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.
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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)
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.”
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.”
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!
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!
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.
Varner: Gangster. She smuggled flint and fishing wire. She’s awesome. She’s a drag-queen gangster.
Varner: Clueless. Beautiful human specimen. But does not get the game of “Survivor.”
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.
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.
Varner: (Laughs) Sneaky, sneaky. I love her. She’s got a dirty sense of humor.
Varner: Motherly. Took care of everybody. Not really playing the game.
Varner: Not creepy at all. I love Vytas. There’s a sexiness to Vytas that’s hard to explain.
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