A “Survivor” Tribal Council is rarely predictable, but even the most hardcore fans didn’t see it coming on Wednesday’s episode when Jeff Varner, his back against the wall and desperation mounting as he fought to keep from being voted off, outed Zeke Smith as transgender.
His fellow castaways reacted with shock and dismay, clearly feeling that Jeff had crossed the line. As a result, Jeff’s torch was snuffed without a single vote being cast as the rest of his tribe unanimously decided to send him home.
Jeff joins Erin Cebula and Parvati Shallow for the latest edition of ET Canada’s “Post Tribal” podcast, and he opens up about the shocking turn of events. “There was no decision,” says Jeff of outing Zeke. “That was a knee-jerk reaction and there’s a whole lot that goes into play with what happened there.”
As Jeff explains, he “discovered early on that Zeke was trans,” while also developing a “mistaken conception of who he was,” thinking Zeke was the second coming of Russell Hantz.
In fact, Jeff explains that his talk of “deception” at Tribal Council sprang from his discovery that Zeke was in a secret alliance with Andrea, and had nothing to do with the fact that he was trans.
“And then Zeke pops up — this didn’t make the air — and he says, ‘Jeff is lying, there is no deception, nobody’s deceiving,’ and then it was just that emotional reaction that I have, always,” he says. “Every ‘Survivor’ my mouth gets me into trouble, and out it came. The conversation turned to the deception being the transgender thing, and that’s not what I meant and that’s not where I go, ‘cause transgender people deal with that as one of the worst stigmas they face.”
Ultimately, says Jeff, “it was a devastating place to be. That’s not who I am as a human being, and it’s taken me months to get to a place where I can talk about it without crying.”
You can hear a lot more from Jeff as he talks about that emotion-charged Tribal Council, right here:
“Survivor: Game Changers” airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Global; you can also watch full episodes online.