This season of Survivor has been anything but the norm.
Season 39, Survivor: Island of the Idols, featured producers breaking the fourth wall to discuss issues contestant Kellee Kim raised about fellow contestant Dan Spilo and his personal boundary-crossing touching, other contestants using Kellee's story to try and manipulate the game, Dan's ejection from the show after an unseen incident and an announcement of sweeping changes. Nothing was off the table in the three-hour finale on Wednesday, Dec. 18.
At the finale taping, longtime host Jeff Probst apologized to Kellee. The host told Kellee they intended to do the right thing about the complaints about Dan's behavior, but "in the months that have passed we have learned so much about what we could have and should have done instead, and if this happened today, we would handle it much differently," he said.
"You were right to speak up. You were right to step forward, despite a lot of risk, and to speak your truth, and I want to acknowledge and apologize for your pain. You didn't ask for it, and you didn't deserve it," he told her. On the show, Kellee said she felt a lot of pressure, but she wanted to do right by all the people who have looked up to her. She said the most difficult things to get over was Dan's inclusion in the game after her complaints.
"I think one of the things that has been and was the hardest thing was the fact that Dan remained in the game even after I spoke up," she said. "And the reason why is not necessarily the injustice, it's because I felt like I spoke up and I was not being supported or believed. And when someone goes through something like this or anything remotely like it, to not be supported and not be believed is really the hardest thing. It's one of the hardest things."
On Twitter, Kellee opened up after the taping.
"This has been a hard season, but I'm proud that the change I fought for is happening. I've been inspired & overwhelmed by the people who have reached out to support me & share their stories," she tweeted, thanking Time's Up Legal Defense Fund, civil rights attorney Debra Katz, and "everyone who has been in this with me."
In an interview with EW, Kellee admitted she was nervous to do the reunion show. "I think the amount of pressure that was put upon me, no one asks for that amount of pressure. No one asks to be put in a situation that I was put in, and so I felt such a big responsibility in terms of not just voicing my own voice, but really sharing because it matters for so many other stories and so many other people that have gone through something like this," she said.
As for the apology from Jeff Probst, Kellee said it "feels really good."
"But I think what's most important about the apology is this idea of taking responsibility. Because CBS and Survivor are going to institute these changes that I've suggested. You can put in policies and procedures, but unless you have the heart and the intent to actually make those changes, things aren't going to be different. And so more than anything, that's what that meant to me, was, ‘OK, we can move forward, we can be different and we can do better and no one else has to go through something like this,'" she said.
Following Dan's ejection from the game, CBS announced a number of changes that were made to the already-filmed Survivor season 40 as well as the upcoming Survivor season 41 and other reality show's on the network. Read all about them here.
"Hopefully after hearing Jeff's apology tonight, after talking to people around set and production and just being in this space, I have hope that these policies will be put into place. I have to hope. I have to hope that change is going to happen," Kellee told EW.
Survivor will return for season 40 on CBS.