Survivor Cambodia hype man preview: Jeff Varner

In hip-hop music, a hype man supports the rappers with exclamations and interjections and attempts to increase the audience’s excitement. For Survivor: Cambodia, I’ll once again be serving as hype man for a few select players in order to help get you excited about both the player and the season. And today, we’re talking about this season’s greatest find: Jeff Varner.

Jeff Varner cbs bio pic

There comes a point in each offseason where various media outlets can begin releasing their various interviews and videos to hype the upcoming season. For the rabid Survivor fan, this is usually an exciting time; it’s the first opportunity to see the cast of the new season and get a little glimpse of the personalities of the players. For Cambodia, we all knew the cast the moment Worlds Apart ended. Thus, logic would dictate that the preseason media would be less exciting, right?

Logic was not prepared for Jeff Motherfuckin’ Varner.

Jeff Varner stumbling onto Second Chance stage

The Survivor preseason media landscape is like an auto show- all the new models are there, looking pretty or interesting or unique. Jeff Varner is the monster truck that smashes through a giant plate glass window and steamrolls every car up in that place. And all you can do is applaud, because what you just witnessed was fucking amazing.

Varner could get voted out right fucking now, and it wouldn’t matter. He could get voted out before Jeff Probst even says “Welcome to SurvivorCambodia!” It would not matter. Jeff Varner has already made this season magical, and it hasn’t even begun yet. And it all started with this, the pregame alliance video:

Note how Varner hesitates for about two-tenths of a second as he weighs whether or not he should be revealing his pregame alliance. Then he realizes how fun it would be to talk about it, and he just lays it all out. Everything. All of the details: conference calls, neti pots, hit lists, secret codes. All with a massive grin on his face.

Remember Tyler from Worlds Apart? You do not. And do you know why you don’t remember him? Because he sat there silently, not letting you know what was going on in his head, not giving you anything interesting to watch. Jeff Varner is the anti-Tyler. If it is on Jeff Varner’s mind, it is coming out in a confessional.

And you know what else has been on Varner’s mind? Titties.

Varner named his titties! He even has a song about them that he’s going to sing, which is a refreshing change for me because as a lifelong hip-hop fan I’m far more used to songs about asses. And Varner’s love of boobs doesn’t even stop there. Check out this gem from Kimmi’s interview with Gordon Holmes:

Holmes: Is anyone winking or nodding at you?
Kappenberg: (Laughs) Well..sometimes when I pass by Varner he says, “What’s up, (expletive deleted).” (Laughs) He’ll say, “Your (expletive deleted) are huge!” “Your (expletive deleted) are huge!”

Kimmi boobs
Accurate.

Varner is so good he was the star of other players’ interviews! And in his own interview with Gordon Holmes, Varner absolutely destroys the “align or malign” game- a game that Gordon created to get the players to talk about who they see themselves aligning with.  You’re supposed to get eight people to align with. Eight people are not enough for Varner; he wants to align with all of them.

Contrast that with Kass (the second-best preseason interviewee), who thought eight people to align with was far too many. Kass is peak troll; Varner is an adorable puppy that barks rainbows and shits sunshine. That’s not to say that Varner is always positive, he’s just charming whether he’s giving a compliment or an insult. Witness the master in action:

Varner: Kelley Wentworth…align. We’ll go far in this game together and nobody will see it coming. She’s the coolest chick of the group. Her sense of humor is randy. She’s a nasty little girl and I love it.

I was already on board with Wentworth being better than we saw in San Juan del Sur, but after this description I’m all in.

Varner: Abi-Maria…align. You need your bitch in the group, she is out of control. She’s flipping around. She’s hysterical here. She’s a shield for me. I can be a little bitchy.

Unless you are a pack of dogs, you do not actually need a bitch in your group. Now I’m terrified that Varner will make bad decisions.

Varner: Shirin…align. She went through a lot in her last season. She overcame a personal obstacle and I feel like that is going to be my experience in this show. So, that’s going to bond us together.

Ok, I changed my mind. Varner is a genius and an excellent judge of character.
Cambodia Shirin- excellent mr burns fingers

Varner: Kass is a (expletive deleted) liar. She’s a strategist. She thinks she’s got it down. She’s making eye contact with everyone. She’s trying her best. That says desperation. Malign.

Making eye contact with everyone? Ugh. Those people are the worst!

Varner: Monica keeps making eye contact with me like her body is something that is going to turn me on. She’s working it. I love how she’s trying to play me. I trust her…I think. You’re making me malign her, too.

I love the idea that Monica is so convinced that her game is “flirty, seductive sexpot” that she’s even going to try to seduce the gay guy. Way to swing for the fences, Monica!

Monica Padilla CBS bio pic
Still, it’s not a *terrible* strategy.

Varner: Stephen knows everybody, knows everything. I also think he’s arrogant. He’s named an award after himself and gives it to people, who does that? Malign.

Ouch. This one hits a little too close to home. Believe me, if Andy and I had names that could easily be converted to awards, we would be doing this too. But I don’t want to hand out an award named “the John”, because that’s either giving someone a toilet or calling them a man who pays for sex.

Varner: Peih-Gee…I think we’d work together well, but I think she’s hard to read. And she seems clumsy and oaf-y, sticking her foot in her mouth already. Malign.

Clumsy, you say? Let’s maybe not be so quick to throw stones, Varner. I mean…

Jeff Varner stumbling onto Second Chance stage

Varner: Spencer is a textbook everything. When you defy gravity, when your feet come off the ground and your toes point to the sky, you’re extremely confident. That’s all he does. He takes up a lot of territory, which means, “I own this place.” A lot of crotch framing which is, “I’m the boss.” He thinks he’s got this (expletive deleted) down pat.

One of the greatest things to come from preseason media was Varner informing us all that he’d been reading a book on body language. And one of the concepts in the book was crotch framing- putting your hands near your crotch in a way that highlights your thunder and lets everyone know you’re in control. And Spencer does this. If #crotchframing appears on the screen this season when Spencer does it, I might actually forgive Survivor for all of the stupid hashtags they’ve done in previous seasons. I might even have a #SurvivorBreakdown.

Speaking of breakdowns, Varner almost had one before the season began. He has COPD, he had the flu just before flying to Cambodia, and as soon as he got there he fell in the bathtub and dislocated his shoulder. It’s safe to say he will not be a challenge beast.

Will dead fish flop down ramp
Unless you count a dead fish as a beast.

But you don’t need Jeff Varner to beast it. You don’t need Varner to be the alpha male. You don’t need to have him being the scheming mastermind that wins the season- although you kinda hope that happens. You just need Jeff Varner being Jeff Varner. Because that shit is gold.

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John is the co-host of the Purple Rock Survivor Podcast. He is still not sure if it was just a f*%king stick.

Favorite seasons: Heroes vs. Villains, Cagayan, Pearl Islands, Tocantins
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  • Kemper Boyd

    I would Align with this post. I am now so hyped for this season. It’s the first time I’ve got into pre-season shit in my fandom and this whole summer has been awesome because of it. I am bummed it’s a 2 hour premiere though because I could talk myself into staying up to 2am to watch it but 3am is pushing it with work in the morning.

  • sharculese

    Varner’s my pick to win. It’s partially wishful thinking, but also that he seems to be planning this out well without looking like he’s overplanning, and also just that I think we’re not gonna get a conventional all-stars winner out of this season.

    This is slightly off-topic, but I haven’t done it yet and wanted to call my shot before episode 1 airs- I think Monica Padilla is overhyped, and I say that as someone who has seen Samoa within the past year but before Second Chances rumors started and loved Monica. But I think the UTR woman winner argument is overstated and ignores a lot of substantive differences between how Amber, Parvati, and Sandra got there and also, even if it’s true, doesn’t apply here. This isn’t a typical returnee season where we have the players maybe knowing each others seasons and having interacted with them a bit; this season involved an intense campaign period where everyone was keyed in and hearing people like Rob C. loudly proclaim Monica a threat to win. If people are smart (and I think there are smart people on this cast, Varner included) that takes her out of the ranks of UTR players. I don’t think it’s impossible to for her to get to the end, but I think the Second Chances process definitely made it harder for her.

    • gouis

      I don’t really think he can win. He has his hands in too many cookie jars, and it’s going to come back to bite him. He’s going to be fine for a while I think, but it’s going to blow up spectacularly.

      • sharculese

        That’s absolutely my big fear, which is why I qualified it as wishful thinking. IF he can navigate all the promises he’s made he as a shot, but that’s a huge if.

  • gouis

    This summer I re-watched (most) of Australia for the first time since it aired, and Varner was easily my favorite player. It was pretty lame once he went out. Surprised it took them this long to bring him back.

    Also, Colby kind of always sucked. I mean sure challenges, whatever, but he was a turd in the punch-bowl from day one. Early era Survivor opinions are so weird.

    • Barbara Anderson

      I also rewatched Australia this summer, and I agree with you on Varner. Good grief was he on the wrong tribe.