The tribal council met for the final time Wednesday night to choose Tommy Sheehan as the winner of Survivor: Island of the Idols. But the Survivor evening — which, on the East Coast, was a truncated affair due to live coverage of the impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives — turned into a much more emotional two hours of television.
During the reunion portion of the night, contestant Kellee Kim confronted host and producer Jeff Probst about what she considered to be an inadequate response by the show and CBS to reports of inappropriate behavior by contestant Dan Spilo. Once the accusations of Spilo surfaced, he was ejected from the show. But the response from Survivor and CBS has left many questions in its wake.
“We intended to do the right thing,” Probst said. “If this was done today, we would have handled it much differently.” He added, “You were right. You were right to step forward despite a lot of risk.”
Kim later responded, her voice charged with emotion, “I have to fundamentally believe at the end of the day that individuals and institutions are capable of change, and I think that as a result of this season, many of us who had these conversations, we’ve learned a lot. I think we’re still learning. Ultimately, my biggest hope is that each one of us — each individual, each institution, each organization, and especially CBS and Survivor, can learn from it and do better. I fundamentally believe that we can do better.”
As the audience began raucous applause, Probst said, “We are committed to it, Kellee. I would love your insights as a player, and I just want to say, I can appreciate, I feel how nervous you are right now, and that you feel pressure and stakes. I feel like you expressed yourself really well. You continue to be a generous, great spokesperson. And I would add one more thing. Not only will CBS and Survivor continue to maybe lead the way with other, similar shows, but I know there are families watching right now that are seeing you, and they will say to their kids, ‘We should talk about this. We all need to understand that there’s a lot to this. So, I offer my hand in partnership and I say thank you, Kellee.”
Tina Tchen, president and CEO of the Time’s Up Foundation, released a statement after the finale aired on the East Coast.
“Tonight, millions of viewers witnessed an unprecedented cultural moment in television history: Survivor host Jeff Probst publicly acknowledged that the show failed Kellee Kim when she came forward to say she had been sexually harassed and Survivor did not take appropriate action,” Tchen said. “In doing so, Survivor used its cultural influence to take responsibility and have an honest and direct dialogue about a serious, systemic problem that has been ignored for far too long.”
Tchen added that Kim’s experience is “the same sort of painful scenario that plays out every day across industries and occupations, and up and down the wage scale: someone is treated inappropriately in a working environment and is concerned they will be retaliated against for raising the issue with management – only to have those exact fears come to pass.” The show, she added, “did the right thing and gave Kellee a platform.”
The two-hour finale of the 39th season of the CBS reality competition was filled with alliances, immunity challenges, betrayals, secrets and a few tears. Spilo didn’t factor much into the main episode. It wasn’t until the reunion portion that the controversy reared its head.
Spilo became the first contestant ejected from Survivor. Spilo, a prominent Hollywood manager-producer, was removed from the game after an “off-camera incident.” The incident was believed to involve physical contact with a member of the show’s production team as Spilo and other contestants were getting into a boat to transport them back to the camp after an immunity challenge.
Dean, Noura, Tommy, Lauren and Janet seemed unfazed by the ejection, as they continued to go about business as usual in Wednesday’s finale. At the beginning of the first hour, the five found out they were to spend the rest of their time on the Island of the Idols where they met Boston Rob and Sandra, who gave them new buffs. It is on the island where they will duke it out to find out who of them will make the final three to plead their case in front of the tribal council.
As they spend time on the island, we learn that the majority of them want to vote Janet off the island, as they see her as a threat. However, at one point, Noura said she wants to get rid of Dean, whom she compares to an “ex-boyfriend you can’t trust.”
Meanwhile, Tommy is driving himself crazy trying to squeeze out clues from the new buff. He finds a coconut that is pink on the inside and connects that with a pink plank that has an “H” symbol. It’s definitely a clue, but Tommy doesn’t know what it means, so he solicits the help of Dean, who agrees to help.
As Noura said, Dean can’t be trusted. He takes the information that Tommy gave him and goes off on his own to find clues. Lo and behold, he cracks the code and finds an immunity idol but doesn’t tell anyone.
Dean wins the first challenge and is awards a steak dinner. He brings along Noura to “make amends” but the rest of the group isn’t buying it. During the dinner, Noura said that if she wins the next challenge, she will bring Dean with him and they agree for the next vote to take out Janet.
Meanwhile, Tommy and Janet are strategizing too, and feel like Lauren should be voted out. Dean then tells Tommy that if he wins the next challenge, he will take him to the final three. At this point, it is clear that either Janet or Lauren is going home in the first hour of the finale.
During council, they vote, but as Jeff Probst is about to read the results, Janet stands up and said she wants to use her immunity idol, but is immediately denied as Dean trumps her with an immunity nullifier. As the votes are read, it is 4 for Janet and 1 for Lauren. It’s Janet’s time to go home.
As the show moves on, the remaining four join in the final immunity challenge, where they compete to stack blocks of letters on an unstable mechanism. As everyone struggles to play this game of building blocks, Noura comes out on top and is guaranteed a spot in the top three.
Whether she does it intentionally or not, she uses this win as a power play, and leaves the rest of the three guessing who she will take with her and who she will pit against each other in the fire challenge. In a very long-winded explanation, she decides to put Lauren and Dean into the fire challenge and picks Tommy. Lauren is in tears, as she thought Noura would choose her after saying she’s her “number 1”. That said, Lauren is not too happy when Noura comes to her as she is practicing her fire making skills to explain herself. It’s a pretty shady, but strategic, move on Noura’s part, considering everyone likes Lauren, and if it were to come down between the two of them, Lauren would get the votes from the council.
During the fire challenge, Lauren struggles to build a big inferno and Dean effortlessly wins. With Lauren out, it is now time for Dean, Noura and Tommy to plead their case to the tribal council.
Jack tells the trio they were tremendously undecided and the deliberations and debate begin. Noura chimes in with her two cents and makes nice with Lauren, but the majority of the time is focused on Dean and Tommy who are comparing immunity idol sizes and playing a game of “anything you can do I can do better.”
Tommy played a good “social game” and didn’t win any challenges or immunities. On the other hand, Dean won plenty of challenges. In fact, at one point he had an immunity nullifier, immunity idol, immunity and a legacy advantage — which we later learned was a fake thing Jamal made.
Either way, Tommy and Dean were both strategic, but the council, in the middle of a flash rain storm, called out Dean for being contradictory. He said he wouldn’t make pacts with people and it was revealed at council that he made them with multiple people. Looks like Noura was right…Dean is like an ex-boyfriend you can’t trust.
After the dust settled, the council cast its votes. We know that Lauren voted for Tommy and Aaron voted for Dean. Other than that, we won’t know the results until the reunion show.