Survivor's Wanda Sings the Blues
by Angel Cohn
Music may soothe the savage beast, but Wanda Shirk's vocal stylings didn't please her fellow castaways on Survivor: Palau. Though the 55-year-old English teacher tried to charm everyone with her very own Survivor ditties, they decided she was out of line — not to mention out of tune. In an unhappy twist reminiscent of junior-high gym class, host Jeff Probst made the contestants split into two teams of nine; Wanda and pretty-boy Jonathan Libby didn't get picked. Here, Wanda tells TVGuide.com why she thinks she got cut so early.
TVGuide.com: Think you deserve a second shot on Survivor?
Wanda Shirk: I would do it again in a blink. In Vanuatu, Brook and Brady were a couple of awesome people who were eliminated unfairly because the older guys decided to get rid of them. Maybe sometime, instead of going through all this casting, Mark Burnett could go back and pick out the good people who didn't have a chance to play. I want very badly to be one of those people.
TVG: What would you do differently?
Wanda: Play the game! I didn't get to play. Getting picked by one individual is a whole different thing than a whole tribe writing down your name [at tribal council]. I don't think people would have voted against me. But [I was at a disadvantage] since guys had to pick girls and the [guys] that were picking were between 21 and 40. The oldest guy, [Tom,] was 15 years younger than I and he had the first pick; it was very logical for him to take Janu. She could shimmy herself up a coconut tree. But then the next person [James] was 33, and [men his age] are just not going to pick someone 20 years older. It doesn't make sense.
TVG: How did you prepare for the show?
Wanda: I trained so hard, like I was going into a marathon. I ran and swam. One of the casting people had told me that this was going to be a swimming Survivor. On a scale of one to ten in terms of swimming, where ten is lifeguard, you need to be at least a six. So I made sure I got myself well beyond the six. I could swim for miles. When I started, I could barely swim 25 yards.
TVG: Darn! We never got to see that.
Wanda: It was just hugely disappointing. It was good for me physically to find out that I could do things I never thought I could do. Scout in Vanuatu had [the idea] that older people can't do it; that is not necessarily true. Cathy in All-Stars was 50 and outswam Amber in a really tough swimming challenge. I wanted to be like Cathy. Before that, there was Lil and she was just stupid. I wanted to be both intelligent and strong.
TVG: Did your singing do you in?
Wanda: [Whispering] No. I know that they tried to portray that, but that is because they didn't want it to come out that they stocked the show with young models. They did. Out of the 20 people that were originally cast, they cut seven and put pretty people from modeling agencies in instead, so that they would have the eye candy. We found that out while we were there [in Palau]. When we asked [each other], "What did you do for your audition tape?" some of the people would say, "Oh, well, I didn't really do an audition tape."
TVG: Finally, could you sing me one of your songs?
Wanda: [To the tune of "Supercalifragilisticexpialidoc ious"] S-U-R-V-I-V-O-R, I am a Survivor/I can deal with any fate and be my own reviver/When the adventure's over, I'll be stronger, braver, wiser/S-U-R-V-I-V-O-R, I am a Survivor! http://www.tvguide.com/news/insider/050223a.asp