Survivor season 39, a.k.a. Island of the Idols, may go down as one of the CBS reality competition’s most controversial seasons after contestant Dan Spilo was removed from the game following multiple accusations of inappropriate touching.
At the end of the Wednesday, December 11, episode of Survivor, host Jeff Probst met with the remaining castaways to reveal that Spilo, 48, had been sent home. “Dan was removed from the game after a report of another incident, which happened off-camera and did not involve a player,” an onscreen title card stated.
The ouster came weeks after contestant Kellee Kim told Spilo that his touching made her uncomfortable, as viewers saw in the first episode of the season. Producers issued a warning to the talent manager on day 22, and he was removed on day 36.
Now, former and current Survivor contestants are speaking out about the controversy. “I am proud of CBS and Survivor for ejecting Dan from the game, especially considering it is so late in the season,” three-time player Ciera Eastin exclusively tells Us Weekly. “Ejecting Dan when there are only seven people left in the game not only affected Survivor’s timeline but affected all the other players’ games and relationships and strategy. I’m sure this decision was not taken lightly, and I’m proud of CBS for putting their players and their producers first.”
Eastin, 30, continued: “I think they made the right choice ejecting Dan. This season has been full of social issues we really haven’t dealt with in seasons past. And Dan was obviously given multiple opportunities to change his actions and when it didn’t happen Jeff was really left with no other choice. I have always felt safe and a priority to Jeff and all the producers when I have played, and I am not surprised at all that they would continue to put the safety of their players and crew first.”
Amid the controversy, Survivor will air a pretaped reunion show for the first time in its nearly 20-year history. According to Entertainment Weekly, the Survivor producing team decided to pretape the reunion out of concerns over security and the sensitive nature of this season.
“There has to be some reason they want to be able to control the conversation,” Eastin says of the prepped finale. “I know this is a sensitive matter and the first time they have had to deal with something of this nature. And I trust they will do what is right for the victims, for the show, and remembering Dan also has a family watching at home.”
Veteran contestant Benjamin “Coach” Wade is also sounding off on the situation. “CBS, Survivor, and all production and crew have proven that they have what it takes to be the ultimate survivor, in terms of ratings and longevity,” he tells Us. “If they are doing it, we can be assured that it’s for a damn good reason.”
Before the finale, scroll down to see what the season 39 contestants have said about the scandal and their own behavior.
The Survivor: Island of the Idols finale and reunion airs on CBS Wednesday, December 18, at 8 p.m.
With reporting by Kayley Stumpe