Sarah Lacina is the winner of the highly-competitive Survivor: Game Changers, but should she be considered one of the best to ever play the game?
Winning all-returning player seasons of Survivor can be more difficult than all-newbie seasons, considering everyone has played the game at least once before and has a general sense of how to play. Sarah came into Survivor: Game Changers without a huge reputation like many others in the cast, but this season she proved she could maneuver through the game like the best of the best, and she was rewarded the title of Sole Survivor and the $1 million prize that comes with it.
In the premiere episode of Survivor: Game Changers, Sarah established that while she was a police officer in real life, on the island she was going to play like a criminal. She remained quiet in the pre-merge but once the tribes merged and it became an individual game, she floated back and forth between constantly-changing alliances while keeping strong social relationships with everyone. One of her biggest moves of the season was getting Sierra Dawn Thomas to will the Legacy Advantage to her even after Sarah voted her out. She used this advantage to save herself at the Final 6, where she would have been voted out had she not possessed it. Sarah got all the way to Final Tribal Council without having to win a single Immunity Challenge and received seven out of 10 jury votes to win.
Despite playing a strong game, Sarah wasn't positive that she was going to win Survivor: Game Changers even leading up to last Wednesday's live vote reading. She told Parade after the finale that she wasn't sure if the jury would value her cutthroat gameplay compared to fellow finalists Brad Culpepper and Troyzan Robertson, who had not hurt as many people in the game.
I knew I played a great game. I don't think anyone can deny that. But I also knew I hurt a lot of people. I've had my feelings hurt on the jury also. And I rewarded Tony [Vlachos, in Survivor Cagayan], so I'm hoping that the same happens in return. But sitting in front of Tribal and getting beat down is awful, and it really puts a lot of doubt in your value and you realize how bad you hurt people. Are they upset enough to not even really notice? I dunno. And I think if it wasn't a game-changer season with returnees, I don't know if I would have won."
Survivor host Jeff Probst complimented Sarah's gameplay, particularly in how she was able to convince Brad that it was in his best interest to take her to the end rather than Tai Trang, the fourth place finisher.
"I thought Sarah played a great game," Probst told Entertainment Weekly. "I was really impressed with her on all levels. As she said, 'I'm playing like a criminal.' And in a season of crazy gameplay, her best move was probably the subtle way she handled herself during the last decision Brad made — who to send to the jury and who to leave in the game. She played that like a con artist."
Survivor juries can sometimes be fickle when it comes to rewarding the winner of the season. Some value dominant strategy, like Tony in Survivor: Cagayan or Kim Spradlin in Survivor: One World, while others the social game over flashy moves, like in the cast of Michele Fitzgerald in Survivor: Kaoh Rong or Natalie White in Survivor: Samoa.
Survivor will return for its 35th season, Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers, this fall Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.
[Featured Image by Monty Brinton/CBS]