She’s a chemist, model, juggler — you name it, Debbie Wanner seems to have done it. Her often hysterical rotating job descriptions throughout Debbie’s time on Survivor have seared her kooky character into viewers’ brains as one of this season’s more memorable castaways. Sadly, her extremely entertaining personality was snuffed out of the competition in a painfully beautiful blindside concocted by her own allies. When we talked with Debbie about her ouster, she discussed the moment she realized the game had turned against her and revealed the behind-the-scenes situation that made Aubry Bracco such a big target. She also slammed Scot Pollard and Kyle Jason’s unforgivable behavior and offered details about why both men are much worse than the TV has been able to show. All that and so much more. Enjoy!
SheKnows: What was going through your mind when you started seeing the votes against you at Tribal Council?
Debbie Wanner: I’m going home. I knew it.
SK: What made you realize that?
DW: Prior to Julia [Sokolowski] winning Immunity, I said to Aubry, “Well, what if she wins Immunity?” Nobody else’s name came up, so that was red flag No. 1. Two, we get back and Julia has Immunity. Now what? What are we gonna do? Here’s my plan, we split it [the votes] to see who coughs up an Idol and see what kind of balls these guys really have because I think they’re neutered. Nobody came up with an alternative. They all went off into little groups of two. I walked up to Joe and he said, “Aubry wants you.” I mean, I knew.
SK: A lot of viewers have been very disgusted with the behaviors exhibited by Scot and Jason. Is the negative feedback they’re getting slammed with on social media deserved?
DW: If fans could’ve seen their real behavior, it would be an exponential disappointment with their poor sportsmanship. Have you noticed that Scot is wearing Nick [Maiorano]’s shorts? That might be because somebody who doesn’t believe in appeasing tyrants and bullies stole Jason and Scot’s shorts.
SK: And let me guess. That was you?
DW: [Laughs.] That would be right. They’re under a log. I thought they’d show it, I actually did. I’m surprised nobody said to me, “What’s up with Scot wearing Nick’s dirty, nasty shorts?” Yeah, the girls just wanted to appease the guys. I’m thinking of Neville Chamberlain appeasing Adolf Hitler in World War II. “Oh yeah, you can have Czechoslovakia. Why don’t we just give you all of Eastern Europe, Mr. Hitler, and then you’ll play nice.” Screw that shit. You’re gonna take all our means of eating and destroy our food supply [they destroyed some giant clams], and I’m just gonna sit back, take it up my butt with no KY and be happy about it? So, I stole their shorts.
More: Survivor viewers slam castaway Kyle Jason
SK: Did your act of thievery spark a witch-hunt to find who was responsible?
DW: They asked, but I think that I was so stealth in swiping their shorts that only Joe [Del Campo] knew it was me until afterward, and I told the girls. When people treat you like this — and I realize it’s Survivor and I’m not there anymore — I don’t let people walk all over me, treat me like crap and then turn around and say, “Thanks. Can I please lick your dirty feet so you’re nice to me?” That was my thinking.
SK: You say Scot and Jason were worse in the game than we’re seeing on TV. What else happened that makes them so nasty?
DW: I wonder if I can actually tell you. Well, Jason in particular was very rude, with reprehensible behavior toward Joe. He told Joe he was worthless, and a piece of shit. Joe took it with the utmost grace. The whole thing with Alecia [Holden], it just never ended.
SK: How is it they’re still in the game? Is it only because everybody realizes how easy they are to beat at the final Tribal Council?
DW: No. It’s very simple. We all knew about the super Idol because Neal [Gottlieb] told us. Aubry, Joe and I knew. I’m pretty sure everybody knew because we talked freely. Aubry, in particular, was so worried that Tai [Trang] and Jason were going to put together a super Idol and target her. Neal did make it look like he gave the Idol to Aubry. He did put a big X on her back. When he left, they went off [for] five or 10 minutes. They talked alone, and everybody was sure that Aubry had it. We were gonna vote two versus two versus two and somebody will play an Idol. We know Jason has one, we know Scot does not and we know Tai has one. What are the chances Jason and Tai give up their Idol to Scot to make a millionaire another million dollars? It’s not gonna happen. The girls were just scared, and the easiest, safest thing to do was to take me out.
SK: What’s your take on Aubry? Since she was the driving force behind your blindside, is it safe to say she’s the smartest player out there?
DW: You may recall, and it wasn’t shown in great detail, but the first night out there was very hard. Aubry was really out of her element in the middle of the jungle with strangers and the cold. The doctor and [Jeff] Probst actually came out, and I just kept talking to Aubry like a human being. Not even like a mom. “Look, Aubry. You did not come all this way to quit. OK, get the doctor, get Probst, but you are gonna promise me that you are not going to quit without coming back and talking to me.” I just kept on her, and in the end she didn’t quit. She went through this beautiful metamorphosis. The little insecure wallflower changed into this geek goddess. I am so proud of her, but she was always hyper paranoid and neurotic. She did what she did to me because it completely took a target off her back. She felt it so much because Neal made it seem like he gave her the Idol, that wanker. But he didn’t! Is she as strategic as she was paranoid? No, but she is intelligent. However, now she has those three bullies that she still has to deal with and you just lost somebody that wasn’t gonna vote for you. She knew that was genuine between me and her. She’s no dummy, and she’s still in the game, so I applaud her.
SK: Tai has been very adored by the audience, but he started to get some backlash after he was seen secretly sabotaging camp and extinguishing the fire while everybody was sleeping. Are you disappointed with his actions?
DW: No, I wasn’t. Tai is wearing a turtle necklace. I have two rescued tortoises walking around my house right now. I am never going to be disappointed in somebody who won’t eat a chicken. Tai and the chicken were the best part of the show, in my opinion. What was amazing about Tai is just the previous week, he was with the girls. He voted for Jason, and I love that Jason just gave Tai an Idol. Tai accepted, which how in the world that happened is beyond me. But what would be beautiful now is for Tai not to give it back. Tai was yin and yang, back and forth. Should I be good? Should I be bad? Should I be good? Should I be bad? I almost felt sorry for him, watching his struggle.
SK: Sure, he’s a nice guy, but is Tai a good player? Some say he’s simply not showing much smart strategy. Do you agree with that?
DW: When you’re out there playing the game, it’s different from armchair quarterbacking. Sometimes people get up there with the pen in their hand, and they might as well just flip a coin because they don’t know which way they’re going to go. I think Tai is doing the best he can with the information he believed he had. For whatever reason, he feels grounded to the guys right now. They’ve sucked him in, but time will tell. I think sticking with the guys and the way they pulled off the rock, paper, scissors thing worked. You gotta give them that. It worked. Now Tai has two friggin’ Idols, so he did something right.
SK: Throughout the season, your kooky character has played a big role. Do you feel the show was mocking you with all your various job titles, or do you appreciate it?
DW: They weren’t mocking. If you don’t have a sense of humor, don’t go on a reality TV show, because they’re gonna film you 24/7 and edit it down to five minutes. I have a great sense of humor, and I was going to have fun out there. Every time I talked, or every time I did something stupid — and I never pretended to be a genius — of course they showed it. That’s because they were looking for the kooky old lady. I’m just not her, but I am fun. I thought it was hysterical, the changing job titles. I had fun with it.
SK: Which of those rotating jobs shown on screen was your favorite?
DW: Photonics laboratory supervisor is cool, because people today don’t even know what a photon is. It’s just a beam of light. I’m a chemist. Those are all derivatives of chemistry, and I am a captain in the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary, and that’s where I got the real survival training.
SK: Now you can add Survivor castaway to your list.
DW: How about that?
SK: Is that something you ever thought would happen?
DW: Yes, I did think it would happen.
SK: That being said, how did you get on the show?
DW: I’m the tiger mom. My daughter’s nickname is Tiger. I do know I also have the most popular swimsuit of all time on Survivor. They said, “That stupid book, Mom, Lord of the Flies, they made a TV show like that. You would be good because you’re a tyrant drill sergeant, and you’re all tough.” So I sent in a tape. It just so happened [that] every time I tried to make a tape, the phone would ring, the dog would bark, the turtle would pee in the house, the kid couldn’t find her soccer shoes. Whatever. So I just went down and unleashed on this tape like, “Screw it. Here it is. This is me.” I was doing pull-ups, and they did call me the first time they ever got a tape of me. It was a lot of back-and-forth. I didn’t want to do Blood vs. Water because I don’t know anybody in my family that could’ve hacked it. It is tough.
SK: Finally, I’m going to say somebody’s name, and I want you to give me the first thing that comes to mind. Ready? Scot.
DW: Geek goddess.
DW: [Laughs.] Animal rescuer.
What do you think of Debbie’s comments? Are you sad she was voted out of the game? Do you think she had a true shot at winning the entire season? Do you think Jason is a reprehensible character, as Debbie says? Would you ever want her to play the game again? Join the conversation with us and leave a comment now.
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