Survivor Winners at War: Why could Sandra sit out so many challenges?

Photo: Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment ©2020 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Photo: Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment ©2020 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved /

There has never been a question more asked surrounding Survivor Winners at War; how can Sandra Diaz-Twine sit out multiple challenges in a row?

I would have hoped that demonstrating how Sandra Diaz-Twine has a perfect record in Survivor: Winners at War challenges (a record for the season that will stand forever now), we would stop getting questions about it. However, much like Sandra will remind you that “the queen stays queen,” fans across our social media platforms have been inundating our social media direct messages with similar questions.

The heart of those questions have pertained to the only two-time Sole Survivor (so far), asking, “Why can Sandra Diaz-Twine sit out in back-to-back challenges?” It’s a question that has been answered more than a decade ago. In fact, it came up the last time Sandra won the game, but as many will be shocked to find, she wasn’t the one sitting out that had people questioning the rules.

Jeff Probst, the host and executive producer of Survivor, used to blog about the show after each episode aired on EW, with an episode 3 blog for Heroes vs. Villains serving as an opportunity to answer those questions about the rules.

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“Some of you may be wondering about the sit-out rule pertaining to back-to-back challenges,” Probst wrote. “That rule only applies within an episode. Each new episode it starts fresh. Typically we have two challenges within an episode, but not always. So Courtney was able to sit out the last challenge (last week’s episode) and sit out again in this week’s challenge (new episode.) Hope that clears up any questions.”

So far, through Winners at War, there has only been one challenge per episode (though that will change with episode 7, per the press photos). That means that any challenge where her tribe had the numbers, Sandra Diaz-Twine has had the opportunity to sit out of the challenge. It’s a luxury for having led her team to a perfect 3 for 3 in challenges she competed in, as she helped keep her tribes safe.

Her tribes’ 1 and 4 record where she didn’t compete in challenges actually led to her downfall, as she had the opportunity to leverage her Hidden Immunity Idol (good for just one more Tribal Council) for a chance to get fire tokens from Denise. The only reason she felt the need to go for a JT-level risky move was because she was vulnerable. It’s entirely possible she could have reached the merge and not feel like she had to make that play on a small tribe.

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There you have it. Sandra Diaz-Twine was allowed to sit out more than one Survivor: Winners at War challenge in a row because it only applies within the landscape of one episode. Without a Reward Challenge and an Immunity Challenge in the same round, she was allowed to sit out, seeing how her tribes often had the numbers advantage over the competitors.