The 40 Most Influential Survivors: Sandra Diaz-Twine

Sandra Diaz-Twine

Pearl Islands, Heroes vs Villains, Game Changers, Island of the Idols, Winners at War

To celebrate the 40th season of Survivor, we’re counting down the 40 Most Influential Survivors to ever play the game. Because Survivor is a game, a tv show, and a rabid fandom, we’re taking all forms of influence into consideration for this list. Go here to view the criteria we are using to determine what qualifies for the list. Note: this list is presented in chronological order and there will be spoilers for various Survivor seasons.

Sandra Diaz-Twine is the 10th entry in this series.

When Sandra Diaz-Twine said that she could “get loud,” she was referring to the way in which she would disrupt Survivor gameplay, leaving her opponents to only say, “what the fuck.” In this essay, I will argue

Somewhere in the process of compiling this Most Influential list, we established an unwritten rule that meme-ability did not have weight when considering influence. But in true Sandra fashion: fuck that. Sandra is probably the most quoted player ever, both by the fans and by actual contestants on the show. So here are her greatest hits:

  • “The lady I actually… think you know, liked her, in a sexual way.”

  • [After taking Morgan’s tarp] “You sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite. No hard feelings and I’ll see you guys tomorrow, okay? Take care.”
  • “Changa!”
  • “You know how some people forgive but don’t forget? Well, I don’t forgive and I don’t forget.”
  • “Last time I was mean, this time I’m meaner.”
  • “I’ll lie, I don’t care. But I’ll make up a good lie.”
  • “You need to get in the ocean and wash your ass. I can’t stand you, and I can’t wait for you to go home.”
  • “It grew legs and walked off!”
  • “He’s a stupid ass!”
  • “I think I’m gonna keep it for myself ’cause I’m so damn greedy!”
  • “It’s time for revenge, and this is for Courtney, Boston Rob, Tyson, and even Coach, who I don’t care about. But I’ll stick him in there too.”
  • “I’ll write your name again, and if I’m up there in the final three, you’ll still give me the million-dollar vote.”
  • “I’m against you, Russell.”
  • “Russell’s keeping me around because I’ll never get a single vote, but I don’t know about that.”
  • “Imma burn his hat. So he can take his bald-headed ass to damn Tribal Council… That’s how much game I got.”

  • “The Queen stays queen. Adios.”
  • “That’s what you get. Take your ass home. Bye Tony! Say hi to Ciera for me!”

And of course:

But there is one quote that encapsulates Sandra’s game and her legacy in Survivor:

Let them kill each other, vote each other off. As long as it ain’t Sandra, I’m happy.

Y’all know what’s up: Anyone But Me (which incidentally, I don’t think Sandra has ever said verbatim on the show, though she has said things that are longer but equivalent).

It should be said that the Anyone But Me strategy isn’t exactly what that title literally says. Sandra didn’t always throw votes around willy-nilly with whatever majority seemed to have coalesced. There have been times where Sandra took control of a situation and whipped votes onto the target she wanted. Really, Anyone But Me came down to this: when her back was really against the wall, Sandra would vote with her enemies and against her allies for another day in the game.

Sandra could not have made it to the end of Pearl Islands without voting alongside Fairplay, who, it should be noted, Sandra hated. The post-merge for Pearl Islands was a roller coaster for Sandra and Fairplay’s relationship. First Sandra was blindsided by Fairplay with the boot of Rupert; then Sandra voted with Fairplay in ousting Tijuana; Fairplay returned the favor in organizing Christa’s boot; Sandra countered by voting out Burton.

In Heroes Vs. Villains, Sandra acquired a new nemesis in Russell, who butted heads (to say the least) with Sandra and eliminated Tyson and Boston Rob. Sandra then worked with Russell (or just worked him over) to eliminate Coach and later threw a vote on her closest ally Courtney to keep herself in the game. After making it to the merge, Sandra allied with Russell and the female villains, all the while undermining Russell by trying to work an angle with the Heroes. Even still, once Sandra met resistance and started to feel the heat, she backed off of her plans and voted with the majority to boot Candice and Rupert.

Sandra’s time on Survivor has been a flurry of betrayals and realignments and double-back-stabbings, but in all, it’s a mistake to say that Sandra does not stir the pot to make moves of her own (see: The Sugar Bowl Incident of Mamanuca Islands). She simply knows when to bend with the wind to save her own ass.

And while Sandra’s Pearl Island game was a significant departure from the norm of previous seasons, it becomes hard to trace a distinct lineage of this gameplay into future seasons of Survivor. The reason for this is because Anyone But Me requires specific parameters.

First, you need to be in the minority or at the outskirts of the majority. Boston Rob and Amber voted for everyone but themselves in All-Stars, but you would not say that they were employing Anyone But Me. Another way of saying this is that sometimes, you need to fall on your face.

Second, you can’t have cover from the Immunity Necklace. Terry was playing from the bottom in Panama, but he never had to change his plans to save himself as he was never in danger.

Third, you need dissent in the majority. Chaos facilitates an Anyone But Me strategy. It would have been impossible for a member of Savaii to turn South Pacific on its head when Coach and Sophie were running an impenetrable  Upolu alliance.

So this raises the question: everyone knows Sandra’s Anyone But Me strategy, but has anyone successfully employed it?

Chris Daugherty and Danni Boatwright arguably played versions of this game at the end of their winning seasons, though they were assisted by timely immunity wins. The Jalapao alliance utilized an early version of voting blocs to play from the minority to the Final Four, though it could be said that they called more shots than they followed. Denise went to every Tribal Council her season, and yet still made her way into majority alliances that controlled the votes.

The player most aligned to Anyone But Me might come twenty seasons after Sandra’s first in Ciera, who *ahem* VOTED OUT HER MOM! and bounced between newbie and returnee alliances until she hit the end of the road at Final Five.

But from there, the legacy of Anyone But Me becomes spotty again. Tasha and Spencer in Cagayan and Natalie in San Juan Del Sur all played from the bottom in their seasons and voted alongside people who they genuinely disliked. However, Tasha and Spencer were assisted by major immunity wins while Natalie played a game that was considerably more assertive than what Anyone But Me is typically associated with. Wentworth did not have much power in Cambodia but also did not vote correctly with enough frequency to say that she successfully implemented Anyone But Me. I could argue that Anyone But Me was an improvised precursor to the Meat Shields strategy, but Jeremy had far too much control to say that he employed Anyone But Me. And in Millennials Vs. Gen X, I suppose that the vote ended up being on everyone but Adam … but do we really want to go there?

And so in the end, you can imitate Sandra Diaz-Twine, but you can’t copy her.  She was a trailblazer for this type of adaptable gameplay, and her success in this strategy is unparalleled. Many players find themselves on the outs of a tribe, but few are able to maneuver like Sandra. You may ask, who is still trying to live up to the legacy of Sandra Diaz-Twine? Everyone but her.

Did y’all really think we would pass up a chance to include the giant head?

Who else made the list?

You can see each entry on the list by clicking this link.