Acid-tongued ex-Survivor contestant Jeff Varner doesn't understand why fellow castaway Alicia Calaway so quickly dismissed talk that a romance was brewing between the two of them. Appearing Thursday on CBS's The Early Show, the 32-year-old fitness trainer — and the latest player booted out of the Australian Outback — was asked if her tight relationship with Varner had progressed beyond the platonic stage. It was a suggestion she laughingly denied.

"I wish she would have played into that [rumor] a little more," Varner tells TV Guide Online with a chuckle. "I would have sat there and ridden that thing like a horse." The 34-year-old adds that, "Alicia and I are great friends. A big part of our relationship is a very humorous sort of banter back and forth. We have a great time."

Well, on the subject of significant others... Is the Greensboro, N.C., native spoken for? "At the moment, no," he confesses. "And with everything going on, I don't know how in the world there could be, to be honest with you."

"Everything" includes a whirlwind publicity blitz that started the morning after his ouster from the Outback nearly two weeks ago. In addition to The Early Show, Varner has appeared on Live with Regis &#038 Kelly, the Late Show with David Letterman and on Wednesday, he visits Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. But his favorite media moment was without a doubt his stopover on The Rosie O'Donnell Show — and not just because the departing hostess presented him with a free car.

"I was so anxious to see her and just kill her with kindness by giving her gifts and let her see that the person she thinks I am I'm not, because she's been giving me a hard time," he relates, referring to the on-air jabs O'Donnell lobbed at him during her weekly Survivor debriefings. Was Varner offended that she railed into him so publicly? "I absolutely loved it because she was making those comments based on an editor's depiction of who I am. And it's not me. There's no reason for me to take any of that personally. I found it all to be very funny and entertaining.

"I was playing that game and I was playing it as hard as I could," continues Varner, who makes no apologies for his scathing confessionals, which led some to dub him the Richard Hatch of the Outback. "When I was saying those things to the camera, I was basically in a therapy session. I was getting all of the negative out of me while I was alone so that I could go back to the group and be this nice, fun, jolly person they were accustomed to seeing every day."

Well, now that we know Varner can act, any chance he'll make a career of it? "I don't know how to capitalize on what's on my lap here, and I'm hoping I can talk to some advisors [who will] put me on the right path," he says. "I think that there's a lot that I could do, and I'd like to do all of it. But I also want to be intelligent about it and do the things that would be right for me. I'm hoping somebody that knows better than me will help me."