Tribal councils on ‘Survivor’ are always shocking. Everyone always makes insane moves to save themselves. But this week, everything was different and a major line was crossed.
The drama on Survivor just got personal. After the Nuku tribe lost again, Jeff Varner found out he was the target, and wanted to expose that Zeke Smith, 29, was playing both sides (it’s Survivor, people, of course he was).
“I feel like I know something about Zeke that nobody else has picked up on,” Varner told the cameras before tribal. “It’s insignificant to this game, but this is not the guy you think he is. There’s something else here. If I have to go to tribal tonight and raise mortal hell, I’m gonna do it. I’m not going quietly off this island.”
At tribal, he did just that. After declaring he knew he was going home, he said, “There is deception on levels here that these guys don’t understand.” He then turned to Zeke and asked, “Why haven’t you told anyone you’re transgender?“
Immediately, everyone at tribal came at Jeff — understandably so. He tried to explain repeatedly that he was just trying to show that he’s capable of deception — but clearly that wasn’t the way to do it. Varner, a man who is out as a gay man, immediately knew his mistake.
Tai, Andrea, Ozzy, Sarah and Debbie all flipped out. Andrea and Sarah were in tears. All the while, Zeke barely said anything. “The two seasons I’ve played Survivor, I’ve told nobody,” he said with a straight face — no tears, just shock. When Varner tried to apologize, even Jeff Probst chimed in, defending Zeke and basically telling Varner that saying “I’m sorry” wasn’t enough.
Varner did apologize multiple times, revealing that he works hard for the LGBTQ community as well, but he knows that he “made the wrong choice,” and that he felt horrible about it. “It never dawned on me that no one knew. I’m just devastated,” he said after Jeff pointed out that he didn’t just out Zeke to the tribe, but to the world.
“Being trans and transitioning, it’s a long process; it’s a very difficult process. There are people who know,” Zeke revealed, adding that he did mentally prepare that it could come out at some point during the game, just not like this. “I got to a point where I stopped telling people, because when people know that about you, that’s sort of who you are. There are questions people ask, people want to know about your life, they want to know about this and that. It sort of overwhelms everything else that they know about you.”
He also added he never wanted to be “the trans Survivor player,” he just wanted to be “Zeke, the Survivor player.” And to everyone there, to Jeff Probst, and to all of us watching, he is.
Zeke ended tribal like Zeke: on a positive note. “Maybe there’s somebody who’s a Survivor fan and me being out on the show helps him or helps her or helps someone else, so maybe this will lead to a greater good,” he said. With that, the group decided mutually, without voting, that Varner would be sent home. Following the episode, Zeke tweeted out the link to Tips for Allies of Transgender People.
HollywoodLifers, what do you think about what happened on Survivor?