‘Survivor’ Removes Player Accused of Inappropriate Touching

‘Survivor’ Removes Player Accused of Inappropriate Touching

A “Survivor” contestant who had been warned about his unwanted physical contact was removed from the CBS reality competition on Wednesday night’s episode, with producers doing little to explain what happened.

The revelation that Dan Spilo, a Hollywood talent manager, was involved in what the show termed “another incident” ignited immediate fury among fans who have criticized how earlier accusations against him were handled. A contestant raised concerns about his behavior within days of arriving on the island, and an episode in November centered on her complaints that he had continued to inappropriately touch her.

At the time, he was allowed to continue in the game. Mr. Spilo, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday night, has denied any wrongdoing.

But at the end of Wednesday’s episode, after the field had been winnowed to six contestants, the show’s host and executive producer, Jeff Probst, unexpectedly visited the players’ beach camp.

“A decision has been made, and Dan will not be returning to the game,” Mr. Probst told the shocked contestants. “He won’t be coming back to camp, he won’t be on the jury. He’s gone.”

A brief title card soon added: “Dan was removed from the game after a report of another incident, which happened off-camera and did not involve a player.”

It did not explain what happened in the new incident. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Mr. Probst offered little additional context.

“In this situation, out of respect for privacy and confidentiality, I can’t say any more,” Mr. Probst said.

Now in its 39th season after debuting in 2000, “Survivor,” which films two seasons per year, has remained among the ratings leaders on Wednesdays by recycling but tweaking its formula of contestants voting each other out until a single champion is crowned. But this season, at first embraced by fans, has been largely overshadowed by the discussion over Spilo’s conduct, and how the show’s producers have handled it.

In the season’s first episode, a contestant, Kellee Kim, sat Mr. Spilo down and told him his touching made her uncomfortable. They appeared to resolve the situation, and began working together in the game.

Credit…Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment

But in the eighth episode, broadcast Nov. 13, two other contestants, Missy Byrd and Elizabeth Beisel, told Ms. Kim that Mr. Spilo had also made them uncomfortable. The show aired additional footage of Mr. Spilo touching Ms. Kim.

In response to a tearful interview with Ms. Kim, a producer said that if she needed to, she could come to a crew member and he would put a stop to the behavior. All of the players were given reminders about personal boundaries, and Mr. Spilo was given a private, specific warning.

The issue became uncomfortably wrapped up in gameplay. Ms. Byrd and Ms. Beisel would later backtrack and say they exaggerated their discomfort with Mr. Spilo to gain the trust of Ms. Kim, who was voted out in the episode. (After the episode aired, Ms. Byrd and Ms. Beisel apologized, saying they did not realize the seriousness of the situation.)

In the Nov. 13 episode, Mr. Spilo defended himself at tribal council, where a contestant is voted out and grievances are often aired.

“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,” he said.

On Wednesday, after the most recent episode aired, Ms. Kim said on Twitter that she was “disappointed by how this pattern of behavior was allowed to occur for so long.”

“While Dan’s dismissal has validated the concerns that I raised from the beginning of this season, I wish that no one else had to be subjected to this type of behavior,” she said.

The show had never before removed a player for behavioral reasons, though some have quit or been removed for medical issues. In the interview with Entertainment Weekly, Mr. Probst said Mr. Spilo was “not happy” with the decision.

“With our contestants’ welfare at the forefront, we have spent a lot of time discussing every layer of the situation with human resources, diversity and inclusion representatives, show therapists, lawyers, publicists, and standards and practices,” he said. “We all worked diligently throughout the entire process to make the right decisions and portray an accurate depiction of what took place.”

Much of fans’ frustration was aimed at the production decisions. Some former contestants felt the same.

Zeke Smith, a two-time contestant, said on Twitter that Mr. Spilo “could have and should have been stopped long ago, but those in power made a choice not to stop him. Shame on you, Survivor.”

Angelina Keeley, a finalist in the show’s 37th season, said on Twitter: “Survivor should let viewers know what happened.”

“If the ‘incident’ was an incident of sexual harassment or worse, then that language should have been explicitly used,” she said. “By merely saying incident it leaves viewers confused and doesn’t call out the issue at hand appropriately.”

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