'Survivor': How the Dan Spilo Controversy Was Addressed on 'Island of the Idols' Finale

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Survivor: Island of the Idols came to a close on Wednesday night, but it didn't feel like much of a resolution. 

Controversy surrounding the show's first-ever ejected player, Dan Spilo, erupted weeks earlier, after allegations of inappropriate touching by a fellow castaway, Kellee Kim. Dan was issued a formal warning, but stayed in the game. Two other female contestants, Missy Byrd and Elizabeth Beisel, also said they felt uncomfortable with Spilo's behavior but later admitted they exaggerated their own allegations as a strategy to win. Dan did apologize at the Tribal Council for his behavior at the time, noting that he was "horrified" if anybody ever felt "uncomfortable" with his actions though that wasn't his intention.

Dan stayed in the competition until last week's episode, following an alleged incident with a person who was not a player. He was not invited to Wednesday's reunion at the season finale, while other contestants, Jack Nichting and Lauren Beck, opted not to participate in the reunion. 

During the finale's reunion portion, host Jeff Probst spoke with Kellee solo about the situation, calling it "complex" and "unprecedented" and saying he would have handled it differently if it had happened today. He then acknowledged and apologized for Kellee's pain. "You were right," he told her. 

Kellee, meanwhile, told Jeff that the hardest part of it was that Dan remained in the game even after she spoke up. "I felt like I spoke up and I was not being supported or believed," she said. In response, Jeff opened up about production's response to the issue, and said that Kellee's voice should have been enough. "None of you guys asked for this," he said. "The one silver lining is that [one voice will be enough] next time."

"No one up here has asked for their Survivor experience to be defined by this," Kellee said, getting emotional. "We can't really go back and change what happened to me and all these other people." 

"I hope that this season of Survivor... is defined by change," she said as she tried to hold back tears. "I feel like I can be really proud of the fact that I spoke up and asked for these changes and CBS and Survivor are making those changes because I asked. I have to believe at the end of the day that individuals and institutions are capable of change." 

"I fundamentally believe we can do better," Kellee added. 

Dan issued a public apology to Kellee on Tuesday, and she responded on Twitter, writing, "It's curious that Dan has decided to publicly apologize to me -- and just me -- on the eve of the #Survivor39 finale for a series of inappropriate incidents that occurred months ago and impacted a number of women on set."

"I truly hope that some of this self reflection is real and that Dan changes his behavior going forward. For me, this statement only underscores the responsibility of CBS and Survivor to take action to prevent anything like this from ever happening again in the future. #Survivor," Kellee concluded.

In a statement to ET on Tuesday, CBS said in part: "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 returns for season 40 on Wednesday, Feb. 12 on CBS.


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