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Survivor's Jeff Probst Apologizes to Kellee Kim: 'You Were Right to Speak Up'

'We've learned so much about what we could have and should have done instead,' Probst said

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Kaitlin Thomas

CBS has taken a lot of heat recently for its controversial handling of sexual harassment allegations made against Survivor: Island of the Idols contestant Dan Spilo by fellow contestant Kellee Kim earlier this season. It wasn't until last week's penultimate episode, after reports of yet another incident, that the show's producers stepped in and made the unprecedented move of removing Spilo from the game. On Wednesday, during the series' finale reunion special, host Jeff Probst formally apologized to Kim.

"You were right," he told her during the special. "You were right to speak up. You were right to step forward despite a lot of risks. And to speak your truth. And I want to acknowledge and apologize for your pain. You didn't ask for it, you didn't deserve it."

Probst went on to say that in the months that have passed since Kim first reported Spilo's inappropriate touching, everyone involved with the show has "learned so much about what we could have and should have done instead. And if this happened today, we would handle it much differently."

CBS Announces Changes to Survivor Rules Following Sexual Harassment Scandal

Indeed, CBS announced a new set of policies ahead of the reunion on Wednesday. They include enhancing the show's pre-production orientation with new anti-harassment, unconscious bias, and sensitivity training for the cast, producers, and crew. CBS also stated it will hire an on-site professional to allow for confidential reporting of concerns.

After Probst's apology, a tearful Kim acknowledged that not everyone is able or ready to speak up the way she did, but that she is glad her actions have led to change. "We can't really go back and change what happened to me and what happened to other people," she said. "I think the most important thing when I think about this situation and what happened is that I hope that this season of Survivor isn't just defined by inappropriate touching or sexual harassment. I hope that it's defined by change. I feel like I can be really proud of the fact that I spoke up and asked for those changes, and CBS and Survivor are making those changes because I asked."

"I have to fundamentally believe at the end of the day that individuals and institutions are capable of change," she continued. "And I think that as a result of this season, many of us have had these hard conversations. We have learned a lot and I think we are still learning. And ultimately my biggest hope is that each one of us, each individual, each institution, each organization, and especially CBS and Survivor, can take this and learn from it and do better. I fundamentally believe that we can do better."

(Disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of ViacomCBS.)