Survivor’s Jeff Probst Shares Strong Reaction to Jeff Varner Outing Zeke Smith: ‘You Just Don’t Do That’


— A chronicle of this essay creatively seemed on

Each week horde Jeff Probst will answer a few questions about a many new part of Survivor: Game Changers. This week, he gives his on-the-scene and behind-the-scenes discernment and greeting to Jeff Varner tour Zeke Smith as transgender.

Okay, so clearly a lot to empty here with Jeff Varner tour Zeke as trans on inhabitant television. Let’s start with your initial greeting when Jeff pronounced that during Tribal Council.
JEFF PROBST: I’m flattering certain my greeting was a same as viewers examination during home. we saw Jeff Varner spin to Zeke and make what was radically a matter — vaguely sheltered as a question: “Why haven’t we told anyone here you’re transgender?” On one hand, it was such a little moment… so elementary and quiet… that we wasn’t certain we listened what we heard. My mind had to rewind and play it back. And if we watch a greeting during Tribal, Zeke’s tribemates seemed to go thru a same moment. They listened it… though had to routine it… and afterwards once it landed they responded utterly vocally. And while they were pity their feelings with Varner, we was still using it in my head. This… just… happened.

It seems everybody on a clan — Tai, Andrea, Ozzy, Debbie, Sarah — had their impulse of revelation Jeff in unequivocally clever denunciation that what he did was totally unacceptable. What did we make of what we would report as their one offend during what had happened?
In 34 seasons of Survivor, we have rarely, if ever, privately commented on what is pronounced or finished in a game. But this is a singular conditions that falls outward a normal boundaries. we can't suppose anyone meditative what was finished to Zeke was fine on any level, underneath any circumstances, and positively not simply given there was a million dollars on a line. we consider a response from a tribe, as it so mostly does, mirrors what a immeasurable infancy of multitude will feel. You only don’t do that to someone.

Witnessing that impulse was so absolute given from my chair during Tribal, we could see it all. Varner was in a center being pounded by indignant tribemates while Zeke sat in a corner, outward of a movement in what seemed to be a amiable state of shock. It was one of a many surreal moments I’ve ever encountered on a show. From a outside, it looked and sounded like a unchanging Tribal Council though in reality, it was one of a many tender and unpleasant studies of tellurian function that has ever happened on Survivor.

Zeke was so stoical in his response to what Jeff Varner did. How tender were we with his reaction?
We knew Zeke was a extensive storyteller with an extraordinary ability to take a specific moment from a diversion or life and give it a universal perspective. That’s because we asked him behind to play a second time. And nonetheless we was still blown divided by how he rubbed a whole situation. It was as if he had been scheming for this positively unpredictable, totally public, and impossibly exposed impulse for his whole life. His restraint was astounding. And when he connected a whole eventuality to a word metamorphosis, we clearly remember meditative — how in a universe did we only do that?

I was also unequivocally tender with a care Zeke showed Varner. we consternation if some people will contend he shouldn’t have hugged him or shouldn’t have forgiven him. But as a spectator to that moment, we found his ability to still find some spin of amiability for someone who had only harmed him so severely, maybe his crowning moment.

And there is another impulse that we wish was as relocating for others as it was for me, and that was when Sarah told Zeke she was blissful she got to know Zeke for who Zeke is and would never see him any other way. That impulse — when a military officer from a regressive Midwest credentials though most bearing to a “gay and lesbian and transgender world” satisfied her possess growth, her possess metamorphosis, it finished a circle. This is how change and acceptance happens.

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When we spoke with Zeke before his initial deteriorate during a talk process, did a thesis ever come up in terms of either he designed to tell players he was trans and how he would hoop it if someone brought it up?
My story with Zeke goes like this. we met Zeke in casting and desired him. we still have my strange records from that meeting. He was unequivocally engaging, means in his ability to manipulate with his words, and he wore this crazy Hawaiian shirt and had poofy hair. We knew we were doing Millennials vs. Gen X as a thesis and we wanted him on a Millennials clan immediately. It wasn’t until after he left that we was told he was transgender. From that indicate brazen we concluded that if his story was to be told, he would be a one to confirm when, where, and how.

RELATED VIDEO: Outed as Transgender on Reality TV — Survivor‘s Zeke Smith


As for someone else bringing it up, Zeke was entirely wakeful someone competence consider it or move it adult and he said, “I will understanding with it as it arises.” And we have to supplement it was never a doubt of Zeke being disturbed his story would come out. ,Zeke is a large Survivor fan and his indicate with us was unequivocally transparent — he wanted to be seen as a Survivor player. Not a initial transgender Survivor player. we unequivocally reputable that eminence and we accepted it.

The clan was clearly all jarred by this incident. How were you after Tribal Council finished?
I don’t unequivocally remember a lot about my possess feelings in a moments after Tribal. we remember feeling that Zeke seemed unequivocally centered when he left Tribal, notwithstanding what he had left by and we believed his tribemates would assistance him work by things behind during camp. But we were in hold with a writer on a beach that night to only safeguard all was going okay.

And afterwards a other regard was Jeff Varner. Although we do not acquit on any spin what Varner did, we was still wakeful that he was though any of his support organisation of family and friends. He would be returning to Ponderosa, where voted out contestants go, after creation one of a misfortune decisions of his life. Fortunately, we have a full-time clergyman on staff who knows all of a contestants and is there to assistance them by any of a many things that come adult on Survivor. we consider those sessions in a days after a eventuality helped Varner as he attempted to make clarity of everything.

Have we oral to Jeff Varner during all given this occurrence and do we consider he is honestly ashamed by what he did?
I spoke with Varner a day after it happened and we consider he was still in a bit of shock. It was transparent he was dissapoint and a fulfilment of it all was still soaking over him. we do trust he wishes he could take a whole eventuality back. we wish Varner is means to take this impulse and spin it into something positive. People make mistakes. Granted this happens to be a flattering serious one, though as we saw even with Zeke — there is wish that something good can come from this. That would be my wish… that Varner will seize this as an event to be a matter for certain change by owning his mistake and relocating brazen in a new direction.

Finally, we always take a hide look during what’s entrance up. we know we have a combine on a horizon. And we have to suppose a Nuku clan will still be decompressing from what only happened.
I’m going to mangle tradition tonight and let a events of this unequivocally special part breathe for a moment. But Survivor will be behind subsequent week… and someone will be voted out. The diversion continues.

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