From the beginning of Survivor's 39th season, Kellee Kim has expressed discomfort around Dan Spilo, confronting him about the way he engaged with her physically. However, on Wednesday night's episode, the situation came to a head when the tribes merged and Kellee shared her experience with fellow castaway Missy Byrd. Acknowledging an emotional Kellee, Missy said, "It's inappropriate touching. I'm not an object."
Feeling empowered, Kelle then turned to producers. "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."
And, in a rare Survivor moment, an off-camera producer off-camera began a conversation with her. "If there are issues to the point where things need to happen, come to me and I will make sure that stops," Kellee was told. "Because I don't want anyone feeling uncomfortable…It's not OK."
The following day, execs on the long-running CBS show intervened and met with the cast, a title card on screen explained, noting Dan had been issued a warning for his behavior.
However, the situation was far from over. Missy along with contestant Elizabeth Beisel then admitted they had fabricated their interactions with Dan—a celebrity rep whose clients include Joey King and Jared Padalecki—to put a target on his back.
"My viewpoint is that I have never felt uncomfortable," Elizabeth told the camera. "I know what people are talking about, but it's more in a joking way, and maybe that's where we're on the wrong [side] of it because we shouldn't be joking about it."
Later, at a follow-up tribal council, Dan was finally asked to weigh in on the situation by host Jeff Probst.
"I work in an industry in which the #MeToo movement was formed and allowed, thank God, to blossom and become powerful and strong," he began. "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."
"If ever did anything that ever even remotely made [Kellee] feel uncomfortable, it horrifies me, and I am terribly sorry," he continued. "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."
He apologized once again before explaining his character outside of the game. "I couldn't be more confident in that I'm one of the kindest, gentlest people I know," he said. "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."
Today, Dan still remains in the game. And now, Jeff is sharing his point of view.
"I am incredibly proud of Kellee for being willing to speak up," he said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. "She was very courageous in speaking her truth."
"It's very clear that Dan's touching was making some of the women uncomfortable, and we saw many of those moments on camera," he continued. "There is no denying that it happened. But as Missy and Elizabeth embellished their stories about the situation, it put Dan in an unfair light and further complicated everything."
As for their plan to exaggerate Dan's actions, the longtime host said it's important to note that the players never know all the information when strategizing.
"Missy was not privy to Kellee's private confessional where she shared how upset she was about Dan," he explained. "Then, to complicate things, Missy learns that Kellee is actually conspiring against her, to vote her out. This changes everything. Missy has a new archenemy and voting out Kellee becomes the mission."
"Elizabeth states that she wasn't uncomfortable with Dan's behavior," he added. "She hadn't spent time with Kellee, so she didn't have any insight into how Kellee was feeling. So, from her point of view, Elizabeth didn't see any issue in going along with the Dan story. Perhaps if she understood the impact Dan was having on Kellee she might have made a very different choice."
For his part, Jeff believed it was critical to the game for him to bring up the allegations at Tribal Council, despite Dan's owns frustrations.
"This was an obviously important story," the Emmy winner told the outlet. "Dan was the central figure in the story, so this was the appropriate forum for the discussion."
"This situation also highlighted another layer of the changing dynamic between men and women: You don't have to feel unsafe to feel uncomfortable and making someone uncomfortable is not okay," he continued. "This is new territory for this important conversation and my hope was that everybody could share their point of view, in an open forum, about what had gone down and we could get total clarity. But, as you saw, players were still very much in game mode and reluctant to talk."