Jeff Varner Retrospective

A look back at the previous game of Jeff Varner, one of the returning castaways on the upcoming Survivor: Game Changers.

Age: 50
Hometown: Greensboro, North Carolina
Previous Season(s): Survivor: The Australian Outback, Survivor: Cambodia
Previous Placing: 10/16 | 17/20
Days Lasted: 21 | 11
Correctly Voted for Boot: 2 | 3
Votes Received: 11 | 4
Individual Immunity Challenge Wins: N/A
Most Memorable Moment: Signaling Kelly Wiglesworth after a challenge, prompting Tasha to call him out “We got a rat!”

What happened in his previous season(s): For a recap of Jeff’s game in The Australian Outback check out our retrospective we wrote before Survivor: Cambodia.

Coming off an impressive campaign to get onto Survivor: Cambodia – Second Chance, Jeff was one of 20 people chosen by the fans to return to Survivor fifteen years after he was on season two. In The Australian Outback, he made the merge but was one vote shy of making it to the jury in which pre-existing votes eliminated him in a tie-breaker.

In Cambodia, he was immediately thrust into the very quick pace of the modern game. To make things even more complicated, he was part of the Ta Keo tribe which included everyone in his two separate pre-game alliances. These two groups became divided into “the shelter people” and “the beach people” with Jeff stuck squarely in the middle. Ta Keo lost the first immunity challenge and went straight to tribal council. Jeff had to make a decision of which pre-game alliance he wanted to stick with. He chose to vote out Vytas Baskauskas along with Spencer Bledsoe, Peih-Gee Law, Shirin Oskooi, Abi-Maria Gomes, and Kelley Wentworth.

Following the vote, Jeff said he voted out Vytas as a wake-up call to his fellow old schoolers to show them that the game had changed and they needed to keep up. Ta Keo lost the next challenge as well, and the tribe decided to split their votes between Shirin and Spencer due to the pair over-strategizing. Jeff led this vote after finding out that Shirin was trying to get him voted out of the game. During this time Jeff had also started to cultivate a relationship with Abi, appealing to her ego and insecurities to gain her loyalty and hopefully take her to the end as a goat.

While Jeff found himself in a dominant position on Ta Keo, his luck would change at the Day 7 tribe swap. For the first time ever, the two tribes were split into three new tribes, creating the Angkor tribe who would have to move to a brand new beach and start over with no shelter or fire. Jeff found himself on this new tribe along with former Ta Keo tribe mates Peih-Gee, Abi, and Woo Hwang, and Tasha Fox and Andrew Savage from Bayon. On paper, it should have been smooth sailing given that Ta Keo had the majority, but things weren’t that simple.

Angkor lost the next immunity challenge, after which Tasha caught Jeff signaling to Kelly Wiglesworth (who was now on Bayon). Believing Jeff to be passing along information, Tasha called him out in front of everyone, declaring him a “rat.” Tasha and Savage used this as ammo to save themselves from inevitably going home at the next vote. Tasha began to work on the former Ta Keo members, first targeting Jeff, but then using Abi and Peih-Gee’s disliking of each other to make one of them the target instead. Jeff ended up being spared by keeping to himself in the shelter and letting Peih-Gee and Abi go after each other, with Peih-Gee being eliminated at tribal council that night.

Angkor had a moment of glory when Savage won the next reward challenge for them. However, the excitement was short-lived when they lost the next immunity challenge, in which a large puzzle piece fell on Jeff’s foot, causing him an injury. The injury certainly didn’t help Jeff’s cause as now the tribe saw him as not only untrustworthy but a weak link. Jeff tried to convince the tribe to vote out Woo instead as he was more likely to flip sides during the merge. His plea fell on deaf ears, Abi had already decided to flip on him, and he was voted out 4-1, thus swiftly ending his second chance, but leaving a huge impression on the viewers in just four episodes.


Biggest Strength: He’s a very charming and likable person, and can easily get people to align with him. Jeff was able to quickly adapt to the new style of play that the game had evolved into since his original season.

Biggest Weakness: Multiple pre-game alliances came back to bite him (“WHAT JUST BIT MY ASS?”) when he was placed on a tribe with both of the pre-game alliances he formed. He played too fast and too hard and was seen as a huge threat. Also, he is a weak challenge performer.

What he considered his mistake: In post-show interviews, Jeff said that Abi was his downfall and he partly blames himself for not keeping on top of that relationship. Speaking with Josh Wigler at Parade, Jeff said: “Abi bombed my game, and that’s my fault. I don’t blame Abi. I don’t hate on Abi. She had the choice of Tasha and Andrew and something she didn’t know, or Woo and Peih-Gee, who had already fought with her and tried to vote her out.” In the same interview, he also said he regretted not forcing a tie at the previous tribal council: “I was not going into a tie. It just wasn’t something I was going to do. But in hindsight, I should have done that. In our pre-jury trip, Peih-Gee and I talked about that a lot. I wish I had done that. Maybe it would have gotten rid of Tasha or Andrew.”

Jeff is one of twenty returning castaways who will compete on Survivor: Game Changers which premieres March 8 on CBS. Stay tuned to Inside Survivor for more cast retrospectives and other pre-season content.

Written by

Rob Brodeur

Rob hails from Boston, MA. He studied Architectural Engineering at college and has been following Survivor since the first season. Rob is married and has a dog named Snoopy. He also used to host Survivor ORGs (Online Reality Games) on Facebook. Rob writes Inside Survivor’s weekly Survivor Stats feature.

8 responses to “Jeff Varner Retrospective”

  1. Loved Vaner in both seasons he played. He was my winner pick in Cambodia and he is one of my winner picks this season. Also thank you inside survivor for providing us with these awesome retrospectives.

  2. there were players the fans brought back in Cambodia who did NOTHING. Varner played hard every second out there. MAD Respect for him.

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