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Survivor’s Ozzy Lusth Reacts to Jeff Varner Outing Zeke Smith: ‘It’s a Shame When People Play Out of Fear’

A Survivor legend has fallen.

A week after the shocking tribal council in which Jeff Varner outed Zeke Smith as transgender, Ozzy Lusth — arguably one of the best contestants to play the game — was sent home on the Wednesday, April 19, episode. 

Ozzy Lusth Survivor
Ozzy Lusth on ‘Survivor: Game Changers.’ Robert Voets/CBS via Getty Images

Always known as a powerful player, Lusth, who also served as the tribe’s food provider, doesn’t blame cockiness for his demise. “I don’t think I was overconfident. I think it just came down to that last vote,” the 35-year-old tells Us Weekly. “It’s possible that if I had been a little more present, I could’ve done something to sway people because the votes went all over the place. It’s a bummer to go out so early, but I got everything I could possibly get out of the game besides going further. I’m so happy to have made it even to day 24 because a lot of the bigger players in this game went out right away. I can feel their pain right now.”

The four-time castaway (yes, four!) shares more with Us

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Us Weekly: You’re one of the best contestants to play this game, especially physically. What is your weakness?

Ozzy Lusth: I think I’m really crappy at manipulation. I don’t think that I’ve ever been good at the social manipulation that some people really thrive at. I’m not good at lying to people’s faces. Usually, you’ve got to be good at that to make it through those crucial votes. I just have never had that.

Us: Did you look back on your previous seasons to see what you can work on this time around?

OL: A little bit, but Survivor changes so much. There are always new twists. Something as simple as picking the wrong pouch that has a different buff in it can completely change the way your entire game goes. There’s a lot of luck and then there’s a lot of conniving. If you can’t do that then a lot of times you can’t make it to the very end.

Us: How does this season rank in difficulty physically and socially in comparison to your past three seasons?

OL: This was actually a pretty easy season. Fiji — the environment itself was just so beautiful. We didn’t get much rain. It was kind of perfect. There was a lot of fish on the reef. The challenges, up until that last challenge, were so much fun. I think I really performed super well. As far as the social game, for the most part, I had a lot of fun. I really enjoyed the people that I was with up until the last tribal when Debbie [Wanner] decided to stab me in the back. That came out of the blue for me. I always thought that Debbie and I got along. That definitely was a blindside.

Ozzy Lusth Survivor
Nuku tribe members Oscar “Ozzy” Lusth, Cirie Fields, James “J.T” Thomas, Debbie Wanner, Andrea Boehlke, Tai Trang, Brad Culpepper, Sarah Lacina, Sierra Dawn-Thomas and Zeke Smith on ‘Survivor: Game Changers.’ Robert Voets/CBS via Getty Images

Us: When did you realize you were on the chopping block?

OL: When Debbie pulled out her secret vote. I knew there was something amiss. The sad thing is she really didn’t have to. She wasted that vote. She was a very manipulative person throughout the entire game, and she was playing recklessly. I think she put her trust in the wrong people, but you don’t know that until you watch.

Us: Let’s talk about the immunity challenge. You’ve won it on two other seasons. You were going to win this time. And then you didn’t. What happened?

OL: That challenge has gotten harder and harder over the years. The first time I did it, the grooves cut for your feet were a little bigger. They’ve gotten smaller and smaller, and the pole has gotten bigger. I think that hands down one of the only people that could have ever beaten me of any Survivor that’s ever played the game is Tai [Trang]. Pound for pound, he’s stronger than I am. He probably weighs half as much as I do. [Laughs] He’s like a little spider monkey. He’s powerful.

Us: On last week’s episode, Jeff Varner outed Zeke Smith as transgender. What was going through your mind during that tribal council?

OL: It was really surreal. It’s a shame when people play out of fear and just wanting to get to the next vote and not thinking about the ramifications of what they do and how that actually will affect another person. You forget that you’re playing in front of potentially hundreds of millions of people and everything that you do is going to be judged. I don’t think that Varner realized that he was doing something that would affect someone else’s life and his own life so drastically. It’s just a shame that there is this fear of the other. The fear of the trans person, the fear of the gay person in our society. If anything, I hope that this experience and being on Survivor, a widely syndicated show, is going to help change the conversation and our politics and help show that we’re all people and we all deserve the same rights. All the way up to the President of the United States, they need to realize that we’re all people and we all deserve the same rights.

Ozzy Lusth Survivor
Andrea Boehlke, Jeff Varner, Sandra Diaz-Twine, Oscar “Ozzy” Lusth, Tai Trang, Zeke Smith and Sarah Lacina at tribal council on ‘Survivor: Game Changers.’ Jeffrey Neira/CBS via Getty Images

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Us: What is your relationship like with Varner since the game ended?

OL: I have no relationship with Varner.

Us: Were you surprised by the outpouring of support for Zeke?

OL: I am so heartened how people have reacted and how people have rallied behind him. It just goes to show you, when you put a real person behind this story, people realize that sexuality is not a black-and-white issue. It’s so gray. There can be so many levels to the spectrum. It gives me faith in humanity when you see that people are able to come out and support Zeke like that.

Related: Celebrity LGBT Allies

Us: Would you play again?

OL: Yeah! It probably won’t happen, but maybe when I’m, like, 40. I’ve basically grown up on Survivor. The first time I played I was 24, and I’m about to turn 36 now. Maybe when we have our final season of Survivor I’ll come back. Nothing lasts forever.

Us: Biggest threat in the game?

Ozzy Lusth Tai Trang Survivor
James “J.T” Thomas, Tai Trang and Oscar “Ozzy” Lusth on ‘Survivor: Game Changers.’ Robert Voets/CBS via Getty Images

OL: Right now the biggest threat is someone like Aubry [Bracco]. She’s able to fly under the radar and doesn’t have much skin in the game. She’s not like Brad [Culpepper] and Sierra [Dawn Thomas], who are these larger than life players. She has the potential to go far.

Survivor airs on CBS Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET.

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