Back in June last year, while the Survivor: Winners At War cast were battling it out on the islands of Fiji, I reached out to a selection of former Survivor players to get their thoughts and predictions on the returning castaways. Over the next few weeks, I will be posting those interviews here on Inside Survivor.
Today, we’re talking to Michaela Bradshaw, who played with Sarah Lacina in Survivor: Game Changers. Michaela and Sarah didn’t cross paths until the merge in Game Changers, and at that time, both women were on very different trajectories. Sarah was comfortably within the majority, while Michaela was playing from the back foot. However, after the first couple of post-merge votes, Sarah was looking to put herself in a more dominant position and ended up working with Michaela. The two women voted together for four consecutive Tribal Councils until Michaela’s close ally Cirie tried to get fancy with Sarah’s vote stealer advantage, causing last-minute confusion that led to Sarah joining Brad and Troyzan to eliminate Michaela. Despite the blindside, in the end, Michaela voted for Sarah to win at the Final Tribal Council.
Inside Survivor reached out to Michaela to get her thoughts on Sarah’s return to Survivor: Winners At War.
Disclaimer: The answers to this interview were received post-filming, but we don’t believe there is any spoiler content within the answers.
1) Hi Michaela, thanks for doing this! What was your opinion of Sarah coming into Game Changers, and how did it change throughout the game?
My main memory of Sarah coming into Game Changers was that her eyes were always wide open as though she was on high alert. I was suspicious of her when she approached me a few votes into the merge but had no options since she, Cirie, and Zeke were the only players who were willing to break rank to associate with me as one of the last members of the minority tribe.
2) Sarah entered Game Changers wanting to play like a “criminal,” and she made a lot of cut-throat moves on her way to the million. How do you think she was able to play this cut-throat game and still earn enough jury votes at the end? What was the main selling point that earned her your jury vote?
Sarah modeled the game of Tony to a T. She established relationships, created pipelines of information, and struck preemptively (sometimes erratically) based on whatever she thought, heard, or felt was in her best interest. Sarah’s recklessness is part of what advanced the game post-merge. Considering her competitors in the final three, I was determined to give her credit as a juror.
3) We saw a few of Sarah’s “big moves” during Game Changers, but I’m interested in the general day-to-day. What was Sarah like around camp during the down-time? How did she fit in? Who did she gravitate towards?
Sarah was so skilled at making nearly everyone feel like she was in their corner that SEVERAL people did not realize Sarah’s role in their blindside until they debriefed at Ponderosa. Sarah projected a mid-America/simpleton demeanor that limited other players’ ability to recognize her as a threat. She also garnered sympathy by playing upon her real emotions as a new mother who was separated from her child by the experience. Additionally, Sarah was also strategic and manipulative. She made alliances one by one and pressured people not to speak about or question anything she did. So many people thought that they had Sarah in their pocket; meanwhile, they were all in hers.
4) What do you think Sarah’s mindset will be coming into this all-winners season? Will she try to repeat her “criminal” cut-throat game? Or take a more mellow approach? How do you think she should play it?
The longer that Tony is in the game, the more that Sarah will be forced to evolve and adjust her game. Still, I think Sarah’s mid-America accent, her non-eye catching build, and her ability fit in with men and women equally will keep her under the radar in a season of winners.
5) As well as Sarah, you’ve also played with three other winners on this cast, Adam, Sandra, and Tony. How do you think these four winners compare? Not necessarily in terms of who is better, but more in terms of how they play the game and their strengths and weaknesses? Which of them has the best chance of repeating their success this season?
Tony was outrageous and too over the top from the start (in Game Changers). I’m sure that he will take a more mellow approach this time around, potentially taking a few notes from Sarah.
Adam is such a kind soul and a Survivor fan. If he uses his knowledge of players to his advantage without being distracted by his appreciation for them, he has a solid shot. However, he has to be prepared to not be nice.
Sandra is a legend in this game. Period. I don’t have time or energy to explain why, but just know that I’ve seen her skills myself and have all respect for her. The problem that Sandra consistently encounters is that everyone already knows that she is a top contender. Few are willing to risk seeing Sandra at the merge, going against her on a puzzle, or sitting beside her at final 3.
Sarah played a strong game in Game Changers but had some advantages that are unlikely to present themselves again this season. Considering that her ability to create information silos and to discretely exit players from the island was a large factor in her game, a key element of Sarah’s success (or failure) this season will be how she manages maintaining relationships and information leaks through pre-merge Tribal Council visits.
6) Who on this cast do you see Sarah gravitating towards? Who do you think would make a good ally for her, and why?
I imagine that Sarah will gravitate towards the underestimated old school winners who are still somewhat connected and to the kind newer winners who are least likely to perceive her as a threat. These are the people who will be tempted to desire a long term ally and/or to play an honest game, which will make them the easiest for Sarah to manipulate.
7) And on the flip-side, who on this cast do you think poses the biggest threat to Sarah, and why? Is there anyone you see her butting heads with?
I’m interested to see how Michele, Natalie, and Jeremy respond to Sarah. As a very strong social player with a genuine nature, I expect Michele to pick up on Sarah’s schemes and softly mention her concern to a third party. I expect Natalie to be more direct and take action if she doesn’t agree with Sarah’s direction, which is something that Sarah did not face in Game Changers. I expect Jeremy to be a combination of what I expect from Michele and from Natalie.
8) Before I let you go, what is new in the world of Michaela? How has life been since we last saw you on Game Changers?
My life is great! I am back in Texas, advancing in my career, pursuing an MBA, continuing to develop myself, and keeping my eyes open for opportunities. I expect this decade to be filled with love, success, and adventure.
Thanks again to Michaela for taking part. Stay tuned to Inside Survivor for more Playing with Champions interviews.
Survivor: Winners At War premieres February 12, 2020, on CBS.