Survivor (US): “We are determined to do better”

CBS has announced changes to production of Survivor following the removal of a contestant over reports of inappropriate behaviour.

Like it or not, Season 39 will forever be known as the season in which the show mishandled such conduct.

During yesterday’s season finale host Jeff Probst admitted the show had let down participant Kellee Kim following the behaviour of Dan Spilo, who was removed from the show after a second incident.

“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.”

“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 organisation, and especially CBS and Survivor, can learn from it and do better. I fundamentally believe that we can do better.”

Probst replied, “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.”

Spilo has since apologised. He was not present for the first-ever pre-recorded reunion, which was also notable for the absence of two other contestants: Elizabeth Beisel and Jack Nichting.

CBS has also issued a statement:

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.

Season 40, which has already been filmed, is known as Winners at War with 20 previous winners coming back to compete for a $2m prize. It is due in February.

10 has been contacted over CBS policy in regards to Australian Survivor.

Source: Deadline


  1. It certainly wasn’t the best Survivor we have seen. I didn’t like any of the three finalists much. I felt sorry for Dan’s son being put on display when the families came to visit. It was after the Keelee fiasco so you would think bring someone else in.

  2. Survivor 39 was just a disaster! The Dan fiasco was horribly handled and winner of the season I found boring!

    Season 40 should be excellent and I’m very much looking forward to it!

  3. Now I am a massive fan but this has happened before with All Stars (season 8) in which Sue Hawk quit, exploding in anger over Richard Hatch’s nudity (which he did regularly and often unnecessarily even in challenges) and his body contact with her whilst naked.

    • carolemorrissey

      Yes of course things were different back then. It’s probably happened heaps of times over the years but people didn’t like to speak up & risk their game. Someone brought up that incident on one of the forums. Apparently she had a PTSD episode so has possible been through something traumatic before & was triggered. A shame she had to go & not Hatch.

    • Even before that; there was an incident on Survivor 5: Thailand- Ted & Gandhia – which resulted in Gandhia getting voted off for causing too much of a fuss

  4. Maybe they could have done the right thing by putting Dan on the spot by interviewing him in front of a life audience and make him explain his behavior (and having him admit he was wrong) – instead of making Kellee go through it all over again.

  5. This was a classic example of how not to handle a situation. In this day and age I could not for the life of me understand how he was not kicked off immediately. As for the section in the picture above, even that was cringe worthy. I understand what they tried but it came off a little lame…a little like the winner mind you!

  6. For me, this type of behaviour has been ‘banned’ in all workplaces for a long time and is not a new phenomenon. As Survivor is a workplace, it should have been covered in existing policies etc for years. It seems it was only really addressed once Dan had reportedly inappropriately touched a producer rather than a cast member. It was still interesting human behaviour that one player was prepared to call it out whilst I think two others preferred to use it as a weapon against Dan later to further their game. This in itself shows different human reactions to the same circumstance. In any event, it is great that it received the publicity, good or bad, that it did to show that society does not tolerate making others feel uncomfortable in any way, shape or form.

  7. carolemorrissey

    So they are going to give people who have already won a million dollars two million dollars? Wow CBS must have some money to burn. And here we give them a measly $500 000.

    • Gee I’ll take the measley 500 grand any day. That’s good money for Australian show I think. You need to remember the population of the States compared to Australia and how much advertising costs there. They can afford the big bucks.

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