Survivor as a game and show looks broken following Spilo's ejection on last night's episode, says Daniel Fienberg. "Amid accusations of inappropriate touching, the CBS unscripted series failed to protect its contestants and failed to protect the integrity of the beloved and long-running game," says Fienberg. "My affection for an involvement with CBS' Survivor runs deep. It isn't just that I've been a viewer for all 39 seasons, never missing an episode, but I've recapped at least half of the seasons for various publications and done exit interviews with well over 100 contestants. So you have to understand my sadness in saying that the Survivor producers and CBS may have killed Survivor. It happens. All good things end. This, however, was not a thing that needed to get killed. This was a death of miscalculation, manslaughter if not outright murder. Somewhere, somebody needs to feel shame — not embarrassment, but shame — at what happened this season and owing to potential legal ramifications, I doubt we'll see any regret or remorse at all. In fact, Survivor host Jeff Probst has generally viewed debacles of a much smaller scale as pointing to how sometimes the ugliness of the real world can find expression and representation on Survivor. This has been the opposite. During the past month, we've seen conclusive proof and reminders that Survivor is not a social experiment or the real world in microcosm. It's a game for $1 million and it's not equipped at all to handle much of what people are forced to handle in the real world."
This season has been a recurring nightmare and an extension of CBS' record of cluelessness when it comes to sexual misconduct: "We’ve seen enough to know that the show screwed up," says James Poniewozik. "Watching Survivor bungle (Kellee) Kim’s complaints, well into the #MeToo era, was like watching a recurring nightmare: A woman is touched inappropriately, she speaks up about it, her concerns are minimized or paid lip service. Oh, but she’d have been treated better if only there were proof, right? Ha ha, guess again! Even when there is video documentation — even on a show whose premise is constant surveillance — the behavior still continues and the business that she complains to still does next to nothing. What’s more, she’s the one who suffers for speaking up." Poniewozik also scoffed at Jeff Probst for previously saying last month Survivor is different from a workplace. "Ultimately, Survivor is a real thing that exists in the world," says Poniewozik. "Sexual misconduct on Survivor is not a metaphor for sexual misconduct. It is an actual action that happens to an actual person. Survivor is not a metaphor for a workplace. It is a workplace, not just for the crew and producers but for the contestants, who sign contracts, make money and contribute to the product of a multi-million-dollar business. For the sake of its cast and crew — as well as the message it’s sending to millions of men, women and kids in its audience — Survivor needs to start acting like that. It needs to confront, in its regular post-finale special, how it failed, why it was wrong and what it’s going to change. Survivor may construct its own reality for entertainment. But this isn’t a game."