Cedar Rapids Police Department investigator Sarah Lacina participates in a challenge while representing Team USA in the season one premiere of “The Challenge: World Championship” on Paramount+. (Jonne Roriz / Paramount+)
Sarah Lacina, a Cedar Rapids Police Department investigator, is seen on “Survivor: Game Changers,” filmed on a remote island in Fiji. Lacina, who won the 2017 Survivor competition, has returned to competing with “The Challenge: World Championship,“ now streaming its first season on Paramount+. (Timothy Kuratek/CBS Entertainment)
CEDAR RAPIDS — After three seasons of Survivor, including a win in 2017’s “Survivor: Game Changers,” Cedar Rapids police investigator Sarah Lacina is back on TV in a new competition franchise.
After winning “The Challenge: USA,” filmed earlier last year, Lacina has returned to compete in “The Challenge: World Championship,” which pits teams from countries around the world against each other in a wide range of eye-popping challenges.
The first season of the new competition is now two episodes in — both of which Lacina has survived.
“I’m always trying to raise the bar and chase a higher achievement. That’s kind of my addiction, my drug,” she said. “I love just challenging myself and seeing what I can do. You keep setting the bar higher and higher, and you have to top that.”
Over the course of 2022, the homicide investigator for the Cedar Rapids Police Department spent about 12 weeks filming — six weeks for each version of “The Challenge” she filmed in South Africa.
But unlike her three seasons of “Survivor,” which requires alliance-building between individually-focused challenges, “The Challenge” requires teamwork through challenges ranging from driving blindfolded to high-stakes trivia at the top of a skyscraper.
One of the most exciting challenges Lacina participated in, dangling by a cord from a building the height of Alliant Tower while answering trivia questions, has yet to be aired.
“I have to remind my husband I wasn’t just on vacation. It may look like it, but it’s work,” Lacina said. “You have to be willing to work with anyone and everyone.”
After not talking to people she didn’t like in her first season of “Survivor,” it’s a lesson she carries with her: you don’t have to like someone to work with them. As a homicide investigator who works to elicit confessions, knowing how to detect when others are lying or being deceptive has worked to her advantage through “Survivor” and the new competition, she said.
Each episode consists of a daily challenge where the team in last place is automatically sent to an elimination round. The winning team earns immunity.
Teams who didn’t win or lose the daily challenge nominate and vote for two other teams to compete in the elimination round. At the end of each episode, a losing team is eliminated.
After the first elimination, each contestant who has won a previous version of “The Challenge” in their home country, picks their “Legend” partner based on the order in which they completed a qualifying challenge.
But success goes beyond what viewers see on the screen, and setting the bar higher for herself each time requires the support of Lacina’s family and employer, too. Some of her biggest challenges are maintaining a balance at home with a demanding career while continuing to raise the bar in front of a national audience.
With flexibility from ample PTO and a supportive employer, Lacina says she takes every opportunity she gets in appreciation for their scarcity. While some other contestants make a career out of reality TV competitions, she often contends with the guilt of leaving her family at home for weeks at a time.
“It’s extremely busy trying to do all of it, especially for my husband at home who has to be a single dad while I’m gone,” Lacina said. “He encourages me to go, but after leaving two times in one year, he said ‘you’re done for a while.’ ”
The latest reality TV competition is her fifth in the last decade since she started filming for “Survivor: Cagayan” in 2013. After 10 years, she said she doesn’t necessarily have the urge to prove anything. But she does have a goal in mind.
“My sole purpose in going back, if I’m going to leave my job and burn vacation time, is I want to come home with the big check,” Lacina said. “I’m going in, I have a job to do and it’s not just to have a good time.”
With a grand prize of $500,000, it’s a serious attitude for a serious amount of cash.
New episodes of “The Challenge: World Championship” are released every Wednesday on streaming platform Paramount+.
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