A #MeToo moment struck "Survivor" Wednesday night when multiple female contestants accused Hollywood talent manager and fellow castaway Dan Spilo of touching them inappropriately on the island.
Over the course of a two-hour broadcast, the women reported several instances of unwanted contact initiated by Spilo, backed by video evidence, forcing an unprecedented response from the network. The incident sparked a controversial chain of events, causing producers to break the fourth wall and issue a statement addressing the situation.
"In the episode broadcast last night, several female castaways discussed the behavior of a male castaway that made them uncomfortable," CBS and MGM said in a statement provided to the Los Angeles Times on Thursday. "During the filming of this episode, producers spoke off-camera to all the contestants still in the game, both as a group and individually, to hear any concerns and advise about appropriate boundaries. A formal warning was also given to the male castaway in question.
"On 'Survivor,' producers provide the castaways a wide berth to play the game," the statement continued. "At the same time, 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."
During the often dramatic merge between two competing tribes on the long-running reality series, two players, Kellee Kim and Missy Byrd, bonded over their upsetting interactions with Spilo. During their intimate beach conversation, the women swapped stories about Spilo's actions, describing nonconsensual touching in areas such as the ribcage, toes and hair, as well as Spilo wrapping his arm around Byrd as she tried to fall asleep.
In the episode, corroborating footage of Spilo at camp appeared on screen as the women described his behavior. Eventually they sought protection from an older female player, Janet Carbin, who had a good relationship with Spilo. Upon hearing her tribe-mates' stories, Carbin promised Kim to confront Spilo if she witnessed the inappropriate behavior herself.
Spilo did not respond to the Times' requests for comment Thursday.
Spilo's conduct also caused concern behind the scenes, prompting producers -- who usually avoid interfering in the gameplay as much as possible -- to get involved. During an emotional one-on-one interview with Kim in the first half of the broadcast, a producer could be heard off-camera checking on her well-being.
"This isn't just one person; it's a ... pattern," Kim said, holding back tears. "The way I'm feeling about this is actually real. It's not in my head. ... He literally has done these things to five different women in this game. That sucks. That totally, totally sucks."
"You know, if there are issues to the point where things need to happen, come to me and I will make sure that stops," the unseen producer replied in a rare moment of interruption. "'Cause that's -- I don't want anyone to feel uncomfortable."