Survivor: Game Changers episode 7 review: The Jeff Varner, Zeke Smith story

Survivor: Game Changers episode 7 reviewIn tonight’s Survivor: Game Changers episode 7 review, we’re going to start by talking about collecting numbers. That conversation will change shortly, but we know that once we get into what happened over the final 20 minutes, there’s going to be no going back. (You can skip ahead if you want to read our take on Zeke and Jeff.)

With the game closing in on the merge, it felt fairly clear throughout the early part of the episode that everyone was starting to look ahead towards what could happen at thirteen.

For Mana, that meant Brad Culpepper using his social game (impressively so) in order to get numbers. Who thought that Brad was going to be this endearing before the season? He came across as extremely relatable in talking about his wife’s recovery from Survivor and how he didn’t understand just how difficult it was for her to go 39 days. He recruited Cirie and Aubry, and it seems like he’s got a pretty solid coalition. All’s looking good for Brad going into the merge.

Meanwhile, over on the new Nuku tribe Jeff Varner started to get closer to Zeke, forging a pretty interesting bond that ended up potentially blowing up in Zeke’s face. Varner is a very smart guy, and he was smart enough to realize, after losing the immunity challenge, that Zeke was working with Ozzy and valuing that relationship more than the other relationships that are out there.

(Looking back at the episode, it’s hard to even write about the bare nuts and bolts of what happened tonight, but in the moment of his campaign, we do think that Jeff was going in the right direction in terms of pointing out a flaw in the tribe.)

What happened at Tribal Council

We don’t want to bury the lead any longer, so let’s just get to how this episode will be forever remembered: Jeff outing Zeke as transgender at Tribal Council. He made the remark, seemingly in the heat of the moment, as a way to desperately throw someone under the bus. He was trying to stay in the game, and he made the remark as a way to show he was duplicitous. We don’t think there was malice, but we do think Varner lost sight, drastically, of what matters most in life. This is a game for a million dollars. A game. It’s not anything more than that.

It’s hard to say anything about Jeff as a person. We don’t really know him. He hate what he did tonight, but we think Jeff probably hates it just as much in retrospect.

Obviously, Jeff was voted out of the game tonight, but we don’t think his gameplay is what he’ll regret every day for the rest of his life.Maybe this is a learning experience for him, just as this is a learning experience for everyone out there watching to allow everyone to tell their stories on their own terms. We’re immensely proud of CBS and of Jeff Probst for allowing Zeke to tell this story when he was ready, or at least trying to before Jeff said this.

Going into the start of this review, we had no idea that the episode would end this way. We also typically write more about the episodes than we’re doing here, but in some ways, the story tonight speaks for itself. There’s making a mistake in the game versus making one in life. Varner made a mistake that we cannot even quantify. Zeke handled the matter incredibly well, and it was the rest of his tribe who was angry more so than him. In a moment like this, strategy went out the window. It was personal, and this is a personal story that could echo in the weeks to come.

In a historical perspective, we can’t imagine feeling so raw and emotionally spent coming out of an episode of this show. We tend to do exit interviews on Thursday, so come tomorrow we’ll see what Jeff has to say in retrospect.

Did CBS handle this properly?

We’ve posted a separate article on this to take a closer look at the situation.

For some other news related to Survivor, be sure to head over to the link here. (Photo: CBS.)

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