This season of Survivor was overshadowed by the inappropriate behavior of one contestant, Dan Spilo, and the way the behavior was strategically used in the game, and how the show or the network didn’t respond to the situation quicker. Then, during the show’s finale and reunion the show’s host, Jeff Probst, was ready to address the incident as much as he could.
After the announcement of Survivor: Island of the Idols winner and some game-related moments, Jeff went on to clarify that the show’s producers and executives “intended to do the right thing” when it came to concerns of Spilo’s inappropriate touching of other contestants.
“But in the months that have passed we have learned so much about what we could have and should have done instead, and if this happened today, we would handle it much differently,” Probst stated.
The host sat down with contestant Kellee Kim, who first complained about Spilo’s behavior, and gave her the chance to share her thoughts after he said: “You were right.”
“You were right to speak up. You were right to step forward, despite a lot of risk, and to speak your truth, and I want to acknowledge and apologize for your pain. You didn’t ask for it, and you didn’t deserve it,” Probst told Kim.
The anxious Kim said there was a lot of pressure on this moment, and she wanted to do right by the people who have reached out to her to share their own experiences, so the host asked if there was anything she wanted to elaborate on.
“I think one of the things that has been and was the hardest thing was the fact that Dan remained in the game even after I spoke up,” Kim said. “And the reason why is not necessarily the injustice, it’s because I felt like I spoke up and I was not being supported or believed. And when someone goes through something like this or anything remotely like it, to not be supported and not be believed is really the hardest thing. It’s one of the hardest things.”
“What you just hit on I think is probably the biggest package of what we learned, in a nutshell. When you had your emotional interview, that did prompt us into action,” Probst said. “I got on the phone with CBS. It’s a 15-hour time difference. Everybody was in. We were trying to make the right decision. We made a decision to meet with you guys privately. We weren’t transparent about why we met. That’s something else that I have learned that would have helped a lot, if we could have said, here’s what we’re talking about. But what we learned is a few people told us in those meetings they knew. They knew it was Dan, and they knew Dan wasn’t going to get any votes, that Dan was going to go to the end because Dan couldn’t win. There was all this talk of players using it to lie in the game, and what I’ve learned is when you are not in a situation like this, you can’t make your decisions of how to handle it based on the actions of somebody who’s in it, because they’re in it. Missy and Elizabeth got a lot of really unfortunate social media hate mail that they didn’t deserve. They didn’t ask for this either. None of you asked for this, which brings us back to the thing I said at the top. Your voice should have been enough. And the silver lining, one silver lining is it will next time. We learned a lot from you being willing the stand up and take it and continue to try and play.”
Kim then responded that she hopes this season of Survivor won’t be “defined by inappropriate touching or sexual harassment.”
“I hope that it’s defined by change,” she continued. “And I feel like I can be really proud of the fact that I spoke up and I asked for these changes and CBS and Survivor are making these changes, because I asked. And I have to fundamentally believe at the end of the day that individuals and institutions are capable of change.”
Instead of doing a live finale and reunion show, it was decided that Survivor would pre-tape the reunion ahead of time due to the sensitive subject and security issues.
On Tuesday, CBS released a statement about their plans to make changes to its rules and cast and crew training moving forward.
Survivor‘s 40th season, titled Survivor: Winners at War, will air on February 12, 2020.