Jeffrey Keith "Jeff" Varner is a contestant from Survivor: The Australian Outback, Survivor: Cambodia, and Survivor: Game Changers.

In Australia, Jeff was remembered for stepping down at the first merged Immunity Challenge for peanut butter, only to be voted out at Tribal Council in a deadlock vote because of his previous votes from Debb Eaton and Kimmi Kappenberg.

After nearly 15 years, Jeff, (now referred to as Varner), returned to Cambodia playing a much more aggressive game, quickly adapting to the erratic and impulsive gameplay of the modern Survivor. Despite being given a numerical advantage on his swap tribe he was outmaneuvered by Andrew Savage and Tasha Fox partially due to a foot injury and the erratic nature of his former ally Abi-Maria.

In Game Changers, Jeff sought to fortify stronger social connections. His early luck put him in a position of power until the second tribe switch, where he was relegated to the bottom with Sandra Diaz-Twine. After her departure, Jeff scrambled to stay alive, but took it too far by revealing sensitive information about Zeke Smith at Tribal Council. Alas, he was voted out one cycle short of the merge, thus missing out on the jury for a third consecutive time.


Retrieved from

Jeff Varner is an internet project manager, having most recently worked as Director of People and Process for a Manhattan start-up company. There he developed and managed the technical and interpersonal aspects of a Human Resources/Operations hybrid system for a staff of 30. Prior employment includes work as a website producer, graphic designer and marketing manager for various companies.

Varner obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Earlier employment included stints as a waiter, bartender and traveling salesperson. He is most proud of successfully making the transition from small town living to the much faster pace of a big city.

An aggressive athlete, he first put on a pair of skates when he was two years old and has since played competitive hockey (right defense) for 16 years, though he admits he spent most of the time in the penalty box. Additionally, he studied martial arts, receiving a black belt in Tae Kwon Do when he was 15 years old. While pursuing his degree with UNC, he was Captain of the National Champion Tar Heel Cheer Team (1989–90). He is an avid rollerblader, spending many afternoons skating through Manhattan's busy streets.

Jeff was raised on a tobacco farm in Greensboro, North Carolina. He played right defense for a hockey team in the local youth hockey league. He participated in Tae Kwon Do classes soon after. He attended Southern Guilford High School, where he was active in student government and theatre arts. He later went on to earn a journalism degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.[1]

Name: Jeff Varner
Season 2
Survivor: The Australian Outback
Current Age: 49
Hometown: Greensboro, NC[2]

Age: 50
Hometown: High Point, NC
Previously played on: Season 2: Australia, Finished 10th out of 16 & Non-Jury Season 31: Second Chances, Finished 17th
How have you changed since the last time you played? I'm more physically fit, less emotional, and smarter. I'm still me and could pop off at any time without warning, but I'm focused on being calmer. I'm honored to be part of this cast and aware this could be the last time I'm ever on a Survivor island, so I want to soak up the surroundings, beauty, and energy of being part of this landmark series. I just played this game, so the excitement of being back is more tempered by a focus to not get too carried away.
What skills do you bring to Survivor that will make you a useful member of the group and what skills have you been learning since you last played? I'll be much more useful at challenges and intend to be more instrumental around camp. I want strong relationships when this is over, but already have a host of great friends. I make mistakes, but I'm a good person with a good heart. I hope America sees that. But if my competition doesn't, their loss. What are you most proud of from the last time? Being chosen by America, by far! Also, my instinctual gameplay. My ability to control a volatile group of people and be the determining factor as to who went home on the first two boots.
What, if anything, do you most regret? Going too hard, too soon. Playing with too much emotion in the beginning. Drawing the Angkor buff. No matter how good of a game you're playing, drawing the wrong buff can change everything.

How will you play differently this time? I want to have more fun this time. I'll combine my Outback and Cambodia styles—hard gameplay with a more subtle approach. I plan to try and control my emotions more. As best as circumstances allow, I'll manage a swap better. I plan to align myself with the big threats. Even if I end up in the minority after a swap, I'll make sure there is someone else with me who is more of a target.This time, it's all business. I'd love to make the jury finally, but if I don't, I want to make sure I've soaked it all up in a way that it's okay.[3]


The Australian Outback

Jeff was placed on the Kucha tribe, and they lost the first Immunity Challenge, but the tribe unanimously voted out Debb Eaton. They then won the next three Immunity Challenges. On the fourth challenge they lost, Jeff and his Kucha Alliance went after Kimmi Kappenberg. Once the merge happened Jeff voluntarily stepped down from the Immunity Challenge, which caused him to be eliminated in A Past Votes tiebreaker after being in a deadlocked tie with Colby Donaldson who had no past votes.

Voting History

Jeff's Voting History
Episode Jeff's
Voted Against
1 Debb Debb
2 Kucha Tribe Immune
3 Kucha Tribe Immune
4 Kucha Tribe Immune
5 Kimmi Kimmi
6 No Tribal Council
7 Colby;
Amber, Colby,
Jerri, Keith, Tina;
Amber, Jerri,
Keith, Tina
Voted Out, Day 21

^1 In The Merge, the vote ended with a 5-5 tie between Jeff and Colby, forcing a revote. Nobody changed their vote on the revote, eliminating Jeff due to prior votes at Tribal Council.

Survivor: Cambodia

Jeff Varner was chosen from a pool of 32 candidates to be one of the 20 castaways to compete on the second chance season, Survivor: Cambodia. His tribe originally split between old school and new school players. Although Varner was an old school player, he wanted to prove he could succeed in new school Survivor. He voted with the new schoolers to send Vytas home, but did not intend on staying loyal to them. He saw how hard Shirin and Spencer were playing, so he worked on turning the tribe against them. After Abi was hurt by her own alliance fighting and making fun of her, Varner and his alliance had the majority, prompting Spencer and Shirin's remaining allies Peih-Gee and Kelley to flip as well. Shirin was voted out, and it looked like Varner was in a strong position before the swap.

Varner was on the only tribe with a Ta Keo majority, but unfortunately Woo, Peih-Gee, and Abi were not the tightest of groups. To make things worse, Varner found himself on the chopping block after Tasha called out him sending a message to Wiglesworth. Despite this, the attention shifted to Abi and Peih-Gee and Varner aided in sending Peih-Gee home. Ta Keo still had a 3-2 lead, but Woo, Abi, and Varner were working to eliminate each other and effectively forfeited control to Tasha and Savage. After a complete collapse in the Day 11 Immunity Challenge, the conditions and Varner's four consecutive Tribal Council visits seemed to take its toll on him. Woo used this to his advantage to convince the others to vote out Varner. Varner defended himself by citing that he had already proven his loyalty to them while Woo hadn't. Ultimately, Abi put aside her grudge against Woo (temporarily) and she, Savage, and Tasha opted to keep the tribe strong and vote out Varner 4-1.

Voting History

Jeff's Voting History
Episode Jeff's
Voted Against
1 Vytas -
2 Shirin -
3 Peih-Gee -
4 Woo Abi-Maria, Andrew,
Tasha, Woo
Voted Out, Day 11

Game Changers

He started on Mana. Mana lost the first two Immunity Challenges. Varner aided the majority in voting out Ciera Eastin and Tony Vlachos respectively. He, along with Sandra Diaz-Twine, Malcolm Freberg, Aubry Bracco, and Michaela Bradshaw, were switched to Nuku as a result of the Tribe Switch. They joined Nuku member J.T. Thomas. Jeff faced a heavy blow on Night 11 as Malcolm was blindsided. On Day 13, he was caught in the middle between the duo of JT and Aubry who targeted Michaela and Michaela and Sandra who targeted JT. He sided with the latter duo, thus blindsiding JT.

He and Sandra remained on Nuku after the second tribe switch, but were joined by Sarah Lacina, Andrea BoehlkeZeke Smith, Ozzy Lusth, and Tai Trang. Jeff and Sandra were on the bottom. Zeke led the original Nuku alliance into claiming that they were against Tai in order to avoid Jeff and Sandra from scrambling, allowing them to take the latter out. Nuku lost immunity. Back at camp, Jeff was confident that Tai was going home. However, when Tai accidentally told him Sandra was the target, Varner became suspicious. Jeff and Sandra voted for Tai, but Sandra was voted out, so Jeff was now the odd man out.

After Tribal Council, Jeff planned on trying to convince everyone to get rid of Ozzy for being a physical threat come the merge. The next day, Jeff began making his moves against Ozzy, recruiting both Sarah and Zeke. Zeke apologized for leaving Jeff out of the Sandra vote and promised to be honest with him moving forward, with plans of reaching the Final Tribal Council together. Nuku lost immunity. At camp, Jeff tried to convince Zeke again to get rid of Ozzy, but Zeke was conflicted due to his strategy of keeping larger targets in the game as shields. Zeke's hesitance caused Jeff to believe that Zeke and Ozzy had a secret alliance, which he exposed to the other tribe members, causing them to question their loyalties.

At Tribal Council, a desperate Jeff outed Zeke as a transgender man, and tried to insinuate that Zeke's hiding this aspect of his life showed an ability to be deceitful. However, everyone else—including host Jeff Probst—quickly and emphatically rebuked Jeff Varner for this tactic. After a long discussion, Varner apologized, and expressed shame and remorse for what he had done. Seeing that Varner's actions would clearly lead to his elimination, Probst took an open roll call from all of the players, then had Varner eliminated without a formal vote.

It was revealed that Jeff was fired from his job as a real estate agent after the episode where he outed Zeke aired because of all the controversy. However, at the Reunion Show, he revealed to have gotten hired by another real estate agency. He also revealed that he has been working on a book called "Surviving Shame".

Voting History

Jeff's Voting History
Episode Jeff's
Voted Against
1 Ciera -
Tony -
2 Nuku Tribe Immune
3 Sierra1 -
4 J.T. -
5 Tai -
6 None2 Andrea, Debbie, Ozzy,
Sarah, Tai, Zeke
Voted Out, Day 18

^1 In The Tables Have Turned, Tai used a Hidden Immunity Idol on Sierra, negating Jeff's vote against her.
^2 In What Happened on Exile, Stays on Exile, instead of a standard vote, the tribe verbally voted to eliminate Jeff. Jeff himself did not cast a vote.


  • On May 13, 2001, Jeff, along with Australian Outback cast mates Colby Donaldson and Elisabeth Filarski appeared on Rock & Roll Jeopardy!. Jeff finished in 3rd place earning $1,000 for his charity which was for a burning center for the University of North Carolina.[4]
  • On May 17, 2001, Jeff appeared as an panelist on Hollywood Squares for Survivor Week along with the rest of The Australian Outback cast.[5]
  • Jeff along with Alicia CalawayGervase Peterson, and Susan Hawk appeared on Big Brother 2. They competed against the final four in a luxury competition and won $15,000 to share between them.[6]
  • In 2003, Jeff was one of several castaways who appeared on MTV's Men vs. Women: Rumble in the Jungle, a preview show for Survivor: The Amazon and offered his commentary in the debate of which gender was stronger.[7][8]
  • Jeff worked as an entertainment reporter for KCBS in Los Angeles, CA then E! News Live, and then as a field correspondent and host for the TV Guide Channel. He was a weekend news anchor and field reporter at FOX 8 WGHP in High Point, North Carolina. In his first year in broadcast news, he won an Associated Press Broadcast News Award: Rookie of the Year, in 2005.
  • Jeff began his career in communications as a public relations assistant and corporate communications manager for Citicorp in New York City. He was part of the first team in the corporate world to utilize the internet to communicate project information as a manager in Citicorp's "Product Design and Development Division."
  • He used that background to transition into web development, working in developing web properties for Citibank, MCI, Harlequin Romance, and Martha Stewart Living Online. Jeff used his Survivor exposure to turn his web and PR career into a full-blown on-camera reporter, anchor and host.
  • In May 2007, Jeff left FOX 8 due to what he called "angry and unprofessional management" from the station's news director. He is now working for WWMT in Kalamazoo, Michigan as a News Anchor for the News Channel 3 morning news.Jeff was promoted November 27, 2008 to WWMT evening anchor. He anchors the 10pm CW7 newscast solo, then joins Judy Markee as co-anchor for Live at 11.
  • On July 27, 2009 Jeff was selected as one of the top 20 broadcasters nationwide to serve as finalist for co-host for a day on Live with Regis and Kelly. Local new viewers nominated their favorites. For two days, Regis and Kelly viewers voted for the best, and on July 29, 2009 the nationwide vote selected Jeff as co-host. He hosted August 7 with guests Susan Lucci and David Cook.[9]
  • On January 9, 2010, Jeff attended Survivor's 10-year anniversary party.
  • In 2012, Jeff became a news anchor for the CBS affiliate WNCT in Greenville, N.C.[10] He left sometime in September 2014.[11]
  • Jeff is planning to launch a travel company called Project Explorer.[12]
  • Jeff lost his job as a real estate agent in 2017 as a result of the backlash from the controversial statements he made at his elimination Tribal Council in Survivor: Game Changers.[13]
    • At the Game Changers Reunion Show, he revealed to the audience that he had been hired by another real estate company.


  • Jeff's luxury item was a coloring book and crayons. The pages were later sold on eBay for charity.[14]
  • Jeff was the second player eliminated at Tribal Council through the "previous votes against" tiebreaker. The first was Mitchell Olson.
  • Jeff received at least one vote at every Tribal Council he attended in The Australian Outback.
  • Jeff was the first male contestant to finish in 10th place, and the first male contestant to be on the merged tribe but be eliminated pre-jury.
  • Jeff has claimed to have stopped eating peanut butter after The Australian Outback.[15]
  • Jeff revealed that he had a pre-game alliance with Shane Powers, who did not receive enough votes to return for Cambodia.[16]
  • Jeff is the fourth contestant in series history to play at least twice and be eliminated pre-jury every time. The others are Russell Swan, Francesca Hogi, and Colton Cumbie. They were followed by Caleb Reynolds.
    • Jeff is the only contestant to be eliminated pre-jury on their first two seasons, and return for a third season.
    • Jeff is the only contestant to be eliminated pre-jury three times.
  • Jeff has played the fewest days out all returning players who competed on at least three seasons, with 50 days accumulated during his Survivor career.
  • In Game Changers, Jeff became the third contestant to be voted out verbally, following Ian Rosenberger and Brandon Hantz.
    • However, Jeff is the first contestant to be voted out verbally at Tribal Council, while Ian and Brandon were voted out verbally at challenges.
  • It has long been rumored that during the second Immunity Challenge, Kimmi Kappenberg told the opposing Ogakor tribe about Debb Eaton's vote for Jeff the night before. In an interview in Rob Has a Podcast, Kimmi claimed that Jeff himself unwittingly spoiled his vote to the other tribe.[17]


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