Survivor’s most controversial season wrapped Wednesday night.
As expected, there were fireworks during the reunion portion of the episode, with contestant Kellee Kim confronting host and producer Jeff Probst about how she felt both the show and CBS reacted to reports of inappropriate behavior by contestant Dan Spilo.
Spilo was ultimately ousted from the show, becoming the first person in the history of the series to be ejected. However, many took issue with the way CBS handled the whole thing.
“We intended to do the right thing,” Probst said.
“If this was done today, we would have handled it much differently.” He added, “You were right. You were right to step forward despite a lot of risk.”
Kim later responded, “I have to fundamentally believe at the end of the day that individuals and institutions are capable of change, and I think that as a result of this season, many of us who had these conversations, we’ve learned a lot.”
“I think we’re still learning. Ultimately, my biggest hope is that each one of us — each individual, each institution, each organization, and especially CBS and Survivor, can learn from it and do better. I fundamentally believe that we can do better.”
The audience applauded those comments from Kim, prompting Probst to say the following:
“We are committed to it, Kellee. I would love your insights as a player, and I just want to say, I can appreciate, I feel how nervous you are right now, and that you feel pressure and stakes.”
“I feel like you expressed yourself really well. You continue to be a generous, great spokesperson.”
“And I would add one more thing. Not only will CBS and Survivor continue to maybe lead the way with other, similar shows, but I know there are families watching right now that are seeing you, and they will say to their kids, ‘We should talk about this. We all need to understand that there’s a lot to this.”
“So, I offer my hand in partnership and I say thank you, Kellee.”
Tina Tchen, president and CEO of the Time’s Up Foundation released a statement after the explosive episode aired on the East Coast.
“Tonight, millions of viewers witnessed an unprecedented cultural moment in television history: Survivor host Jeff Probst publicly acknowledged that the show failed Kellee Kim when she came forward to say she had been sexually harassed and Survivor did not take appropriate action,” Tchen said.
“In doing so, Survivor used its cultural influence to take responsibility and have an honest and direct dialogue about a serious, systemic problem that has been ignored for far too long.”
Tchen said that Kim’s experience 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.”
As for the show, she added that it “did the right thing and gave Kellee a platform.”
Thanks to Spilo being ejected ahead of the finale, it wasn’t until the reunion segment that the conversation turned to the controversy.
Spilo was removed following an “off-camera incident,” which is believed to involve physical contact with a member of the show’s production team.