike out there from day one and I got to see things that people don’t get to see. He played a great game. He was a huge physical threat, but to me his social part sucked. He was just spiraling out of control 24/7 and to me there was no strategy behind that. And then I look at Carolyn and she’s like a beast in challenges. She’s winning Immunities. And we call her Mama C because she’s like a mom. Like she was playing a great social game and to me she played a better game as a whole.
Rodney Lavoie Jr.: My final vote, you know, Will was my ride-or-die in the game, right. And I kind of played the game as how I did my real life which is as an ride-or-die kind of type of guy. So when I got blindsided by Joaquin, we had a strong bond and it lit a fire under my ass and I go, "Sierra voted against me and she was with Dan and she was with Mike." So they made it clear that inside the Blue Collar Alliance I’m at the bottom. So like, "I need to make a move because I can’t just coattail on this Blue Collar Alliance in the end. I’ve got to make my own move." So when I snatched up Will and the No Collars thought they were four strong, with Will, we shook up the entire game because then I pulled over Carolyn and Tyler, had the Axis of Evil going on. I had my “Blue Strong” going on and me and Will, I called it many times -- Look back at episode seven or eight. I’m like this is the Final Four. And me, Carolyn, Will and Kelly. I was wrong about Kelly. Instead it was Mike but it could have been Kelly if we got Mike out. So I knew my formula. I knew my game plan and because of that, Will’s big time trust in me and my big time trust in him brought us all the way to the promised land. And I voted for my best bud, the guy who I would want to share the million dollars with, rather than a guy who was teaching Carolyn how to make flint. I’m not bitter about. It’s just like you made a good strategic move looking back on it now where at the time, you know, I just – I love Will and I’d rather see him get the money because he’s my boy. And that’s just nothing personal to Mike, nothing personal about the game. It’s just I wanted to see my friend win it.
HitFix: Were you guys surprised by how decisive the vote finally was given how certain you guys both seemed to be about your votes?
Sierra Dawn Thomas: I wasn’t shocked because Mike did play a good game. He did. Every time they would come into Tribal Council they’d see a necklace on him. So like I wasn’t completely shocked. I honestly thought Tyler would have voted Mama C, just because of the definition that you heard Rodney give why he voted for Will. I thought that loyalty sat somewhere but that didn’t happen. But I mean Mike did play a great game. Just because the way I viewed it, I thought Mama C did better but I’m not completely shocked at everybody went for Mike.
Rodney Lavoie Jr.: Listen, Mike had his back against the wall since I think maybe with the third person on the Jury right when we started dissecting and then Hali goes and Jenn goes and Joe goes. Then now the focus turns to Mike because at the Auction, you know, I kinds flipped the script on him. He had his back against the wall and socially he messed up big time and it was such a bad move and bad timing. He had the right intentions where he was the only one who knew my game plan and what I was up to. But he blasted it at a time when he could have enjoyed a solid family moment because me and Sierra were hugging and crying together. Me and Will were hugging and crying together. Sierra was holding Dan. And even if you were fighting with people that didn’t have a strong alliance with you, we were holding each other’s hand and reading our love letters getting to know each other. Like those love letters were so important. Outside people in the game, you look at is like, "Oh Mike made a good move. He should've have done that at the auction." But because that so called savvy move it led to losing Dan’s trust. It led to losing Sierra’s trust and it just benefitted the hell out of my game. So now Mike is backed up against the wall and what does he do? He says, "Oh no, I’m million bucks." And that’s what he did and that’s why I got a lot of props to him because he outplayed and he was a challenge beast. And you can’t take it away from him.
HitFix: What was it like out there with every single immunity challenge being an, "Okay, anybody other than Mike has to win and then he can go home." And then Mike kept winning and winning. Like what does that do to your psyche as that’s happening to you guys out there?
Sierra Dawn Thomas: It’s frustrating. I mean I was on Mike’s tail for a lot of the challenges and it was so incredibly frustrating not only because I wanted to win, but because we obviously wanted to get him out and he kept winning. So it was. It was almost like he fed off of that and it kept him winning and we were just getting frustrated and we kept losing.
Rodney Lavoie Jr.: The one regret I had right was when we were holding on to the thing like it took inches. Just like Sierra when she had the ball, it took inches. If she lands that Mike goes sixth. If I hold on to the water bucket challenge, if I hold on to that, he’s out. So his back like I said was against the wall and he was inches away. And the Survivor gods were on Mike Holloway’s side. Like they wanted the check to go to Texas and that’s where it went. And that’s where it’s staying. And I love rednecks and hicks, too so I know it’s just me being funny comical out there. And he deserved it man. I can’t say no more than he fought and he deserved the check. There’s not more I can say.
HitFix: Now a couple individual questions for you guys. Sierra, you had the brief moment where it looked like you were considering going with an all-girl alliance which obviously would have changed the flow of the game completely. But you stuck with Blue. In hindsight, how do you feel about that decision and what was the impetus for the decision at that moment?
Sierra Dawn Thomas: You know, I mean it may look like to everyone that I was on the bottom of my alliance. But if I was to go over to that girl alliance, I would have been further down, you know. They had been together after the switch-up and had spent time together. And when I was talking to them they were like, "We’re getting rid of Kelly," right when they came back from the Merge. So I knew they were all close. And I knew if I went over there I wouldn’t be one of the top people in that alliance. And when I was looking at the big picture, which I tried to keep in mind, the whole entire time I had to think of who I wanted in the end with me. I didn’t want to be sitting next to like Joey Amazing or these people that I thought could beat me and not only like in Immunities but also like in the social part of the game. So that’s why I stayed with my initial tribe because I thought that I could, in the long run I could beat them.
HitFix: And it seemed at the time like you were extremely frustrated with the way you were being treated, particularly by Dan. How hard was it to push down that frustration and put on the strategic hat and concentrate on that?
Sierra Dawn Thomas: Right, I mean obviously I’m a girl and like we’re emotional and crazy. And there came a point that I was just like, "I can’t play off of my emotions. If do it, it’s going to get me nowhere." I mean they genuinely hurt my feelings. I mean him, Rodney and Kelly genuinely like made me feel like crap. But I was like, "So I can stay here and sulk or I can like toughen up and finish this game and give it my all. And I had to do that." Dan apologized probably like 52 times. He felt so bad like after it was all said and done, while we were still in the game. And so there was a point that I really did get over it because not only was it good for my game but I knew that he really felt bad about what went down.
HitFix: So. Did Rodney apologize?
Sierra Dawn Thomas: [She laughs.] I don’t know.
Rodney Lavoie Jr.: At that time you teamed up with Lindsey. I was like, "Dude listen, you put my damn name down." You were like, "Oh you broke my loyalty and trust." I didn’t break any of your loyalty and trust. Go talk to Dan. Go talk to Mike. Go talk to Kelly. You wanted to get me out of the game early so I was like "I don’t feel bad for you right now."
Sierra Dawn Thomas: But this is the thing. It wasn’t Sierra’s idea to write Rodney down. Mike had...
Rodney Lavoie Jr.: At the time that’s what it looked like.
Sierra Dawn Thomas: Right. No, no, no. And I understand that.
Rodney Lavoie Jr.: But you were backed up with Lindsey and Lindsey was my enemy at the time.
Sierra Dawn Thomas: Right. Right. I mean I think me and Rodney were really close so I don’t think there really even needed to be an apology. I mean it was hurtful but like I think Dan did attack me the most in that situation. Yeah he apologized a lot for it.
HitFix: Rodney, I talked to Dan last week and Dan said that he thought that part of why he looked so bad at times was because the editors were able to lump in the things that he said with the things that you and Will said. Do you feel to some degree that it was the other way around? That you ended up looking a little bad out there because you were able to be lumped in with Dan?
Rodney Lavoie Jr.: All right, well this is how I look at it, right? In the season I made a comment about Lindsey joking around where I laughed when I said "I'd bend her over my leg like, 'Bad baby, bad baby,' right?" That was a joke and Kelly was laughing and she’s a woman. So Dan said some comments too. He said, "Dude I would just like to slap her." And it sounds like, "Oh, are you going to slap a woman?" But no, he was just saying it like if somebody aggravates you like he said last night at the immunity show like how many times did he say, "Oh I want to kill this person." Okay, you’re driving in a car and somebody cuts you off I’m like, "Oh I could really, you know, I really want to take him out of the car and bag him." It doesn’t mean actually I’m really gonna do it. So Dan thought he was going to get more of a hero edit going into the show because he loves his wife so much. He really is a positive really great guy. It’s just sometimes he goes over the top. He always has to get his point in. So instead of last night where he gave Shirin a really, really, really good apology, he ended it with, "However..." And that’s the number one word, "Buts" and "Howevers" does not work when you’re trying to make an apology or be genuine about something. So he should have ended it at that and we should have moved on instead of talking about sexist comments. Because Season 30 and what we went through and the big loud crazy cast that we had, shouldn’t have been dwelled on sexism. It should have been dwelled upon celebrating one of the best casts I think ever.
HitFix: Sierra does it feel that way to you? I mean because it’s one thing for everyone to say, "Oh we were just joking, we were just joking, we were just joking." But how much did it feel like it was just joking at the time and how much did it feel like something more out there?
Sierra Dawn Thomas: So like what you guys saw was like far from what our everyday consisted of. Like Rodney said, we had so much fun. There’s a reason why our cast is so close outside of the game. Because we all love each other. I do think they focused on all of those negative things when so much more happened. You know I think there were lines crossed at some point and people’s feelings did get hurt but I don’t think that defines those people at all. They’re amazing guys each of them – Will, Dan and Rodney. And it’s unfortunate that they focused solely on sexism and how they treat women, because there’s so much more to those three guys, and to everybody, aside from that. And so I mean it is a little frustrating because it makes it look like that’s all that happened out there which it wasn’t.
HitFix: Well, I mean, we saw that Rodney also missed his birthday. So Rodney what was it like watching that play out on TV and how did that compare to the way that you remembered those couple days out there?
Rodney Lavoie Jr.: I mean it was just so hard that like... I mean my birthday... It was more I thought that like, "I’m going into my birthday as a lock." Like Sierra said Mama C, she’s a mama. And mama promised her son, right, which you guys didn’t see in the edit. She goes, "No matter what happens baby you’re going on Reward." But Sierra didn’t promise me that and Mike didn’t promise me that. They're like, "If I win, I'm not giving it up." And then when she won the Reward she ended up keeping it and so basically she laughed at me. She was like telling a little kid "You’re going to get the toy truck for Christmas" and you don’t get it. So there was more of that with leading up to the hype. I didn’t expect anybody to do anything because two Tribals before that when Mike got that, "Don’t worry about it brother, I’m gonna go get mine." But the whole birthday experience – why the hell did they highlight my birthday anyway? If you ask Sierra, it wasn’t even a big deal around camp. All of a sudden I’ve got a whole damn episode about it. So I’m like you know what? I’m very flattered that CBS loved how I bitched and complained and was looking at the "Survivor" gods and kicking my feet and dishes and s*** like that. I’m very honored that Jeff honored me at the finale but it’s just crazy that Rodney’s birthday was this big topic. It was great. It was epic. I love it.
HitFix: Rodney, how long does it take for you to put together the material for one of your impressions? How long did it take before you could do Mike? Before you could do Carolyn, et cetera?
Rodney Lavoie Jr.: Honestly was like it’s kind of like the gift of gab I have. I do a little Sierra. I do a little bit of Hali. I just hear voices and a twist. I don’t read books. I’ll be honest with you. I don't have time for that s***. But I do watch movies and when I can just study somebody’s voice, change it up and then just connect. It’s crazy. I don’t know if I have a gift, I’ve got a skill. But I just love having fun man. And that’s why my social game and why I was good at "Survivor," because Sierra was always laughing. We were always singing rap songs together, dancing. Like this is the stuff you didn’t see behind the scenes. Jenn you see her saying "I hate you," but when I do my impersonation, I was Jenn's best friend and I had her vote. And all the people didn’t raise their hand like Hali, Jenn and Joe, those three people could have voted together and the game totally could have swung either way. So I’m just a happy, fun, go-lucky guy. I’m the type of guy when you come at me you better bring a hammer and you better take me out, you know. But if I’m on your side I’ll my shirt off my back for you. I’ll drive 20,000 miles to go see you and be there for you. So that’s why, you know, people can say what they want and think about me, but I really don’t care because I know who I am and I know how good a person I am. And Sierra will tell you that right now.
HitFix: And Sierra, we saw a very quiet game from you I would say strategically. What do you wish that we had seen on TV from the strategic side of your game?
Sierra Dawn Thomas: It’s so funny because all of my friends and family who watch it they’re like, "That is not you. You’re so loud, you’re so annoying." I laugh at everything. I was constantly laughing at Rodney. You know it’s unfortunate that you didn’t see that but I had a really good relationship with every single person and spent a lot of good time with everyone, which strategically was what I wanted to do, was be like really, you know, get on really good terms with everyone. But being kind doesn’t make good TV. Like nobody wants to watch someone just be nice. And I think that’s why I got such a quiet edit is because I’m not loud, I’m not, you know, I’m not argumentative. I don’t do those things. But I was playing my social game and the fact that I was really working on relationships with everyone in hopes that in the end they would be like, "You know what? She did, she took the time to get to know everyone. She did help around camp and she was right there in almost all of the challenges as an athlete." And so it’s unfortunate that I did look so quiet because I’m honestly the furthest thing from. I’m quite literally like annoying. So it’s crazy to watch me look like a quiet person.
HitFix: And as a last question Rodney, I’m from New Hampshire so I’ve got to ask you this. What is the correct punishment for Tom Brady in Deflategate?
Rodney Lavoie Jr.: [Laughs.] Listen, you see this NFL meme and it's hilarious: You’ve got Ray Rice who, you know, punches on his wife and gets a game. You’ve got people killing people and you’ve got murder charges. Brady? We’re talking about the air pressure? Come on man. They hate us because they ain't us, Dan. When you’re on top it’s very lonely. So what does Brady care? He’s gonna fight it. He’s gonna win it just like me, I’m Tom Brady. Free Brady. They’re coming down on my boy and it’s just the fact of the matter that he probably won’t even serve a game when it’s his time, because this is just a joke. Just like in "Survivor" shadowing all the sexism. Let this Deflategate go and let’s move on baby.
Other "Survivor: Worlds Apart" exit interviews: