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Exclusive: Sarah Lacina talks 'Survivor': I used Brad Culpepper's wedding ring as collateral for our Final 3 deal


By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 05/25/2017 

Sarah Lacina was crowned champion of Survivor: Game Changers and winner of its $1 million grand prize during the live portion of Wednesday night's finale broadcast on CBS from CBS Studio Center in Los Angeles, CA.

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Sarah, a 32-year-old police officer from Marion, IA, was shown winning Season 34 of Survivor with the majority of jury votes.

Sarah defeated Brad Culpepper, a 47-year-old retired NFL player from Tampa, FL, and Troy "Troyzan" Robertson, a 55-year-old photographer from Miami, FL, in the Final 3. Brad appeared to receive three votes to win, while Troyzan earned zero.

During an exclusive interview with Reality TV World on Thursday, Sarah talked about her Survivor: Game Changers experience and victory. Below is the first half of her interview.

Reality TV World: One jury vote wasn't revealed when Jeff Probst announced the winner. Could you confirm that was also for you, that Brad only got three votes?

Sarah Lacina: Yes, it was 7-3.

Reality TV World: So Brad received votes from Ozzy Lusth, Debbie Wanner and Sierra Dawn Thomas right?

Sarah Lacina: Yes.

Reality TV World: Why did you decide against voting for Troyzan when four people were left in the game and potentially doing a fire-making challenge? There didn't seem to be a big downside in choosing to do that because if Tai Trang was the vote, he'd compete against Troyzan to make fire, and if you were the vote, you'd have a chance to win fire and stay. So I'm assuming you really wanted Troyzan in the Final 3 with you instead of Tai?

Sarah Lacina: Well, I think there was a huge downside in doing that. Anyone who can make fire to save their life and go to the Final 3 puts a big notch in their belt.

And so, if I'm going to give these boys an opportunity to do that, if I'm sitting on the jury and I just watched them go through this intense fire-making to save themselves in the game, that gives them another notch on their resume.

And I didn't want anyone to be able to get anymore, you know, to be able to add anything to their resume. And at that point, had I definitely wanted to go to the end with Tai, obviously that would be an option.

But if Tai won, now he's got three idols -- two of which he played for other people -- he's won immunity, he made fire, he sat out of the merge feast, I mean, I don't want him to be able to add another thing to his list. And so, I was definitely not interested in riding those chickens out at all.

Reality TV World: Were you shocked Brad took you to the end instead Tai? It was obviously a surprise to viewers given we later found out he would have won the whole game had he brought Tai and Troyzan to the Final 3.

Sarah Lacina: Yeah, so, I remember sitting in one of my interviews going, "How is my name off the chopping block? How are we debating between Troyzan and Tai right now, and I'm not being debated on?" What didn't get shown is that I ruined my word so bad with these guys that I had to go to, like, material items.

And I wear this bracelet that I wear every single day, and that I obviously wore out there and I wore on my first season, and so I offered it up as a sign of, "Here, if I'm lying to you guys and the vote doesn't go the way I'm saying it's going to go, then take my bracelet and throw it into the ocean. That's the only thing I can offer up right now if you don't believe what comes out of my mouth."

So we do that, and in fact we did that at the [Michaela Bradshaw] vote out, and then that solidified some trust with them and me. Well, I really needed to seal the deal that they would take me to the end, and so myself, Brad and Troyzan actually all exchanged items.

I actually had Brad's wedding ring and obviously we can all see how much he loves his wife. And so for the simple fact I had Brad Culpepper's wedding ring, and if he votes me out, he knows that wedding ring is going to the bottom of the ocean.

It was a move I had to make to solidify that they would not vote me out. And so, in that aspect, I'm not surprised that he kept me, because you guys didn't know that that had happened.

Reality TV World: Were you surprised you were able to play your "Legacy Advantage" after everyone else played their hidden Immunity Idols? It seemed like such a huge advantage to be able to put it in play at that point. 

Sarah Lacina: Well, you could only play it at six, so I'd be foolish to not play it, like how embarrassing would it have been if I hadn't played it?! I would've gone home! (Laughs)

So I was going to play it. I didn't need to go home with a piece of paper that read, "This is the 'Legacy Advantage' this season." I wanted to go home with a different piece of paper that had a bunch of zeros on it, you know?

And so, it was kind of a no-brainer to play it, because it's not like I could use it at five or anything like that. It's telling me, "You can only use it right now." So you have to play it regardless. We saw [Ken McNickle] do it on his season too, and he didn't need to.

Reality TV World: So even though you were going to play it no matter what, did you also suspect votes were coming your way? Because Aubry, Tai and Cirie ended up voting for you.

Sarah Lacina: No, but the only reason I wasn't worried was because I knew I was safe. In fact, that was a lesson I learned -- so if I ever play again, I know this -- that when you have immunity or an idol and things like that and you feel safe, you are not on point like you are the rest of the time when you're fighting for your life.

Because you feel safe and then you stop paying attention to certain things. I had no idea they were voting me out. And I was on to everything up until then. I just felt so safe that I didn't care. It was like, "Whoa, Sarah, you really have to pay attention at all times -- even though you are safe." Nope, I didn't see [the votes] coming at all.

Reality TV World: Do you give Sierra Dawn Thomas any credit for your win because of that "Legacy Advantage?" Are you going to be giving her a nice Christmas gift this year or something? (Laughs)

Sarah Lacina: (Laughs) Yeah! I mean, I think we see now how instrumental that was in me winning, because had she not given that to me, I would've gone home at six. So, absolutely, I can't thank her enough.

But at the same time, I had to work hard to get that. And you see though, I don't get her vote. So I can't give her that much credit in me winning because she didn't vote for me to win! But the move in itself is what helped me win.

Reality TV World: Ozzy Lusth pointed out at the Final Tribal Council that you can win the game of Survivor without, he claimed, stooping as low as you had. Do you think that could've been true in your case or did you feel every move you made and word you said was necessary to advance? Do you feel you went overboard at all on your aggressive gameplay?

Sarah Lacina: No! Not at all. Because you see people leaving the game and they say -- they don't know that I was the one who turned on them. You see them say, "I thought that I was her No. 1."

And so, getting people to trust you that much was so key to winning. No offense to Ozzy, but that's his opinion and he's played four times and never won. (Laughs) So maybe he doesn't know what he's talking about.

Reality TV World: Were you surprised Zeke Smith and Michaela were gunning so hard for you to win during their jury comments? And do you think their persuasion played a role in your victory?

Sarah Lacina: Zeke I was not, but Michaela I was surprised. Michaela gets a bad rap out there and she really is fun and cool, and I really enjoy her. And she was able to get out of the game and appreciate the fact she was asked back again.

But Zeke, I was not surprised. Zeke told me the day before he got voted out, "Sarah, don't lose this game trying to save me. I'm not going to hold you to any deal that we've made. If you have to vote me out, you have my permission."

So he literally gave me permission and then he told me, "And I will advocate for you to win because you're playing such a great game." And so I was not shocked to see Zeke react that way, but it was above and beyond -- what he did for me, you know? He was extremely instrumental in me winning.

Because I think for a jury member to say, "You guys, this is a Game Changers season. I know she hurt you. I know she hurt you. I know she hurt you. She hurt us all! But we were brought back on a game-changing season and it would be a dishonor to the game to not reward extremely aggressive gameplay." And so yeah, I think I definitely owe Zeke a lot.

Check back with Reality TV World soon for the concluding portion of our exclusive Survivor: Game Changers interview with Sarah, as well as our interviews with the other Final 6 castaways. To read our interview with Brad, click here, or click here to read our interview with Cirie.


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