On the April 12 episode of Survivor, the game changed in a big way during the Tribal Council. While fighting for his survival in the game, Jeff Varner ended up outing his fellow contestant, Zeke Smith, as being transgender. This reveal ultimately led to plenty of outrage from his fellow tribe members, as well as audiences who took to social media to express their anger and disappointment at Varner’s decision to share this information.
While it has been 10 months since that moment took place on Survivor, for audiences that incident was not revealed until this most recent episode. Now that it has been revealed to the world, Jeff Varner has chosen to speak out in a new interview with Entertainment Tonight, in which he talks about what happened during the Tribal Council, as well as his own feelings about his actions.
Although Varner may have been trying to save himself from being voted out of the game during what was a two hour long Council meeting, he admits that he never intended to out Zeke Smith and that he just assumed that the other man had already come out during his season of Survivor, which he had never seen because they were already participating in the new season when the previous one aired. According to him he just assumed that everyone already knew and that who Zeke Smith was had already been a big news item and that this time he was just hiding it from his fellow competitors.
According to Jeff Varner, “It never crossed my mind that I outed him, ever. Who comes on a show like this with a secret like that? And expects it not to come out?” However, once he realized that he had actually outed his fellow Survivor contestant to the entire world and not just his team mates, it ended up hitting him in the gut and led to him actually having an emotional breakdown.
Since he ended up outing Zeke Smith during the Tribal Council, Jeff Varner admits that he has been seeing a therapist. He said that he was not really trying to gain anything or prove anything but that instead everything seemed to happen organically and with only some of the actual Tribal Council being aired, there are things that audiences did not see when Survivor aired. While he admits that he understands that the series is manufactured as are the situations, he is also grateful for how CBS handled everything, even if they are also catching flak for what he did.
By Dorothea James
Photo Courtesy CBS