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Last Week: Debbie won a date with a sitcom writer, Tai’s idol bag got a lot tighter, and the Queen went out while proving she’s a fighter.
39 Days, 20 People, 1 “Survivor” Blog…
Alright, let’s take a look at the tribes as they currently stand…
The Mana Tribe (wearing orangey-red)
The Nuku Tribe (wearing blue)
We kick things off after Tribal where Debbie is telling everyone how terrible Exile was. C’mon, Cochran’s a good guy.
Ozzy admits that Tai scared the crap out of him. Tai still thinks it was a solid move to target Ozzy, but he confesses that he’s “terrible at Tribal.” I love you, Tai. But you’ll get no arguments from me on that one.
Meanwhile Varner wants to punch everyone in the “throat bone.” I haven’t seen a “Survivor” rulebook lately, but I’d imagine there’s a passage that forbids that sort of activity. Zeke apologizes for deceiving Jeff. He understands, but says he would have voted for Sandra if they had wanted him to.
After they make peace, Zeke tells Varner that he wants to take him to the end. They hug it out.
Immunity Challenge Time: Teams will retrieve a key from a pole that is wound up in some ropes. They’ll then create a ladder and use the key to unlock a bag of balls. They’ll then carry the balls through a cargo net. Finally, they’ll have to teeter-totter the balls into five different targets. The first tribe to get all five of the balls into the correct bins will win ten pizzas and various fixings.
Nuku jumps out to a pretty sizable lead during the ropes portion. In fact, Mana never really makes it competitive.
Ozzy works his teeter-totter magic to bring home the win for Nuku.
Back at Mana Beach, Hali does the math and points out that ten pizzas are more than a pizza a person. She’s not wrong.
Sierra, Aubry, and Cirie start to commiserate about how stressful and emotionally taxing the game is. This strikes a chord with Brad who didn’t appreciate how hard it was for Monica to make it as far as she did in “Blood vs. Water.” He breaks down in tears.
Is it dusty in here?
Both Aubry and Cirie approach Brad at different times to thank him for being so open with them. Aubry even calls him the most genuine person she’s met out there. Wait, she met me out there!
So, it looks like Brad finally has his numbers advantage with that duo, Sierra, and Troyzan.
Over at the Nuku Pizzaria, everyone dives into the reward.
Later on, Jeff starts making moves to get rid of Ozzy. He approaches Sarah with a plan to get rid of the alpha males in the game. She doesn’t commit either way.
Immunity Challenge Time: Four members of each tribe will swim to a raft and then pull it to a series of stations. At each station, they’ll have to dive down and release buoys with letters on them. Once all of the letters have been retrieved, the other three members of the tribe will have to spell out a word. The first tribe to figure out the 13-letter word will win immunity.
The Survivor are ready…and they go. Nuku again jumps out to a lead thanks to Ozzy’s diving prowess. Culpepper, in particular, has trouble releasing the buoys.
Nuku is the first tribe to the puzzle portion and they have a huuuge head start. Mana eventually catches up and both teams are struggling to figure out the word.
Eventually, Hali comes up with “Metamorphosis” to win it for Mana.
Quick Aside: I wonder how long that puzzle took, because it looks like everyone’s hair is dry.
Varner knows he’s in trouble, but he’s going to do everything he can to keep from going home.
Back at camp, Jeff tells everyone that he knows he’s on the chopping block. He just asks for one-on-one time with everyone to plead his case. That’s unique.
While Jeff and Ozzy head off, Sarah makes the case that they should probably get rid of Ozzy soon. Zeke says he likes Varner a lot, but their best bet is to keep Ozzy around for a while.
Zeke admits to us that he wants to use Ozzy as a shield.
Varner pitches getting rid of Ozzy to Zeke and he shuts that train of thought down quickly. Varner takes this to mean that Zeke has plans for Ozzy.
Varner takes this information to Andrea and Sarah and Sarah seems pretty ticked off about it.
Then, Varner hints that there’s something about Zeke that nobody knows. He also promises to raise “mortal hell” if he has to.
That night at Tribal Council, Varner says that he did his best to not be the next to go home, but all of his conversations have led him to believe that his time is up.
This makes Debbie nervous because she’s not used to people being certain at Tribal Council.
Varner then claims that they aren’t six strong because some people have agreed to vote for Ozzy if he could get more numbers. Varner then outs an alliance between Ozzy and Zeke. He proposes for the others to target Ozzy. Debbie seems into it.
Jeff then claims that there is another level to the deception around camp. When Probst asks him to enlighten them, Varner asks Zeke why he hasn’t told anyone that he’s transgender.
This is followed by a long pause and then an explosion.
Zeke looks like he’s been punched in the stomach. Tai, Debbie, and Andrea all yell at Varner that it’s not his place to out Zeke.
Varner claims that it was to show that Zeke is being deceptive.
Tai is yelling…Andrea is crying…hell, I’m crying…and Zeke just looks like his world is never going to be the same.
Varner, who is an advocate for transgender rights, claims that he would never say or do anything to hurt anyone, but he’s fighting for his life.
Tai argues that outing someone who hasn’t outted themselves is hurtful. Andrea and Debbie agree.
Zeke finally speaks and says the he hasn’t shared that secret with anyone during his two seasons on the show.
Varner tries to explain that his intention was to prove that Zeke has the ability to deceive. Probst calls that a leap of logic.
Varner, realizing that this strategy has backfired spectacularly, apologizes to Zeke.
Ozzy thinks Varner should be ashamed of what he’s willing to do to get ahead. A defeated Varner admits that he is ashamed of himself.
Probst asks if there is a line Varner won’t cross to get ahead. Varner says he now knows that he has made the wrong choice and he feels horrible.
Varner goes on to say that he thought Zeke was out and loud about it, which Sarah immediately disagrees with because nobody on the tribe knew.
Then Probst points out that you can’t say that Zeke is deceptive and then say that he was out and proud.
Ugh…all of this is making my stomach hurt. Will someone please give Zeke a million hugs for me?
Tai eventually comes around and thinks that Varner sincerely feels bad about it. Andrea agrees.
Varner assumed that everyone in Zeke’s life knew and he was only keeping it from the members of the tribe.
Zeke’s family and friends do know that he’s transgender, but he doesn’t tell everyone in his life. And, he didn’t want to be Zeke the transgender “Survivor” player, he just wanted to be Zeke the “Survivor” player. He’s not happy with how he was outted, but he is prepared to talk about it.
Zeke then points out that “Survivor” has made him a stronger person and that strength will help him deal with whatever’s next.
Varner seems mortified about what he’s done, but Sarah isn’t ready to move on yet. She feels like it was a malicious attack. She then goes on to say that she doesn’t have many LGBT people in her life and that Zeke simply kicks ass. She wants to come away with the million dollars, but it’s worth more to her that she got to know Zeke.
Zeke laughs and says he shouldn’t be a role model, but he hopes that people seeing him play the game will help them.
Finally, Probst asks if there’s any doubt of who’s going home. Everyone agrees that it’s Varner. They don’t even bother voting.
Varner says that he’s ready to go. He and Zeke hug, then Probst snuffs his torch.
The seventh person eliminated from “Survivor: Game Changers” is…Varner.
Verdict: We don’t all watch “Survivor” the same way. I thought Jonny Fairplay lying about his grandmother’s death was brilliant. You might have thought it was horrible. I thought Dreamz accepting Yau-Man’s car reward and then going back on the deal was reprehensible. You might have thought it was a clever move.
We all have our idea of what this show is supposed to be. But at the end of the day, they throw these people out there, give them rules and twists, and say “Reward the person you think deserves to win.”
With all societies, there’s a line of what’s acceptable and what isn’t. What’s gameplay and what isn’t. What’s entertaining and what isn’t. And we all probably draw that line in different places.
I think it’s safe to say that Jeff Varner crossed everyone’s line tonight.
By outing Zeke as transgender, he has put his real-life happiness and safety at risk.
But, I’m sure Jeff Varner knows this. I’m not close friends with Jeff, but knowing what I know about him, he was probably caught up in the intensity of a game and simply didn’t think things through. I think it is reasonable for him to think that Zeke was open during “Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen-X” (which hadn’t aired yet).
I’d imagine Jeff feels horrible. I’m sure he’s been beating himself up over this and dreading this day since that Tribal Council was filmed.
But, if Zeke can find it in himself to forgive Jeff, then the “Survivor” community should too.
This is a low point in “Survivor” history. There’s no debating that. But when I look back at it, I’ll choose to remember Zeke’s inspiring strength, his tribe’s unconditional support, and Jeff’s maturity in owning his mistake.
Now go be nice to everyone.
Power Rankings Results: Adam Klein had Jeff in spot fourteen. I had him in spot thirteen. The current score is now Team Adam 64, Team Gordon 64.
Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes