Can’t be ignored. There was seemingly a black cloud over season 39 of Survivor: Island of the Idols, which included the first-ever ejection of a player. On Day 36 — 14 days after receiving a formal warning from production — Dan Spilo was removed from the game for inappropriate touching following an incident with a non-player.
The situation caused such a stir that ultimately, CBS chose to tape the reunion special, which has aired live for the past 38 seasons. Following the finale, Kellee Kim sat down with host Jeff Probst to open up about her experience. First, he began the conversation by speaking directly to the camera, admitting that production made a wrong move keeping Spilo in the game.
“We intended to do the right thing, but in the months that have passed, we have learned so much about what we could have and should have done instead,” the host, 58, said. “If this happened today, we would handle it much differently.”
With that, he thanked Kim, 29, for being brave enough to speak up. “I want to say to you, you were right. You were right,” he said the moment he sat across from the contestant. “I want to acknowledge and apologize for your pain. You didn’t ask for it and you didn’t deserve it.”
Kim then admitted she was very nervous because she wanted to be a voice for everyone affected. Probst then asked if there was anything she wanted to say to him, production or anyone else. “I think the hardest thing was the act that Dan remained in the game after I spoke up,” she said. “I felt like I spoke up and I felt like I was not being supported or believed.”
He then reassured her: “Your voice should have been enough. It will be next time.”
The California native then revealed that she hopes this season “isn’t just defined by inappropriate touching or sexual harassment,” but instead by change. “I fundamentally believe that we can do better,” she said.
On Tuesday, December 17, CBS announced that they were planning to do just that, adding multiple changes to the game to prevent these types of things from happening again.
“We recognize there are things we could have done differently, and we are determined to do better going forward,” the statement read. Season 40 has already been filmed, but production has “added to its pre-production cast orientation-specific guidelines regarding personal space, inappropriate behavior and how to report these issues.”
Seasons in the future will include another on-site professional “to provide a confidential means of reporting any concerns,” who will implement “new anti-harassment, unconscious bias and sensitivity training for cast, producers and production crew on location.”
A third-party expert will also be brought on-site and a new rule will be instated, in which “unwelcome physical contact, sexual harassment and impermissible biases cannot be brought into the competition and will not be permitted as part of gameplay.”
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