Survivor: Debbie says Jeff Varner 'deserves to be forgiven' for outing Zeke as transgender
"It is inconceivable for anyone to conclude that there is anything but a strong 6 sitting here tonight." That was Debbie Wanner at the latest Tribal Council on Survivor: Game Changers. However, the inconceivable became conceivable when Sarah flipped sides, sending the woman of too many professions to list straight to the jury.
Overconfidence had been an issue all season with Debbie, as her Exile Yacht advisor John Cochran warned her about getting too comfortable. But those warnings were not heeded. We asked Debbie about that and a whole lot more when she called into EW Morning Live (Entertainment Weekly Radio, SiriusXM, channel 105) and she spoke about taking her blindside in stride, yelling at Brad Culpepper, defending Zeke against Jeff Varner and now defending Jeff Varner against others, and much more. You can hear her responses below on the EW Morning Live Podcast. Here are a few highlights from our chat.
On getting blindsided:
"When you see your name come up the first time, it's a big indication that you're in the mix for being eliminated. As confident and comfortable as you speak, you say a lot out there. It's always in the back of everyone's head — it could be me. But you want to come across with some bravado, confidence, which is a very thin line from cocky, arrogant. So the first time I saw my name I thought, here we go. Perhaps somebody in my alliance did flip."
On watching her emotional outbursts play back on TV:
"My daughters got a kick out of it and most people found it highly entertaining. One of the things that I've always known is that the worst thing that you can be on TV is boring. Quite frankly, I wish somebody would have given me a Snickers bar."
On her outburst at Brad Culpepper:
"Brad and I were actually very close. He knew that I never wanted anybody to ever think that we were that close. People were constantly targeting Brad, Brad, Brad. And if they thought that I was under his wing, they weren't going to come and tell me that it was Brad. So I did go over the top. There were times where I was genuinely miffed at him, but I must say that was overacting to the hilt, and even I was surprised at the energy I brought to my exuberance of being angry. But he was never on the outs with me, ever."
On her reaction when Jeff Varner outed Zeke:
"Earlier in that Tribal, I felt uncomfortable that something major was going to happen. So there was in the back of my head already a premonition perhaps of something ugly about to go down. I often quip, ‘Release the hounds of hell when it comes to playing Survivor. There are no rules.' But I truly don't mean that. At the end of the day, I think you take your character into a game. I would not sacrifice my son's life, swear on my mother's grave — there are certain things that are sacrosanct and sacred to me.
"Varner was under all the duress and stress that I mentioned earlier. And he was desperate to stay in the game. Look, the third time playing — do you know what it's like to have a million dollars dangled in front of you? When it's a life-changing sum of money, and, for Varner, I know that it is — he is my friend and Zeke is my friend — you do things that you normally wouldn't do. And you actually do step out of your character. I know I did. I know anybody who is going to be intellectually honest will say, ‘Oh yeah, I regret doing that out there on Survivor.' It was bad to watch and it was painful for both Zeke and Jeff Varner for me. I didn't rip into Jeff. I said, ‘Look, that was NOT for you to disclose.' I mean that. I feel that. It was Zeke's prerogative to discuss it with whom and where he felt comfortable. I've been around a lot of people who are different and there's just something you don't divulge in a freakin' game. At the end of the day, this is game.
"Having said all that, to those people out there who think that they have an unmitigated right to crucify Jeff Varner, let me say that you don't. You never played. You are not without guilt or sin or wrong yourself, so you don't have a right to crucify the man. Everybody makes mistakes. And he deserves to be forgiven"
On targeting Ozzy:
"A scene that didn't make TV was Ozzy and I going over the mountain and having a conversation and Ozzy had targeted Brad and Sierra. And that is why Ozzy had to go, because they were my two absolute closest allies at that point in the game. It was really a joint decision. Tai had wanted Ozzy out because he was such a tremendous challenge [player], so it was pretty unanimous amongst the group that I was working with. It was me [who] got the air time. I must have said it best." <iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/319734975&color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false" class="" allowfullscreen="" resize="0" replace_attributes="1" name=""></iframe>
Listen to the entire interview above — including her final three and a comparison between the two seasons she played — right after our chats with Fargo/The Leftovers star Carrie Coon and Veep funny lady Anna Chlumsky. Or subscribe on iTunes to listen on the go. Also make sure to check out our Survivor episode Q&A with Jeff Probst as well as my full recap, and for more EW Morning Live podcast news, follow us on Twitter @EWMLPodcast.