That's what it's been like being a Jeff Varner fan this year on Survivor.
He was one of only two players that I HAD to see come back (the other being Shane Powers and damn the voters for denying me that!) and with my other favorite not making the cut, I was all Jeff Varner all the time. Any scene that did not involve him gave me time to run to the kitchen for a snack or to check my phone to see if my sister-in-law had taken her turn on Words With Friends.
Going into this episode, I had no idea who else is in the cast or what else they've been doing. I didn't know - or care - what other alliances there are, who was in power, who was at risk, and what types relationships have been developing. All I knew is that there's trouble on Angkor and my little tree was in danger. This is a long way of saying that the bright side of my favorite player Jeff Varner being booted out relatively early is that I can now sit back and enjoy the rest of the season. I've already moved past all the stages of grieving as I was preparing for this worst of all possible outcomes ever since that fateful tribe swap. Jeff Varner was too much for the show to handle - too entertaining, too big a personality, too compelling of a second chance story - he eclipsed all the other returning players. With his chapter ending we can now focus on the rest of the story. There are still sixteen returnees each with a dynamic, compelling comeback story and I am now free to enjoy watching all these stories play out.
|Look, other castaways to root for!|
With Abi-Maria not loyal to the four, that created a 3-3 split on Angkor. No one, least of all Varner who had been a victim of a tie vote his first chance in the Australian Outback, wanted to pull rocks, so someone had to move to create a majority. Abi-Maria would. not. move. She found love and acceptance and rainbows and unicorns with Tasha and Savage and she would never align herself with Woo or Peih-Gee. Much attention, kudos and Fishys, are going to Tasha and Savage, but in all fairness, it took a toothpick to crack open the fissure that existed between the four Ta Keo members. Keith would have figured it out.
|Don't mess with this one.|
In fact, Jeremy and Stephen have a nice rapport going on, built on one-sided trust and no loyalty. Stephen thinks they are working together to find the hidden immunity idol, Jeremy knows he already has it tucked away in one of his many convenient pockets, but he lets Stephen think their best buds 4-ever and totes going to find this idol together and then sing Kumbaya. Speaking of best buds,
The immunity challenge is a favorite of sadists as blind-folded guinea pigs are sent out to run around a wide expanse with huge puzzle pieces being swung like weapons. Let's stop to note that at one point the blinded Joe Perfect was sprinting - sprinting - carrying a giant puzzle piece, totally unconcerned with, say, tripping, falling, running into anything, having something run into you, or any peril at all. Meanwhile, Probst was able to drop a few sexually provocative lines in there with the winner this week being, "big and long" in reference to the piece that Deitz was carrying.
|It's about this long|
Once it was clear that Angkor had booked a return engagement to tribal council, it was equally clear that Jeff Varner had run out of lives. It's simple math problem. Unless Abi-Maria left Tasha and Savage, it was either Woo or Varner going. 3>2 however you slice it. The fact that so much time was spent on whether it was Woo or Varner was major misdirection. Once it was obvious that the old Ta Keo three could not come together and vote out the old Bayon, whoever Tasha and Savage wanted gone was gone. They didn't need Abi-Maria's permission or her blessing or her vote. But they were clever in making her think she was important to the decision - important to them. Rather than imposing their will, Tasha and Savage have led Abi-Maria into believing that they value her opinion and care about her. And as we have seen, Abi-Maria needs that reassurance.
While the Tasha/Savage alliance is again getting all the credit, do not lose sight of the fact that Abi-Maria was able to show some signs of change. Rather than maintain her anger at Woo for voting against her - twice - she ultimately voted with him against Varner. She showed herself to be a team player and do what was best for the tribe and the new alliance by voting out the physically weaker player. Pretty impressive for an unpredictable hot head.
It was sad to see Jeff Varner go. He's been a confessional dream since his first season and has only improved with age. He was the bright shining star of this season but like all supernovas, he could not burn bright forever. We will miss his love of life and love for the game, we'll miss watching him savor his midlife quest, but now we can focus on the rest of the cast as the light can now shine on them.
Still, is it too early to think about Jeff Varner on Survivor 33 - Third Time's the Charm?
Until then, here's some great post-show Jeff video:
Some great audio:
And even more:
Jeff Varner on Rob Has a Website.
Jeff Varner interview with Josh Wigler/Parade.
Jeff Varner interview with Gordon Holmes/Xfinity.
Jeff Varner interview with Reality TV World.
Jeff Varner interview with ET Canada.
Jeff Varner on Survivor Fans Podcast.
Follow Jeff on Twitter.