"I didn't know Zeke was trans! I just thought he was a super manly, intelligent dude! He was just like this kind of hipster, quirky guy," Hali told Reality TV World in an exclusive interview on Thursday.
On last week's Survivor episode, Jeff announced at Tribal Council there was "deception on many levels" happening within the tribe, and then mentioned Zeke's undisclosed transgender identity as an alleged example. Jeff was desperately trying to save himself from being voted out of his tribe right before the merge.
"I was feeling for [Zeke] because, you know, how would I feel if the most intimate issue of my life got drawn out before the world without my consent? It was very wrong to take that away from Zeke, but I feel like people have got to give Jeff some grace," Hali said. "I mean, it's just gone way too far -- the conversation."
Zeke recently told People that he hasn't quite forgiven Jeff and continues to be "troubled by his willingness to deploy such a dangerous stereotype on a global platform," referring to Jeff's suggestion at Tribal Council that Zeke was deceitful for not being open about his female to male gender change.
After outing Zeke on national television, Jeff appeared to try to explain that he had assumed -- incorrectly -- that Zeke had played his prior Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X season (which was still unaired at the time of Game Changers' filming) as openly transgender and was just keeping it from his fellow Survivor: Game Changers castaways.
Jeff told Reality TV World after the dramatic episode aired that Zeke's friends allegedly harassed him all night long, adding, "I understand [Zeke] is calling me a bigot and talking about the hate I have in my heart, and that is so wrong." (To read more from the interview, click here). Jeff was also fired from his job as a real estate agent for Allen Tate Real Estate in Greensboro, NC.
"Jeff is a really good guy and I wish that -- I hope he gets a platform to just talk about his heart in it, because he's literally one of the most caring people that I know," Hali explained. "This is something crazy and, I think, completely out of character."
In a separate exclusive interview with Reality TV World on Thursday, Ozzy -- who was present at the Tribal Council when Zeke was outed as transgender -- discussed the status of his relationship now with Jeff.
"I haven't spoken to him. I still feel that it's a shame he did what he did," Ozzy said. "I just, more than anything, feel bad for him, because I think it just comes from a place of fear. He just got the desire to do better, to get further in the game, or to win."
Before his stint on Survivor: Game Changers, Jeff had competed on the show twice before but never made it to the merge. Jeff had made it known his goal on the currently-airing season was to at least become a jury member.
"That made him say things that I'm sure in normal everyday life he would never say or do," Ozzy explained. "And it's a shame that it had such crazy ramifications for not only his life but for Zeke's life. I hope the potential benefits of this outweigh the negatives."
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When Jeff was fighting for his life at last week's Tribal Council, he insisted that Zeke and Ozzy had a secret alliance together and so Ozzy needed to be taken out, especially since Ozzy was also a huge physical threat in the game.
Debbie Wanner noted at the time with a big smile that it was a "good" idea, so it seemed like Jeff might have begun to sway his tribe members to work with him -- had he never outed Zeke as transgender and pissed everyone off.
Ozzy, however, insisted Jeff never had a shot to stay in the game, regardless of what he said that night or pitched to their tribemates Zeke, Debbie, Tai Trang, Sarah Lacina, and Andrea Boehlke.
"No. That's again why -- he was desperate, and I understand that. But Varner was going to go home no matter what," Ozzy said.
"The distinction Zeke made was that he actually told Varner he was going to go home. We were going to blindside Varner -- which is the smartest thing to do, because otherwise, you say potentially disastrous things. So that's kind of exactly what happened."
Hali and Ozzy were both voted out of the Maku Maku tribe duringSurvivor: Game Changers' two-hour episode on Wednesday night after the merge.