Don't say she didn't warn you: Wendy Diaz, the blue-haired castaway who just released the chickens on Survivor: Edge of Extinction, was always planning on freeing the birds.
Over the course of two Edge of Extinction episodes, Diaz's tribe won a reward that included egg-laying chickens. As the members of Manu openly discussed killing and eating one of the chickens, Diaz was quietly nursing a plan of her own: releasing the chickens before Kelley Wentworth, David Wright, Rick Devens and the rest could turn Diaz's beloved animal sidekicks into food. After trying and failing to enlist others in her plan to free the chickens, and after a tribe swap that left her stranded on Manu with newcomers like Aubry Bracco, Diaz pushed forward with her plan. As of the season's fourth episode, the chickens have officially flown the coop, even as they're still lingering near the Manu camp.
When Diaz first announced her plan to release the chickens, Survivor fans on Twitter exploded with different versions of the same hot take: Diaz was angling for "the Sia money," referring to the fact that the Australian star has awarded certain players with money over the past few seasons, beginning with chicken guru Tai Trang on Survivor: Kaoh Rong. Why did Diaz really release the chickens? Who can say…other than Diaz herself?
For what it's worth, when it comes to Diaz and "Chicken Gate," The Hollywood Reporter has the receipts. In the preseason, THR spoke with her about her goals for the game, which very much included the chicken scheme. As she explained: "It's literally my master plan."
"I was going to apply for the show a long time ago," she said, "but then I saw that they [would get] the chickens, and then they'd kill the chickens, and I thought, 'No, I'm not going to apply.' But then I thought, 'Aha! I can apply, get on the show and release the chickens. And that's what I'm going to do!'"
Listen to Diaz's thoughts on the chickens in this clip from our preseason interview:
"I don't really know if we've ever had anyone like Wendy," executive producer and host Jeff Probst said of her in the preseason. "She makes her own clothing, sometimes her hair is purple, sometimes it's another color, she talks super fast and she's really interesting. Every time she starts to wind herself up, I go, 'I'm in. I'm in.' I don't know how she's going to do in the tribe. She'll either be the person that is the glue for everybody, or she'll be on the outside."
For now, through four episodes, Diaz appears to be on the outside of the tribe. That doesn't mean she's without fans in the game, at least as far as pregame impressions are concerned. For instance, take her newest tribemate, firefighter Eric Hafemann. Speaking with THR, Hafemann revealed a great story about how Diaz walked around Ponderosa one morning wearing a giraffe costume.
"Imagine a onesie, but with giraffe print, and a giraffe head as a hood," he said. "She wore that, which I loved. I couldn't think of a further decision from something I would do. But it's why I like her: She seems really playful.
"And my son, at school, he had to make a poster about himself, answering simple questions. The most complicated question was: 'When I grow up, I want to be…' And for two days, my wife and I were trying to get him to decide on what he wants to be. 'An astronaut!' And he would be like, 'No.' 'A firefighter?' 'No.' He loves trains, so, 'a train conductor!' 'No.' Finally, he settled on something. This is what he wants to do when he grows up: He wants to be a giraffe for Halloween. That's it! I said, 'Dude, that is attainable. I think we can do that.'
"So when I saw [Diaz in a giraffe costume], I thought of my son. It made me happy. It made my whole day. I like her, man. She's playful. I've seen her trying to make games out of leaves and rocks. It speaks to our boredom, but I think she'll be fun."
These days, Hafemann's whistling a somewhat different tune now that the chickens are free from their cages and even stalking the hungry firefighter in his confessionals. If Diaz was sitting against the jury at the Final Tribal Council right now? Probably not a great shot of winning — but if the chickens had a vote, Diaz would be the slam-dunk sole survivor, pop-star prize money be damned.
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