Survivor’s Janet Carben, Kellee Kim and Jeff Probst React to Controversial #MeToo Episode


Warning: This article contains spoilers about Wednesday’s double episode of Survivor: Island of the Idols.

Survivor: Island of the Idols took a turn during the two-hour Wednesday, November 13, episode — and the outcome wasn’t pretty. Following the merge, contestant Kellee Kim raised concerns about Dan Spilo, who she accused of inappropriate touching and claimed he was making her and others uncomfortable.

“This isn’t just one person,” Kellee, 29, said during an interview. “It’s a pattern. It takes five people to be like, ‘Man, the way I’m feeling about this is actually real. It’s not in my head. I’m not overreacting to it.’ He’s literally done these things to five different women in this game. That sucks. That totally, totally sucks.”

Survivor's Janet Carbin, Kellee Kim and Jeff Probst React to Controversial #MeToo Episode
Kellee Kim and Dan Spilo on ‘Survivor.’ Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment (2)

In a rare moment for the reality show, the producers broke the fourth wall and stopped the interview to talk to Kellee, asking if she was OK and letting her know that if she feels unsafe, they will make this into a larger discussion. She felt she could handle it. However, after informing host Jeff Probst about the situation, he immediately contacted the network. The producers then spoke to the cast as a group and individually in sessions not filmed, and issued a warning to Dan — something that viewers learned about in text overlay.

The game then continued and took a surprising turn. Elizabeth Beisel and Missy Byrd admitted that they made up interactions between Elizabeth, 26, and Dan, 48, to take the target off of them — and their plan worked. At tribal, Kellee was completely blindsided and eliminated while she and contestant Janet Carbin thought everyone was voting out the talent manager.

In fact, Janet, 59, was extremely close to Dan in the game, but because she felt it was more important to protect the women than do what was best for her game, she voted for him to go home. When she found out the women made up their stories, she actually considered quitting the show.

Survivor's Janet Carbin, Kellee Kim and Jeff Probst React to Controversial #MeToo Episode
Missy Byrd and Kellee Kim on ‘Survivor: Island of Idols.’ Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment

Following the episode, Kellee took to Twitter to share her concern and admit the episode was tough to relive. “Hi everyone, I’m hurting and very sad watching this last episode too, but please try to be kind and understanding,” the MBA student wrote. “No one deserves threats or shaming, and we can talk about this in a way that we are all better for it💪🏼 #Survivor #Mentalhealth.”

The lifeguard also responded via Twitter. “I want to thank you for all of your support. It was a very difficult time, however I do love and care for my fellow survivors and I don’t want to see them negatively affected by anything that is said from the game,” Janet wrote. “Thanks everyone.”

Probst, 58, also opened up about the controversial episode in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, trying to view the situation from each player’s point of view. He explained that Missy, 24, was never aware of how serious Kellee’s accusations against Dan were and once he heard that Kellee could be targeting her, that became her focus. Meanwhile, Elizabeth wasn’t aware any serious issue was happening with Dan. “Perhaps if she understood the impact Dan was having on Kellee she might have made a very different choice,” he explained.

Survivor's Janet Carbin, Kellee Kim and Jeff Probst React to Controversial #MeToo Episode
Dan Spilo on ‘Survivor: Island of Idols.’ Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment

For Dan, while it was “very clear he was making some of the women uncomfortable,” by embellishing their stories, Missy and Elizabeth turned the situation into something else. “It put Dan in an unfair light and further complicated everything. Now the story has taken on a life of its own with several conflicting perspectives.”

As for Janet, the longtime host was moved by her ability to put the game aside for a moral reason. “This is a great example of why this entire situation is so complex. Janet had her own unique experience as it relates to Dan. Of all the women mentioned, Janet didn’t appear to have any interactions with Dan that made her feel uncomfortable. But as the self-elected mom of the group, she felt very protective of the younger women,” the four-time Emmy winner said. “It was admirable to witness her decision to risk her own game in order to protect the other women, whom she was told had experienced issues with Dan. … “She was truly trying to do what she thought was the right thing. Later, when she learned some of the conversations were for gameplay, she was understandably upset not only because she felt she was being played, but also because she felt she had unfairly judged Dan.”

Probst later pointed out that the situation is so complicated because it tests ethical moves.

“This situation also highlighted another layer of the changing dynamic between men and women: You don’t have to feel unsafe to feel uncomfortable and making someone uncomfortable is not okay,” he said. “This is new territory for this important conversation, and my hope was that everybody could share their point of view, in an open forum, about what had gone down and we could get total clarity.”

Survivor: Island of the Idols airs on CBS Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET.

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