Survivor and the CBS network have come under fire for not acting decisively enough after contestant Kellee Kim complained on day 2 of Survivor: Island of the Idols about unwanted touching from tribemate Dan Spilo. Spilo was eventually given an official warning on day 22 after the touching continued, and then removed from the game on day 36 after another off-camera incident.
Now, CBS has released a statement regarding their response to the situation, as well as how they plan to make changes in the future to help prevent a similar incident from occurring as well as how they will deal with it should such an occasion arise. The statement reads as follows:
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.
EW has spoken to several contestants from season 40, who confirmed they were indeed talked to by producers before the game began about the importance of observing personal space. Meanwhile, what happened out in Fiji during season 39 is sure to be a topic of discussion on the Dec. 18 Island of the Idols season reunion (which will be filmed live-to-tape four hours early).
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