Jeff Varner has lashed out at Survivor producers, claiming the reason they’re pre-taping Survivor: Island of the Idols’ reunion is because castaways plan to voice support for Dan Spilo and criticize the show’s presentation of Dan’s alleged inappropriate touching and the producers allegedly want to edit those comments out.
Varner, a three-time former Survivor castaway, went on a tirade on social media after watching Dan’s removal from the game on Wednesday night’s episode and learning CBS is going to air its three-hour finale event December 18 on tape delay due to alleged “sensitive material” and “security concerns” for the cast.
“What just happened on Survivor [Wednesday night] is 100% bull s–t. I have so much to say and am fuming right now. About to climb the walls,” Varner, 53, wrote in a Facebook posting.
Survivor: Island of the Idols castaway Kellee Kim accused Dan of “extremely inappropriate” behavior early in the game but his behavior allegedly still continued afterward, resulting in Dan finally being issued a formal warning by the show’s producers on Day 22 of the game.
Survivor’s producers and legal team, however, later determined Dan had to be removed from the show on Day 36 “after a report of another incident, which happened off-camera and did not involve a player,” according to a vague on-screen graphic that flashed on the screen at the end of Wednesday night’s episode.
“I’ve talked to cast members. I know what happened that got him removed and I’m telling you, 100% horse s–t. The cast has rallied behind Dan and few to no one is behind Kellee,” Varner insisted on Facebook.
“It’s so painful to see what is happening with this show. They are pre-taping the reunion because cast members plan to publicly support Dan and call out producers. Can’t have that on a live mic. Ugh. So pissed. Rant over. For now.”
After his Facebook initial posting, Varner proceeded to make more than a dozen additional posts blasting CBS and Survivor producers as he responded to subsequent comments from other Facebook users.
In addition, Varner also lashed out on Twitter, claiming the “prepared reunion is cowardice” and adding, “This producer manipulation is 100% bull s–t.”
In a tweet to a fan, Varner also wrote, “I know what really happened and leaving the viewer with the impression Dan has molested someone on production is bullsh-t. The cast is not happy. They love Dan. Threats of boycotts. They’re not going to allow them near a live mic. Cowards.”
Varner is also accusing Survivor producers of deliberately phrasing the on-screen graphic in a manner that misrepresented what happened off-camera and left viewers believing the incident was more significant than what actually occurred.
Survivor’s Wednesday night episode showed host and executive producer Jeff Probst telling the season’s remaining castaways that Dan was out of the game and would not participate as a member of the jury, but he did not share any details of why Dan was gone and both Jeff and CBS have refused to share any additional details about the off-camera incident since the episode aired.
However, sources close to production told People on Thursday that Dan allegedly groped a crew member’s leg when entering a transfer boat after an Immunity Challenge — presumably the challenge that occurred before Elaine Stott was voted out at the end of Wednesday night’s episode.
Varner called the on-screen graphic “a crock” and additionally wrote on Facebook that Dan’s act was “super innocent” because he had only slipped on a wet boat and touched a producer’s leg in attempt to get his balance.
“That fullscreen telling the viewer basically ‘this guys is a predator who sexually assaulted a producer’ is horrific. Nobody deserves that… [For] for the show to portray this guy as a serial predator is out of line. I actually have been out there on the survivor Island three times. I know what they do and I know how they do it,” Varner wrote.
Varner’s advocacy and empathy for Dan is also presumably impacted by his own Survivor experience in which he felt let down by CBS and the show’s producers during his stint on Survivor: Game Changers, which aired in 2017.
Varner faced strong hate and backlash after he publicly outed fellow castaway Zeke Smith as transgender while attempting to save himself prior to a Tribal Council vote.
Varner insisted he thought Zeke had already come out when he competed on Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X — which had filmed immediately before Game Changers but not aired on CBS yet — and apologized endlessly for the alleged unintentional public outing, but his action was presented as the ultimate betrayal and became one of the season’s key focuses and generated significant news headlines.
However, several Survivor: Game Changers castaways condemned the harsh backlash Varner received — which allegedly included death threats, as well as being fired from his job — during their subsequent exit interviews with Reality TV World, including Hali Ford, Debbie Wanner, and Sierra Dawn Thomas.
Following Wednesday night’s episode, Probst told Entertainment Weekly he could not disclose additional details about Dan’s departure “out of respect for privacy and confidentiality.” Probst did reveal, however, Dan was “not happy” to go.
The pre-taped finale of Survivor: Island of the Idols is set to air Wednesday, December 18 from 8-11PM ET/PT on CBS.