How ‘Survivor 39’ Kellee Kim Helped CBS Implement New Procedures Following Misconduct Allegations

Even though Dan Spilo was the first Survivor player removed for misconduct, there have been other similar incidents in the show’s history, including Richard Hatch and Sue Hawk (All-Stars) and Ted Rogers and Ghandia Johnson (Thailand).

However, it took Kellee Kim from Survivor: Island of the Idols speaking up to get CBS’ production to implement new procedures surrounding personal space, boundaries, and sexual harassment.

Kellee Kim
Kellee Kim | Monty Brinton

CBS implemented new procedures following Kellee Kim and Dan Spilo controversy

During the first episode, Kellee Kim spoke to Dan Spilo privately and asked that he refrain from touching her and giving her unwanted massages. However, the Hollywood talent manager did not stop, driving Kellee to break down on camera a few episodes later.

For the first time, a producer broke the fourth wall and told the MBA student that they would step in if she needed it. The production crew then said they had a group as well as individual meetings with the contestants to clarify personal space and boundaries.

Additionally, they gave Dan his first official warning. The majority voted Kellee off the island that night, and the talent manager made it to the top seven until production pulled him from the game for another misconduct allegation involving a cast member.

Viewers blasted CBS for mishandling the situation and not removing Dan or giving him a warning earlier when Kellee first expressed discomfort. Castaways Missy Byrd and Elizabeth Beisel also seemingly used the allegations against Dan for gameplay causing more backlash from the Survivor community.

Therefore, CBS released a statement outlining the new procedures and policies they established for future seasons. They added a cast orientation with “specific guidelines regarding personal space, inappropriate behavior, and how to report these issues” to pre-production.

Additionally, the producers have added another on-site professional, alongside mental health providers currently available, where players can “report any concerns,” which “production can address promptly apart from the game.”

They have also included more policies the producers will cover in orientation, such as “new anti-harassment, unconscious bias, and sensitivity training” and implemented a new rule prohibiting castaways from bringing “unwelcome physical contact, sexual harassment, and impermissible biases” into the game and using them for gameplay.

Kellee Kim said CBS consulted with her on new procedures for ‘Survivor’ in exit interview

After her elimination, Dan apologized to Kellee, but she was not allowed to speak per the rules of the jury. Host Jeff Probst claimed he consulted with Kellee first about how they would handle it, but the MBA student denied the conversation ever happened.

She also criticized the show for allowing Dan’s behavior to continue after she first raised concerns. Additionally, in a statement from her attorney Debra Katz, Kellee “was concerned that she was not going to be able to speak at the finale.”

However, during the reunion, the MBA student sat down with the host, and he apologized, accepted responsibility, and told Kellee she was “right” to come forward. Kellee admitted the most challenging part was the fact that they allowed Dan to stay in the game for weeks after she spoke up and waited for it to happen to another woman.

After the reunion, she spoke to Rob Cesterino of Rob Has a Podcast and said it “meant a lot” that Probst acknowledged and heard her. However, she’s happy her speaking out created new policies and procedures to ensure it doesn’t happen to anyone else.

Kellee also said CBS involved her in figuring out the new rules, namely adding a third-party person to set so castaways know where to go when reporting issues.

Even though the last nine months have been hard for her, Kellee said she “received an overwhelming amount of support” and is glad her story brought forth much-needed change.