Dan Spilo was removed from Survivor after an incident in which he allegedly touched a female producer’s thigh

By Natalie Stone
December 19, 2019 12:26 AM
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For the first time in Survivor history, the Island of the Idols reunion part of the finale was pre-taped — as the show wrapped its most controversial season of all time.

On Wednesday night’s finale reunion special, host Jeff Probst and this season’s contestants — minus Jack Nichting and Elizabeth Beisel — addressed the allegations against former contestant Dan Spilo, who was also absent from the taping.

“We intended to do the right thing. 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,” Probst said before giving Kellee Kim, who spoke out about the 48-year-old player’s misconduct on the show before she was eliminated, a chance to speak. “We are committed to doing our part to turn this into something positive.”

Before Kim spoke, Probst added that he wanted to acknowledge that she was right for coming forward about what she says was inappropriate touching by Spilo despite the fact he was not removed from the show until a producer also made a similar accusation.

“I want to say to you, you were right,” Probst addressed the contestant. “You were right to speak up, you were right to step forward despite a lot of risk, 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.”

Kellee Kim
Kellee Kim
| Credit: Robert Voets/CBS Entertainmen

Kim expressed she was nervous about finally having her moment to speak about the scandal before explaining that one of the hardest things for her was the fact that Spilo remained in the game even after she expressed concerns about his behavior.

“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,” Kim said. “And when someone goes through something like this or even something remotely like it, to not be supported and not be believed is really the hardest thing.”

Probst said that Kim’s points were the biggest thing that he and the others behind the show learned from the situation.

“Your voice should have been enough,” Probst told Kim. “One silver lining is it will next time. We learned a lot from you being willing to stand up and take it and continue and try and play.”

Kim said that ultimately, she hopes that her Season 39 of Survivor won’t be defined by Spilo’s inappropriate actions.

Dan Spilo
Credit: Robert Voets/CBS via Getty

“I certainly didn’t ask my Survivor experience to be defined by this. We can’t really go back,” Kim said, adding that even though she spoke out, “it was incredibly difficult” to come forward.

“I think the most important thing when I think about this situation that happened is that I hope this season of Survivor isn’t defined by inappropriate touching or sexual harassment,” she continued. “I hope that it’s defined by change.”

“I feel like I can be really proud of the fact that I spoke up, and I asked for these changes and CBS and Survivor are making those changes, because I asked,” she went on. “As a result of this season, many of us have had these hard conversations. We’ve learned a lot and I think we’re still learning.”

“Ultimately, my biggest hope is that each one of us, each individual, each institution, each organization, especially CBS and Survivor, can take this, learn from it, and do better. I fundamentally believe that we can do better.”

To that, Probst promised, “We are committed to it, Kellee.”

Spilo was removed from the game after an incident in which he allegedly touched a female producer’s thigh as he was getting into a transport boat.

The incident came just weeks after Spilo, a Hollywood agent, was accused of inappropriately touching Kim. During the controversial episode, Kim expressed concern that Spilo had violated her personal space, even after she made multiple requests for him to stop. He was not removed at the time and it was Kim that was voted of the island.

As a result of his alleged behavior towards the producer, Spilo was uninvited from the finale reunion special by producers. Ahead of the finale, Spilo apologized for his actions in a statement to PEOPLE on Tuesday.

“I am deeply sorry for how my actions affected Kellee during the taping of this season of Survivor,” he wrote in an exclusive statement. “After apologizing at the tribal council when I first learned that Kellee still felt uncomfortable, I want to make sure I do so again, clearly and unambiguously.”

Dan Spilo
Credit: Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment

“I truly regret that anyone was made to feel uncomfortable by my behavior,” Spilo continued. “In my life, I have always tried to treat others with decency, integrity and kindness. I can only hope that my actions in the future can help me to make amends and show me to be the kind of father, husband, colleague and friend that I always aim to be.”

Although contestants are paid $10,000 to appear in the final broadcast, the reunion could have hit a speed bump as some players initially decided to forego the money, a production source told PEOPLE.

“It was chaos there for a while,” the production source said. “There were about eight contestants were on the fence, because there would be so much negativity.”

One contestant also told PEOPLE that many players discussed their options via a group text. “It was like, ‘I’m going, are you? If you don’t go, I might not go, either,” one contestant said. “There was kind of an ‘all for one and one for all’ mentality there, but then it went away.”

Eventually, high-ranking producers — including Probst — personally reached out to the contestants to convince them to appear. One by one, most of the contestants decided to show up for the reunion.

As of Wednesday afternoon, only three of the 20 contestants were not planning to appear at the reunion show, multiple sources told PEOPLE. (In addition to Spilo, who was uninvited, two other post-merge contestants were currently planning to skip it.)

A source told Entertainment Weekly that the decision to pre-tape the finale was made in order to help the players “feel as comfortable and safe as possible while discussing what happened out on the island,” in addition to concerns about security and the sensitive material covered on the show this season.

“Security will be tight,” a second production source told PEOPLE. “The last thing anyone needs is for a protest to break out in that studio. People are upset. Everyone has an opinion. This is about real-life situations that strike a chord with a lot of people.”