For the first time in the history of Survivor, a player was pulled from the game due to unacceptable behavior. Dan Spilo was removed at the end of the Dec. 11 episode of Survivor: Island of the Idols after an off-camera incident. Players still in the game were informed of the decision, but not any of the circumstances surrounding it, while the episode ended with a title card that read, “Dan was removed from the game after a report of another incident, which happened off-camera and did not involve a player.”
Dan’s inappropriate touching has been an issue/story line all season long, beginning back in episode 1 when contestant Kellee Kim told Dan she was uncomfortable with the way he touched her. When the behavior continued even after Kelle spoke to Dan and asked him to stop, production stepped in on day 22 of the game and issued an official warning to the player about his behavior. Fourteen days later, producers pulled Dan from the game for his latest transgression.
We caught up with host Jeff Probst to get some more insight into the decision to remove Dan from the game.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The title card that ended the episode — “Dan was removed from the game after a report of another incident, which happened off-camera and did not involve a player” — was very short and very general in the sense that an incident can mean pretty much anything. What can you tell us about what happened off-camera with Dan that led to you all pulling him from the game?
JEFF PROBST: The question is a fair and reasonable one. I’ve endeavored to be as forthcoming as possible with you regarding everything that has happened this season. In this situation, out of respect for privacy and confidentiality, I can’t say anymore.
This is the first time in 39 seasons you have removed someone due to bad behavior. What was the process of determining among production, standards and practices, network, and studio that this was the course of action to take?
It has been an unprecedented season. Complex social issues were woven into the game in a way we have never seen before. With our contestants’ welfare at the forefront, we have spent a lot of time discussing every layer of the situation with human resources, diversity and inclusion representatives, show therapists, lawyers, publicists, and standards and practices. We all worked diligently throughout the entire process to make the right decisions and portray an accurate depiction of what took place. We have learned a lot and it will inform our process moving forward.
How did Dan take the news that you were removing him?
When we first told Dan we were pulling him from the game, he was not happy. We talked through everything for quite a while, and by the time he got on the boat to leave he had calmed down and was actually very respectful as he departed.
Why did you not inform the other contestants still in the game of the exact nature of Dan’s dismissal?
I’ll refer you to my earlier answer that out of respect for privacy and confidentiality, I cannot say any more on that matter.
What was the reaction of the other players to the news, because we only saw a quick moment of that?
I have to say that it’s a very complicated situation for the players. They’re on day 35 of 39. They’re very close to the end. They’re also in a state of “eyes on the prize.” And because they did not receive more information for privacy reasons, they seemed to accept the news and moved on with the game.
You mentioned a few weeks back that you were looking at making some changes in terms of how to handle inappropriate behavior. Now that we have seen this situation ultimately play out, what can you all do from a production side to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future?
As I mentioned previously, we have learned a great deal and it will inform our process and protocols on how to evolve moving forward. While we still want to maintain the competitive aspect of the game, above all, we want to ensure that all players always feel safe and respected. These conversations both internally and with outside organizations will continue.
There is still a game going on out there with Janet, Tommy, Dean, Lauren, and Noura all still vying for the million dollars. What can you say about next week’s finale?
This has been a very unique season with so many different powerful moments and light shed on so many topics. But simply from a game point of view — the Island of the Idols twist has really had a big impact. So many of the visits and tests with Sandra and Rob have resulted in game changing moments back at camp. The finale is no different! There is one more visit to Island of the Idols, and it could change the entire game. I love finales, and this is a good one!
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