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‘Survivor’ Installs New Oversight Guidelines in Wake of Inappropriate Touching Incidents

Nearly a week after the “Survivor: Island of the Idols” episode had that involved the unprecedented removal of castaway Dan Spilo by production from the game, CBS and the producers of the program released a statement addressing the concerns raised from the 39th season and how they’ll move forward:

Season 39 of “Survivor” has been unprecedented for all of us, with important social issues and inappropriate individual behavior intersecting with game play in complex ways that we’ve never seen before. During the course of the production, we listened to the players intently, investigated responsibly and responded accordingly, including taking the unprecedented step of removing a player from the game.

At the same time, we are responsible for the final outcome of this season. We recognize there are things we could have done differently, and we are determined to do better going forward.

“Survivor” has a 20-year track record of a strong support system on locations and after production. It is also a show that continues to evolve, as we respond to what we learn from every new situation and every player. We will take the important lessons we learned from this season and adopt new protocols and procedures for future seasons, to ensure that the events that occurred this season are not repeated.

For Season 40, which has already filmed, the show added to its pre-production cast orientation specific guidelines regarding personal space, inappropriate behavior, and how to report these issues.

For Seasons 41 and beyond, the producers are reviewing all elements of the show to further support appropriate interaction, including how the players live during, as well as after they are eliminated from, the competition.

The show will also take additional steps to enhance procedures for training, reporting of issues and prohibited forms of game play. The new measures to further support a safe environment include but are not limited to the following:

The production will add another on-site professional to provide a confidential means of reporting any concerns, so that the production can address them promptly apart from the game. The full range of reporting processes will be communicated clearly to the players during pre-production orientation.  The new executive will add to a support system that already makes mental health providers available to players on location and after they leave the island.

The show will enhance its pre-production orientation with new anti-harassment, unconscious bias and sensitivity training for cast, producers and production crew on location.

A new rule will be implemented stating unwelcome physical contact, sexual harassment and impermissible biases cannot be brought into the competition and will not be permitted as part of gameplay. This will be covered in the cast orientation for each season, along with clear instructions on how to report violations.

The show will also partner with a third-party expert in the field to review, evolve or add to these new policies and procedures going forward.

In addition, CBS Entertainment will develop appropriate enhanced policies and procedures equivalent to the new “Survivor” measures and adapt them for the network’s other reality programming going forward.

Spilo, a 48-year-old talent manager who resides in Los Angeles, Calif., was repeatedly accused of inappropriate touching by fellow castaway Kellee Kim, a 29-year-old MBA student from Philadelphia, Pa.

Despite raising concerns, Spilo was allowed to remain in the game and Kim was voted out by most of her fellow players on the first tribal council after the two tribes had merged. Aside from Spilo, there was much fan backlash directed towards two other castaways, Elizabeth Beisel and Missy Byrd, who falsified claims that they too were touched by Spilo, as well as towards contestant Aaron Meredith who accused fellow castaway Janet Carbin of using false victimization tactics by supporting Kim and not joining the others in ousting Kim.

Production had warned Spilo during the season, but according to People, he touched a female producer’s thigh as he was getting into a transport boat following an immunity challenge on Day 36 of the game, which prompted the show to ultimately remove Spilo from the show — the first time a contestant has been removed from “Survivor” due to a rule violation.

On Dec. 17, 2019, the day prior to the season finale (which its in-studio segments especially the reveal of the season’s winner and the subsequent cast reunion is planned to film earlier in the day on Dec. 18), Spilo told People, “I am deeply sorry for how my actions affected Kellee during the taping of this season of Survivor. After apologizing at the tribal council when I first learned that Kellee still felt uncomfortable, I want to make sure I do so again, clearly and unambiguously.”

“I truly regret that anyone was made to feel uncomfortable by my behavior,” Spilo continued. “In my life, I have always tried to treat others with decency, integrity and kindness. I can only hope that my actions in the future can help me to make amends and show me to be the kind of father, husband, colleague and friend that I always aim to be.”

Kellee Kim responded to Spilo’s comments shortly thereafter on her Twitter account:

“It‘s curious that Dan has decided to publicly apologize to me — and just me — on the eve of the #Survivor39 finale for a series of inappropriate incidents that occurred months ago and impacted a number of women on set. I truly hope that some of this self reflection is real and that Dan changes his behavior going forward. For me, this statement only underscores the responsibility of CBS and Survivor to take action to prevent anything like this from ever happening again in the future.”

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  1. I guess we’ll never know how Dan’s actions affected the results of the season. Without his ill behavior, Kellee could have possibly continued in the game. This whole situation is eerily symbolic of what is happening outside the game of Survivor. I hope things on the game, and IRL, continue to get better.

    • CBS says there “were things we could have done differently”. Well, ya, why didn’t you remove him from the game immediately? That seems to be obvious.

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