The producers of the long-running CBS show Survivor are now faced with an uncomfortable situation, as two female contestants have confessed that their allegations of sexual harassment against a male contestant were made up as part of “game play” strategy.
Survivor’s premise strands contestants on deserted beaches for 39 days while they tackle challenges. Players vote contestants off the island, denying them a shot at the $1 million grand prize. When it gets down to three people, previously exiled competitors decide who will win.
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On Wednesday’s episode, an allegation of sexual harassment by one of the contestants was raised. Shockingly, the person who complained suffered the biggest penalty by being booted from the show. So far, producers and CBS have not commented on the situation.
The incident in question started with Kelle Kim, who accused fellow contestant Dan Spilo of unwanted touching, claiming he rested his head on her knee, brushed a lock of her hair with his hand, and placed his arm around her waist. The claims were underlined when two other female contestants, Missy Byrd and Elizabeth Beisel, also claimed that Spilo engaged in inappropriate touching with them.
Spilo subsequently apologized to the group. But by the end of the episode, Byrd and Beisel admitted they made up their claims in an effort to gain an edge in the game, and had not been made uncomfortable by any Spilo actions.
On Wednesday’s episode, Kim – who had complained about Spilo as far back as the first episode of this year’s series – said he continued to violate her space despite her expressed disapproval of his actions.
Kim became emotional when the two other women initially backed her claims.
“This isn’t just one person, 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.'”
She then went to producers to complain. Reports indicate producers talked to all the parties off-camera and addressed the behavior to Spilo, who was given a warning, presumably threatened with expulsion. However, when it came time for contestants to vote who would leave the show, Kim was axed, not Spilo. Adding insult to injury, Beisel and Byrd both voted her off the island.
Spilo, a Hollywood agent and producer, was able to apologize for his perceived actions at the Tribal Council.
“I work in an industry in which the #MeToo movement was formed and allowed — thank God — to blossom and become powerful and strong. 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,” he said.
He added: “It doesn’t matter whether I knew it happened or it didn’t happen. If someone feels it, it’s their truth. 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.”
Public reaction to the situation from show fans has been mixed. While some praised show producers for not sweeping the situation under the rug, others were upset that the accuser seems to have suffered the biggest penalty.
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