Survivor producers and CBS have finally released a statement on the Dan Spilo scandal, detailing new changes the show will implement to prevent future misconduct and better equip castaways and crew on how to handle inappropriate touching going forward.
Sources close to production say Dan, a 48-year-old Los Angeles talent manager, allegedly groped a crew member’s leg when entering a transfer boat after an Immunity Challenge, presumably the challenge that occurred on Day 35 before Elaine Stott was voted out at the end of the show’s December 11 episode, People reported.
Although Dan — who had been accused of inappropriate touching multiple times by castaway Kellee Kim earlier in the game — reportedly claimed the alleged groping was accidental and unintentional, Survivor’s production and legal team weren’t convinced, and so Dan was removed from the game on Day 36 and later uninvited to Survivor: Island of the Idols’ reunion special.
Nearly a week after the episode aired in which Dan was ejected from the game, CBS and Survivor producers spoke out hours ahead of Wednesday night’s Survivor: Island of the Idols three-hour finale event, which will not air live for the first time in franchise history due to sensitive material that will be raised and concern for the cast’s security and comfort.
“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,” CBS and Survivor said in their statement obtained by Deadline.
“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.”
They added, “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.”
Survivor will therefore take new measures going forward to keep their cast and crew safe and comfortable.
“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,” CBS and Survivor producers revealed.
“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,” they said, “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.”
Although Survivor has not been officially renewed for Seasons 41 and 42, the show is expected to air new seasons in late 2020 and early 2021 as it has annually since Season 2 debuted in 2001.
The statement then went on to list some of the “new measures” designed to “further support a safe environment.”
“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 statement reads, according to Deadline.
“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.”
They continued, “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,” the statement concludes.
The lengthy December 18 statement was issued one day after Dan broke his silence on the scandal and told People he’s “deeply sorry” for how his actions affected Kellee.
Dan also said he regretted making anyone feel “uncomfortable by my behavior” and will treat this controversy as a learning experience to become a better husband, father, colleague and friend.
On the December 11 episode of Survivor, a vague graphic flashed on the screen, informing viewers Dan had been removed from the show “after a report of another incident, which happened off-camera and did not involve a player.”
The broadcast showed Survivor host and executive producer Jeff Probst telling the season’s remaining five castaways that Dan was out of the game and would not participate as a member of the jury, but he did not share any details of why Dan was gone.
Both Jeff and CBS have thus far refused to share any additional details about the off-camera incident “out of respect for privacy and confidentiality,” according to Entertainment Weekly.
Jeff previously told EW that Dan was “not happy” to be booted from the show, but People’s insiders claim Dan was actually furious and vehemently disagreed with producers’ decision.
Dan was issued a formal warning by the show’s producers on Day 22 of the game due to Kellee’s complaints, but formal action was not taken until the alleged groping of a crew member.
When Dan was warned about his behavior, producers also reportedly approached the cast and gave them a safe space to share their concerns.
Dan is the first Survivor castaway ever ejected by producers from the game during the show’s 39 seasons, which have featured hundreds of castaways over 19 years. (Past players who prematurely departed the game had been medically evacuated or chose to quit on their own accord).
The finale of Survivor: Island of the Idols is set to air on tape delay Wednesday night at 8PM ET/PT on CBS.