Two women on the 39th season of Survivor have apologized after exploiting another contestant’s sexual harassment accusations to get ahead in the game—resulting in the accuser being voted off the show.
During Wednesday’s episode, Kellee Kim expressed her discomfort, not for the first time, with unwanted physical contact by Dan Spilo, who she had specifically asked earlier in the season to stop touching her. She found sympathy among other women in the cast, particularly Missy Byrd, prompting Kim to say in a talking-head interview that the situation “isn’t just one person, it’s a pattern.” A producer then made a rare interjection offering to intervene.
Kim declined, though the producers did have a talk with the cast and warned Spilo about his behavior. In spite of her issues with Spilo, Kim decided to vote out Byrd instead, but after a series of backstabbings and double-crossings, Kim was the one sent home after Byrd and another woman, Elizabeth Beisel, told one of Spilo’s in-game allies that they too were uncomfortable with his conduct. Then, they voted off Kim instead. They later admitted to manipulating the situation, with Beisel outright stating that she had personally never been made uncomfortable by Spilo’s actions despite what she had told Spilo’s ally.
All this came to light during one of the show’s tribal councils, during which Kim was not allowed to speak. Spilo praised the #MeToo movement and said of Kim’s discomfort, “If I ever did anything that ever even remotely made her feel uncomfortable—it horrifies me, and I am terribly sorry.” But he objected to the accusation being used as part of the game, as Byrd and Beisel used it.
Byrd and Beisel’s actions also drew backlash among fans, prompting both women to apologize. “I became so caught up in game play that I did not realize a very serious situation, nor did I handle it with the care that it deserved,” Byrd wrote on Twitter, apologizing to Kim, Spilo’s ally Janet Corbin, and all women. “Due to the nature of Survivor, I was viewing the game through a small lens and with a limited scope. I did not have all the information on the subject and I made a game move that was unjust.”
Biegel issued a very similar apology—both women say they didn’t have all the information and call this a “life-changing” moment—with an added note to “Dan and men everywhere” that “your reputation is never meant to be someone else’s stepping stone. It is not a topic to joke about or to be used as a tactical ploy, and for that, I apologize.”
As for Kim, she has asked that viewers “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.”
CBS issued a statement that “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.”