He played hard early on in the game, but it wasn't meant to be for Jeff Varner when he finally got his second chance in season 31 of Survivor, 29 seasons and 14 years on from his debut in Survivor: Australian Outback.
On the chopping block once his tribe lost out on the week's immunity challenge, Varner was one of two who could have been sent packing, up against the Ninja Stealth Assassin himself, Cagayan's Woo.
Refusing to give up, the pair exchanged words about why they should be kept on the tribe. For Varner, it was that he wouldn't be a physical threat in the future and he had remained loyal to the alliance, whereas Woo had voted against Abi-Maria not once, but twice. Beautifully, after giving it their all in a verbal to-and-fro, the pair shook hands - something we really don't see enough of in this show.
Unfortunately for Varner, his friend(?) Abi decided to go with Tasha and Savage's initial decision, voting him out in a 4-1 landslide. Not Abi's smartest move, she could easily be out next week and perhaps should have campaigned a little harder for Woo's torch snuffing. If Angkor end up at tribal again - which let's be honest is extremely likely - Woo will work with Tasha and Savage to ensure the pair realise Abi is a volatile and erratic player. She's quite clearly the next target if somebody else gets sent packing.
Now I'm not sure just where the season goes. Editors are playing their cards very close to their chest this season and for that they should be applauded. I thought Varner was for sure at least a lock until the merge with the edit he's been given up until this point but four episodes in and out he goes. It just wasn't meant to be.
The 'balls to the wall' approach is definitely one that could work in certain situations, but where everybody is a returning player and perhaps are constantly overthinking about what their fellow competitors are doing, it wasn't appropriate so early on. (Which is of course easy for me to say, I've never been forced to play).
Still, I'm rooting for Varner to make it back onto the show for his 'third time lucky'. If not for his win, for his brilliance when it comes to narration. His pieces to camera have been the highlight of the season so far, including one where he was bitten on his backside by some sort of creature. Then there was the hilarious Tribal Council which became his last, where a moth-like insect caused him to jump out of his seat, but never lose focus on what he was conveying to Jeff Probst.
Varner is one of this year's biggest stars of the small screen, and though his time has come to an end on Survivor way too early, he's someone fans will be talking about for some time to come.
Survivor: Second Chance continues Wednesday nights on CBS.
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