Since the cessation of conflict in 2002, Sierra Leone has experienced extraordinary levels of involvement from Western donors. Paradoxically, while relationships are often portrayed on the ground as strong with significant donor influence, our research shows considerable fluidity in individual and institutional relationships. The article disaggregates donor–government relations at various levels over a short but crucial period, 2010–16, asking in each case who occupies the driving seat. In so doing, the article interrogates the concept of ‘extraversion’, investigating to what extent government – and indeed donors – has space in which to manoeuvre and how and why government and donors act as they do in this space. The period 2010–16 is of particular interest due to extreme iron ore price volatility and the Ebola epidemic of 2014–15. The article adds much-needed critique and empirical evidence to the debate on donor influence and ‘extraversion’.