Wow, what a heavy episode… who else wants to down a whole pizza?!? There has been a lot of animosity among the Survivor community and I’ve seen so many people shutting others down without having their full opinions heard. What happened this episode was shocking, disappointing, painful and heartbreakingly beautiful at the same time. Would love to know if you agree or disagree…
How we all reacted to the scene.
The Bad & Ugly
I’ll try not to ramble on about this, despite my website title… ha!
Firstly, Varner outing Zeke without approval.
Being a voice for Zeke when it was unnecessary game-wise and unbelievably wrong. He revealed Zeke’s most personal secret to the tribe and the millions watching on TV. This was Zeke’s story to tell, in or out of the game. As Zeke explained in an article for Hollywood Reporter (worth the read – LINK), he never told anyone in the game because he wanted to be “Zeke from Survivor”, not “Zeke, the Survivor trans guy”. Totally understandable. Changing your whole physical appearance to what everyone else has known you for years is a massive thing and it’s taken Zeke a long time to get to where he is today. For Varner to disclose it in such a public way, even though it’s a blessing with all the online support right now, is indefensible.
Varner’s incoherent thinking made it worse when he miscommunicated and made it sound as if being a transgender person means you’re also deceptive. What Varner actually meant was that Zeke hiding something from his personal life from the tribe was deceptive (which also doesn’t make sense; clearly the guy was grasping at straws). Oh man, the hole just got bigger for the three-time player and though he tried to backtrack, the damage was done.
Now to CBS – of course the producers knew about Zeke beforehand, and the fact they got away with airing this, without taking a little more responsibility (as in they are just letting Varner being punished for this mistake). It’s not even about Zeke being trans anymore, it’s about entertainment, a controversial episode and getting viewers talking. Good or bad. We all know this. Removing Varner without a vote was a choice by producers because… they wanted to shut down the situation? they wanted another Survivor-first? Did the trans issue hit a wall for them? A friend of mine also mentioned Will from Worlds Apart and why he wasn’t removed for his personal attack on Shirin? Talk about being picky. AND, obviously Zeke signed a contract to be on a show where the network can reveal anything they want on air. You can’t help but think CBS hoped this information would come to light on the show sooner or later… just not in this manner! Really, it was a bonus for them…
Lastly, the worst of reality TV and social media reared its ugly head shortly after the episode with all the backlash against Varner. The comments on his social media platforms are appalling and disgraceful. Sure, I was livid at Varner for what he did, it’s inexcusable. But he is human too, and although a huge mistake, he’s been forgiven by Zeke so everyone who’s blasted the guy with hate, take a step back!! The event will be an unforgettable one, but Varner has learned his lesson. Peih-Gee (Law) even mentioned this weekend that Varner was fired from his job because of assholes calling his work place demanding him being let go. Absolutely vile. Varner ain’t a bad person! But it has tarnished any chance of him returning to Survivor again. 😦
And The Good
Still at tribal – Zeke’s reaction. WOW. What a guy! Not everyone would have reacted the way he did. In this sense, Varner got lucky. This could have been a way more disastrous end for Varner (hard to imagine I know). Zeke took it in his stride, initially with a stunned mullet look, composed himself and responded in a way that was inspiring and heartbreaking at the same time. He put Varner in his place, and had support from the tribe and Probst. Not sure even I could be so forgiving so quickly. For anyone out there in the trans community, Zeke has become a hero and while a terrible scene to watch, it has also become a positive for those in a similar position. Thank you for opening up, showing compassion and being a total legend, Zeke!!
This guy!! Still smiling during tribal.
The reaction and response from the rest of the tribe showed that they agreed Varner’s actions were completely out of line and not necessary in the game. And the same goes for how Probst handled the situation as well. He’s so fucking calm!! Gotta love that guy.
Sarah’s out-pour of love for Zeke and explaining her story about how naive she’s been regarding LGBT+ issues was also an important one. The wider community don’t know the issues trans people go through as it’s usually just a ‘swept under the rug’ topic. It’s great to see people like Sarah willing to open her heart and mind and learn about all walks of life.
Then there’s Varner’s immediate regret and humility when put in his place. Varner was on the bottom of the tribe alliance and absolutely desperate to throw anyone under the bus. The guy just wanted to make Jury! But so very unfortunate he stooped that low. For those who haven’t read it, Varner explained his version of events and how he’s been feeling the last 10 months (Parade Interview). Both Zeke and Varner need the love and support right now!
To OTHER stuff – My pre-season winners pick Hali working out METAMORPHOSIS. She’s so smart. 😉
And what about Aubry finding a fellow Survivor friend in F U Brad Culpepper… who would have thought!? Brad is in a great position so far, so I hope this means things are looking up for ol’ Aubs! Here’s hoping!
SURVIVOR JULIAN’S THOUGHTS
I’m so disappointed in Varner that this all went down. I’ve been a massive fan of him from day dot, and I still respect him and his place in the show’s history. Varner is a smart, caring guy, and needs to be seen for so much more than this comment. That said, he’s hurt his Survivor legacy by being a three-time player who never made the merge, and the fact that he is going to be largely remembered for this ugliness.
Jeff crossed a line and he definitely realised that. No one had a right to out Zeke, except Zeke himself, and I really feel for him that he was exposed in such a way to not only to his tribe mates, but also to America. It’s unfortunate since as Zeke said himself, he didn’t want going on Survivor to be about being him as ‘the transgender guy’ – and now, for right or wrong, that is where all the focus on him lies.
But let’s be real here – you don’t go on a reality show without knowing that this could come out at some stage. It’s just dreadful it had to be exposed how it was. Casting would have known. Call me a cynic, but it’s probably part of the reason he was put on the show, and asked back for another season. As all of this went down, you could almost imagine the producers (and probably Probst) rubbing their hands with glee at the payoff for all of this going down and the publicity and discussion that it would bring.
It was however a bit of a low point that Varner and the pressure to create ‘fireworks’ at tribal council had to stoop to this. But there’s also light through the darkness, with the tribe uniting to shut down Jeff’s argument of Zeke being dishonest, and unanimously condemning the line he crossed between the playing the game and people’s personal lives outside of the game.
I believe that Jeff honestly was not meaning any malice and made the comment out of desperation and frustration. He knew he was going home, despite the edit making it seem he was making headway, there just wasn’t the numbers, or the motivation by the others to vote out Ozzy or Zeke. I believe Varner felt a little let down by Zeke playing both sides, and really tried to target him in one of the worst ways possible by painting him as deceptive because he hadn’t disclosed he used to be woman, which in itself is ridiculous – and Jeff knows it.
Tribal council is the last opportunity to make your arguments vocally, no matter how much of a stretch they may seem. There’s pressure to try every last thing you can in the attempt to shake things up, and cause a bit of chaos. I’m sure we’ve all said things we’re ashamed of, and that we didn’t think through and when we feel our back is against the wall. The difference is most of us aren’t being filmed with it being screened to a worldwide audience. That in no way excuses it, and I have to believe Jeff was sincere in his devastation when he realised the gravity of what he had said. It’s just regrettable he didn’t think through the implications of the very poorly thought out argument he was making.
Zeke was so strong and graceful throughout the whole incident, and it’s a testament to his character how he handled the situation. If Zeke and the majority of his tribe mates that were there that night, and who have met Jeff in real life can forgive, so should the audience consider holding their indignation for just a moment. Like Probst himself said to Varner “I’ve known you for almost 20 years and I know you’re not a bad person.”
Wow, I didn’t expect the episode to turn out like that – for right or wrong its one of the most shocking and uncomfortable moments in the show’s history. Let’s not forget it, but lets not focus forever on it also. For Zeke’s sake he said it best. He wants his journey on Survivor to be about the fact he’s lit fires, and played the game so well strategically, not because he has transitioned from a woman to a man.
What else can we take from the episode? Culpeppers in the driver’s seat, looks to be in the dominant alliance and HALI – sweet lovely HALI, she smashed that word challenge! LOVE YOU GIRL. I want you to take home the season! With a 13 person merge, it’s clear anything can still happen at next week’s vote!
That’s our gal!!
S34 Episode 7 Q&A w/Andrew Torrens
Andy, the #1 Ferrari Brain of Australian Survivor, went into the season guns a blazing with his aggressive strategic game play, quickly establishing bonds with his Vavau tribe mates. Loyalty was a big factor to Andy’s game and in hindsight it worked well; until the first
merge swap occurred. Failing to connect with the Aganoans, Andy was too much of a strategic threat and was voted out in 16th place.
LyndzO: Welcome to Reality Ramblings, Andy! Thanks for joining me on this week’s recap. This was a heavy episode, but overall how have you been liking Seasons 34 so far?
AndyT: I’ve been loving this season so far! The calibre of play increases tenfold in an all returnee season, and having strategic powerhouses in Queen Sandra, Tony, Cirie, Hali and Game Changing Fan Favourite Sierra Dawn Thomas return is a Survivor fans’ wet dream.
LO: Let’s start off with Debbie, what did you think her Exile stint with Cochran last week and would you have kept it a secret from the tribe too?
AT: Obviously the food supply and comfort was of more benefit than the kick in the guts Julia got in S32, but I don’t value the coaching provided by Cochran too highly. Whilst the company would be nice, a Survivor player coming in without actually seeing how tribe dynamics first hand can’t offer too much value or way forward other than act as a sounding board for your ideas and analysis. The issue here is this analysis is coming from someone who re-invents their work history every 30 seconds, so accuracy is sure to be questionable. Regarding keeping it a secret – absolutely; there’s not much to be gained in sharing it with anyone.
Andy was not a fan of this lingering moment.
LO: Do you think she made the right decision in choosing the extra vote? What would you have chosen as an Advantage?
AT: Even though history suggests it could be a curse more than a blessing (The curse of Foley & Fishbach), I think ultimately Debbie made the right choice and I would have chosen the same. Although we haven’t seen it reach its’ full potential yet, an extra vote in your back pocket can be very handy at the (Penner voice) “fulcrum votes” of the game (tribal councils with 9, 7 & 5 players remaining).
LO: We saw Mana have a cry-fest about how taxing Survivor can be. Aubry brought up how difficult it is speaking with others ‘on the outside’ about her Survivor experience and found comfort in Culpepper’s words. Having played the game yourself, how much of what Aubry said was true and relate to your Survivor journey? (I’m sure there’s now an eternal bond between you and the other Australian Survivor contestants)
AT: Aubry’s assessment was 100% accurate. As a fan going in I knew the game would stay with me well after it was finished, but I didn’t account for the distraction it would have on day to day life. Although I feel like I came out of Survivor AU relatively unscathed, there is not a day that goes by where I’m not replaying day 25 (June 16, 2016) in my head over and over again. I have run hypothetical scenarios by my family and friends a thousand times of what I could have done to survive that tribal and although they can listen and offer support, it is something you have to live to understand.
LO: To Nuku, we saw Ozzy dominate yet again in challenges. How big a threat is he in this season of Game Changers. Varner mentioned at tribal how strategic Ozzy is, I’m not too sure about that… Can someone like Ozzy win this game?
AT: Ozzy will always be a threat physically (I mean, it’s freaking Ozzy!), but as Zeke highlighted last episode and as we’ve seen in one of the many “evolutions of strategy” Ozzy’s physicality can also be leveraged as a “meat shield”.
Can Ozzy win Survivor? There’s a lot of factors that come into play, but with the right group of people and jury – sure. Can Ozzy win this season? With his social and strategic game appearing to not have undertaken a “metamorphosis”, As the Queen once said “I don’t know about thaaaaat!”.
LO: Varner was scrambling for a crack in Nuku and ends up throwing Zeke under the bus to Andrea and Sarah. Despite what went down at tribal, do you think there was there any more Varner could have done to stay in the game?
AT: I think everything Varner said about his read on the tribe prior to outing Zeke was well executed and was being heard, but even in a Game Changing season it is still rare for the vote to change at tribal. Varner was cactus, and not much could have changed that.
LO: Now to the tribal council. I’d like for this to be your sounding board to how you felt about what went down between Varner and Zeke. What was your initial reaction and how do you feel about it now some time has passed?
AT: To shoot the duck straight out of the barrel, what Varner said was inexcusable. I’ve been a fan of Varner since he pitted Kimmi and Alicia against each other on Kucha and had been enjoying his insight on his tribes’ dynamics that episode right up until he inexcusably ousted Zeke. As someone who went into Survivor proclaiming I wouldn’t take a moral compass into the game, there are certain lines you do not cross in Survivor or life and unfortunately that was one of them.
Moving past this situation, to me Zeke will always be the slick, intuitive Survivor strategist who led his alliance to a rock draw in MvGx; as Jeff Varner will always be the cunning, cheeky and entertaining Survivor narrator I have adored over three seasons. I’m saddened both players stories are entwined in this way, but hopefully both will come to peace with has happened.
Don’t let this season tarnish Varner’s Survivor legacy. #ClassicVarner
LO: Do you think Probst should have let them vote or were you happy with them just evicting Varner on the spot?
AT: I think the writing was well and truly on the wall at that stage; I was happy for Jeff to intervene and have the vote the way it played out. Plus, can you imagine some sort of situation where Tai has a “Tai flip-out moment” and plays one of his idols to save Varner, and they vote out Ozzy? #awkward.
LO: If you were were cast again and got your second chance, what would you change, if anything, as part of your strategy?
AT: I felt I played pretty well strategically until the tribe dissolve/swap (not merge). I was so focused on keeping the original Vavau (plus Connor) numbers together that I didn’t keep dialogue open with Phoebe and Rohan. In poker the more “outs” you have increases your percentage to win the hand, and I limited my options in not talking with those two players in particular. Going into a second season I would talk with everyone strategically on a regular basis, regardless of their or my position in the tribe. Plus picking my fat arse off the couch and doing cardio wouldn’t go astray either.
Overall I feel like the fans saw me as someone who showed promise strategically at the point when I tried to oust Craig, but my inflated ego clouded my judgement later in the season and I was viewed more as a character than a player. I’d love to have the opportunity to rectify that on a second season and let my strategic play do the talking.
LO: How many pizzas would you have eaten on that reward? 😛
AT: All of the pizzas, and I’d regret NOTHING!
LO: This is a long shot, but would you consider any of your Australian Survivor buddies a Game Changer?
AT: Although some ex Survivor AU players may think they have changed the game, in reality none of us can hold a candle to any of the players on this season. Watching MvGx and our season as they aired last year there is no comparison in game play, the yanks run rings around us.
LO: We’re heading to the merge next week, who’s going to make the final 3?
AT: So hard to answer so far out from the end! I think Tai will be hard to dispatch with two idols in his pocket and surely he can’t screw it up, right? I think the edit is being very favorable to Brad Culpepper and I’ve been impressed with his play thus far, and I also like the position Aubry has fallen in this past week. Tai, Aubry and Brad final 3.
LO: And who do YOU want to win this season?
AT: I wanted Tony and Sandra to win! That not happening, I’d love to see Cirie show us her magic one more time and take out the season.
LO: And how will your Fan Favourite Game Changer Sierra Dawn Thomas WIN Survivor S33?
AT: The Fan Favourite Game Changing Advantage Angel Ferrari Brain Sierra Dawn Thomas will make her move when the timing is right, and sit above Sandra, Parvati and Kim Spradlin as the new Queen of Survivor!
Andy’s true favourite – SDT2.0 ready to slay…
LO: Thanks for your time, Andy. Any final words?
AT: Thank you for having me! If there are any fans reading this that have any questions about this season or Survivor AU that I haven’t answered don’t be afraid to drop me a DM on:
Blog by Lynda Olson
ALL IMAGES USED IN THIS ARTICLE ARE COPYRIGHT CBS. THIS IS A PERSONAL BLOG AND ALL VIEWS ARE MY OWN.