Varner’s Verdict: Jeff Varner Judges Survivor Kaôh Rōng Cast

Two seasons of Survivor and my fat ass has yet to sit on a jury. That is an abomination. I consider myself a good judge of character and a pretty decent reader of people. So I’m living that juror fantasy on this blog.

I spent an entire evening watching the cast introduction videos on I’ve come to trust my gut. I believe your instinct is God talking and you should listen to it. As I watched the videos, I let my gut be the guide. So here you go, right down to the first words out of my mouth when each contestant hit the screen. Finally, I’m not only on a jury, I’m the damn judge. Thank you Inside Survivor for the opportunity!

Here goes:


DEBBIE the chemist

First words: “Damn! We’re the same age, but she looks a f**k ton older.”

I’m not meaning to shade her because I sense she’s a nice woman. I love she’s lived some life and serves as an inspiration for women to kick some ass. She’s fit, yet feels to me a little like she leans on the annoying side. Her military background and family history tells me she’s disciplined and tough. I think she could probably do well if she can keep her internal leader in check and make her nerdiness more charming and less annoying. But she did a heel stretch on national television in a swimsuit, then held her leg up in the air as if she thought the entire world really needed to see her vagina. I’m not sure about a woman who’d comfortably do that. So I’m sensing she’s not very self-aware or sure of how she comes across to people.

VERDICT: Early boot.


NEAL the ice cream man

First words: “Goober!”

And I love it. This guy has his own damn PR team and he has the balls to say he rarely eats ice cream despite selling it for a living. I like that. I laughed as he referred to “lowly cubicle dwellers” as I’ve done the same with a few more colorful adjectives. But then he immediately hears himself say that and qualifies how he’s not meaning to offend. That shows me he is self-aware, which is critical in this game. He is not afraid to pursue what his soul whispers. I like him. I feel like others will as well. You can tell he’s smart and not intrusive.

VERDICT: He goes deep.


ELISABETH the quantitative strategist

First words: “She looks like Stepford AF.”

Very robotic out of the gate. That way she just stares as she quickly speaks weirds me out a bit. She’s very pretty. That ability to count the cards while looking like you’re not is tough to do. I don’t know how good at it she is, perhaps she’ll cash in like she claims to have done in Vegas. She feels a little absent to me in that way Spencer did. I love Spencer, but he came across often as cold and detached, almost like a human computer program processing your information on many levels at once. Elisabeth gives me that same feeling. That could be good for her, but it all depends on who she ends up with out there. She’s a wildcard to me.

VERDICT: Pre-jury or early jury.


JOSEPH the investigator

First words: “Terry Dietz 20 years later.”

To me he is the spitting image of Cambodia’s Captain America. I love Terry and would likely feel the same way about Joseph. As with anyone his age, he’ll need to prove his physical prowess early. The younger ones will immediately band together and look for someone to get rid of quickly and a 70-year-old man is likely to be that target. I know after working with investigators in my journalism career, those are sharp people with a 6th, 7th and 8th sense most people don’t possess. So he could do some damage. But I think his life in the game will hinge on his early ability to build some strong relationships. Hopefully he’ll keep his career path on the DL.

VERDICT: Early jury.


AUBRY the weirdo

First words: “Oh my God, it’s Blossom!”

She really is serving up some Mayim Bialik for me, who we all know is a massive Survivor fan. Everybody loves Blossom. She makes nerdy cool, so I have high hopes for Aubry. She seems very confident and she writes upside down, which is hard to do. She seems like she wants badly to be liked and to fit in on the island, while embracing her nerdiness. I fear that could do her in early. I hope not, though. I like her. I’d like to be on a tribe with her. She’d be fun to hang out with on a deserted island.

VERDICT: Early to mid jury.



First words: “Jesus, he looks like Barack Obama.”

How funny he spent a chunk of his video saying he gets that all the time and hates it. What a great tool to use in this game. An immediate conversation starter makes you capable of commanding attention and winning people over quickly. He seems nice, fit and very smart and I like that he’d rather win fire than struggle to start it. I’m on that team, too. But I get the feeling he’s real sure of himself and that sometimes reads as rude and uninterested in what others think or say. So he could find himself in a little trouble.



CYDNEY the bodybuilder

First words: “Alicia Calaway is back, y’all.”

It’s my first thought. She reminds me of my Outback sidekick. Fit, tough and fun. I see fun. The girls might not like her, but she doesn’t need them to like her if the boys do. Plus early on, she’s valuable in the challenges. Often bodybuilders aren’t the best at these competitions, though. While strong, they don’t have a lot of endurance or speed, which is important if you plan on playing the challenge beast card. I want her to do well, cuss a few people out and hang around a while. But she is threatening. Just her presence could be enough to turn a lot of people against her. But she’s a bunch of personality and I like that. I look forward to seeing how she fits in.



SCOT the baller

First words: “Kids, do drugs.”

That’s the “kids, do drugs” dude. I remember that video from somewhere. As an NBA player he looked into the camera and said, “kids, do drugs.” That, mixed with what seems to be a cocky swagger, tells me he’ll rub a few people the wrong way. I don’t think he’s very smart. He wants you to know he has a ton of money as a big chunk of his video is about his wealth. So I’m gonna say super cocky and probably pre-jury. He’s gonna piss somebody off and probably sooner than later.

VERDICT: Pre-jury boot.


JENNIFER the construction worker

First words: “Oooo, she’s gonna cuss somebody out.”

She has a way of looking at people that could come across as confrontational. I see that right away. She says she’s straight up, no drama. But she doesn’t like getting wet? Plus, she admits she’s a princess. So she may do well until it rains a bunch. You can tell she’s not afraid to get in your face. I feel like she will likely clash with people, particularly some of the women. I have no doubt she’ll be very valuable come shelter building time. But I think someone will poke the bear and she won’t be able to control herself. I think she’s probably out early and if she’s not, others will not like her. I don’t read her as likable, really.

VERDICT: Early boot.


KYLE the bounty hunter

First words: “He scares the sh*t out of me.”

I’m terrified of this guy. He’s a scary looking dude. He worked for Blackwater, y’all. I used to be a reporter in Michigan where Blackwater was headquartered and all their scandals were top headlines. The dude who started that company was always making news for all the wrong reasons. Those dudes don’t play. So my first instinct is he’s mean and quietly kind as he slits your throat. That being said, he has the kindest/warmest smile and his eyes say to me “hug me, you’ll love me.” So I’m going on a limb here to look beyond the ink and say he’s a good guy. My gut feels his heart as he speaks. I can’t wait to see what he ends up being.

VERDICT: He goes deep.


ALECIA the realtor

First words: “She’s got some country swagger.”

Survivor 32’s bombshell will fight. You can just tell, she’s going to fight with somebody. She’s super confident and that’s often a bad thing in this game. It all depends on how well she can adapt to the people around her. All it will take is one eye roll in the wrong direction and you’re done and I can see her pushing someone’s buttons. The dudes will love her. But I see at least a couple of these women having an issue with her. She has to keep that cockiness in check. It hardens her. There are some sweet, warm people on this cast. She’s not coming across as one of them to me.



DARNELL the postal worker

First words: “hahahahahahaha.”

I laughed out loud. He’s funny to me. Survivor postal workers are crazy. All of them. There’s a certain kind of thing that survives a post office and often it involves cussing somebody out. It’s hard to work for the post office, so you have to be light-hearted in a lot of ways. I think people will like him. I do. In this game, you need people around you that make you laugh. Serious people on a Survivor island will make you crazy. I don’t know if he has what it takes to win, but people will like him. His humor is evident and should keep him around a while.



MICHELE the bartender

First words: “Aww. I love her. Come hang out at my house, please.”

This one will go far. I get a gut feeling she’s the girl everyone will like. Plus, she’s Jersey and I know too many Jersey girls to know you don’t mess around with them. Even the sweetest have a bite. I sense calm, professional, adventurous and fearless in a way that makes you want to go sit next to her. Not to mention she’s cute as hell. I think America will fall in love with Michele. She’s an early favorite for me.

VERDICT: She goes deep.


CALEB the cowboy

First words: “Oh God. Not him.”

I hated Caleb on Big Brother. That “beastmode” thing drove me up a wall. He is very handsome, and he’s not afraid to tell you just in case you didn’t realize it right away. He’ll probably stick around till the jury because he’s a challenge beast. But sometimes that cocky, look-at-me thing that seems to work in Big Brother is a death knell in Survivor. He did well in that house, so there’s probably a lot to him I haven’t seen. I love his vision for veterans and you can see he’s a nice guy under all the bravado. So I’ll probably like him. But damn, that “I’m so awesome I made up a nickname for everyone to call me” is so annoying. I want to like him, but I don’t think he’ll win.

VERDICT: Pre-jury or early jury.


JULIA the student

First words: “She walks across campus in heels?”

I’ve never seen a college student walk across campus in high heels. That tells me she’s high maintenance. I’m not sure that’s what she’s all about though. She says she’s an outdoor girl and I love her energy. She seems super kind and sweet and not in an annoying way. Sorority girls irritate me. But in every sorority circle I’ve found myself near, there is always that one girl who jumps out as present, but not part of the shallow stereotype that goes with many of those girls. Julia seems like that girl to me. I like her. I’m not sure she’ll go far, but I hope she does. She seems like a lot of fun.

VERDICT: Pre-jury boot (maybe early jury).


NICK the dick, I mean life coach

First words: “What a douchebag.”

I’m sorry, Nick if I’m wrong. I don’t know you at all and a few minutes on video are never true representations. But anyone who says most people don’t care about people and admits he pretends to listen might as well have a sign around his neck saying “insincere, jaded prick.” I feel sorry for someone who doesn’t believe people care about people. He shakes his head left to right when he talks, basically saying, “no.” So he doesn’t even believe his own crap. He’s gone. This game breaks you down and reveals the real you. Maya Angelou once said, “when people tell you who they are you should believe them.” So, I’ll take his word for it.

VERDICT: Early boot.


ANNA the poker player

First words: “She’s a winner. This woman can win.”

Brooklyn got my attention, because they build them sharp in Brooklyn. But such a pretty, sweet face on a poker champion is a dangerous combination. She knows what she’s talking about. I feel like this woman really has a finger on what she needs to do to get far. Sharp, sharp and sharper. I think she’s beautiful. Her energy is amazing. You can really feel her heart in her words. I could be wrong. But she strikes me as the one to beat. Everything that comes out of her mouth in her CBS video is perfect. She gets it.

VERDICT: My winner.


TAI the old gay

First words: “Oh, hey gurl!”

What a bright light he seems to be. These big alpha males will ravage him, though. Some of these dudes I’m seeing in these videos don’t seem like the types to take a liking to someone like Tai. But honey, I would be. I can see how his 100-mile-an-hour personality can grate on some. I hope he gets in with a good group right away. I want to see Survivor’s first spy shack in a tree. I want him to win. He would be a very satisfying winner. I just hope some of those Neanderthal dudes don’t target him soon. Someone who stands out like him can be an early boot. I’m tossing glitter in the air hoping this one floats to the end.


So, there you go. My initial reaction to the videos on Who knows how this will all play out, and with medivacs rumored, a favorite could be gone early. I believe this will be a great season. Seeing the islands where I spent several weeks living will be quite a treat. I can’t wait to see how this all will play out.

For more on Survivor: Kaôh Rōng check out the full cast bios and rumored game twists.

[Credit to ColYok17 for Varner’s Verdict banner image]

Written by

Martin Holmes

Martin is a freelance writer from England. He’s represented by Berlin Associates for comedy writing and writes about TV and entertainment, currently for TV Insider and Vulture, previously Digital Spy, ET Canada, and Yahoo. A finalist for the Shortlist Sitcom Search in 2012 for “Siblings,” Martin received his BA in English with Creative Writing from The University of Hull. Martin is the owner and editor-in-chief of Insider Survivor.

9 responses to “Varner’s Verdict: Jeff Varner Judges Survivor Kaôh Rōng Cast”

  1. Thank you, fellow Jeff! And thank you Redmond! This was great.

    While I don’t agree with all of Varner’s assessments, I have the same winner pick of Anna! I also foresee Michele getting runner-up! Those ladies will do well.

  2. Like most of your opinions Varney, just hope that Tai makes FTC. My fave from reading the bus. Not yet seen the vids x

  3. I agree with pretty much everything except Kyle, if only because of the “Russell Hantz is the only person to ever play the game right” comment, he’s going to overplay and be first boot of his tribe if I had to guess.

    Plus i hate to say it, but I think Tai is likely to be an immediate post-swap target, especially if he gets but with a bunch of Brawn tribe members

  4. Agree with most of your assessments. I do wonder why Nick is so cocky, since he has the RHAP brand on him, though maybe it’s because he’s trying to characterize himself. Anna is my winner pick as well and I thought I was the only one. Notice her speaking style is very similar to Tony’s; she speaks incredibly fast and never backtracks. As we saw with Tony, that style is lethal and effective, as Tony lied like no other. She really seems like a female version of Tony. I hope Neil is like Tyler from Survivor: Worlds Apart in terms of strategic acumen. Tai is going to be the fan favorite, hands down, I can tell you that now.

    My power rankings:
    1. Anna
    2. Neil
    3. Tai
    4. Aubry
    5. Michelle
    6. Peter
    7. Debbie
    8. Jason
    9. Joe
    10. Darnell
    11. Jennifer
    12. Nick
    13. Alecia
    14. Scot
    15. Liz
    16. Cydney
    17. Julia
    18. Caleb

    Predictions for Med-Evacs: Scot, Debbie, either Darnell/Peter.
    “Hero” Edits: Tai, Aubry, Joe, Darnell
    “Villain” Edits: Caleb, Cydney, Scot, Nick, Jennifer
    Fan Favorite: 75% sure it’s Tai, maybe Darnell.
    Winner Pick: Anna 🙂

  5. I am sorry but I think that Jeff is completely wrong with Anna. I even had to unfollow her on twitter because she was so annoying, and the season hasn’t started yet.

  6. My rankings
    1. Anna – You all said it
    2. Nick – I don’t know he might seem like a douche but I think he’ll make it far
    3. Julia – Goat
    4. Peter – I think no one will want to sit next to him
    5. Kyle
    6. Alicia
    7. Caleb – I’m sensing a major testosterone alliance that gets dismantled
    8. Scot
    9. Darnel – To likable
    10. Lis – taking out the brains one by one
    11. Debbie
    12. Neil
    13. Cydney
    14. Joe
    15. Jennifer
    16. Michelle
    17. Tai
    18. Aubry

  7. This is a season where the females I think will be better than the males. To me, a lot of the guys came across really cocky and arrogant in their videos. My biggest hope though for this season is that Tai, Anna, Julia, and Michele join forces and take down Nick and Caleb.

    I also think Kyle and Jennifer will be two of the med-evacs just based on the preview we got at the Cambodia Reunion. Kyle’s shoulders looked like something was seriously wrong, and the shot with Jennifer sitting on the beach with her hands in her face crying with a medic right next to her, followed by Jeff walking up to the Strong Tribe Camp. The knee infection thing I’m assuming is a Brains Male since they had blue/green plaid shorts on and those are their colors (Neal or Joseph most likely since the leg was more pale).

  8. Interesting rankings ! I’m already rooting for Michele, hands down. I have the feeling she will go far in the game, but she’ll not make FTC. I have major “robbed queen” vibes from her…
    I already hate Alecia. She’s so overly confident and she’ll be ousted quickly enough. Nick will also suffer from that I think.
    Neal, Kyle, Aubry (major Shirin vibes from her) and Tai are all super-likable in their own way, but I can see them being targetted for that specific reason.
    Joe and Liz will be pre-merge boots I think, especially if Brains tribe in Kaôh Rong struggles as much as Cagayan’s.
    I like Anna, but I have the feeling that she will be targetted quite early if people discover her occupation/hobby and, well, I just see her being targetted early on.
    Scot is this season villain. Right away.

    Here are my rankings :
    Kyle > Julia > Peter > Scot > Michele > Neal > Tai > Aubry > Darnell > Debbie > Anna > Joe > Nick > Cydney > Jennifer > Caleb > Alecia > Liz

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