Exclusive Interview: 'Survivor: Worlds Apart' castaway Sierra Dawn Thomas opens up
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 05/26/2015
Survivor: Worlds Apart castaway Sierra Dawn Thomas lost out on the $1 million grand prize and finished in fifth place during the two-hour finale broadcast on CBS.
Sierra, a 27-year-old barrel racer from Roy, UT, was eliminated from the season when all the Final 4 castaways voted her out together. Sierra was ultimately beaten by fourth-place finisher Rodney Lavoie Jr., third-place finisher Will Sims II, runner-up Carolyn Rivera, and winner Mike Holloway.
Sierra was known all season long for playing under the radar, and she was also criticized for refusing to take big moves. She worked with the majority Blue Collar alliance right up until she was ousted from the game.
In an exclusive interview with Reality TV World, Sierra talked about her Survivor experience. Below is what she had to say.
Reality TV World: Why were you certain your name was being written down once you got back to camp after the Final 5 Immunity Challenge that Mike won? Why didn't you think it was Carolyn especially since everyone voted for her at the prior Tribal Council?
Sierra Dawn Thomas: Before we left for Tribal, I remember sitting there by the fire and it was moments before leaving. I watched Mike sprint across the beach and run to Carolyn and his arms were flailing everywhere, so I knew he was telling her something. Because obviously he didn't run to me.
And at that moment, I was like, "I think I'm going home tonight." And then I get to Tribal and, you know, [Jeff Probst] asks, "Sierra, plead your case."
And for some crazy reason, I think the right answer is to say, "Because I deserve to be here because I tried hard, I help around camp, I'm good at challenges, and I think the people who should be here deserve to be here," which is the wrong answer to ever give.
But I have to blame it on being starving and tired and not knowing any other way but to say, "Because you guys liked me. So keep me?" It obviously didn't work. (Laughs)
Reality TV World: What big moves did you make and do you feel you didn't get enough credit for your gameplay this season?
Sierra Dawn Thomas: Absolutely, I do. The game I played was a social game. I had genuine relationships with every single person, but being kind doesn't make good TV. Being kind to people, people don't like to watch. But that's what I played, you know?
I think if I would've made it to the Final 3, I've had a couple people tell me -- depending on who was against me -- they would've voted for me because I busted my ass [and] I made genuine relationships with every single person. And you don't see that because that's not good watching.
I think my role in the [Joaquin Souberbielle] and [Tyler Fredrickson] vote were downplayed as well because I honestly could've gone either way. And it's just unfortunate. I'm not loud, I'm not rash, I don't do those things. And so, I guess it's just not worth seeing.
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Reality TV World: You stuck with the Blues even though you had issues with some of them at certain points in time. And fans have kind of been wondering, were you aware that you were at the bottom of the Blues' alliance and you just didn't care, or, were you convinced you were higher up in the ranks?
Sierra Dawn Thomas: I mean, yeah. I don't agree that I was at the bottom of that alliance. I guess perception is reality, and in the moment until now, I don't think I was at the very bottom of it. There were moves that happened in the game that maybe started gradually pushing me towards the bottom, but from the get-go, I don't think I was.
I think at the first Tribal we went to, they split the vote because they thought I had an idol. I don't think it was because I was at the bottom of that alliance. So, yeah, I stuck with them because in the longrun, I had to look at the big picture and be like, "Who do I want to be sitting with in the end?"
And it was one of those people. It wasn't [Joe] "Joe The Amazing" [Anglim] or someone like that, you know? I was sticking with the people that, in my eyes, were crazy. They were attacking me, you know, [Dan Foley] was just flying off the handle -- so was Mike. And I was just like, "These are the people I could go to the end with."
Reality TV World: So it sounds like you viewed the people in your alliance as goats.
Reality TV World: You said you voted for Carolyn because she had played the better game in its entirety. Why? Because obviously your fellow jurors thought Mike should win in a landslide vote.
Sierra Dawn Thomas: Right. Mike obviously got the "hero edit," you know? I spent every single day with him out there from Day 1. I watched him fall apart. That's what I saw. I watched him run between people and have no strategy when it came to his social game -- no strategy.
He's a beast at the physical challenges without a doubt. I mean, there's a reason he won the game and stayed in it. But to me, the person that played the game -- what I saw at that point in time -- was Carolyn. I mean, [she was] the oldest person playing.
She was a woman and she was beating these people in these endurance challenges. She was winning immunities. And there's a reason we call her "Mama C." She was playing one heck of a social game. She was everybody's mom out there. So to me, that's why she deserved my vote.
Reality TV World: Were you shocked Carolyn wasn't picked to compete in Survivor31, that she didn't make the cut for the new cast? She seemed pretty disappointed about that.
Sierra Dawn Thomas: I was so shocked. Her face that you saw on TV was my face back in the green room watching it. I thought, without a doubt, she was going to be going. Because, I mean, obviously I voted for her to win. I liked her game. I would've loved to watch her play again.
Reality TV World: How much of a role do you think Mike's apology to Dan played in the jury voting for Mike to win? Everyone seemed extremely mad at him until that moment.
Sierra Dawn Thomas: Dan's so hard to understand. He's so authentic that I don't know if that really played a part in the way he voted. I mean, it might have. But I mean, I think it was nice, it was genuine, but I think it was -- I don't know, I just think it was at a weird time.
I don't know if I was in that situation, if I would've been like, "Okay, that was a genuine apology," or not. Because he wanted his vote right [then], you know? So, I mean, it worked. It seemed genuine. But I just think it was a really weird time to have it.
Reality TV World: When I talked to Mike, he said Shirin Oskooi's speech at the final jury questioning was edited strangely to make it seem like her vote was definitely Carolyn's, when in actuality, she ended up voting for Mike to win. Do you recall Shirin saying something viewers missed?
Sierra Dawn Thomas: Yes and no. I mean, she did say, like, "I'm not voting for you tonight, Mike." She, like, fluffed all his feathers and then was like, "But that doesn't mean you have my vote tonight."
So honestly, I didn't know where she was going. I didn't think she was for certainty going with Carolyn, because then she went to Carolyn and had a lot to say to her. So, I thought it was up in the air whom she was going to vote for.
Reality TV World: You were able to talk to the jury before the final Tribal Council when you could question the Final 3. Did you have a good idea going into the final Tribal that Mike was going to win based upon what everyone had been saying or did the jury questioning change that?
Sierra Dawn Thomas: I think it changed people's minds. We were all hanging out by the pool and we were just like -- we all genuinely wanted to go into that final Tribal and hear what these people had to say.
But I think, you know, I was really shocked by Tyler's vote, and a couple other people who I was just like, "Well, I thought they were going to vote for 'Mama C' or whatever." But I didn't think it was going to be just Mike like dominating the vote, no.
Reality TV World: Do you have any insight into why Tyler didn't vote for Carolyn? Do you think he played a big role in her success and therefore didn't want to reward her? Maybe he was a little bitter she got to the end and he didn't?
Sierra Dawn Thomas: Yeah, I would love to know why he didn't, because I still kind of don't understand it. The little I've talked to him, I think what I saw is Mike completely just going out of control. He saw his strategy, so maybe, you know, he was like, "Mike was dodging bullets, he stayed in the game."
I don't know why he didn't. I thought he was loyal as Rodney was in voting for Will. I thought Tyler's loyalty lied with Carolyn, and he didn't do that.
Reality TV World: You said viewers probably didn't see much of you on TV because being kind to everyone isn't really entertaining. But do you feel what was shown of you this season was at least an accurate perception of how you played the game?
Sierra Dawn Thomas: You know, no. (Laughs) Because my family and my friends and even my castmates are like, "Whoa, you're getting the quietest edit ever." Because I'm not -- I'm loud and annoying and giggly. I laugh at everything all the time. But, you know, I don't know why -- but I think that's how I played the game.
I tried to stay true to myself. I was giggly and fun, and me and Rodney were joking all the time. And you don't see the joking and the fun times we had, because unfortunately, our season was focused on all of this negative stuff. So, yeah, I wasn't a part of all that stuff, so maybe that's why I didn't get a lot of time.
Because I wasn't a part of that. That stuff makes me uncomfortable. I sit back, I fall back, I let people argue, I let people fight, and like I said, that's not good TV unfortunately. And unfortunately, that doesn't winSurvivor, so I looked quiet, but I don't think that's how I was out there.
Reality TV World: What's your opinion then on the whole Dan controversy? Jeff Probst asked him flat out if he was prejudice against women, but stuff also went down with Will and Rodney. Did you personally feel there was any prejudice this season?
Sierra Dawn Thomas: I think lines were crossed, but I don't think Will and Dan and Rodney are bad people at all. I think, you know, things were focused on that were small and blown up to be these huge things.
I don't think they're sexist, I don't think they're bad people at all. So, it's unfortunate that's all people got to see, because there was so much more to what went on out there than them attacking women and looking like sexist pigs, because they're not.