Exclusive: Sierra Dawn Thomas talks 'Survivor' (Part 3): Cruel Jeff Varner backlash for outing Zeke Smith is "completely ridiculous"
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 05/16/2017
Sierra Dawn Thomas was eliminated from Survivor: Game Changers' merged Maku Maku tribe during the latest episode of Season 34 on CBS.
The tribe sent Sierra, a 29-year-old barrel racer and model from Roy, UT, packing at Tribal Council on Night 32 with six out of nine votes. Sierra became the twelfth person voted out of Survivor: Game Changers and the season's fifth jury member.
Sierra became the main target after she informed Sarah of her "Legacy Advantage" -- which basically serves as individual immunity at the Final 6 Tribal Council -- as a way to gain her trust and loyalty. Sierra also promised Sarah she would give the advantage to her if voted out of the game, and that was reason enough for Sarah to go after her and take her out.
During a recent exclusive interview with Reality TV World, Sierra talked about her Survivor experience. Below is the concluding portion.
Reality TV World: Zeke Smith's Survivor return was pretty unique because the Game Changers cast wasn't able to watch him on Millennials vs. Gen X since the seasons filmed back to back. Jeff Varner said he assumed Zeke had been open about being transgender on his first season since he was willing to appear on a TV show twice. How big of a factor do you think that was in Varner outing Zeke? Do you think it still would have happened had Zeke's first season aired beforehand?
Sierra Dawn Thomas: No, I don't think [so]. I don't think he would have. If Zeke would've been outed his first season or came out saying he was transgender his first season -- or hadn't, I should say. If he hadn't [come out], I don't think Varner would've said anything his second season.
I don't think Varner did that to be mean and rude and, you know, to hurt somebody. If he genuinely felt [Zeke] was already out as transgender, then yeah, he could use that. He could say, "Y'all didn't see it, but the rest of America saw it! You guys didn't see it." He had no idea, you know what I mean? I don't know, it's such a hard, hard topic.
Reality TV World: I know, it's tough, because Varner seemed to think the only people who didn't know about Zeke were his fellow Game Changers castaways.
Sierra Dawn Thomas: Exactly! And that makes sense, you know? I can see both sides. I can totally see [Varner] thinking that.
Reality TV World: Do you think the reaction to Varner outing Zeke has been too harsh? Hali Ford and Debbie Wanner seemed to think so when I talked to them earlier this season, especially because Varner has allegedly received death threats.
Sierra Dawn Thomas: Absolutely! I mean, that's completely ridiculous. Varner is still a human being. Yes, he made a mistake -- a big mistake -- but I don't understand people going out of their way to send death threats and making him feel as crappy as he is [feeling]. He made a mistake. You saw the remorse the second he said it.
Yeah, he shouldn't have done it! It wasn't his place, but you see the regret. It's not like he was still has this "well I don't care" type of view. You saw him regret it, and he's been so vocal about being so sorry. So it is, it is so unfortunate. I feel for both of them. I feel for Varner. He's a great guy.
Reality TV World: Were you worried during the game that people might view you as a power couple with Brad? There were a couple instances in which people were calling you two the head of the snake, and it became a goal to split you up. Did you ever try distancing yourself from Brad in order to alter the perception?
Sierra Dawn Thomas: Yes, we did! The first week or the first couple of weeks, we were really close, and then I started getting word of being a power couple. In my first season, I made that huge mistake with [Lindsey Cascaddan from Survivor: Worlds Apart] getting too close.
So, we did! We did distance ourselves. We never spent time together from there on out, but I think the damage was done. They knew we had a connection.
And even though I wasn't spending a lot of time with him and strategizing, when we did talk, it was whispers over the campfire. We would never walk out at camp [as a pair], but people still knew we were in an alliance.
Reality TV World: Debbie had told me a couple of weeks ago that people weren't giving you enough credit for your strategic gameplay. What are your thoughts on that? And if you agree with her, is there anything specific you feel you didn't receive credit for, or maybe a move that went unnoticed?
Sierra Dawn Thomas: Aww, she's so sweet. Um, yeah! I feel like I was, you know, I took a lot of pride in being in charge of the things that did happen. I was the one who put [Malcolm Freberg]'s name up and reiterated it. I sat for 20 minutes around the campfire telling them, "No, we have to go Malcolm!" That was a big play.
And it was a big play for me to do [Caleb Reynolds]. Brad really wanted to go Hali, and I was like, "Why?! Yeah, we need someone strong but we have got to get rid of Caleb."
There were a lot of moves I felt like I was in control of that maybe looked like me and Brad were in control of, when really I had the reins. He's been so great. [Brad] will text me and be like, "That was all you! It looked like both of us, but that was all you!" He's amazing.
But yeah, I feel like I was [in charge] I did get called "the head of the snake" quite a bit, and several people told me that they said it. So I take pride in me being so strategic! But I maybe needed to slow it down a little bit, obviously, because now I'm sent home. But I am proud because [Game Changers] was so different from my first game.
Reality TV World: What was your reaction when you were asked to play Survivor again, and would you be up for another season if asked to come back a third time?
Sierra Dawn Thomas: My first reaction was shock. I obviously didn't feel worthy. I was like, "Are you kidding? A returning season?!" And then to find out it's Game Changers and the people that were playing, I was absolutely in shock.
It did light a fire beneath me. I was like, "You know what? I'm out there. I'm going to have to play. I want to prove to, not just everybody else who doesn't think I deserve to be here, but to myself [that I deserve it]." So that lit a fire underneath me.
And would I play again? Absolutely. I see how I changed from my first season to my second, and I can't even imagine what I would do the third time around. So, if given the opportunity, as hard as Survivor is, yes, I would do it.
To read more from Sierra Dawn's exclusive Survivor: Game Changers interview with Reality TV World, click here and here.