Debbie Wanner was a big character on Survivor: Game Changers, but she also reminded us of how she can make big moves and strategic swings in the game. She managed to spearhead the move to get out Ozzy, and she also was a part of a dominant six-person alliance until Sarah opted to flip before the last tribal council. Her move to shift over instead to work with the likes of Cirie and Andrea led to the blindside vote, and now Debbie is the third member of the jury as a result.
So what went into some of these decisions? We were anxious to get some further information from Debbie on the subject today. We talked about the blindside, her gameplay, and also apparently how we’re secretly related and we’re going on the next Blood vs. Water season together.
CarterMatt – I watched your Ponderosa video this morning and you seemed to be okay with the blindside and not angry. How do you go from feeling so secure to then out of the game, and be able to be okay about it?
Debbie Wanner – I’ve always looked at it as a game, nothing more and nothing less. I didn’t get marched off to the guillotine, I got to go to Ponderosa. I’ve always kept it in perspective. Everyone is out there being disingenuous, duplicitous, and playing a game where you better accept up front that everyone is lying. I just accepted the game as it is. It’s difficult, but you try not to take it personally because you’re trying to take these people out, too.
So what was your relationship with Sarah during the game?
When we merged and it was a huge number of people, Nuku had done a pretty crappy job with their shelter. For a few days, Sarah and I had slept in a hammock together, very cold and very uncomfortable. We had a good rapport.
Keep in mind that everybody’s having conversations with everybody, that’s not unusual — and I know she was having her fair share with people not supposedly in our core alliance of six. I had gone to Brad and Sierra maybe two days before and said ‘when this breaks up, it’s going to be Sarah. She’s playing both sides, and you just get an uneasy feeling. She spends a lot of time talking with everybody. You have to talk to everybody, but you don’t have to talk with them that extensively.’
It was that night or the night before we had stop sleeping in the hammock together! I had talked to Brad about Sarah, and he said [we’d look at her] soon. Hey, she got me and that’s the objective of the game — she got me out first.
It seemed like a big motivating factor for her to have a big move and something that she could point to down the line. Would you have wanted to split up the six before it went down to the final six?
I don’t know. It’s easy for me to speculate now. All I know is that at that point, I wanted to take Sarah out. Brad wanted Michaela out because he thought she was annoying. Probably, yes [I would have made a move at some point].
It seemed like Aubry was one of the biggest architects behind the move to get you out; going into this season, I know there was talk about all of the Kaoh Rong players trying to work together. Was this something that was discussed on your end?
I think early on pre-jury, there was a lot of speculation that the Kaoh Rong four were going to get back together; but, I had never played with Caleb. I saw him go out from heatstroke, which was horrifying and I had sympathy for him, but I did not know him inside or outside the game. Tai and Aubry were the two with the closest connection, really.
I know it was a consideration for a lot of people that we were going to become a foursome, but I think it was just an argument for argument’s sake rather than having any facts. The Kaoh Rong four were never a solid four, but it was a solid argument to make that because we played together in Cambodia, we were going to hook up again.
I want to talk about Cochran and Exile for a minute. What was the feeling like expecting to go to a lonely Exile with no provisions, and then finding out this was what you were doing?
It’s funny, because when I’m unwrapping that little thing and it was clear I was going to Exile, it was somewhat of a relief. Survivor is a frenetic game with deprivation, starvation, and provocation. I was thinking ‘I get a little break from the cacophony, the lies, the deceits, the pressure.’
When I saw that yacht, I just started laughing. I got the coolest Exile ever — I didn’t tell anyone, not a soul. Then, I saw Cochran. Honestly, I was so thrilled it was him because I always admired the underdog going out there. Cochran was the ultimate underdog — no physicality, but he was thrown out in those elements and did a remarkable job. I was thrilled to have Cochran. It was great.
How much of the advice Cochran gave you ended up being applicable to the game?
I did the best that I could to extend olive branches to whoever. Cochran and I are two different people, and I love him — this is not a slight. He’s just that neurotic Woody Allen type with hyper-paranoia like a chess player. He’s always running scenarios through his mind. I find that that makes me insane. I try to go through my information, make the best decision that I can, and stick with it. I modify it if I have to along the way, but I can’t drive myself crazy in the process.
In that, we’re two different people. He kept telling me to stay hyper-paranoid and hyper-vigilant, but I just don’t have that in me. I was glad that I reached out to some people and was sincere [in saying] ‘best of luck to you.’
Who was your own ideal final three at the time you left?
The actual three kind of flip-flopped throughout, but one was Sierra because I felt like she was a great human being. I would have been happy to see the girl have a million dollars. With Brad, there were quite a few people who did not like him and found him abrasive and arrogant. I thought that I could have a persuasive argument to beat him. I would’ve been okay with Tai.
I wanted to take people who if I had lost to them, I would have been content with losing, not some piece of s–t that I wouldn’t want to urinate on to put out if they were on fire.
What are some of the reactions people have to you? You’re such an interesting player because you’ve got these big character moments, but then you’ve also orchestrated some big moves like the Ozzy blindside. Do people tend to pick up on both things?
By and large, a lot of women say ‘thanks for going out and doing it,’ because I’m 51. I’m somewhat of a representation of the ‘old woman.’ Quickly, most people realize if they thought I was just a goof or comic relief, there is so much more to me. My edit may have been carrying on as the life of the party, but they realize that I am not. Often I hear ‘you are nothing like I thought you were,’ because by and large I’m the one who is laid back and easygoing and fairly quiet.
In real life, I’m quite a bit different than most people would expect.
The last time I spoke with you, you seemed on the fence about going back for a second time. How are you feeling about a third time?
Well, they told me that next time I’m playing with Matt, as in you, for Blood vs. Water, and that you are my long-lost brother. I said cool, so I’m going to be Bonnie and you’re going to be Clyde and we’re going to be playing together.
I guess I need to go get into shape now, Debbie!
You better start working out buddy, because that’s the deal. If I’m going, you’re going.
If it gets you back out there, I guess I’ll take one for the team.
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