The ever-bubbly Debbie Beebee, 46, fell flat at last week’s Survivor:Tocantins tribal council after 33 days in the Brazilian wild. The middle school principal from Auburn, Ala., talked to PEOPLE.com about turning on her alliance partner Coach, getting hate mail and grossing out her husband with her Survivor stench. –Carrie Bell
Were you surprised that your tribe mates turned on you and voted you out?I was blown away. Right before tribal, JT put his arms around me and hugged me and said, “You know how much I love you.” I should have had an inkling then, but I didn’t because they talked about voting out Coach for two days. And then they told me before tribal that everyone was putting Coach’s name down and it would be unanimous. But I was the only person to write it down, which made me feel just awful.
Why do you think they got rid of you? I think it is a combination of things. Even Jeff pointed out that I was a threat. I was doing great in the challenges. I was well liked. I take it as a compliment that they were afraid of me and needed to get rid of me. I also don’t think that the Jalapao want to go against a Timbira person because the majority of the jury is Timbira.
Looking back, do you think you should have been more manipulative?I don’t think I could have changed my personality. I am who I am and I make friends easily. One thing I wished I had done differently was the challenges. For my age, I am in great shape. I was beating the young kids. So I wished I had held back and looked weaker. I think I frustrated the producers because I didn’t really trash talk . I tell the kids at school that bullying and gossiping is done by insecure and I wanted to lead by example. I stayed true to myself out there.
You offered to give up the immunity necklace if you were in the final three with JT and Brendan? Would you have honored that deal?At that moment I was being completely honest and I would have done it. However, if I am really honest with myself, if I was sitting there with that necklace on and it was just Stephen, JT and myself and a million dollars was on the line, I don’t know if I could have gone through with the promise. I was half crazy by 33 days, so I was saying a lot of things I don’t remember. I was mortified when I watched my meltdown with Sierra. I had a pillow over my face going, “Oh, you look like such a fool.”
You made an alliance with Coach, arguably one of the most talked-about characters in the game. Are underestimating his chances?I think he would be more of a threat than they think, but there are also Timbira jury members who were annoyed by Coach. You just never know how it will play out.
What is your take on him? I know Coach better than everybody. He has a good heart and means well. I think he believes the stories whether they are true or not. I have no reason to not believe them but they were really out there. I never saw the dragon slayer stuff going on until I started watching the show.
In hindsight was it a mistake to align with him? In the beginning, Tyson and Coach came out as Timbira leaders because we couldn’t read Brendan. It really helped in the beginning to be aligned with Coach, but I could see that ride was coming to an end. I tried to get him to vote for JT or Stephen and he wouldn’t because he gave them his word. One great thing is that he is loyal. He will not go back on his word. He gave me his word. I felt awful at tribal when he said he trusted me and I wrote his name down.
Have you talked to him since you wrote his name down? Has he forgiven you?We’ve talked. He understands. One thing we have to remember is that it is a game. You don’t sign up to be completely honest with everyone. I got my first hate mails last week and they were so ugly to me about being mean to Sierra. Yet Sierra and I are still great friends. We had a blast at Ponderosa together. I think this group of have be able to put the game behind them and leave as friends. When we were done filming and standing in the Miami airport saying goodbye, I was an emotional wreck.
How did your five kids feel about you going on Survivor?I have three stepchildren and two of my own children. I think all five were shocked that I actually did it and lasted as long as I did because I am a girly girl. Everyone has been amazing since I got back to work. The kids at school think I’m the coolest thing out there, but love to make fun of how horrible I looked on the show.
Speaking of that, how did your husband react when he first saw you?We had apparently lost our sense of smell because I didn’t know I smelled, and he kept saying I reeked. But he also lied and told me I looked beautiful to make me feel better.