'Survivor' Contestant Accused of Inappropriate Touching -- But 2 Players Admit Exaggerating Allegations to Win
By Antoinette Bueno
Robert Voets/CBS via Getty Images
Wednesday's episode of Survivor caused major controversy when contestant Dan Spilo was accused of unwanted touching by three women on the show. However, two of the women later admitted to exaggerating the allegations in order to get him voted off the island.
Contestant Kellee Kim was the first to raise concerns that Spilo was being too touchy and had invaded her personal space, and said that she asked him multiple times to stop. Fellow contestant Missy Byrd also told Kim that she felt uncomfortable with Spilo.
“It’s inappropriate touching," Byrd told Kim. "I’m not an object."
Byrd and another contestant, Elizabeth Beisel, then came up with a strategy to play up the angle of how uncomfortable Spilo made them feel in order to further their game agenda.
As for Kim, she did go to Survivor producers with her concerns about Spilo and in a rare moment for the CBS reality show, they broke the fourth wall and told her he was given an official warning. But in Byrd and Beisel's case, they later admitted to exaggerating their concerns about Spilo as a strategy to get him voted off.
Beisel said, "Honestly, I’ve felt safe this entire time and if I had felt uncomfortable I would have said, ‘Please stop.'"
Kim ended up being voted off the island, and later, the other Survivor contestants learned that Byrd and Beisel had exaggerated their stories. Spilo, a Hollywood agent, did apologize at the Tribal Council for his behavior.
“I work in an industry in which the #MeToo movement was formed and allowed -- thank God -- to blossom and become powerful and strong," he said. "My personal feeling is if anyone ever felt for a second uncomfortable about anything I’ve ever done, I’m horrified about that and I’m terribly sorry. If that person was Kellee ... if I ever did anything that ever even remotely made her feel uncomfortable, it horrifies me, and I am terribly sorry."
“True, untrue, it doesn’t matter what I feel,” he continued. “It doesn’t matter whether I’m aware of it. It doesn’t matter whether I ever sensed it. It doesn’t matter whether I knew it happened or it didn’t happen. If someone feels it, it’s their truth. I couldn’t be more sorry. I couldn’t be more confident in that I’m one of the kindest, gentlest people I know. I have a wife, I have been married for 21 years, I have two boys, I have a big business, I have lots of employees. I think what upset everybody here is that this has somehow turned into gameplay.”
Meanwhile, another contestant, Janet Carbin -- who voted for Spilo to be eliminated after Byrd and Beisel told her their allegations -- said she was "disgusted" by the two women's actions and threatened to quit the game altogether.
“I feel anything that has to do with sexual uncomfortability has no place in a game environment,” she said during a confessional.
In a joint statement to ET on Thursday, CBS and MGM said all contestants are monitored at all times.
"In the episode broadcast last night, several female castaways discussed the behavior of a male castaway that made them uncomfortable," the statement reads. "During the filming of this episode, producers spoke off-camera to all the contestants still in the game, both as a group and individually, to hear any concerns and advise about appropriate boundaries. A formal warning was also given to the male castaway in question. On Survivor, producers provide the castaways a wide berth to play the game. At the same time, all castaways are monitored and supervised at all times. They have full access to producers and doctors, and the production will intervene in situations where warranted."
Not surprisingly, Survivor fans had plenty of strong reactions on social media, many slamming Byrd and Beisel. On Wednesday, Kim tweeted that she was "hurting."
"Hi everyone, I'm hurting and very sad watching this last episode too, but please try to be kind and understanding," she wrote. "No one deserves threats or shaming, and we can talk about this in a way that we are all better for it?? #Survivor #Mentalhealth."
Hi everyone, I'm hurting and very sad watching this last episode too, but please try to be kind and understanding. No one deserves threats or shaming, and we can talk about this in a way that we are all better for it💪🏼 #Survivor#Mentalhealth
"To her credit, Kellee stated that she felt the issue could be handled by the players involved and did not want us to take any action on her behalf," he shared. "And as you saw in her earlier conversation with Missy, both women were very clear that they were not going to let one person 'blow up their game.' But based on Kellee’s interview, the producer immediately shared the story with me and I immediately contacted CBS. The decision was made to meet with all players, both as a group and individually, to remind them of personal boundaries and hear of any concerns. 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. We also informed him this was an official warning."
"I am incredibly proud of Kellee for being willing to speak up," he added. "In episode 1, she was very courageous in speaking her truth even though she knew it might mess up her game. And initially, I thought Kellee was very generous with Dan in trying to give him the benefit of the doubt."
He also noted how complicated the situation got and said Spilo was also put in "an unfair light."
"On the other side of this story is Dan," he said. "One on hand, it’s very clear that Dan’s touching was making some of the women uncomfortable, and we saw many of those moments on camera. There is no denying that it happened. But as Missy and Elizabeth embellished their stories about the situation, it put Dan in an unfair light and further complicated everything. Now the story has taken on a life of its own with several conflicting perspectives."