Posts Tagged ‘jeff varner’

‘Survivor’ Castaway Jeff: ‘I Assaulted Zeke That Night, Outting Someone Is Assault’

April 13, 2017

‘Survivor: Game Changers’ (CBS)

QUICK NOTE: XFINITY.com is the place to be for all of your bug-eatin’, back-stabbin’, “Survivor” coverage. During the season we’ll have insightful weekly Power Rankings, exit interviews, and full episode recaps. Follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for up-to-the-minute updates.

Watch Full Episodes of “Survivor: Game Changers”

Gordon Holmes: There are two stories that are going to come out of last night. Zeke has been outted as transgender and now he has to go about his life with that information known to the public. I feel like that story is being told. Zeke himself penned a piece for The Hollywood Reporter. The other is about a guy who supports the LGBT community who made a mistake that could harm the LGBT community. What’s it been like to live with what happened for so long?
Jeff Varner: It’s been ten months of hell. I have dug through all kinds of stuff. A couple of different therapists. Been involved with many different LGBT groups. I’m heading in a direction that I can’t wait to tell you about as we go forward, but this morning is not about me. This morning is about Zeke and transgender people and what I have done. And I am profoundly and profusely sorry. I have no excuses. I can’t sit here and make one. I made a massive mistake. I own it 1000%. I know that I hurt Zeke. I know that I hurt those who love him. I know that when we’re in pain and we’re in fear, we’re dangerous and we do the wrong things and we say the wrong things.

Holmes: Have you spoken with Zeke since that night?
Varner: We’ve spoken several times over the last few months. He continues to forgive me. He just an amazing human. I’m amazed at that forgiveness. But, I also know that watching that had to have been doubly traumatic as it was for me. And it’s put him in a different place. I think he’s calling me a bigot today. He’s calling me full of hate today. That is the opposite of who I am. I respect him. I deserve it. If he wants to take swings at me, I’m the one to hand him the bat. I give him every inch of every room to react how he needs to react. I respect him for that. I deserve it. And I’m sure that it’s frustrating for the transgender community that I’m the one out here talking about this today. We need trans voices. I hate that we don’t have more trans voices out here talking about this situation. We’ve got to stop separating and dividing. Trans people are humans and we need to elevate their dignity and their voices and lift them up. We shouldn’t reduce them to things that objectify them and dehumanize them. They are not deceitful people, they’re just trying to live their truth…safely…

Note: At this point, Jeff starts to get very emotional.

Varner: I’m sorry.
Holmes: It’s OK.
Varner: They’re just trying to thrive, you know? And I’m just sick of the fact that I am part of what some people will use as a tool to further do this to them. It’s horrible. I assaulted Zeke that night, outting someone is assault. It robs them of so much. It stigmatizes them and it shames them. It forces them back in and that’s the opposite of what needs to happen. I’m devastated. I will forever be sorry and do…I’ll talk to you in the future about what I’m doing and where I’m headed…but today I just want to make sure that this is all about Zeke.

Holmes: I had some advance notice of what was going to happen last night. And I felt sick watching the lead up. But in the end, it felt like it was headed in a positive direction. Zeke said that his “Survivor” experience has made him strong enough to deal with this. The tribe supported him. He forgave you. Do you know why Zeke is feeling differently today?
Varner: This was us then and we’ve grown and moved past it. I’m not sure what caused him to shift his gear, but it’s OK. I support him. I don’t know that Zeke and I will ever be friends, but it’s important for me to have him know how much I care about him and people like him. I’ll spend the rest of my life doing whatever I can to make this right, because it’s wrong. It’s not in my character. It’s a game and nobody can truly understand what we’re going through. What that “Survivor” brain does to us. At the risk of sounding like I’m making excuses, because I’m not. There are no excuses. I don’t know where he is today or where his head is, I can only read what he’s writing. He’s wrong on a bunch of levels about who I am as a person. I knew Zeke for five days. We spoke probably an hour and a half total. He doesn’t know me. I hope that he one day will. I’ve heard from so many transgender people today who understand and are inviting me to be a part of their effort. I’m so grateful for that. I just love Zeke, I’m so profoundly sorry.

Holmes: It seems like all parties involved are dedicated to turning this into a vehicle for good. For bringing transgender issues to the forefront. And I know you don’t want to talk about you, but you’re a human being. The “Survivor” community reaches out to me. And yeah, there’s a lot of “(expletive deleted) Jeff Varner.” But, there’s also a lot of “How is Jeff today. I hope he’s alright.” You’ve been living with this for months. Now that it’s finally out there, does that help you move on now that you can more openly support these issues?
Varner: Yeah…I’m not ashamed to tell you that coming out of this I had thoughts of suicide. What I’d done is horrible. But when Zeke reached out to me and we were able to talk, that’s when I felt like the healing began. We both feel like we’re both victims on some level for many different reasons. Not being able to talk about it has been tough. Last night was an end in a lot of ways and a beginning in a lot of ways. There is a relief that it’s out there and I can start making amends publicly and start trying to help people. I forgot what you asked me. I’m a wreck. (Laughs)
Holmes: (Laughs) You got there.

Holmes: There was some confusion about how you knew Zeke was transgender. When we spoke in the pre-game interview, you said that you had noticed things about his physique that had led you to believe that he was transgender. Was there ever a point where Zeke opened up to you or was this based on your pre-game observations?
Varner: Not directly. He talked about all kinds of things that led me indirectly, not only that he was OK and out, I believed he was out. I had no idea that Zeke had not come out. Everything led to that. I don’t want to talk about how I knew, because in respect to Zeke, I don’t think that’s the right direction to go. When I said that out loud at Tribal, I was not 100% certain.

Holmes: Sarah is an example of someone who didn’t have much experience with the transgender community. She met a guy she liked and when she found out his story, it opened her eyes. Hopefully there are a lot of Sarahs in the audience.
Varner: I want to thank Sarah for that. That went a long way. Out of everyone who was at Tribal, she’s the one I’ve heard from the most. She’s been so supportive. She explained to me how this moment and preparing her family to watch it has changed their perception. She went out of her way to make me understand that no matter what Zeke and I are going through, this has been a positive thing for her family, it has to be for others. Ultimately, that is where this will go, but right now what’s important to me is that Zeke is safe and healthy and that he hears me when I say I am profoundly sorry. I didn’t come after him with malice. It wasn’t intended to be a commentary. I hate that the deception theme was there because it’s such a massive stigma that trans people deal with. People think they’re deceiving and dangerous and they’re not. These people are strong and courageous. All of these bathroom bills are horrible. They’re not about whether trans people can use the bathroom. They’re about whether trans people have the right to exist in public. There are so many people, especially here in North Carolina, our hateful General Assembly is trying to erase trans people from our society. I really want to do everything I can to stop that crap. I hope that this opens up the door for Zeke and I to do some great stuff.

Holmes: I know you don’t have to do exit press. I’d imagine this is the second worst day of your life. But I think you’re doing the right thing by using this platform to further transgender awareness.
Varner: I hope that any press that anybody puts out there is pro-trans and anti-outting. We’re both trying to make this a positive thing.

Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes

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‘Survivor’ Jeff: “I Feel Like If I Keep My Mouth Shut I Might Make a Jury For a Change”

February 16, 2017

Jeff Varner (CBS)

QUICK NOTE: The good folks at XFINITY sent me deep into the Fijian wilderness to bring you an exclusive look at “Survivor: Game Changers.” While I was there I conducted interviews with “Survivor” host Jeff Probst and the entire 20-person cast. I also captured exclusive photos and other behind-the-scenes tidbits. So, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for up-to-the-minute updates.

Name: Jeff Varner
Age: 50
Hometown: High Point, NC
Previously Played On:
“Survivor: The Australian Outback” – Finished 10th
“Survivor: Second Chance” – Finished 17th
Best Known For: Trying to make Tina Wesson vomit.

Gordon Holmes: You played 15 years ago, they bring you back…and here you are again almost immediately. Holy crap.
Jeff Varner: Out of everybody here, I am part of this family the longest. And that didn’t hit me until yesterday. It never crossed my mind. I’m the O.G., literally.
Holmes: With the exception of the newbies from season 33, you’ve played the latest and the most recent.
Varner: Yeah, you talk about Game Changer…this game was changed by the time I got back into it.
Holmes: When you first heard that Game Changer subhead, what did that mean to you?
Varner: It meant a lot, I was flattered by it. Then I started thinking, what did I do to change the game? Well, I did a lot more than you did.
Holmes: Me?
Varner: (Laughs) No, I was looking around the room going. What’d you do? Who’d you sleep with to get here because you didn’t change (expletive deleted). Since when did a goat become a game changer? The way I look at is; I as a human am a game changer. I am ballsy, I have a lot of courage, I’m afraid of very little. I’m like Donald Trump in a way in that even though the rules say this is how you do it? This is how we’re going to do it. If everybody goes this way, I go that way. I’m looking more for how I’m going to change going forward. I feel like this is a good time for me.

Holmes: Let’s talk about “Second Chance.” It’s better to burn out than fade away.
Varner: (Laughs) Like a shooting star.
Holmes: To quote Def Leppard. How do you take the lessons from “Second Chance” and apply them to your future victory?
Varner: I learned a lot in “Second Chance.” Don’t go too hard, too fast. Don’t show all your cards right out of the gate. Don’t pre-game. Keep your mouth shut. When you get information, sit on it. Figure out the best way to use it. I would immediately go where my instincts told me to.
Holmes: You said, “No pre-gaming.” I asked everyone before “Second Chance” if they pre-gamed and everyone said, “No, but everyone else is.”
Varner: Liars.
Holmes: Everyone except for you.
Varner: They’re all lying. I have nothing to hide. Why not tell you the truth? And I was the only one who did. When it all came out and I was the only one talking, it pissed me off. If I’m talking to fifteen people, fifteen people are talking to me.
Holmes: Before every interview I say, “Whatever you say here, stays here. Nothing gets shared with the rest of the cast. This won’t see the light of day until a month before the season airs.” You tell me you’re working with Kelly Wiglesworth. Then I ask her if she’s working with anyone and she says, “No.”
Varner: Liar.
Holmes: Yeah, in my brain, I’m saying, “Really?” But, to her I have to keep my mouth shut.
Varner: Fishbach asked me about it when we got back. And I had to show them the text messages. I have text messages from all of these people. I want you to see that I’m not lying. But the problem is; now I’m the poster child for pre-gaming. And, it’s the reason why this time I didn’t do any. I’ve talked to some people. I have relationships already started with a few people, but I have no alliances, I have no deals. I can hit that beach as a free agent and hopefully being honest with you won’t come back to bite me.
Holmes: I hope not. But, who would’ve dreamed you’d be back so quickly?
Varner: I certainly didn’t.

Holmes: Are there any rumors of anybody else trying to set something up before the game?
Varner: I know that Sandra’s talking to a lot of people because she’s talking to me. I know that Andrea is talking to a lot of people. I started talking to Malcolm who I know is talking to Andrea and a lot of other people. It’s going on. It’s out there. I met Tai at a party. So, he’s reaching out to me and he’s talked to Caleb about protecting me. And so, I have some relationships started. If I lined up twenty people, there are maybe twelve that I’m not in an alliance with, but they like me. And everybody’s doing it. I don’t care what anybody says.

Holmes: What’re your thoughts on this cast.
Varner: It’s random. It’s a random group of people. I couldn’t figure out what the theme was. There are some people that I don’t know why they’re here. I never would have expected them to play a second time, much less in a Game Changers season. And there are some good people too. There are a lot of targets, a lot of threats, and I’m not one of them. I feel like I’m in a good spot. You have three winners, challenge beasts, you’ve got Cirie who everyone is terrified of. Sandra who’s has two million dollars. Who’s going to let her get close to a third? I feel like if I keep my mouth shut I might make a jury for a change.
Holmes: It’s admirable to have goals.
Varner: I intend to make it much further than that.

Holmes: Anyone you’re hoping to work with?
Varner: Everybody. That’s my strategy this time around. In Cambodia I came in with hit lists and these are my partners and this is who we’re going after. It was a mistake. Here, everybody is my partner. I’m nervous about a handful of people, but I’m still looking at it like, “I’m going to do what you need me to do.” Wentworth played a brilliant pre-swap game and I’m going to tailor a lot of what I do after her. She never made a decision. She never made an enemy. She never made a wave. She got into a little alliance, but she was very careful.
Holmes: She did use some harsh language.
Varner: What do you mean?
Holmes: I’ve heard her say (expletive deleted) before.
Varner: (Laughs) She does say that.

Holmes: Any early targets?
Varner: No. For that same reason. However, I am nervous about Tony. I’m nervous about Debbie. I’m nervous about Sandra, although I’d partner with Sandra. I feel like people can get rid of Sandra at any time because she’s not a challenge threat. Maybe that’s a big mistake. But you can’t leave Tony around. He’s too dangerous. Debbie seems like she’ll vote people out for random reasons. I want to make sure I’m aligned with people who’ve proven loyalty in the past. But, I want people who I can sit next to at the end and win. I want my Abi, I wanted to get to the end with them. This time I am confident enough with myself to know no matter who I’m sitting with, I can beat them.

Holmes: Anyone tipping their hand at Ponderosa?
Varner: Tony’s walking around Ponderosa with a stick. Like a big old stick. Like he’s going to spin it over his head. I don’t know what he’s doing. And JT is a wreck. Just pacing constantly. And I’m writing letters. The psychologist the other day told me I am projecting calm and peace. I’m hoping that will draw people to me.

Holmes: You’re going to be dealing with two unknown quantities in Zeke and Michaela. We don’t know anything about their games.
Varner: I’ve really been studying them. But, they’re going to be my buddies too. I think I’ve got them down. I’ve never said two words to them, but Michaela comes across as athletic, strong, she’s a winner, she doesn’t like to lose, and she doesn’t like people who make her lose. I feel that from her. She seems like she could be confrontational. We were having lunch and she’s standing there and she just wheels around and sits her plate in front of me and looks at me. I’m like, “OK, that’s a ballsy bitch right there.” I like that. And she makes eye-contact with me. I feel tied to her. It’s like Tasha 2.0…who I hated. If I had a chance to start over with Tasha, how would I go? Zeke, when I first saw him I thought, that’s a lesbian with a mustache. He watches all of us, but he seems to look at Tony with an adoration. I feel like he loves Tony in a way that he doesn’t love JT. He sits next to Tony, he may be the new Woo.

Holmes: You had four Cagayaners in “Second Chance.” Now you’ve got four Kaoh Rongers.
Varner: Two of those Cagayaners went to the end and I tried my best to get rid of them. That didn’t go over very well. I’m not going to go out on a limb to get rid of them. Maybe I’ll partner with them. Who knows? But, that’s a card to play.

Holmes: You had some health issues last time. How are you feeling now?
Varner: Great. I’ve been preparing to get a call a year down the road. I’ve been going to yoga and spin class three days a week. Then I got the call in January and I thought, “Oh (expletive deleted), this is happening faster than I thought.” So, I joined crossfit. And in the last two months, my crossfit has been private lessons. He’ll set up obstacles courses ending with a puzzle.
Holmes: Nice.
Varner: Oh, it’s intricate (expletive deleted). I had to do the whole obstacle course, then he’d give me three minutes to do the puzzle. And if I didn’t, he’d make me do it again. And as we got closer, he’d bring people in and I’d start competing against people.
Holmes: Your own private John Kirhoffer.
Varner: (Laughs) I’m ready for this. I wish I had another year, and the damage to my lungs is done, but I feel great. Yoga has made my feet strong, and I’ve got abs. I feel great.

Holmes: This is totally unprofessional, but I just noticed you have really pretty eyes.
Varner: (Laughs) Well, thank you.
Holmes: Totally unprofessional.

Holmes: Alright, I’m not just here to reacquaint the world with Jeff Varner. I’m here to help you get ready.
Varner: Which means you’re helping everyone else too.
Holmes: Some of these people can’t be helped.
Varner: (Laughs)
Holmes: I’m going to give an argument someone might use to get rid of you. You need to counter it.
Varner: Excellent, I could use this.
Holmes: Jeff was very erratic in “Second Chance.” He was back and forth, they targeted Vytas, then targeted Shirin. I can’t tell which way he’s going and I don’t want to have to worry about him. Let’s send him home tonight.
Varner: Well, in Cambodia you had to flip-flop. It was the game of voting blocs instead of alliances because everybody was so smart and everybody was so good. You just didn’t know where to go and what to do. Wherever the vote was at that moment, that’s where you went. And then you had a chance to regroup and get back together with who you needed to be with. That’s how that game went, so if you say that about me you have to say that about Ciera, cause she was the voting bloc queen. She went further than I did. I’ve never made a jury. Why are you worried about me?

Holmes: They said Jeff wasn’t helping out around camp enough and we need to stay strong for challenges…
Varner: Listen, I wasn’t helping out around camp because I was working with Wiglesworth who was dominating. That’s her thing. Wiglesworth, Terry, that’s their thing. They’re old-school. The second I’d try to help they’d take my head off. Watch me now.

Holmes: He almost passed out during that challenge with the puzzle pieces. I’m worried he’s going to be a challenge liability.
Varner: None of us had anything to eat and the heat was crazy. You saw Caleb have a heat stroke, right? Same kind of (expletive deleted). I was trying to solve the puzzle while everyone else was sitting on their ass. Hopefully you as a partner will help me and not sit and watch me.

Holmes: I’m pretty sure Varner went into Cambodia with pre-game alliances. I don’t want to have to deal with that.
Varner: I did. And if you think they’re not here on this island, you’re crazy. I chose not to do it this time. It didn’t help me. It was a problem for me. It was a weight that I had to carry around. And so, I’m not aligned right now. I didn’t have a conversation with you before the game started, did I? You can ask anybody. My loyalty is to you right now. How’d I do?
Holmes: Killed it.
Varner: Thank you for that, I hadn’t been thinking about that stuff.

Holmes: Ciera and you were never on the same tribe. Is there any kind of relationship there?
Varner: No, I love her gameplay. One of the things that irritating me about Cambodia was nobody played. Those alpha guys got together and they just stuck with Tasha up their ass. That’s what irritated me about Angkor. Tasha and Andrew just didn’t play. Once they had Abi they wouldn’t talk to anyone. Ciera and I are kindred souls that way. All she wanted to do was play and that’s all I wanted to do. At the same time I don’t trust her because of that. She’s sharp. Wentworth, Kass, all the people say she’s a little liar and she’s very subtle about it. I hope to work with her, we’ve texted, but I’ll vote her out in a second.

Holmes: Any thoughts on potential twists?
Varner: You can’t have a show called “Survivor: Game Changers” without changing the game. I’m anticipating Probst to show up with all new rules and all new everything.

Holmes: Alright, I’ll give you a twist. You tell me if it’s awesome or awful. Hidden immunity idols?
Varner: Awesome.
Holmes: Redemption Island?
Varner: Awful…both.
Holmes: Exile Island?
Varner: Awful, but it’s good too.
Holmes: You’re very bad at this.
Varner: Maybe that’s how I see the world; the good and the bad.
Holmes: Medallion of Power?
Varner: I don’t even know what that means.
Holmes: That’s probably for the best. Extra vote?
Varner: Both.
Holmes: Steal a vote?
Varner: Both.
Holmes: Damnit. Eliminate a juror.
Varner: Awful. That’s horrible.
Holmes: Finally.

Varner: Alright, are we playing Align or Malign?
Holmes: No, but it’s similar. All of your opponents are in this deck of cards except for Michaela and Zeke, because we don’t know them. I’m going to give you three at a time at random. You tell me who you’re going to vote out first. Who you’re going to work with, but eventually eliminate, and who you’re going to take to the end.

Round One: Sarah, Ciera, and Caleb
Varner: I’m going to vote Ciera out first just because she’s sharp. I’m going to align with Caleb because he’s strong and when we get to the merge he’s a meat shield. And I’ll take Sarah because she’s loyal, she’s smart, she’s cool as hell, and she’s the one here in pre-game who I feel like I click with. She’s joking, cutting up, I like her.

Round Two: Tai, Sierra, and Hali
Varner: Hmm…I love Tai so much, but he can’t keep his mouth shut. He keeps making eye contact with me here and he doesn’t care who sees him do it. That makes me so nervous. Tai’s one I have phone conversations with. He came to my birthday party. He’s such a great guy. Hali is a wild card. But, I find her to be… I love the social justice in her. She’s reading the book “Roots” at Ponderosa. She takes time out of her day to have conversations with the help. And I love that. I think she could beat me, so I’m not going to take her to the end. Let’s vote out Sierra because I don’t even know why she’s here. Let’s take Tai to the end, cause he’s proven he’ll go to the end and lose. Hali, we’ll align with.

Round Three: Brad, Cirie, and Aubry
Varner: Ooo…bitches. Brad is a bitch and I love him for that. Cirie, I fan-girled when I saw her. But I don’t trust her so we’re going to vote her out now. We’ll align with Aubry because we’re kindred souls. But we’ll take Brad to the end because he’s stupid. I can beat him in the end, I don’t think he can carry an argument.

Round Four: Debbie, Tony, and Troyzan
Varner: I’m going to the end with Troyzan. I like him, he’s loyal. Of these three, I feel like I could argue against him and win. I feel like I could argue against Tony and Debbie and win too. They both seem like they’re very unpredictable. They’re all over the place. Let’s vote out Tony because he’s already got a million bucks. And let’s align with Debbie, but keep her on a short leash.

Round Five: Malcolm, Andrea, and Sandra
Varner: I love all three of these people. Let’s go to the end with…Sandra. Nobody will give her a third million, but you know how that goes. So…let’s vote out Sandra. Let’s go to the end with Andrea because she’s loyal. She and Malcolm are the same person to me. They’re good at challenges and strategic. I just feel like Malcolm is a better arguer.

Holmes: We’ve got two left, so give me a classic Align or Malign.

Round Six: JT and Ozzy
Varner: Align with JT and let’s get rid of Ozzy. Ozzy is too strong and there’s an air of cockiness to him that’s uncomfortable. Ozzy feels like he is “Survivor.” He thinks he’s the best there is ever. And he’s also set the precedence that people who aren’t challenge threats need to go. And that would be me. (Laughs)

Don’t miss the two-hour season premiere of “Survivor: Game Changers,” Wednesday March 8, 2017 at 8 p.m. ET.

Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes

‘Survivor’ Castaway Jeff: ‘(Andrew) and Tasha Were the Rats’

October 15, 2015

"Survivor: Second Chance" (CBS)

Quick Note: We’re going to be bringing you all kinds of “Survivor” fun this season including episode recaps, exit interviews, and Power Rankings with Jenn Brown and Max Dawson. Be sure to follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for up-to-the-minute news and info.

[xfinity-record-button id=”4814958312953183112″ program_type=”series”]

Yeah, I know. I picked Jeff Varner to win and I cursed him. Happens every season.

But this time, I’m not going to apologize and feel bad because there’s nothing to be sad about. Jeff Varner played a hell of a game in his short time out there.

I spoke to my latest curse victim the morning after his elimination and asked him about his shaky alliance with Abi, the post-challenge meltdown, and the conference call that started it all…

Gordon Holmes: I’m not apologizing today, Jeff.
Jeff Varner: (Laughs)
Holmes: This is not a sad occasion. You played the (expletive deleted) out of this game. I hope you are proud.
Varner: Oh, I’m very proud. I was relieved when it all happened. When I got out of that. But once I got back to Ponderosa I was thinking about the millions of people who voted for me. And did I let them down? I have lived with that for a while. But seeing the show and seeing what I did and how I did it? I’m very proud of myself. I think I delivered. I hope I gave them all a reason to vote for me again if I get the chance.
Holmes: I remember thinking; who’s really going to remember Jeff? He’s a funny guy and played well, but that was on a season 15 years ago that had a ton of big names. But you are “Survivor” royalty in my book now.
Varner: (Laughs) Well, thank you. I don’t feel that, but I am proud of my performance.

Holmes: In our pre-game interview, you talked about this mythical conference call. Now that it’s all said and done, please tell me exactly what went down there.
Varner: We just got together and chatted it up. I approached Shane. Shane had Terry prepared. But Shane didn’t know that Terry and I were already together. (Laughs) And then I brought Wigles in. And it was a good little foursome. This is what we’re going to do and we’re not going to talk anymore.  And here’s who we go for first, and here’s who we try to avoid. And each of you go and find somebody on the side. We’ll get them all together and we’ll have a nice little group. And then Shane didn’t get in and it all blew apart. The second we landed on that island, Terry and Kelly were not playing a game. It was flying by them and I had to make a choice.
Holmes: That choice was to side with Shirin and Spencer for that one vote. I remember talking to Probst afterwards and saying, “Why would you throw away this pre-game alliance so quickly? Is this a ploy to throw people off of their scent? Is Jeff Varner a super genius?”
Varner: I was very committed to Terry and Kelly through that entire experience. Even right down to the meltdown in episode three that got me into trouble. I was still giving information to Kelly. And when they weren’t playing, I had to come up with a way to shock them. And that’s what I did. Vytas had stepped into this whole alliance and was taking the place of Shane and I didn’t like it. I felt like he was hijacking my alliance. And he was throwing my name out there as someone to vote out. I was like, “You’re supposed to be with me. What’s going on here?” It was easy to vote for Vytas even though I love him. But that vote was to wake Kelly and Terry up, because I knew in episode two I was going to go back to them. The whole plan from the beginning was to get rid of Spencer. It was easier for me to convince Terry and Wigles to go for Spencer on morning four than it was in the beginning. Because Spencer was playing them. I had him gone. All day long I had the numbers and Spencer was gone. And then Shirin got wind of it and kicked into, “Let’s get rid of Jeff.” So, she left me with another choice.

Holmes: You were buddies with Kelley Wentworth before the game, but we never saw the two of you together. Could you have pulled her into that first vote to keep the numbers and boot Spencer?
Varner: She wasn’t having it. Terry’s social game was so bad those first three days. He pissed off all the women. Terry was in trouble. Shirin was targeting Terry first. Wentworth and I were talking a lot. We had everything together. Had she and I lasted longer we would have been really dangerous together. Kelley was that person on the side that we decided as a foursome to go get. She didn’t know about my foursome and I didn’t tell them about her. I was keeping it close to my vest.
Holmes: What was Terry doing to upset the women?
Varner: There was one time Abi was reading the first immunity challenge clue and her English is a little broken. So, she was struggling and jumping and Terry grabbed the paper and said, “Let somebody who speaks English read it.” And all of the sudden all of the eyes swing around to Terry. And Shirin is pissed and Wentworth is pissed. Then Terry goes to Peih-Gee and says, “You can be our number seven.” He offered her this really horrible deal. Things that you’d think a seasoned “Survivor” player wouldn’t do, Terry did.

Holmes: What was aligning with Abi like?
Varner: Odd. (Laughs)
Holmes: (Laughs)
Varner: I was looking for a shield and she offered it up. She’s so entertaining. I’d catch myself sitting back and watching Abi play. It was like I was watching TV. She’s crazy. Just out of control. Very emotional. But sweet and loyal to some extent. Abi’s always going to do what’s best for Abi. She’ll stick with you as long as possible.  I love Abi. Others don’t, but I do.
Holmes: I think it’s interesting you use the word “loyal” when based on her time in both the Philippines and Cambodia, she’s seems to have turned against the majority of her alliances.
Varner: Well, that’s true. I don’t know, it’s hard to explain. She’s hard to put into words. And at Angkor she had her choice of Andrew and Tasha who were promising her the world and a connection to the other side. And she had Woo and Peih-Gee who had voted against her and had fought with her. She did what she had to do. When I say loyal I mean she communicated with me throughout the whole thing. She told me what she was going to do. I’m going with Tasha and Andrew, you come along with me. I pretended to for a while, but it exploded.

Holmes: “Survivor” challenges are no joke, the Cambodian heat is no joke. Put me in your shoes during the post-challenge meltdown.
Varner: And don’t forget, no food at Angkor and no shelter. And Tasha being so nasty. I just want to say she’s coming across on TV so much nicer than that bitch is in person. I love her and my heart goes out to her in many ways. When we landed at Angkor we had the numbers.  When we chose our buffs in our little boxes, Kimmi dropped her box at my foot. And I dropped mine. We reached down to pick them up and she whispered, “ Don’t trust Andrew, he can’t keep his mouth shut.”
Holmes: Wow.
Varner: So, when we got to Angkor I went straight to Andrew and said, “What’s going on over there? Who’s working with who? Because I want to work with you guys.” And he spilled all the beans. He and Tasha were the rats, quite frankly. They let all of the secrets of Bayon out. I knew who was aligned with whom. Who was on the bottom. Who was the next to go. And, when we as a foursome were going to vote out Tasha next because she was so nasty out there. I don’t know why the editing is not showing that, but she was so nasty. The plan was to vote out Tasha, and for me to deliver this speech about everything going on at Bayon. I was going to lay it all out there. Who’s on the top, who’s on the bottom. Here’s how you can get rid of those people. And Abi flipped to Tasha. That changed everything. So, I’m going into that challenge, tired, hungry, worn out. This speech is brewing in the back of my head and I have to kiss Tasha and Andrew’s ass for a minute. And when I saw an opportunity to tell Wigles everything I knew, I did. I’m very loyal to her. I almost played a Blood vs. Water game with her. But that’s when Tasha pops up. “We’ve got a rat.” And that made me so mad. I looked at her and said, “Bitch, you want to see a rat? I’ll show you a rat.”
Holmes: (Laughs)
Varner: I rattled off everything I knew. It’s not in the show, I think because the show hasn’t revealed the Bayon alliances yet. But that’s what that moment was about. And when we went back to camp, they made it look like I went to sleep, I busted my butt. I got no votes with my work. I wish they’d shown that.

Holmes: “Nasty” is a pretty strong adjective. What was Tasha doing out there?
Varner: It started at Ponderosa before the game even started. I was a massive Tasha fan in Cagayan…
Holmes: Is this the hammock thing again?
Varner: (Laughs) It’s the hammock thing!
Holmes: (Laughs)
Varner: It’s the couch thing, it’s the attitude, the nose in the air, the dirty looks. She was going for the jugular. And when we get to Angkor she was so sweet to everybody. But she looked at me and she’s a bitch. She’s just hateful and closed off. The more I tried to be nice to her the harder she got. She’d wake up in the morning and say, “Good morning, everybody.” Then she’d look at me and be like, “Are you looking for an idol!” I got nothing from her. Everywhere I went she was right on my heels. But you know, Gordon…I love her. I love everybody. I’m not bitter at all. But, I have a problem with anybody who plays “Survivor” with God as a tool. To me, God does not like “Survivor.” Read the Bible and everything that “Survivor” is about, He’s not happy with that. To come in and use him as a tool. To go in the corner and pray and then come back to the beach and throw f-bombs everywhere? And then talk about how your church family said it’s OK, so you’re going to go do it? Own your own game. Have the balls to play your own game. Don’t say you’re going to be evil all day long because you can pray at night. Romans 6 in the Bible is very clear about abusing God’s grace. Because it’s not OK. To me it’s not OK. When I saw her playing that whole card, I had a major issue with it. And she said that God for whatever reason had decided that she’s going to be 40 and single and childless…and she just had to embrace that. I wanted to say to her, “You are 40 and single and childless because of you and your choices.” She’s just a very hard, stern, closed off person  and she’s created that life for herself. She shouldn’t blame that stuff on God. It’s her fault. I love God. I own my game, own yours.

Holmes: We do a word association here…
Varner: I know, and I hate that. I’m not prepared.
Holmes: You’re not supposed to be!
Varner: (Laughs)
Holmes: Don’t listen to Shirin! I’ll give you a name, give me the first couple of words you think of. We can start with Terry.
Varner: Captain America. Everybody’s dad. Love him.
Holmes: Peih-Gee?
Varner: Gangster. She smuggled flint and fishing wire. She’s awesome. She’s a drag-queen gangster.
Holmes: Woo?
Varner: Clueless. Beautiful human specimen. But does not get the game of “Survivor.”
Holmes: Savage?
Varner: Narcissist, arrogant, drinks his own Kool-Aid. Tries to make you think he’s Terry Deitz. Terry is everything Savage is not. And the editing is showing Andrew as some great man, but that’s not my memory.
Holmes: Shirin?
Varner: Sharp, quick, very smart. So much fun. Brilliant.
Holmes: Word association cheater.
Varner: (Laughs) I want you to know. On our trip to Vietnam, Shirin was working on her word association. That’s how much of an impact you had on her. She had a notebook and was thinking of “Game of Thrones” people. I’m so happy she made me the Queen of Thorns.
Holmes: Defeats the purpose! OK, Spencer?
Varner: Smart. Odd. He’s too smart for his own good. I thought for a while that he might be autistic. Like brilliantly autistic. He’s not in touch with his emotions. One of my proudest moments was when I voted out Shirin and made Spencer cry.
Holmes: Wentworth?
Varner: (Laughs) Sneaky, sneaky. I love her. She’s got a dirty sense of humor.
Holmes: Wiglesworth?
Varner: Motherly. Took care of everybody. Not really playing the game.
Holmes: Vytas?
Varner: Not creepy at all. I love Vytas. There’s a sexiness to Vytas that’s hard to explain.
Holmes: Tasha?
Varner: Misguided. Sad soul. Lots of growing to do. I hope her behavior in the game is so horrendous that God finds a way to tell her, “I don’t like that, change it.”
Holmes: And Abi?
Varner: She is the Tasmanian devil who cries and throws fits and hugs you and tells you she loves you. Abi is everything. She’s so paranoid and delusional and so much fun. I could sit and study Abi all day.

Holmes: You were amazing out there.
Varner: I appreciate that. And if there’s any point I want to hammer home it’s that millions of people voted me in there and I played my butt off for them. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity. I love my cast, I love the people who voted me in, and I love the show.

Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes

‘Survivor: Second Chance’ Jeff: ‘My Alliance Had a Conference Call Before We Left’

September 11, 2015

"Survivor: Second Chance" (CBS)

Quick Note: XFINITY TV sent me deep into the Cambodian wilderness to bring you all kinds of “Survivor: Second Chance” goodness. So, be sure to check back for exclusive interviews, photos, and behind-the-scenes tidbits. And, follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for up-to-the-minute news and info.

Name: Jeff Varner
Season: “Survivor: The Australian Outback”
Finish: Tenth Place
Why You Should Remember Him: Jeff was eliminated from the game because of the old rule where tie votes are broken based on the amount of previous votes that were cast against the tied players.

Gordon Holmes: Now I hear you have a medical concern already?
Jeff Varner: I have COPD. I was diagnosed about six years ago. It’s never been an issue for me. Living at home I had one attack that sent me to a doctor. But, I never need the inhaler. I have no reason to use it. I run, I exercise. The second I got off the plane here and I couldn’t breathe. It’s so thick here with the heat and the humidity. It’s changed my voice, it’s a little raspier. Walking from one end of the camp to the other is a nightmare. Probst was concerned. Sort of on the D.L. he had a doctor walk me around the back. We went way back into the woods. He jogged with me on the beach and made me do all these tests. I thought he was going to pull me out. But when you can’t breathe a lot of other things happen. There’s this claustrophobia thing that settles in, it’s a panic attack kind of thing. I’ve had a couple of those this week.
Holmes: Where does it stand now?
Varner: The doctors cleared me. And Jeff thinks I can. I have to figure out the best way to use this to my advantage.
Holmes: Hopefully this long pre-game will give you a chance to get used to the weather.
Varner: Right. Oh, and another (expletive deleted) thing that happened is I fell in the bathtub when I first landed and dislocated my shoulder. Popped it back in myself. So, for the first four days here I couldn’t do anything. We’re doing swimming tests and everybody is watching. I’m pretending like I’m OK.
Holmes: What the hell, Jeff?
Varner: I know! I can’t breathe, I had the flu before I left. I had a 102 temperature. I did my prep and shopping and everything the day before I got on the plane.
Holmes: So, you’re allowed to have your inhaler in the game?
Varner: I am allowed to have that in the game. They’ve cleared that.
Holmes: How do you play that? Day one, you just tell everyone it won’t be an issue?
Varner: I don’t know. This group is looking for every little thing.
Holmes: Any reason to send someone home.
Varner: And so much is going on out there on that porch already.
Holmes: Speaking of…who’s winking at each other?
Varner: It’s almost become who’s not at this point. You can tell who the better players are by the ones who are completely stone-faced. But, there’s a lot going on. My alliance had a conference call before we left in case we got separated. Who are the early targets? Who do we lean toward? And, we’re all here but one, which is good.
Holmes: Mr. Coy. Who are we talking about?
Varner: Terry Dietz and Wiglesworth and Shane. So having him left behind sucks. Seeing his face is burned into my head. But, because we did all the legwork before that, I feel pretty prepared. And Kelly and I seem to be…we’re passing each other at the right times. She’ll say something and it’s exactly what I’m thinking. We were bringing Vytas in at the last minute. So, he’s on board. He knows to come to me and Kelly as soon as we hit the beach. Although we’ve not had a conversation this connects me to Ciera, which connects me to Monica, because of Ciera’s mother.
Holmes: It’s like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.
Varner: Oh yeah, I’m sitting here doing all of this in my mind. We have that Cagayan four, they’re the target. It’s Spencer, Kass, Tasha, and Woo. They’re the only show here with four people. That’s a voting block right out of the gate. They find three other people? We’re (expletive deleted). So, it’s about capitalizing on that out of the gate.
Holmes: Bad news for the Cagayaners.
Varner: Kass is trying her damnedest to make us think that Spencer, Tasha, and Woo hate her. But, I’m sitting here watching them all smiling at each other. You don’t do that with someone you hate. And Tasha is hogging everything. She’s a hammock hog. Watch her spread out on the only place we have to lay down. She’s doing it now.

Holmes: There are quite a few San Juan del Surians here as well.
Varner: Well, I’m tight with Kelley Wentworth, which nobody knows.
Holmes: Holy crap.
Varner: Why would anyone suspect that? Why would I know her? She and I have been communicating for months and she’s hooking me up with Jeremy. I feel good with that group. I feel good with the “Blood vs. Water” group. The singles here are assets. Tremendous assets. Stephen, Peih-Gee, Abi-Maria…already. We’ve already connected. I feel like I’m set up really well.

Holmes: Everyone’s probably thinking, “Oh, Jeff and Kimmi!”
Varner: No. I’m playing that up. Kimmi’s one of my best friends out here. We’ve also talked. And my group out here they don’t know that I’m talking to other people. That’s my strategy. I’m not going to be a challenge champion.
Holmes: Especially with your bathtub gymnastics act.
Varner: (Laughs) I’m a (expletive deleted) nightmare. Sandra (Diaz-Twine) won this game without doing anything physical. So, I called her before I left because I knew I’m not in the shape these people are. And she just rattled off things and I wrote page after page. I think I have my hands in enough pies that it doesn’t matter how well I do in challenges.

Holmes: It’s been fifteen some years since you played. What do you think the other players will remember about Jeff Varner’s time in the game?
Varner: I don’t know. People love me and people hate me. I never understood that. I felt I played an honest game. I think I was a little beyond my time, maybe. “Survivor 2” was very survivalist and I was very strategic. People weren’t playing with me the way I needed them to. Starting the fight with Kimmi and Alicia (Calaway) was one of the things that I did. Gagging at Tina (Wesson) to get her to throw up. These ballsy things that nobody else had the guts to do. This group here? Eats, sleeps, and breathes like me. And I like that I’m being called up for pictures last. We’ll be out there and they’ll be like “Vytas over here, Joe lean down, guy in the blue do this…” It’s a sign to me that these people don’t know who I am. I’m sure they do, but fifteen years is a long time.

Holmes: I was pleasantly surprised that the fans voted you in. I was worried that recency bias was going to leave people like you and Fishbach on the sidelines.
Varner: It changes everything. I can’t jump off a pole for peanut butter because I’m not just letting myself down, I’m letting millions of people down. And that’s heavy.
Holmes: So, you feel the weight of the fans expectations?
Varner: Oh yeah.
Holmes: I never thought of it that way. Once the vote ended, I figured it’d be “Survivor” as usual. Almost two halves to the season.
Varner: When we had our first interview with CBS yesterday, they actually tapped into that. I cried. I’m a (expletive deleted). I don’t know where it came from. But there’s something there and it’s deep. And it’s going to get me far.

Holmes: “Survivor” has changed a bit in fifteen years. Are you on top of all the twists and whatnot?
Varner: Yeah, I’m not a Spencer who could probably rattle off the color of everybody’s underwear.
Holmes: Me neither. This is my job and I have to jump onto Wikipedia every couple of minutes to double check things.
Varner: I’m not that dude. I was for a minute. But, life goes on.
Holmes: Any guesses on twists for this season if there are any?
Varner: I think out of the gate whatever Jeff can do to break up pre-game alliances will be done. Kass is whispering around to everyone, “Double elimination off of the bat. Then we’re breaking into three tribes.” I don’t know if it’s the island talking to her or how she knows this. Maybe she overheard something. That’s her collateral. I don’t trust her as far as I can spit. And I’ve been reading a book on body language so I can understand people. Kass, there’s a whole chapter on people who have no body language. They’re liars, perfect liars. They believe their own (expletive deleted). If your feet don’t do anything, if you don’t do anything with your hands? Kass just sits there perfectly. There’s nothing there. Every word out of her (expletive deleted) mouth is a lie.
Holmes: You need to stick around for a long time. Win the whole thing if you can.
Varner: I’ll do my best. Spencer is a textbook everything. When you defy gravity, when your feet come off the ground and your toes point to the sky, you’re extremely confident. That’s all he does. He takes up a lot of territory, which means, “I own this place.” A lot of crotch framing which is, “I’m the boss.” He thinks he’s got this (expletive deleted) down pat.


Holmes: Alright, we’re going to play “Align or Malign.” In my hand I have nineteen cards featuring your competitors. You’ll go through them and tell me who you’ll align with and who you’ll malign. Trick is, you only get eight aligns.
Varner: I only get eight?!
Holmes: That’s the deal.
Varner: Why?
Holmes: Because if you got nineteen aligns you might be tempted to say wonderful things about all of these people.
Varner: Wow…I have more than eight.
Holmes: Too bad. The rules are surprisingly strict.

Varner: Kelly Wiglesworth is an align. She’s a good soul, she’s at peace. She’s from my hometown. We have a lot in common. We go way back in the “Survivor” franchise. I can tell by the look on her face that she thinks this pre-game (expletive deleted) is as much (expletive deleted) as I do. She’s a challenge champion.

Varner: People are going to target  Joe which is going to protect her. He’s the shield for her. He’s also a lot like her. He’s very feeling, emotional, sweet. He’s communicating to me here, non-verbally, in a way that makes me very comfortable with him. Align.

Varner: Same with Vytas. I can tell Vytas I have COPD. Align.

Varner: Ciera, the other day I had a panic attack because I couldn’t breathe. She wouldn’t give me the time of day. Wouldn’t make eye contact. The second she sensed something was wrong her hand went on my knee and she started comforting me. I like that. Align.

Varner: Kelley Wentworth…align. We’ll go far in this game together and nobody will see it coming. She’s the coolest chick of the group. Her sense of humor is randy. She’s a nasty little girl and I love it.

Varner: Terry…very loyal. He’s going to stick with me. I know that he and Vytas are together. I know that he and Kelly are together. Align.

Varner: Abi-Maria…align. You need your bitch in the group, she is out of control. She’s flipping around. She’s hysterical here. She’s a shield for me. I can be a little bitchy.

Varner: Shirin…align. She went through a lot in her last season. She overcame a personal obstacle and I feel like that is going to be my experience in this show. So, that’s going to bond us together.

Varner: Kass is a (expletive deleted) liar. She’s a strategist. She thinks she’s got it down. She’s making eye contact with everyone. She’s trying her best. That says desperation. Malign. She’s already shown everyone that she’ll make an alliance out in the woods and then come out and tell everyone.

Varner: Spencer…malign. He’s the winner of this game if you don’t get rid of him quick.

Varner: Woo…malign. I don’t even know why he’s here. My niece looked at him and said, “Why is Michelle Kwan running for ‘Survivor’?” Nice guy. He’s not these people. He’s his own thing. I just don’t think he should be here.  I find him boring.

Varner: Andrew I like a lot. But he’s desperate because he doesn’t know anybody here. He’s not in anybody’s group. I’ve heard through the grapevine that he is desperately looking for someone to align with. You’re making me malign him.

Varner: Monica keeps making eye contact with me like her body is something that is going to turn me on. She’s working it. I love how she’s trying to play me. I trust her…I think. You’re making me malign her, too.
Holmes: I’m the worst.

Varner: Kimmi has had a rough life. Her husband screwed her over. She’s had financial trouble. Her kids are sick. I want her to go as far as she can and I want to help her, but I’m not going to jeopardize my game to do it. Malign.

Varner: Jeremy’s body is sick. He’s in great shape. We’re going to get along well. But, malign.

Varner: Keith is an awesome dude. But, the very first night we were chosen, he came up on stage and I said, “Another old man!” He was offended by that, I could tell. Right off the bat I pissed him off. Malign.

Varner: Stephen knows everybody, knows everything. I also think he’s arrogant. He’s named an award after himself and gives it to people, who does that? Malign.

Varner: Peih-Gee…I think we’d work together well, but I think she’s hard to read. And she seems clumsy and oaf-y, sticking her foot in her mouth already. Malign.

Varner: Tasha is the biggest threat in this game. She’s mean. There’s a mean sort of thing coming off of her. Mean like “I’m going to kick your ass,” mean. There’s an energy coming off of her that I don’t want to align with.

Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes

“Survivor: Second Chance” will kick off with a special 90-minute premiere on Wednesday, September 23rd at 8 p.m. ET.


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