Why ‘Survivor’ Is Pre-Recording the Season Finale for First Time in History

Season 39 of Survivor has been nothing short of challenging for contestants and viewers alike. A sexual harassment scandal has rocked the show this season, with castaway Dan Spilo engaging in behavior that came to a head during a recent episode. 

Now, with the results of Spilo’s behavior rocking the crew and viewers at home, it seems there are more changes on the way. It’s been revealed that the Survivor finale will be pre-taped for the first time in history. And it seems as if the two events are connected. Here’s what we know about the big change. 

Dan Spilo was booted off ‘Survivor’ 

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Dan Spilo has been the subject of much controversy since his debut on Survivor: Island of the Idols. Spilo was notably touchy-feely at camp, touching without asking, laying on others, and giving massages. His behavior made some of his fellow castaways uncomfortable.

Things eventually came to a head when Kellee Kim came to producers with her concerns. Other castaways seemed to agree with Kim, who Jeff Probst points out handled the situation with aplomb.

Entertainment Weekly, “To her credit, Kellee stated that she felt the issue could be handled by the players involved and did not want us to take any action on her behalf. And as you saw in her earlier conversation with Missy, both women were very clear that they were not going to let one person ‘blow up their game.’ But based on Kellee’s interview, the producer immediately shared the story with me and I immediately contacted CBS. The decision was made to meet with all players, both as a group and individually, to remind them of personal boundaries and hear of any concerns.”

Spilo received a talking to, but things got worse. Spilo later touched a Survivor crew member’s leg while on a boat. This lead to him being removed from the show, as it was in line with his previous patterns of behavior.

Probst told the castaways, “A decision has been made and Dan will not be returning to the game. He will not be coming back to camp. He’s gone. “

The finale will be pre-recorded 

Jeff Probst
Jeff Probst | CBS via Getty Images

A source close to Survivor informed Entertainment Weekly that the decision to pre-tape this season’s finale episode is due in part to security concerns, as well as the sensitive nature of what happened.

EW reported that the goal is, “to make sure the players feel as comfortable and safe as possible while discussing what happened out on the island.”

Previously, the finale has aired live with a ten-second delay. This time, it will taped ahead, though there will still be an audience. It’s expected that the reunion will go “live-to-tape” from 1-4 pm, PT, and then aired later that evening.

There have been finale disasters in the past

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While there’s certainly potential for a dramatic finale this season, Jeff Probst says there was one live finale that almost wound up in total disaster. 

During the season finale for Survivor: Gabon, a producer who no longer works on the show was meant to bring Jeff Probst the final votes. Only, the producer showed up empty-handed. At first, Probst thought the producer was pulling a prank. However, he soon realized he was about to have to go on stage without any votes to read for his castaways. 

Luckily, one of Probst’s crew members saved the day. Probst told Entertainment Weekly, “One of our other crew members, Chris Campbell, had a motorcycle. So he gets on his motorcycle and he starts racing to our production offices. He gets to the office. He’s one of the three people who has the combo, but he doesn’t have a key to the office where the safe is! So this is the truth: He breaks the glass.”

“He faxes every single vote and we’re now in a really small room at CBS with [producer/production designer] Dan Munday and a CBS executive. And Dan is retracing every single vote by hand. And the live show is playing, and the time is ticking down! Now we’re 15 minutes away!” Probst continued. 

Luckily, they were able to pull it off in the nick of time.