American “Survivor” legend Sandra Diaz-Twine recently traveled down under to compete on “Australian Survivor: Blood V Water” with her daughter, Alanna “Nina” Twine, and she admits that her mama bear nature came out during filming. “I remember one time I feared for her termination and I told everyone, if my baby goes home I’m not going to be nice, and I’m going to be so nasty that I’ll probably hurt my own tribe mates’ feelings because I’m attacking their loved ones,” she tells The Sydney Morning Herald. “But that’s because of my bond with my child – that’s my daughter that came out of me!”
Just like the American version of the popular theme, which played out twice during Season 27’s “Survivor: Blood vs. Water” (2013) and Season 29’s “Survivor: San Juan del Sur” (2014), the Australian installment will initially force loved ones to compete against each other on opposite tribes. Once the merge hits around the halfway mark, the surviving pairs are reunited and can choose to play together. The new season premieres on Australia’s Network 10 on January 31 — click here for cast photos.
Sandra won her two American crowns on “Pearl Islands” (Season 7) and “Heroes vs. Villains” (Season 20). The self-appointed Queen returned to play again in “Game Changers” (Season 34) and “Winners at War” (Season 40), but she was voted out both times. She also served as a mentor on “Island of the Idols” (Season 39) alongside “Boston” Rob Mariano.
Since Sandra announced her retirement from “Survivor” in 2020, why did she want to compete again on the Australian rendition? “I said I was retired and I meant it,” she begins, “but the minute it was blood vs. water – my daughter has been dying to play. It was like, oh my god, this is her chance. Even if it’s not in the USA, even if it’s longer [47 days], even if it’s less money [$500,000], this is her shot.”
One thing the Queen wasn’t prepared for was the weather in Charters Towers, Queensland. “It was so hot,” she recalls. “I feel like Australia was my hardest location ever because the heat would actually … I would feel a burn, a sting on my skin. And then the cold at night was a cold I’d never felt before – and I’m from Connecticut, where it snows. ‘Australian Survivor’ kicked my ass, physically and mentally.”
Even though Sandra was “honestly hopping” the Aussie contestants wouldn’t recognize her from her many appearances on the U.S. program, she confesses that wasn’t the case. “Of course it became, ‘Why are you here, how many times have you played, haven’t you played enough?’ So it was kind of hard to play the game the way I want to play it. I was like, if I can just get them to like me, or even to give me a chance.” As for her daughter Nina, Sandra explains, “I thought that as long as I didn’t say who my daughter was, no one would know she was my daughter. So I was hopeful that no matter what happened to me, she still had a shot to play the game that she has grown up watching since the age of five.”
Sandra’s strengths are her social game and manipulative skills, while her weakness is undoubtedly the challenges. (Remember the infamous “Sandra bench” in “Winners at War”?) Since “Australian Survivor” is known for its physical competitions, was Sandra worried she’d be a liability to her teammates? “I lack the attributes to actively participate physically for my tribe,” she openly concedes. “So I always felt like the minute I start sitting out, or the minute they see me messing up in a challenge, I’m freaking done.” In addition, Sandra had “anxiety going into a challenge after a tribal council,” because she was “always looking for the dark girl in the orange” to make sure her daughter had survived the vote.