CBS and Survivor Announce Changes After Controversial Season

CBS and Survivor have announced new changes to the rules of the long-running reality competition show after season 39's various scandals that resulted in a player being removed from the game.

By Lauren Piester Dec 18, 2019 3:00 AMTags

Changes are afoot on Survivor

After a controversial season filled with conversations about personal space and the limits of gameplay that ended with a player being removed from the game, CBS has announced new changes to the series. Some were put in place for season 40, which has already been filmed, but most of the changes will be in effect for seasons 41 and beyond. 

"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," the network said in a statement. "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."

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"Survivor has a 20-year track record of a strong support system on locations and after production. It is also a show that continues to evolve, as we respond to what we learn from every new situation and every player," the statement continued. "We will take the important lessons we learned from this season and adopt new protocols and procedures for future seasons, to ensure that the events that occurred this season are not repeated." 


For season 40, the pre-production cast orientation now included "specific guidelines regarding personal space, inappropriate behavior, and how to report these issues." 

Going forward, "producers are reviewing all elements of the show to further support appropriate interaction, including how the players live during, as well as after they are eliminated from, the competition." 

The show will "take additional steps to enhance procedures for training, reporting of issues, and prohibited forms of game play," including more on-site professionals to provide a confidential means of reporting any concerns, joining a support staff that already includes mental health providers. 

The pre-production orientation will also be further expanded to include new anti-harassment, unconscious bias, and sensitivity training for everyone on location, including cast, producers, and production crew. 

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The show will include a new rule "stating unwelcome physical contact, sexual harassment and impermissible biases cannot be brought into the competition and will not be permitted as part of gameplay. This will be covered in the cast orientation for each season, along with clear instructions on how to report violations." 

Survivor will also partner with a third-party expert in the field "to review, evolve or add to these new policies and procedures going forward." 

These changes are also not limited to Survivor, as CBS Entertainment will adapt these enhanced policies and procedures for other reality programming, likely including Big Brother, Love Island, and The Amazing Race

These changes all come after a season that began on day one with one player, Kellee Kim, speaking up about being uncomfortable with inappropriate touching and a lack of personal space from fellow player Dan Spilo

Later on in the game, after the tribes merged, Kellee raised the issue again, and it became part of the game. She didn't want to raise too much of an issue for the sake of her game, and other players used her concerns as strategy, as a way to get Dan out of the game, with all of it resulting in Kellee being voted out, while Dan was issued a behavior warning.  

With only four days left in the game, Dan was then removed from the game—a first in the history of the show—for an unspecified incident with a crew member. People later reported that he touched the thigh of a female crew member, and it was the "final straw." 

Dan was also uninvited from the finale, which, instead of airing live as it usually does, will tape ahead of time before airing Wednesday at 8 p.m. on CBS.