Interview: Sarah Lacina talks 'Survivor: Cagayan'
But Sarah was more than confident that she was staying. She was certain that she was the one deciding who would go home. In the immediate aftermath of the season's Merge, Sarah was positioned as the swing vote between two five-person alliances.
She was the queen.
She was the president.
She was blindsided.
Fed up with Sarah's power and insecure about her own position with her former Brains alliance, Kass was wooed to the dark side and flipped, sending Sarah packing in a shocking Tribal Council that saw two Hidden Immunity Idols get played on castaways who received a combined total of zero votes.
It was a tough moment for Sarah, an Iowa-based police officer who immediately bonded with New Jersey's Tony to form the short-lived Cops -r- Us alliance. Nothing actually came of that alliance, since Tony was lying to Sarah about the forces massing against her, though there was a failed attempt to throw an Immunity challenge.
In this week's exit interview, Sarah discusses why Kass was stupid to flip, why she read Tony so poorly and which aspects of her blindside surprised her most.
Full Q&A below...
HitFix: You went out on a classic "Survivor" Tribal Council. Watching it last night were you able to enjoy any of it or was it all pain?
Sarah Lacina: Yeah, I could enjoy it, because I knew the fans were going to enjoy watching it. I hadn't told people how I did and whatnot, definitely everyone close to me, I didn't wanna spoil it for them. I wanted to make it exciting, because if they knew, it wouldn't have been so exciting for them. Definitely it was an insane Tribal and there's no hard feelings in the sense that I hate people and whatnot. It's a game and that's the way it should go.
HitFix: Watching, were you able to remember the excitement and elation of that moment when Tony and LJ played their Idols and it looked like everything was going your way? How long did you get to enjoy that, would you say?
Sarah: Oh yeah! It was great. I just wanted to turn around and go, "Gotcha!" Know what I mean? I just wanted to rub it in and then when Jeff reads Jefra's name, I just wanted to turn around and just stare at both of them and be like, "Now what?" Then as the votes were being read, I'm like, "Come on, Jeff. Just hurry it up. Let's get Jefra out of here. We all know that it's 6-votes-to-5-votes" and I'm just shocked at the way that it went down.
HitFix: Had you known that the votes from the other side were going to go against you?
Sarah: I didn't know 100 percent, but I figured. It had been made pretty clear to them that I was not gonna go with them and I tried to keep that a secret as long as I could because I was afraid that they would start to target me and they would get someone to try to take me out, too. So I wasn't shocked to see my name written down. I was definitely shocked to see it written down six times.
HitFix: You had a long while at Ponderosa to collect information, but did anything you saw on last night's episode surprise you or help you understand what went down?
Sarah: No, I think I had a pretty good grasp on how everything played out. There weren't any shocks last night. The only thing I would say I was shocked about is how well Trish is actually playing the game. I didn't see that while I was out there. It makes it look like Tony's making all these big moves, but in all reality, Trish is kinda running the show and got the blood on her hands, but the target not on her back.
HitFix: So when you look back on what happened to you, do you give the credit to Trish? Do you give the credit to Kass for a smart move? Was it a stupid move Kass made? How do you look at what happened?
Sarah: Yeah, no. Trish definitely made the best move. I don't think it took much persuading, though. It was an idiotic move [for Kass] to make. We had all discussed, as a six-some, that whoever flips is not gonna get the five votes from the Jury. Just period. So definitely you can't win the game and I was there to win the game. I wasn't there to sit in the Final 3. That was not on my agenda and I thought that everyone else playing would have the same agenda, that everyone out there wanted to win the game, didn't want to just make it to the end. But apparently that wasn't the case.
HitFix: I'm not sure I've ever seen a player give the editors so much confessional material to set up a blindside. [She laughs.] When you were giving all of those speeches about being in charge and being the queen was there ever anything in the back of your head thinking about how all of it would play if you got surprised?
Sarah: No. I mean yeah, sure, they showed that side of it. I definitely do say, "This the best position to in." Well yes, at the time being, but in the long run? It's the worst position to be in. You can't lay too low, but you can't be too stand-out. As the fulcrum of the Merge, it was doomed for disaster. I was gonna make five people mad no matter which way I went and I was the only person that was gonna make people mad, because everybody else could've just stayed put and been fine.
HitFix: But under the circumstances, was there anything you could have done to not emphasize the position you were in, as being the fulcrum? Is there anything you could have done to understate your position, rather than overstate it?
Sarah: Well, clearly what I'm saying to the camera, I'm not running around camp saying, "Oh, carry me. Feed me grapes." I'm saying that in an interview, but definitely was not out there being cocky saying, "Queen Sarah. I'm the president. Everybody side with me." I wasn't acting like that toward the group by any means.
HitFix: Then how did Kass end up with the impression or feeling that you were being like that?
Sarah: Spencer and I were very close and Spencer, Kass and Tash were supposed to be the tight ones, you know? She makes mention to Trish that she's been replaced, because I got along with everyone and I was fun and out of 18 people, she's the one person I didn't get along with. I'm friends with everyone else, so clearly it wasn't me being the unlikeable person out there. I just think once she felt replaced, "Well, Sarah's taken Spencer away from our Brains tribe" or whatever, then that's when the animosity towards me had come. Prior to last night's episode, she was not very nice to me after the Swap, telling me, "Well, you better hope you win, because otherwise you're going home" and she just wasn't pleasant, so I don't know. Whatever reasoning behind it, we can definitely rule out any strategic logic behind any of it.
HitFix: In your mind, given that you didn't have a great relationship with Kass, do you place the blame on Spencer and Tash for not making sure that they still had Kass comfortable and in the fold?
Sarah: No. No, not at all. You could see them both at Tribal Council. They are not happy. And they're not babysitters. We're all adults out there and you would figure that we would all act like it in some capacity. She just had a childish moment where, "Well, I'm not the favorite and it hurts my feelings so someone else wants me so I'm gonna go do that." And Tash and Spencer, it's no fault of theirs.
HitFix: You came into the game talking about your interrogation background and your ability to read people. What do you think went wrong with your ability to read Tony?
Sarah: I think he is very good at... I mean, we do the same thing for a living and I think that Tony found something that was near and dear to me and something that I was gonna stay loyal and honest to and he didn't have a problem not holding the honor the same value as I did, so he definitely played up on that. That was my downfall is just thinking that, "OK. We're both police officers. We should hold our badge at the same level of integrity as each other and we should cross-check each other and have each other's back and whatnot," but this isn't real life, it's "Survivor." Unfortunately, that portion of it was hard for me to differentiate between.
HitFix: When you watched the episodes last month, had you already known that Tony had lied to you about Cliff and Lindsey conspiring to get you out? And how did you respond to seeing that play out on TV?
Sarah: No, I didn't specifically... I knew that he had lied to me. I knew that he had said some not-nice things about me, but I didn't know that he specifically lied about that. It was a good lie to tell. It just was the perfect scenario. Cliff was not very open with his feelings or emotions or talking to people and Lindsey and I were close and I could tell that the way that he was with Lindsey, he wasn't that same way with me. I think Tony picked up on that too and that's why he could tell that lie and it was believable. And, with that being said, people are like, "Well, if you're such a good investigator, then why didn't you investigate that?" Well, what, am I gonna go up to Cliff and say, "Hey, Tony told me you wanted me out" and then he says, "No I don't." Well now what? We're at a stand-still. And then do I cause the drama between them? And does that put the target on me at that point? So I just decided I'm gonna take his lie and keep it to myself and then just observe. And my observations were that Cliff truly did want me out. Again, I was wrong on that.
HitFix: You are obviously a very competitive person. In retrospect, how much does it eat at you, the attempt to throw that one challenge?
Sarah: I've gotten a lot of grief about that one and I say before we even do it that I always said I would never be the one to do this and that I wouldn't throw a challenge and that it never works out and blah blah blah. But there's just something that happens out there. The paranoia takes over and whatnot and it felt like, "OK. Cliff is not our number. We need to get him gone before he takes us out." And any time you hear, "Hey, I want so-and-so out" and it's your name, you're immediately like, "OK. Now I want them out." That's just kinda how it works out there.
HitFix: But you're out there and you're throwing the challenge and you see that there's a basketball component to it. Does part of you just wanna go, "OK, we might as well just play this for real, because we have an NBA player on our team"?
Sarah: No, Trish and I thought that we would be able to rebound poorly enough that we could pull it off, but the Brains tribe was just that bad. Their rebounders literally couldn't swim and Spencer, his balls were hitting the basket and going a mile away, so it just wasn't going to happen at that point. So yeah, we scrapped it a little bit and just continued to try a little harder, but it was clear that this wasn't gonna happen.
HitFix: How have your fellow cops responded to Cops -r- Us and just watching that whole thing play out?
Sarah: A lot of them are like, "I can't believe you trusted that guy" and cops that I've talked to can't stand Tony. They think he gives cops a bad name and blah blah blah and so they're very supportive of me. I know Tony outside the game. I don't think Tony's a bad cop. But I will say that he did and said things that I don't necessarily agree with.
HitFix: And just going back to that last vote: How close did you come to flipping post-Merge and was there any promise that anybody could have made you that would have caused you to flip?
Sarah: I could not have flipped on that vote. It was not gonna happen, couldn't happen, because, again, I want to win the game and flipping there would have made five enemies immediately and you can't have five people against you on the Jury and win the game. I still had hopes that after that vote, I could make something else work out, but at that particular moment, that was not even an option.