Survivor waded into new waters with an installment of season 39 that touched on #MeToo and inappropriate touching.
In the Wednesday, Nov. 13 episode of Survivor: Island of the Idols, "We Made it to the Merge," Kellee Kim raised concerns about what she felt was inappropriate touching by fellow Vokai tribe member Dan Spilo. Producers broke the fourth wall, a rarity for the long-running reality show, and interviewed Kellee about it.
"This isn't just one person," she said in a confessional. "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."
Then, producers spoke to all the contestants as a group and individually.
"In the episode broadcast last night, several female castaways discussed the behavior of a male castaway that made them uncomfortable. 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," CBS and MGM said in a statement.
But it's what happened in the game that raised eyebrows.
Contestants Elizabeth Beisel and Missy Byrd used Kellee's complaints and fabricated interactions between Elizabeth and Dan to make Dan a target of other contestants. Their plan worked, Dan's ally Janet Carbin voted against him, but when she found out what Missy and Elizabeth did, Janet considered leaving the game. The episode had more than a few fans quitting the show.
For the first time in #survivor history @JeffProbst dropped the ball in a major way. Missy and Elizabeth needed to be called out for using Kellee’s admission of discomfort with Dan’s behavior as a tool to further their game. Sexual misconduct is too serious an issue to let go.— Redwingssuck (@redwingssuck3) November 14, 2019
Fans continued calling out host Jeff Probst as well.
I've watched every episode of #Survivor since the first season, but I'm finished with this season. Taking advantage of sexual harassment to benefit your game crosses a line. Also, Kellee, Janet, Jamal, Karishma, and Nora are the only players I'd ever want to see return.— jag77 (@jag776) November 14, 2019
Former contestant Daniel Rengering spoke out about what he called a "disturbing" situation on the show.
There were SO MANY “NO” moments in tonight’s episode of @SurvivorCBS. On top of the wrong person being sent home, the silence of certain people, especially certain women was disturbing. The silence was deafening on film, and even more so on all of their social media tonight. WOW.— Daniel Rengering (@DanielRengering) November 14, 2019
However, how Survivor handled everything was praised by some.
I love that the women on this season are speaking up on these issues and that CBS is showing it. Every single woman I know can tell you multiple stories of those kinds of uncomfortable situations. And it's never okay. Please listen. #Survivor #survivor39— Tipsy Survivor Fan (@tipsy_realityTV) November 14, 2019
Survivor airs Wednesdays, 8 p.m. on CBS.