It was one of the most shocking tribal councils we’ve ever seen, and no one left with a dry eye. Now, you can re-watch the moment that Zeke Smith was outed as transgender on ‘Survivor: Game Changers.’ Plus, HollywoodLife.com caught up with Jeff afterward who reveals he actually sought out therapy after tribal.
It was an emotional episode. What was it like for you watching back?
I feel guilty. Even talking about me, and my experience in this — this isn’t about me, this is about Zeke. Watching it last night, so much of him, his expressions, his eyes, all of that, was my focus. I’m so solemnly sorry. I am swimming in regret. I think so highly of him, I wish him all the best. I know I have opened him up danger and discrimination and it’s just horrible. I feel terrible about it.
How did you know about Zeke?
Zeke did not say anything to be about it. I have trans people in my life. I could tell you everything, but out of respect for Zeke and for transgender people, I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to speak about it.
Going into tribal, were you sure you were going home? Where was your mind at?
I’m not blaming editing, I own this 100 percent. You can’t show everything. But tribal lasted two hours. The hours leading up to tribal were full of desperation. Emotionally, it came out in the wrong way. I’m sick to death about the word “deception” — that’s so not who the transgender community are, and that’s part of the problem.
What didn’t we see?
You saw a condensed version of two hours of back and forth — the anger and the pain and the shame from everyone there, including Jeff Probst to me was much stronger and bigger and powerful. I sat in the middle of a shame circle for an hour. I had an emotional break down, and I’m thankful for the show not showing that. Last night’s episode had to be all about positivity for Zeke and elevating Zeke and his voice and his experience. We have to elevate trans people and highlight them; we as a society are so horrible and mean and hateful to people. That’s not me, thats not in my heart. I would never, in my real life, have reacted that way.
What happened after tribal?
Production and CBS has been nothing to wonderful to me, and I can only imagine Zeke is getting the same treatment. I came out of the show and went into a psychologist for five days. I left Fiji covered in shame and it took me quite a while to come to a place where I realized I’m not a bad person, I just did a bad thing. Jeff has been on the phone with me, Mark Burnett called me, and sent me emails. I’ve been in that family for 20 years so it’s difficult. Jeff and Mark are like my parents, they have kids in this awful situation and they love us both equally. They’re making it positive; CBS is taking a lot of flack for even airing this but I want to push back against this for them. It took courage to air and it these are important conversations. I can only believe that this will ultimately be a positive thing.
Would you return to Survivor?
I would love to be a voice and an advocate for the LGBTQ community, and help. All these bathroom bills, they’re not about bathrooms, they’re about trying to erase trans people from society. That’s what I want to help with. I don’t have any intention of playing Survivor again. I have no ill will to CBS though. I’m sure it’s frustrating for trans people that I’m the one talking about it today. I’m opening myself up to them, to help them in any way.
HollywoodLifers, what did you think of last night’s Survivor?