A pair of female “Survivor” contestants say they’re sorry for taking advantage of a third woman’s complaints about unwanted physical contact in order to advance in the game.
The apologies came after a two-hour episode of the popular CBS aired on Wednesday night, in which the women said that a male contestant had touched them inappropriately. The show’s producers got involved and issued the man, Dan Spilo, a formal warning, but, in a Machiavellian twist, the two accusers admitted to using the situation to oust the other, Kellee Kim.
On Thursday night, after a fan backlash, the two contestants, Missy Byrd and Elizabeth Beisel, issued lengthy apologies online.
“I became so caught up in game play that I did not realize a very serious situation, nor did I handle it with the care that it deserved,” Ms. Byrd said on Twitter. Sexual harassment and sexual assault “have no business being used as tactics to further one’s own agenda,” Ms. Beisel said.
Their actions left many fans disappointed with how the contestants and producers handled the complaints on the show, which is unspooling a carefully edited story line after several weeks of filming this year on an island of Fiji. The winner of this 39th season, “Island of Idols,” will be revealed in December.
“For the first time ever, I think I’m going to stop watching the show,” Eliza Orlins, a former “Survivor” contestant, said on Twitter. “I’m done with this season. I have friends on season 40 so I’ll pick it back then, but honestly, I’m out after tonight. This felt … really gross.”
During the show, the producers said that they had met with the contestants individually and collectively to caution them against violating personal boundaries, and to issue Mr. Spilo a formal “warning,” the consequences of which were not clear.
“On ‘Survivor,’ producers provide the castaways a wide berth to play the game,” CBS and MGM, which owns the company that produces the show, said in a statement on Thursday. “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.”
Early in Wednesday’s episode, Ms. Kim and Ms. Byrd bonded over what they described as unwanted physical contact by Mr. Spilo, such as his brushing aside Ms. Kim’s hair despite her having asked him to stop touching her, and putting his arm on Ms. Byrd as she tried to sleep.
In a confessional, Ms. Kim then tearfully described how she felt upon realizing that other women had similar experiences: “This isn’t just one person, it’s a pattern,” she said.
Moments later, an unidentified crew member off screen offered a rare interjection: Should Ms. Kim feel the need, she should come to the crew member and he would put an end to the behavior, he said.
While the producers met with all of the contestants and “cautioned” them about crossing personal boundaries, the contestants’ responses to the situation were muddied by gameplay.
Early in the episode, Ms. Kim said that, despite her genuine discomfort with Mr. Spilo’s actions, she would not let it cloud her judgment.
The game is unfair, she said, adding that she could use Mr. Spilo as a “decoy” vote while targeting Ms. Byrd. Meanwhile, Ms. Byrd conspired with Ms. Beisel to play up their discomfort with Mr. Spilo in conversations with others while instead secretly targeting Ms. Kim.
In the end, a majority of the contestants voted to kick Ms. Kim off the island, while the rest cast their votes for Mr. Spilo, who remained. Later, after he was confronted by another female contestant who had heard the accusations, Mr. Spilo sought out Ms. Byrd and Ms. Beisel, who both played down what they had said.
“Dan, the only thing that we can say to that is that if we truly, truly felt that, did we not have the power to vote you out tonight?” Ms. Byrd said.
“I have never felt uncomfortable,” Ms. Beisel said separately, in a confessional.
In a tribal council discussion at the end of the show, Mr. Spilo offered an apology while Ms. Kim, who had already been voted off and was prohibited from participating in the discussion, sat nearby.
“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.
After the show aired, Ms. Kim said on Twitter that she was hurt and saddened watching the episode, but that “no one deserves threats or shaming and we can talk about this in a way that we are all better for it.”
The episode frustrated fans, some of whom felt that the show had reinforced negative stereotypes and expectations when it comes to harassment and assault allegations.
“Survivor and CBS’s failure to act left the cast to try to continue to navigate a game for $1 million and deal with this, and the end result was affirming, for an audience of millions, the most toxic, regressive ideas about sexual misconduct,” one of the fans, Andy Dehnart, a pop culture critic, said on Twitter. (Mr. Dehnart once worked as a freelance writer for The New York Times.)
Neither Mr. Spilo nor Ms. Kim responded to requests for comment.
The post Female ‘Survivor’ Contestants Apologize After #MeToo Backlash appeared first on New York Times.