Viewer horror over ‘vile’ Survivor scandal
The current US season of Survivor took an emotional turn this week when five women accused a male contestant, Dan Spilo, of inappropriate behaviour.
During the two-hour episode of Survivor: Island of the Idols, which aired in Australia on 9Go on Thursday night, contestants Kellee Kim and Missy Byrd discussed their negative experiences with fellow contestant Dan, a Hollywood talent agent, who they claim exhibited a "pattern" of inappropriate touching that continued even after he was asked to stop.
In this week's episode the two tribes finally merged, giving many contestants a chance to meet for the first time. Two such contestants were Kellee - she previously confronted Dan about his inappropriate behaviour during the season premiere - and Missy, who discussed new instances of unwanted touching in a lengthy conversation. "When I first got here, Dan was super kind and super helpful. But then one night, the hands were wandering," said Missy. "Was he doing that with Elizabeth, too?" asked Kellee. "With everybody," replied Missy.
In a to-camera confessional, Kellee opened up about realising she wasn't alone in finding Dan's behaviour inappropriate.
"It's super upsetting, because you can't do anything about it. There are always consequences for standing up. This happens in work settings, in schools … This isn't just one person," she said, getting emotional. "It's a f***ing pattern. It's a pattern. It takes five people to be like, man, the way I'm feeling about this is actually real. It's not in my head. I'm not overreacting to it. He's literally done these things to five different women in this game. That sucks. That totally, totally sucks," she said, breaking down in tears.
As Kellee began to cry, a producer spoke up from behind the camera. "You know, if there are issues to the point where things need to happen, come to me and I will make sure that stops," the producer told her, breaking the reality TV "fourth wall". "I don't want anyone feeling uncomfortable … I just want to make sure. This is not like - it's not OK."
According to Survivor Reddit, this is "the first time ever" a producer has inserted themselves into the action while the cameras were rolling, but given the situation with Dan, the change in procedure seems appropriate.
After Missy and Kellee's conversation, Survivor added a title card addressing the situation. "The following morning the producers met with all the players, both as a group and individually," the card read. "They were cautioned about personal boundaries and reminded that producers are available to them at all times. Based on the outcome of those discussions, the game continued. In addition, producers met privately with Dan, at which time he was issued a warning for his behaviour. Producers continue to monitor the situation."
While Kellee felt "disrespected" and "disgusted" by Dan, she still wanted to win the game, so she hatched a plot to eliminate Missy. Missy figured it out ahead of time, and she formed another coalition to vote out Kellee. She was successful: Kellee was voted out.
This was an infuriating turn of events for an older female contestant named Janet, who voted to eliminate Dan out of solidarity with his accusers. Earlier, the women had come to Janet to explain the situation, and she rallied to get Dan out of the game.
The Janet vs. Dan plot line was a major focal point of the rest of the episode in which Janet repeatedly stood up for her convictions even though she may lose because of it.
At the end of the double episode, the allegations against Dan were discussed in front of host Jeff Probst at tribal council. Dan apologised if he'd made anyone uncomfortable - then the tribe voted out Jamal, who bravely stood up for the women earlier that night.
"You believe women if they choose to bring that up because it's difficult enough to do that in and of itself," Jamal said when another contestant questioned the women's stories. "We have a responsibility to hear women, listen to women and believe women when they're ready to tell their stories."
It was a complex episode with no easy ending: The man who allegedly made so many female contestants uncomfortable was still in the game, while two of the people who spoke out against inappropriate behaviour had been voted out.
The unfolding drama made for one of the most controversial Survivor episodes to date, with many viewers questioning whether the show did enough to deal with the allegations:
Wow..last nights #Survivor episode was heavy. Truly a microcosm of the "real"world we live in. Easy to make judgements, condemn, & be critical of players actions. But if that's the only place we focus, we lose site of those who spoke up, became vulnerable, & did the right thing.— Denise Stapley (@goofygal1171) November 14, 2019
#Survivor showrunner/host @JeffProbst often mentions that kids watch. So what did they see last night? Clear evidence of a man harassing women, who shared their discomfort. Then the victim was cast out and literally silenced. https://t.co/kY0YjrR0ID— Andy Dehnart (@realityblurred) November 14, 2019
Dan’s apology at tribal sure did have a lot of “ifs.” It’s not a question of “if” you made people uncomfortable. You did make people uncomfortable. It shouldn’t be hard to comprehend that your behaviour has consequences outside of your own experience #Survivor— Michael McDermott (@FakeMichaelMcD) November 14, 2019
One heartening/encouraging thing that's come out of last night's garbage fire of a #Survivor episode: the nearly uniform response from the fans. I haven't seen ANYONE disputing that this was mishandled by so many people, and nobody is coming out as Team Dan. (1/4)— Jessica Liese (@HaymakerHattie) November 14, 2019
So in summary, the two people voted out tonight were the woman that cried while talking about how she was inappropriately touched by another player, and the man who said we should believe her. Great. Cool. #Survivor #SurvivorPRP— Purple Rock Survivor Podcast (@PurpleRockPod) November 14, 2019
We all watched the episode, the producers even got involved and talked to Dan. These people are pissing me off. Janet is the truth #Survivor— Ann Montefinese (@avokaty) November 14, 2019
That episode of #Survivor was bullshit. There’s a lot of people blaming of players - and a bunch of them behaved terribly - but the producers failed here. They shouldn’t have let sexual harassment become a tool for game play & a plot point, that was seriously irresponsible TV.— Maeve Marsden (@maevemarsden) November 14, 2019
Been saying it for years but this episode illustrates clearly the need for more diversity on the production side of #Survivor.— Kass McQuillen (@KassMcQ) November 14, 2019
These vile human beings have caused Janet to feel so awful about standing up for what’s right she’s thinking about leaving.— Ashley's Dreamboard (@AshsDreamboard) November 14, 2019
That’s why gaslighting and victim shaming are toxic.
Believe women. Believe survivors. Speak up. #Survivor
"Survivor is a microcosm for our real world," executive producer and host Probst said during an in-depth interview with The Hollywood Reporter about the episode. "Situations just like this one are playing out in offices and bars and colleges across the country and the world."
This article originally appeared on Decider and was reproduced with permission