In a rare moment, production is heard speaking to one contestant from off-camera about the allegations: "I don't want anyone feeling uncomfortable ... I just want to make sure. This is not-- it's not OK."
It was a rare moment on "Survivor," but one indicative of how serious things were being taken, when a producer actually spoke from off-camera to a contestant about her concerns regarding inappropriate physical contact at the hands of another contestant.
This isn't the first time there have been issues like this, with allegations dating all the way back to original winner Richard Hatch's infamous naked escapades when he returned for a later season, but this may be the first with such wide-reaching allegations against a single contestant. Some of the reactions to the contestant's alleged behavior, however, were exaggerated for strategic purposes.
The stories came ou after the tribal merge on Wednesday night's episode, when various women met for the first time and were able to compare notes about their alleged experiences with Hollywood talent manager Dan Spilo, a fellow contestant on the show. Things reached such a boiling point that the allegations made their way to the show's tribal council session, where one person is voted out of the show each week. For the record, Spilo was not voted out but he did apologize to anyone he may have made uncomfortable throughout the season to this point.
The Hollywood Reporter notes that Spilo represents actress Joey King ("The Act"), Jared Padalecki ("Supernatural") and Kal Penn ("Sunnyside"). He has not yet responded to additional requests for comment, though he may be contractually limited in what he can say anyway as he is still a participant on the show.
Discomfort around Spilo's behavior was first brought up on-camera way back in the season premiere, with contestant Kellee Kim calling him out. The narrative continued through to this week, with allegations of inappropriate contact from sleeping arrangements to wiggling one contestant's toes during the merge feast.
"This isn't just one person," Kim said in a confessional. "It's a 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."
Her emotions were so raw and the moment so genuine that the show's producers opted to keep in the reaction and response from an on-scene producer. It's common for producers to have conversations with contestants on reality shows that are then edited to just show the contestants speaking, so this was a rare instance of breaking the illusion and narrative.
"You know, if there are issues to the point where things need to happen, come to me and I will make sure that stops. Because I don't want anyone feeling uncomfortable," the producer could be heard saying off-camera. "I just want to make sure. This is not-- it's not OK."
The show continued its coverage of the events by revealing that producers had met with contestants as a group and individually, cautioning them about personal space, reminding everyone that they are always available to talk if anything goes too far and even giving Dan an official warning about his behavior. Producers have indicated they will continue to monitor Pilo's behavior, which may be indicative of more fireworks to come.
Making the situation messier, contestants Missy Byrd and Elizabeth Beisel took advantage of the allegations to fabricate or exaggerate their own interactions with Pilo, which led to his ally Janet Carbin deciding to vote against him in a "moral" move she thought would protect the other women. Byrd and Beisel, however, never intended to vote Dan out -- and, believing Kellee was going to vote Missy out, secretly took aim at Kellee instead.
At the tribal council, it was Kellee who found herself evicted as contestants chose to make the move they felt was best for their game. Carbin was furious that some of the other women -- especially Byrd and Beisel -- hadn't voted against Pilo, believing something shady was seriously afoot. She brought up everybody's side conversations with Dan himself, before Elizabeth admitted she embellished for game reasons. Missy never copped to her part in the scenario. Carbin later said the whole thing made her so upset, she considered quitting the game.
The very next tribal council (this was a two-hour episode) saw Kim sitting in the jury's pool and a #MeToo explosion happen among the remaining contestants as some of the guys tried to minimize the allegations against Pilo, saying they hadn't heard about them.
"This whole idea of 'If this was actually an issue then I would have heard about it and he would have heard about it,' that's exactly what happens in the real world, guys," interjected contestant Jamal Shipman.
"That's exactly what happens in the real world when a woman brings up a charge and people want to negate whether or not it's legitimate. They say, 'If it was such a big issue, then they would have brought it up last year, two years ago, three years ago.' We are not entitled to know things just because we're men and just because we're in power."
When Jeff Probst made is extremely clear he would not "let it go," as Pilo had hoped, Dan apologized. "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."
He went on to apologize to Kim directly before adding, "True, untrue, it doesn't matter what I feel. 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." Kim was not allowed to respond during tribal, leaving more to be explored in the finale at the end of the season.
Shipman then followed Kim onto the jury as the second person evicted on the night.
The controversy got the show trending on Twitter Wednesday night as viewers weighed in on the allegations of misconduct, and other piled on Elizabeth and Missy for using the allegations strategically to try and gain trust from Kim before voting her out of the game. Many fans were not happy to see such a serious issue used as leverage and strategy for a game.
You can check out some of the reactions to tonight's two-hour episode below, including a tweet from Kellee herself:
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
Also we must not forget about Kellee in all of this. Dan is no victim here. He clearly made her uncomfortable and we need to listen to women rather than discredit them every chance we get. Her bravery to speak up needs to be acknowledged. #Survivor
I truly think one SHOULD lie, cheat, and steal to win #Survivor, but the way that Missy, Lauren, and Elizabeth handled the Dan situation for GAME, especially towards Janet, took things way too far and was GROSS. Aaron talking to Janet at tribal was also super gross. Ugh.
I'm 100% Janet at this point. The women's use of sexual harassment is the reason people don't believe victims. I'm legit pissed off watching this; as pissed off as I was watching Dan before someone told him he was behaving inappropriately.#Survivor #SurvivorJanet @survivorcbs
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
liz lying about how dan made her uncomfortable completely invalidates every other girl who genuinely did feel uncomfortable by dan & that is sick. i get it's a game, but this situation is too real to be using it as strategy #survivor
This episode of #survivor is abhorrent. Dan's behavior was gross, but these women are even worse. They had a platform and used it to set women's rights back. It's hard enough for victims of sexual assault to be believed. Vote them ALL out. JANET should win. She's the real hero.