Jeff Varner says there was no excuse for outing fellow Survivor: Game Changers contestant Zeke Smith as transgender in this week’s episode.
But the veteran player insists that context behind his invasive question at Tribal Council was much clearer in the unedited footage.
The 50-year-old went on SiriusXM’s Entertainment Weekly Radio on Thursday and explained that he has been changed “drastically” by the mortifying incident.
Varner said he has been through “I don’t know how much therapy” after getting voted off the island, and commended Smith for his repeated forgiveness.
Still, the former realtor wishes the CBS series releases “unedited footage” of the incident to reveal the moments leading up to his awful inquiry to Smith, “Why haven’t you told anyone here you’re transgender?”
Varner explained that he was trying to paint Smith as “deceitful,” and the edited footage didn’t catch the contestant saying “there is no deception, I’m not deceiving anyone” right before Varner’s question “just came out.”
Needless to say, the pointed question shook the entire tribe — including Jeff Probst, who was so taken back by the moment that his brain “had to rewind and play it back.”
The longtime host told EW he was also outraged by the question, branding the incident as “one of the most raw and painful studies of human behavior that has ever happened on Survivor.” He shared:
“I cannot imagine anyone thinking what was done to Zeke was okay on any level, under any circumstances, and certainly not simply because there was a million dollars on the line. I think the response from the tribe, as it so often does, mirrors what the vast majority of society will feel. You just don’t do that to someone.”
True that, Jeff.
As disappointed as he was in Vernon, Probst was equally as impressed with Smith’s touching, eloquent response. He continued:
“I was still blown away by how he handled the entire situation. It was as if he had been preparing for this absolutely unpredictable, completely public, and incredibly vulnerable moment for his entire life. His composure was astounding├óΓé¼┬ª I was also very impressed with the compassion Zeke showed Varner. I wonder if some people will say he shouldn’t have hugged him or shouldn’t have forgiven him.”
As for the disgraced trans outer, Probst hopes Verner learns from this horrible act, adding:
“There is hope that something good can come from this. That would be my wish├óΓé¼┬ª that Varner will seize this as an opportunity to be a catalyst for positive change by owning his mistake and moving forward in a new direction.”
Who knew reality tv could be so educational? Find out what Varner learned from this harrowing experience (below)!
[Image via CBS.]