Another local "Survivor" winner!
The latest season of "Survivor" on CBS 2 brought back former players who stood out in previous seasons - for making bold moves. Cedar Rapids police officer Sarah Lacina had competed for the million dollar prize in season 28. In tonight's person to person report -- i explain why the second time was the charm.
Sarah Lacina says she won "Survivor: Game Changers" only because she changed her own game from the first time she was on the show - finishing in 11th place.
"I wasn't willing to play that cutthroat, so learning from my mistakes. How I played this time was definitely not who I am, but it's who I needed to be in order to be successful in the game."
As a police officer in Cedar Rapids - she now investigates financial crimes. Those skills, plus years on patrol and in narcotics - gave her a distinct advantage.
"Are you lying to me, or are you not lying to me, so I feel like I can ask the right questions to tell if someone is lying or not. I'm definitely not a lie detector test, but I feel like I've had the training to get an edge over anyone else," said Lacina.
Lacina says her inspiration to try out for Survivor came from her mother and Denise Stapley - another winner from Cedar Rapids from season 25.
"I was like, wow, somebody from Cedar Rapids can do this?" Lacina said.
We captured their first reunion after Sarah's victory - as Stapley stopped by to see Lacina - one of the few people in the world who also knows what it feels like to compete on an island for a million dollars.
“To see her in person and get to congratulate her is amazing. I think being from Iowa there is this perception that we are wholesome - and we are - but we can also play the game", said Stapley.
We asked Sarah how much of the game is physical, and how much is mental. She says it was only 10 percent fitness and strength - but 90 percent emotion. She described two moments in the 39 days that tested that 90-percent - including a visit from family.
"It was really hard to see our loved ones and then having them taken away from us, and then having to play this nasty game."
The second moment came when she says fellow player Jeff Varner crossed the line from reality TV to harsh reality - outing a player who'd been hiding a very personal secret.
"He decides he would go to any length to save himself in the game, so he decides to expose Zeke to the six of us and the world that he is transgender, and he had not come out to everybody in his regular life."
Zeke and Sarah had become close friends. She says all of the players and crew were stunned by the revelation. Beyond that, she was going on little sleep and even less food. I asked her how much weight she had lost.
"I lost 17 pounds, this time", she said. I also asked if she was always hungry.
"The first time no, because we had rice, but this time all the food we had was what we threw off the boat in the beginning," said Lacina.
Sarah says the "feasts" you see on TV happened far less than it seems in a weekly hour-long program. She says when the flames on the last torch were extinguished on day 39 - the cast let down their guard and enjoyed a final feast together as people - not competitors.
Now that she's home, both Lacina and Stapley agree that the long nights and blistering hot days were worth every penny.
Stapley said, "No matter what, the outcome is money that we didn't have before, and we were never counting on it, or banking on it, so it's a gift for us, and we don't have it sitting in our bank account. We invested just about every penny of it." Sarah added, "Our lives are not changing, it just got easier."
Watch the full interview with Sarah below: