AVC: You mean those giant Island Of The Idols statues of your heads were still standing when everyone arrived for season 40?


SDT: Yeah. Everyone’s sitting right there saying, “I don’t have a totem.” And I would tell them, “Well, you know you’ve made it when you have one,” simply because I knew they were already coming after me. And the rumor was that “Sandra and Rob had survived 36 days on the island.” Not that we were mentors, but that we survived for 36 days as an alliance. And that was furthest from the truth.

AVC: You didn’t play but you did spend time together. A lot of the season 40 contestants know each other well. Boston Rob and Amber are even married. How much did past relationships play into the dynamics of this season?

SDT: The past relationships, they hurt the game so much because at the end of the day you’re saying, “Oh my God, I’m going to do anything I have to, to take home the money. And if this is a real friendship, then after the feeling of being hurt is over, then maybe we can build a stronger relationship.” But at the end of the day, the friendships were null and void when we found out it was a $2 million prize. I think if it was just $1 million, it’d be a different story. But the fact that it was $2 million, everybody was like, “Oh my God. Whatever, if I said anything before, that’s out the door. Now this is a whole new game.”


AVC: Did playing with all winners change your strategy?

SDT: Yes. Playing with all winners changes your strategy because we know a lot of each other. So there’s people you know and people you don’t know. And you tend to trust the people because of their previous games, but what you don’t realize is that for $2 million, everyone’s willing to do whatever and change up your game. So you have to remember that.


AVC: You’re famous for being a big fan of Outback Steakhouse and the rewards you used to win that were sponsored by them. What’s the key to going on those food rewards without getting sick after existing on a bowl of rice a day for so long?

SDT: Well, anytime I’ve been able to partake in a reward, I don’t overdo it because I’ve seen people get sick to their stomach and not be able to then function later. So I don’t overdo it. I don’t overdo it, but I’m a pro at that.

AVC: It always shocks me that people drink alcohol on those rewards.

SDT: Yeah, you just have one or two drinks but you don’t push it. Some people they just gorge themselves. You can’t do that because your body can’t handle it.


AVC: Speaking of rewards, you sat out of both challenges in the two-hour premiere. But you were certainly vocal from the sidelines. What’s the key to being a good Survivor cheerleader?

SDT: They expect me, they want me to tell them the truth. You know, if we’re behind, I’m going to say, “Hey, we’re behind.” If you know somebody is not paying attention, I’d be like, “Tony, pay attention.” Because you give them an inch and that could mean the difference between immunity and Tribal Counsel. “Don’t focus on that over there. Focus on the task at hand and keep it moving.”

AVC: You obviously can’t tell us if you win this season. But after your season 40 experience, would you play again?


SDT: No, I’m retired. The older I get, the harder it is for me. And to go out there and be there for 36 days [as a mentor], take a two week break and then play again, it really took a toll on me. I’m not 27 anymore. I’ve been in this game for 16 years. And at the end of the day, no matter what happens, I’m still going to be the queen. And I’ve been the queen for 10 years and I’ve been the queen for 20 seasons. So no matter who wins or what happens, this queen will always stay queen.

Survivor: Winners At War airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.