Sierra Dawn-Thomas Retrospective

A look back at the previous game of Sierra Dawn-Thomas, one of the returning castaways on the upcoming Survivor: Game Changers.

Age: 30
Hometown: Roy, Utah
Previous Season: Survivor: Worlds Apart
Previous Placing: 5/18
Days Lasted: 37
Correctly Vote for Boot: 5
Votes Received: 6
Individual Immunity Challenge Wins: 0
Most Memorable Moment: Literally barrel racing during a challenge.

What happened in her previous season: Sierra was an under the radar presence in her first season, her game was based around building social relationships, a strategy which doesn’t always translate particularly well to the TV edit. She started the game as a member of the Blue Collar (Escameca) tribe where she formed a friendship with Lindsey Cascaddan, but the two soon found themselves on the outside of the alliance, criticized for a supposed lack of work ethic. After winning the first three immunity challenges, the Blue Collar tribe finally lost and attended tribal council on Day 11. The majority alliance decided to split the votes in case of an idol play, leading to a three-way tie between Sierra, Lindsey, and Rodney Lavoie who Sierra and Lindsey had voted for due to his sexist comments. On the revote, Lindsey was eliminated, leaving Sierra without any reliable allies.

The tribes swapped on Day 12, but Sierra remained on Escameca with four of the five surviving Blue Collar members. Initially, she was the prime target, being the only female on the tribe and having bad relationships with Rodney and Dan Foley. But later the target switched to former No Collar tribe member Joe Anglim, who the tribe saw as a huge physical threat. The tribe, led by Mike Holloway and Rodney, went so far as to throw the immunity challenge so that they could get rid of Joe. However, after the challenge, Mike and Dan became wary of Rodney’s growing relationship with Joaquin Souberbielle, and therefore Sierra became a swing vote, ultimately deciding to vote with Mike and Dan, blindsiding Joaquin.

On Day 17, the tribes merged, and while Sierra talked about how she could ditch her former Blue Collars to join a new alliance, she decided to stick with the Blue Collars who had teamed up with the former White Collars. In a testament to her social game, she was able to work her way back in and regain the trust of the people who had wanted her out back in the early days of the game. Sierra remained loyal to this alliance for the rest of her game, although she did consider flipping at times. She had a chance to join the all-girls alliance (with Jenn Brown, Hali Ford, and Shirin Oskoii) to blindside Dan, but she always stuck with what she deemed the safer option.

After Mike’s post-Auction blow-up, the target was firmly on him for the rest of the game, but as he continued to win immunity the majority alliance had to pick each other off. Sierra survived a lot of these eliminations, which again reflects well on her social bonds. But when it came down to the final five these social relationships came back to bite her, as despite believing she was voting with Mike and Carolyn Rivera to get rid of Rodney, Sierra was instead blindsided in a 4-1 vote. As a member of the jury, Sierra voted for Carolyn to win the game, the only person to do so.

Sierra played a game that was solid socially but too passive strategically to make an overall impact. While the social game can take you far, there are times where you need to take more active control and Sierra passed up those opportunities which left her vulnerable towards the end when Mike had immunity. She proved she could play the swing vote position well after the tribe swap but didn’t show that same confidence and skill at the merge. Instead, she stuck with people that were unlikely ever to take her to the end due to her being a jury threat.


Biggest strength: Her social game.

Biggest weakness: Unwilling to take control when presented with an opportunity.

What she considered her mistake: In post-season interviews, Sierra said that her biggest mistake was openly admitting to being a threat. “I shot myself in the foot with my answer at Tribal Council when Jeff asked why I deserved to be here. I said, “Because I’m a nice person! I’m good at challenges!” I made that mistake.” (Parade interview with Josh Wigler).

Sierra is one of twenty returning castaways who will compete on Survivor: Game Changers which premieres March 8 on CBS. Stay tuned to Inside Survivor for more cast retrospectives and other pre-season content.

Written by

Martin Holmes

Martin is a freelance writer from England. He’s represented by Berlin Associates for comedy writing and writes about TV and entertainment, currently for TV Insider and Vulture, previously Digital Spy, ET Canada, and Yahoo. A finalist for the Shortlist Sitcom Search in 2012 for “Siblings,” Martin received his BA in English with Creative Writing from The University of Hull. Martin is the owner and editor-in-chief of Insider Survivor.

21 responses to “Sierra Dawn-Thomas Retrospective”

  1. I think she could win it all if she is not indecisive this time around. She had the right mind when she voted out Joaquin. She will probably make the merge, because there are bigger targets to get rid of first.

  2. I laughed when I saw you put barrel racing as most memorable because that was the only thing I could remember about her, and my only memory of Hali is boogy boarding on driftwood, and being pissed off with Jen for volunteering to leave to game.

  3. I remember her for actually not changing the game lol, she had multiple chances to do so but never did and stuck by her “alliance”, I truly hope she takes more risks and control of the game now.

  4. Despite the terrible edit on her last season she was one of my favorites. I’m rooting for her on this season.

  5. Serious question, were Sierra and Hali recast primarily to fill the casual viewer eye candy need?

    Couldn’t be less excited to see Sierra back.

  6. Originally I was really not excited about seeing Sierra a second time but after reading this retrospective I’m optimistic! She had some chances to change things up but didn’t pull the trigger. Now she’s on a season called Game Changers so maybe it will give her the push to go for it (or at least I hope it does). I can’t wait to read the rest of the retrospectives. Thanks!

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