A “Survivor” castaway was pulled from the competition by production for unacceptable behavior following an off-camera incident.
In addition to seeing a season winner crowned, the “Survivor: Island of the Idols” finale included another announcement: an apology to contestant Kellee Kim from host Jeff Probst, which has earned praise from the CEO and president of Time’s Up.
“You were right,” Probst told Kim. “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.”
While competing on the long-running CBS reality show, Kim complained multiple times about the behavior of fellow castaway Dan Spilo.
On Day 1 of the competition, Kim complained about his “inappropriate touching.” Her concerns boiled over on Day 22, when Spilo’s behavior continued and producers offered to intervene. She was voted off the show that same day.
Ejected ‘Survivor’ contestant Dan Spilo apologizes to Kellee Kim; CBS implements new rules
During an episode last week, Spilo became the first contestant in the show’s history to be kicked out of the game.
“In the months that have passed, we’ve learned so much about what we could have and should have done instead,” Probst said during the finale. “And if this happened today, we would handle it much differently.”
Dan Spilo, a talent manager from Los Angeles, became the first contestant ever to be kicked off of “Survivor.”
Kim told Probst she hopes this season “isn’t just defined by inappropriate touching or sexual harassment.”
“I hope that it’s defined by change,” she said. “I feel like I can be really proud of the fact that I spoke up and asked for those changes, and CBS and ‘Survivor’ are making those changes because I asked. I have to fundamentally believe at the end of the day that individuals and institutions are capable of change.”
Tina Tchen, CEO and president of the Time’s Up Foundation, an organization dedicated to combating sexual harassment, praised CBS and Probst for giving Kim “a platform to share her truth.”
In a statement to USA TODAY, Tchen called Probst’s apology “an unprecedented cultural moment in television history.” By acknowledging their missteps, Tchen wrote, the show shed light on “a serious, systemic problem that has been ignored for far too long.”
“Sadly, what happened to Kellee on ‘Survivor’ this season is the same sort of painful scenario that plays out every day across industries and occupations, and up and down the wage scale: someone is treated inappropriately in a working environment and is concerned they will be retaliated against for raising the issue with management – only to have those exact fears come to pass,” Tchen continued.
“What’s more, Probst began the conversation with three powerful words: ‘You were right,’ ” Tchen added. “And Kellee was right: Because whether you are on a reality show, in an office, or on the factory floor, every person deserves to feel safe from harassment, assault, and abuse at work, no exceptions.”
Tchen also took to Twitter Wednesday to praise Kim for her “courage” and the network for “the hard work necessary to take sexual harassment out of the game moving forward.”
After the finale aired, Kim took to Twitter to open up more about the “hard season.”
“I’m proud that the change I fought for is happening,” she said. “I’ve been inspired & overwhelmed by the people who have reached out to support me & share their stories.”
In a statement late Tuesday, CBS promised changes, including an onsite contact to deal with concerns; new training; and a rule that unwelcome touching, sexual harassment and biases are prohibited in the game.
CBS promised to adopt similar policies for its other reality programs.
‘Survivor’ castaway ejected for the first time in show history for inappropriate behavior
In a statement published in People Tuesday, Spilo said he was “deeply sorry for how my actions affected Kellee (Kim) during the taping of this season of Survivor.”