"Survivor: Game Changers" cast
"Survivor: Game Changers" cast cbs.com

“Survivor: Game Changers” host Jeff Probst has spoken out on contestant Jeff Varner’s outing of fellow tribe member Zeke Smith as transgender. The 55-year-old reality game show host was just as shock as everyone else, saying what Varner did was nowhere near acceptable.

In the episode of the US reality show on Wednesday, Varner, perhaps in an effort to save himself from potentially being voted out, revealed that Zeke was a transgender man. “Why haven’t you told anyone that you’re transgender?” he said, insinuating that Zeke’s hiding of his sexuality showed that he was deceitful.

Zeke was quiet, appearing to be in a mild state of shock at his outing. The other castaways, on the other hand, quickly rebuked Varner for his callousness. Probst admitted that he was shocked at Varner’s action, not certain if he heard him right at first.

“In 34 seasons of ‘Survivor,’ I have rarely, if ever, personally commented on what is said or done in the game,” he told EW. “But this is a unique situation that falls outside the normal boundaries. I cannot imagine anyone thinking what was done to Zeke was okay on any level, under any circumstances, and certainly not simply because there was a million dollars on the line.

“I think the response from the tribe, as it so often does, mirrors what the vast majority of society will feel. You just don’t do that to someone.”

Probst was observing the argument at the tribal council from his position. Varner was “in the middle being attacked by angry tribemates” while Zeke was sitting quietly in the corner. Although the whole scene appeared a normal tribal council, Probst said it was “one of the most raw and painful studies of human behaviour” in the show.

Varner tried to defend himself, saying that he argues for the rights of transgender people every day. Unsurprisingly, he was unanimously voted out by the tribe in the end. Before Varner was sent away, Zeke gave him a hug, forgiving him for outing him.

Probst believed that Varner was regretful of what he had done. He spoke to the contestant after the incident, saying it was clear Varner was upset. “I do believe he wishes he could take the entire event back. I hope Varner is able to take this moment and turn it into something positive. People make mistakes,” the presenter said.

Probst knew for a while that Zeke was transgender. When he met him during the casting for the 2016 “Survivor: Millenials vs Gen X,” Probst said he thought Zeke was very engaging. It wasn’t until after Zeke left that Probst was told the aspiring contestant was transgender. Zeke was also aware that someone might suspect his sexuality and bring it up, but he just said he would deal with it when it happened.

“Survivor: Game Changers” is the 34th season of the show and the fourth to feature entirely returning players. Varner came back from “Survivor: The Australian Outback” and “Cambodia.” The show airs Thursdays on 9Go in Australia.