TV

Fayetteville’s ‘Sassy’ Sandra makes a third go on CBS’ ‘Survivor’

Sandra Diaz-Twine of Fayetteville on “Survivor: Game Changers.” The Emmy Award-winning series returns for its 34th season with a special two-hour premiere, Wednesday, March 8, at 8 p.m. on the CBS Television Network.
Sandra Diaz-Twine of Fayetteville on “Survivor: Game Changers.” The Emmy Award-winning series returns for its 34th season with a special two-hour premiere, Wednesday, March 8, at 8 p.m. on the CBS Television Network. CBS

Sandra Diaz-Twine already has won $1 million on the long-running CBS reality series “Survivor” – twice.

The Fayetteville resident is the only contestant to ever win the game two times, meaning she has outwitted, outplayed and outlasted numerous scheming opponents while being marooned on some tropical location for 39 days a season.

She’s ready to do it again in the 34th season of “Survivor,” which premieres tonight at 8 p.m. The theme is “Game Changers” and features returning contestants who made their marks on the game to alter it to their benefit, or sometimes to their detriment.

“You were each handpicked,” host Jeff Probst says in the premiere. “You share one thing in common. You make the moves to change the game.”

Diaz-Twine, 41, lives in Fayetteville but was living in Washington State when she won the seventh “Pearl Islands” season. (She lived in Fayetteville before moving to Washington). She was back in Fayetteville, though, for Season 20, “Heroes vs. Villains,” when she won the whole thing again.

“It wasn’t just luck,” she said in a player preview video on the CBS website. “That’s what I know how to do: Make it to Day 39, and not get voted off.”

While she’s not a physical player – the strongest or the fastest in the difficult challenges – her brash confidence and willingness to do what it takes has helped her get to the end. She said she will readily switch alliances and vote with the majority – “as long as it’s not me,” she said in the video.

“The game is in my head,” she says in the video. “I put myself in the right situations to come out on top.”

She said she’s a fan of the game and that roughing it for 39 days doesn’t bother her. This season was filmed in the Mamanuca Islands in Fiji.

“To me, it’s a walk in the park,” she said. “I thrive. To me, it’s like a field exercise.”

The long-running series, which debuted in the summer of 2000, celebrates its 500th episode tonight. While other reality competition series have come and gone, the show continues to have an enthusiastic fan following as well as players who are willing to starve, get bitten by bugs and compete in an intense physical and psychological game to take home $1 million.

Each week, a player is voted out by fellow contestants. On Day 39, the players vote for one of the remaining survivors to take home the cash.

North Carolina frequently produces contestants. This season, Diaz-Twine is joined by Jeff Varner, 50, of High Point. He made his “Survivor” debut on Season 2 and also returns for a third season.

Other former contestants from North Carolina are UNC football player-turned-country singer Chase Rice, Candice Woodcock (now Candice Cody) and Jane Bright.

Jessica Banov: 919-829-4831, @JessicaBanov

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