Debbie Wanner Retrospective

A look back at the previous game of Debbie Wanner, one of the returning castaways on the upcoming Survivor: Game Changers.

Age: 51
Hometown: Reading, Pennsylvania
Previous Season(s): Survivor: Kaôh Rōng
Previous Placing: 9/18
Days Lasted: 24
Correctly Voted for Boot: 2
Votes Received: 5
Individual Immunity Challenge Wins: 0
Most Memorable Moment: Her ever-changing job titles.

What happened in her previous season: Debbie Wanner is certainly a one of a kind type character. She bustled into Kaôh Rōngmaking sure her voice was heard and quickly got to work around camp. Her tribemates on the Brains (Chanloh) tribe were initially put off by her annoying traits and over-the-top claims. They felt she wasn’t backing up what she said she could do, like making fire. But along with the comical side of Debbie, we also saw a caring side, when on Day 2 she helped comfort Aubry Bracco who was suffering an anxiety-related breakdown. This compassionate side of Debbie not only showed more layers to her character, but it helped form a bond with Aubry.

When the Brains tribe lost the third immunity challenge, it initially seemed like Debbie and Joe Del Campo were on the outs. The tribe had divided into the young four (Aubry, Neal Gottlieb, Liz Markham and Peter Baggenstos) and the older pair of Debbie and Joe. But Liz and Peter made an attempt to take control of the tribe by targeting Aubry and Neal Gottlieb, hoping to use Debbie and Joe’s votes to make it happen. They viewed Debbie as a “goat” who they could manipulate and then drag to the end for an easy win. However, Debbie was onto Liz and Peter’s sneakiness, and she didn’t like their arrogance. Debbie was able to mount a counter-attack, using her bond with Aubry to bring in Neal to form a majority with themselves and Joe. While Aubry wanted to target Peter, Debbie was more worried about Liz, and at tribal council they split the votes in case of an idol, voting out Liz on the re-vote.

Even though Debbie was a kooky person, she proved over the first few days that she was also caring and a decent strategic player, pulling off her first blindside. On Day 12, the three tribes swapped into two, with Debbie remaining on Chanloh with Neal, and being joined by Michele Fitzgerald and Nick Maiorano from the Beauty tribe, plus Cydney Gillon and Kyle Jason from the Brawn tribe. During this time, Debbie made inroads with Cydney Gillon, offering a working relationship. She also talked to Nick about potentially working together, and made sure to comfort Michele when she was upset about losing a reward challenge. Chanloh never went to tribal council post-swap, so Debbie was safe until the merge.

At the merge, Debbie reformed her alliance with Aubry, along with fellow Brains Joe and Neal. But the Brains tribe were significantly outnumbered compared to the Brawns and Beauties who appeared to be working together. Debbie’s bullish approach to get allies, like her forceful handling of Tai Trang, was putting people off working with her. Things then got worse for the former Brains when Neal was medevaced from the game. However, this unfortunate situation turned into a blessing, buying the Brains a few more days to change their fate. Aubry started to develop a bond with Cydney who was growing frustrated with the men’s arrogance. Cydney wanted to blindside Nick, and she came to Debbie and Aubry with the plan. Debbie had originally wanted to work with Nick, but because he wasn’t reciprocating, she was fine with writing his name down. With Cydney pulling in Michele and Julia Sokolowski, the women, along with Joe, blindsided Nick.

Things should have been smooth sailing for Debbie and the women after the Nick vote (well, apart from dealing with Jason and Scot Pollard’s camp sabotage). But when Julia started to play both sides it made Aubry and Cydney suspicious. Aubry wanted to go after Julia, seeing her as a threat and someone that could mess up their plans, but Debbie was stubborn and unwilling to see Aubry’s reasoning. Debbie’s inflexibility started to rub Aubry the wrong way, and even though they were friends, she thought that Debbie was becoming a liability to the alliance. With Julia winning the next immunity challenge, and the guys potentially having an idol, Aubry and Cydney decided to gather votes and blindside Debbie.

Debbie became the third member of the jury. At the final tribal council, she told Aubry how proud she was of her and how much she’d grown, but she did not vote for her fellow Brains ally, instead, voting for season winner Michele.


Biggest Strength: Debbie’s biggest strength is that she is unassuming. People look at her as the crazy, older lady and that leads to them underestimating her – just look at Liz and Peter for examples. Debbie was actually playing the game, even if she didn’t always go about it the right way.

Biggest Weakness: The problem for Debbie is her approach and her inability to be flexible. The way she talks to people can come off very aggressive and end up pushing potential allies away rather than bringing them on board. Also, once she is set on something, it’s hard to change her mind. She wanted Liz out and got her way, but at the merge when she refused to vote Julia it ended up costing her. You need to be able to listen to your allies and learn compromise.

Debbie is one of twenty returning castaways who will compete on Survivor: Game Changers which premieres March 8 on CBS. Stay tuned to Inside Survivor for more cast retrospectives and other pre-season content.

Written by

Martin Holmes

Martin is a freelance writer from England. He’s represented by Berlin Associates for comedy writing and writes about TV and entertainment, currently for TV Insider and Vulture, previously Digital Spy, ET Canada, and Yahoo. A finalist for the Shortlist Sitcom Search in 2012 for “Siblings,” Martin received his BA in English with Creative Writing from The University of Hull. Martin is the owner and editor-in-chief of Insider Survivor.

3 responses to “Debbie Wanner Retrospective”

  1. I’m really excited to see Debbie again because she was an amazing character. And also here’s hoping she is a successful strategist 😛

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