Interview: Survivor Second Chance nominee Jeff Varner

Jeff Varner is the ideal candidate for a season such as this, where the Survivor producers can reach back and pluck potential stars from previous casts who, for one reason or another, weren’t able to quite achieve star status in their original go round. If you’re just talking about the biggest names, then Varner can’t match some of his Australian Outback imagescontestants for traditional All-Star seasons, if for no other reason than placement, where the old and incredibly inferior tiebreaker took him out at the merge. But if you’re talking entertainment value? Varner had a lot more to offer than those who made it farther than him and even some that have already come back. So how do you pull a seventh place finisher back into the mix 15 years later? Let the fans decide!

To help you decide, Jeff was gracious enough to answer some questions via email. Read them. Remember how great he was in confessionals. Extrapolate on how his game will translate in a modern setting. And vote:

Let’s start with the obvious: how much better a tiebreaker is a drawing for purple rocks than using previous votes?

First of all, purple is my favorite color. So if I have to draw any kind of rock, the bitch best be purple! [editor’s note: Jeff was being so gracious in selling our gimmick that I didn’t have the heart to tell him that he definitely would not want to draw the purple rock]. Any kind of tie breaker is better than the one that killed me in 2001. I still walk funny from that night!
EDIT: Jeff has assured us that he knows about the purple rock, but he really like the color purple. (The actual color, not necessarily the movie).

Easily one of the great injustices in the history of Survivor. It’s hard to believe they brought it back for Africa after seeing it take out a great character like you. Speaking of silly things that helped eliminate Jeff Varner from Survivor, is it flattering to realize that they not only want you back for this season, but are also trying to build you a storyline by throwing in Kimmi as well?

Or maybe they’re trying to build her a storyline by throwing in me. Either way I expect a painful experience. It took three years for my eardrums to heal after living with her for two weeks.

"What did I do? Oh right, the vote thing."
“What did I do? Oh right, the vote thing.”

Maybe try wagging your finger at her? Could work.

So let’s play a hypothetical and say that Kimmi keeps her mouth shut 15 years ago, and the Ogakor tribe doesn’t know to put its votes on you and instead chooses someone without a previous vote (which was everybody but you). Were you ever told what the next tiebreaker would have been?

That’s a tough question simply because of how long ago it was. I’m sure there was something in place, but I don’t recall what it was.

While we’re in past hypothetical mode, imagine you don’t go home because of votes from two players otherwise unanimously eliminated from the game and go on to have a long, successful run in the game, while, say, Elisabeth is eliminated early in the merge instead. Are we spared her post-show celebrity onslaught? More importantly, does Jeff Varner get a daytime talk show instead?

I don’t care about anything Elisabeth does or has done. Her political views put her in the extremist category for me. She turned her back on me and us along time ago. As for a talk show with me? I never really tried to get one. It’s not something that’s particularly interested me.

Varner tribe
Even then, Lady Hasselbeck leaned slightly to the right.

I’m guessing “I don’t care about anything Elisabeth does or has done” will score you a bunch of votes with our listeners. Let’s try and get more: what can viewers expect to get from the 2015 edition of Jeff Varner compared to the 2000 edition? Will you have to change your game to match the modern version, or is it more the case that you were always better suited for a more active game than others were in Australia?

I feel like I was one of the few people in my season who played strategically. It was an adventure contest then. I think I’m better suited for the modern game, actually.

How much have you kept up with the show over the years? Do you feel like you have enough of a handle on the newer game mechanics?

I’ve watched all the seasons. I’m up to speed. I like how the game has evolved. The challenges are more intricate and the production values are much higher. But I’m ready for the new mechanics.

That’s great to hear. Is this the first time you’ve been asked back or have you been in contention for previous returnee seasons?

I’ve been in the mix a few times. This is the first time all the stars seem to be aligned.

Has coming back always been an ambition of yours, or is this a matter of the right time for both sides?

It used to be a big ambition but time went on, my cast kept getting chosen over me, and I just sort of let it all go. Survivor became something I did, not someone I am. I disconnected and let it all go. So I was surprised to get the call again. I’m glad it came because it feels right. This time feels right.

Varner and Alicia
“So I should frequently wave my finger at her?” “No. Always.”

So now we now that you’re prepared for the strategic game and are mentally prepared to go out there. But most importantly, can we still count on you to deliver your honest, sometimes biting assessments of your cast mates in confessionals?

More like chomping this time. Venting in the jungle is the therapy. I’ll need it and promise not to hold back.

Well, you’ve got my votes. Thanks so much for your time. We’re pulling for you.

Thank you for the opportunity. Very grateful for the support.

Andy writes stuff here and on Twitter. He’s probably done talking about Albertan elections for awhile, so you’re safe to follow him: @andy_sayers