Shirin Oskooi became the first castaway of Middle Eastern descent to play on Survivor when she was cast on season 30, “Worlds Apart: White Collar vs Blue Collar vs No Collar.” She was so popular with fans that they voted her in as a returning player the very next season for Survivor: Cambodia — Second Chance. As a superfan, playing in two seasons was a dream come true.
But in a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, Oskooi opens up maintaining friendships with the cast. She doesn’t stay in touch with very many people from the show, and she even stopped being friends with someone whom she says did “one of the cruelest things ever done to another contestant in the show’s now multi-decade history.”
Oskooi Severed Ties With a Friend From the Show Because Of One of the Cruelest Things She’s Ever Seen on the Show
“One of the closest friends I made from [‘Cambodia — Second Chance’] went on to do one of the cruelest things ever done to another contestant in the show’s now multi-decade history,” she said.
While Oskooi doesn’t specify what she is referring to, it is most likely what castaway Jeff Varner did on the third time he played the game. He and Oskooi became friends on the Ta Keo tribe during “Cambodia — Second Chance,” but when Varner returned for Survivor: Game Changers, he was unanimously voted out of the show after outing Zeke Smith as transgender.
If you don’t remember, it happened at the final pre-merge Tribal Council. Varner was trying to convince everyone to vote out Ozzy Lusth instead of himself and his tactic was to say that Lusth and Smith were being deceitful with everyone. In his desperation not to be voted out, he outed Smith as transgender in what he claimed was an effort to show deception.
Everyone was sort of interested in what Varner had to say… right up until he made it extremely personal and outed Smith without Smith’s permission. As soon as he did that, the Tribal Council came to a screeching halt. Everyone was horrified at what he did — Andrea Boehlke started crying, Tai Trang and Debbie Wanner started yelling at Varner, and even Jeff Probst was visibly upset at what had happened.
“You’re saying by him not revealing it that he’s capable of deception. That is a giant leap of logic. Do you not see that?” said Probst.
Varner eventually recognized that what he did was wrong, but it didn’t really matter at that point. Probst didn’t even have them go off and vote in secret. The tribe took a verbal vote and Varner was unanimously sent packing.
Oskooi Says There Are a Few People From the Show Who Still Have a Place in Her Heart
In the interview, Oskooi said she has “ended more friendships” from the show than she has maintained. Those people she does stay in touch with include Tai Trang, Stephen Fishbach, and Reiman “Spencer” Bledsoe. She also has friends from outside her seasons.
“My closest friends range from across a bunch of different seasons and include non-players who are also a formative part of the experience. I stay in touch with a smattering of players, including Tai Trang, Stephen Fishbach, Reiman ‘Spencer’ Bledsoe, Rob Cesternino, and Kelley Wentworth (shoutout Lauren O’Connell!). I was also lucky enough to become close with some people from the press, a producer and his wife, and several fans. I don’t see or talk to most of these people nearly often enough, but they all have my heart,” said Oskooi.
Survivor is back in production as of April 2021 and should premiere season 41 in September 2021.