“Survivor” Castaway Kellee – “If Dan Had Respected Boundaries, None of This Would Have Been an Issue”

“Survivor: Island of the Idols” (CBS)

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NOTE: “Survivor” exit interviews are traditionally conducted over the phone. However, due to the sensitive nature of the events of this season, it was decided that the interviews with Kellee Kim and Jamal Shipman would take place over email.

Kellee Kim: I appreciate the time and space in which people have given me to find my voice. I did not have any choice on if and how the story would be told. CBS did not allow me to view the episode early, and it has been difficult for me to both grapple with my feelings and figure out what to say.

There are many more words, but for now, here it is:

Gordon Holmes: “Survivor” will remove a player from the game if they strike another player, should there be a similar rule for inappropriate touching? You verbalized your concerns with Dan before the merge, should that have counted as a warning?

Kim: On “Survivor,” you touch people all the time, and touching is part of being human. It is important to make sure that you listen to feedback. For example, Jamal and I had a lot of trouble communicating in the game, and one night, we had a great conversation about how we could communicate better. I asked him what his love language was and he said, “Well, you don’t like it and so I avoid it.” I was shocked – I didn’t realize that anyone had been listening to what I was saying. We ended the conversation with a big bear hug; it was very special. If there’s an official complaint avenue, I was not aware of it. If the only way to speak up is that you’re on video, that’s also a problem because it could be aired. I don’t know all of the answers and I think it’s a complicated issue that we – cast, crew, and producers – are all now thinking about.

Holmes: It must’ve been brutal to watch (Wednesday’s) final Tribal from the jury and not be able to say anything. What was going through your mind? Where are you with it now?

Kim: Despite a lot of pressure, I have always stuck to the truth.

Holmes: Janet felt Elizabeth and Missy crossed the line with how they talked about Dan to sway her vote. Do you agree? And if not, is there a line for how far deception can go on “Survivor”?

Kim: First, I would like to say that if Dan had respected boundaries, none of this would have been an issue. Second, for me, I draw the ethical line at using a sexual harassment situation to bond or to further myself in the game or in life. If people lie or use it as a tool, it confuses and tarnishes the truthful stories. Third, there is no such thing as an innocent bystander. By staying silent or “not knowing,” you are complicit. By not taking a side, you enable the behavior. Fourth, it’s not a fair playing field; life is not a fair playing field, especially for young women. Not only are we trying to strategize and play the game, but deal with unwelcome advances, touching, and harassment. 

Holmes: Being voted out with two idols is rarified air. Was Lauren your litmus test as to whether or not you should use one? And, where are those idols now?

Kim: Yes! Lauren was always going to be my gauge, ever since our first Tribal. During Molly’s vote out, I thought that Lauren was very obvious with who was going home. We were close allies so I knew that she would be the person I looked to in case I was ever at risk. I turn to ask her because I knew something was up, but I partially misread why she was upset. The idols are with production! I assume for a future Ghost Island season.

Holmes: Your secret ex-girlfriend alliance with Dean didn’t quite go how you wanted it to, which makes my heart hurt because you kinda knew you shouldn’t have trusted him. What does your game look like if you had let him get voted out?

Kim: Jack, Jamal, and I have debated whether this was my downfall! It certainly played a part, because Tommy got very nervous at merge when he saw that Jack got voted out. Then, Janet and I were shutting down Tommy and so he started throwing my name out there. Overall, I think the Jack vote was one factor, but not the primary one that went into my vote out. Had any of the other parts gone differently, maybe I would have lasted longer and maybe gotten to the end! I generally agree that big moves should be saved for later. My thought was…if a tree falls and no one hears it, did it make a sound? Similarly, if I could get away with no one knowing except for me and Dean, maybe I could minimize the repercussions.

Holmes: On a related note, you had to know Noura wasn’t going to be quiet about her vote, right?

Kim: This makes me laugh! I was hoping that she would keep quiet because she would be so grateful. It was one of the things that I didn’t fully think through. I needed to prep Noura: “Ok, when you’re asked, this is how you should phrase it.” But I didn’t have the time!

Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes