The November 13 episode of Survivor Season 39 has been one of the most controversial for the series to date. Fans were in an uproar on Twitter over the behavior on the show, and how production chose to handle a situation involving “inappropriate touching.” During the episode, contestant Kellee Kim revealed that she was uncomfortable with fellow player Dan Spilo and how he touched her during their time on the island. Kellee was not okay with the way Dan had stroked her hair and face, while fellow player Missy Byrd also said Dan would drape his arm around her while they were sleeping. This caused production to intervene, and now host Jeff Probst is revealing just what happened behind the scenes that fans didn’t get to see.
When speaking with Entertainment Weekly, Jeff noted that production asked Kellee if she felt comfortable staying with Dan on the island or if she wanted further action taken.
“After Kellee and Missy’s conversation about Dan, one of our co-EP’s interviewed Kellee. This is normal ‘Survivor’ protocol. And, as you saw, in the interview Kellee got upset, so our producer stopped the interview to ask if Kellee wanted production to intervene. This is a very important moment because the producer is having to navigate a delicate balance of looking out for Kellee without taking any action that might negatively impact her game,” Jeff revealed.
Jeff then noted that Kellee said the issue at hand could be dealt with among the players and didn’t ask for production to intervene in any way. Despite Kellee telling that one producer she was okay with handling things, the production team as a whole decided to sit with the players individually, as well as in a group setting. These meetings were alluded to on the show with a statement from production at the beginning of the episode.
“When we met privately with Dan, we told him that his actions were making some of the women uncomfortable and reminded him that personal boundaries must be respected at all times,” Jeff later revealed.
What also aggravated viewers was how Missy and Elizabeth Beisel used the situation with Dan for game-play. The women took the targets off their own backs and placed them onto Dan’s, and eventually onto Kellee’s. Some felt Missy and Elizabeth were not respecting the women on the beach as a whole by choosing to play the game this way. Jeff set the record straight by saying the women did not know how upset Kellee was because they were not present for her one-on-one interview, and they might have acted differently if they knew all the facts surrounding the situation.
From Jeff’s point of view, production handled the situation appropriately, and now some of the Survivors are speaking out on their own on social media to address what happened. Whether this will come up again in the season remains to be seen.
Survivor: Island of the Idols airs every Wednesday night at 8 p.m. ET on CBS. Season 40 will debut next February with a rumored all-stars season.