My favorite part of this “Survivor” coverage gig is getting to interview players before the game starts. They’re so full of energy and excitement; it’s intoxicating. It’s especially fun when that person is a huge fan of the game.
That’s why it’s so hard to see someone who has such a passion for the show have a rough experience. It broke my heart to talk to Russell Swan after his rough time on “Survivor: Philippines.”
Heading into this Sunday’s finale, I was worried Dawn Meehan was going to have a similar fate. The harsh online reaction she received after voting out Brenda Lowe would be enough to drive anyone to tears.
Fortunately, tears are to Dawn what spinach is to Popeye.
I spoke with the “Survivor: Caramoan” runner-up the morning after the finale and asked her about Brenda’s bizarre request, the Internet’s outrage, and how the XFINITY TV Power Rankings helped her dominate the game…
Gordon Holmes: How are you?
Dawn Meehan: Oh, I’m good.
Holmes: Are you sure?
Meehan: Of course! Am I ever going to be anything but good? (Laughs)
Holmes: Good, I was worried.
Meehan: Oh, don’t worry! It’s contradictory. I cry, so people think I’m not OK. I cry because it’s cleansing. I don’t cry because I’m weak. It’s who I am and how I express myself.
Holmes: You are one of the kindest, most selfless people I’ve ever met, so it’s not surprising that you’ve bounced back. I just wanted to make sure.
Meehan: I appreciate it, the love from CBS, from the press, from other players, from my family. The ending has been humbling, but I don’t want to take away that I got to go to the end of a game I’ve dreamed about playing and I got there with my best friend. Cochran and I have spent 67 days on an island together and we’ve accomplished something that’s pretty improbable. I feel success with his success. And I did earn a prize for my family.
Holmes: I hate the idea of someone who loves the show, the way you love the show…hating the show.
Meehan: I don’t think I dislike “Survivor.” I have respect for the game. But, it such a hard game. I wish there were a lot more moments where you saw people triumphing. I think that’s why Cochran’s win is so significant. That’s why it was emotional for me. Cochran’s win felt like my win. We’d play together, we’d wake up at 4am and make decisions. We made this agreement that in the end it’s 1.1 million dollars together. I’m OK losing to you, you’re OK losing to me. I think it was a more stressful combination of players this time. I’m starting to appreciate the Bob Marley Ozzy approach.
Holmes: It sounds like you’re coming at this from the proper perspective.
Meehan: I’m always going to, Gordon. I love the game. I’m a people pleaser and in “South Pacific” I was very much a people pleaser and it’s easy to love the game when you get 99% positive tweets and love from people. So, it was good for me to have a different experience and be in charge of my own game. Last night was hard, the Tribal Council was hard. It was hard to live through at the time. Even harder to know it was coming. Today I feel strong. I’ll be honest, I couldn’t watch it because it brought back some painful times. I love Corinne, I can’t explain how hard it was to vote her off. So, there was a sense of pride that I went mind over heart. I don’t typically live my life that way. CBS has been great, and Jeff. You know we have a great medical team and psychologists, I know they’re Dawn fans and they wish for me that it didn’t happen as uncomfortably as it did. And I’m a better person for it, even if there are Twitter followers who think I’m a jerk.
Holmes: Who knew that there was negativity on the internet?
Meehan: (Laughs) I know! I should be grateful nobody has included me in any pornography.
Holmes: Give them time.
Meehan: (Laughs) Give them time, that’s right. But, I’m so good, Gordon. “Survivor” stress was nothing compared to our six adoptions.
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Holmes: Last night when Brenda asked you to take your teeth out…
Meehan: Take your teeth out! Take your teeth out!
Holmes: What was the point of that? What do you think she was getting at?
Meehan: To hurt me. Well, in Brenda’s defense, she’s so kind, and I made peace with her at Ponderosa. It didn’t mean that we were going to keep in touch over ten months. And then watching the show, it’s like scratching off a scab. At Tribal, I think she wanted to take control back and she was hurt. When she talked to me at Ponderosa she said, “Dawn, I felt like a boyfriend had broken up with me. I couldn’t get over it.” And I think women play the game differently than men. We make emotional attachments, so those votes are very difficult. Maybe that’s sexist of me?
Holmes: I was going to say, I feel the way people react might be a little sexist. “Boston” Rob had a similar situation where he and Grant Mattos were never able to mend fences after Rob voted him out. But, all you ever hear about “Boston” Rob is what a great strategist he is. Do you think there is some sexism in the way female strategists are compared to male strategists?
Meehan: Yeah, this is the part that I love about “Survivor” because I think it raises questions. You turn to your boyfriend or girlfriend while watching the show and say, “Would you do that for a million dollars? Would you be willing to vote Grant out or throw away the clue? Would you be willing to vote out the woman that just saved your teeth?” So, to me that was the shocking thing. It raises questions about society. That’s what I love about it. But I think there’s a double standard, and it adds more that I’m a mother. I didn’t feel like I treated Brenda like I was her mother, but she mentioned that I’m like a mother to her. So, there’s something about having a mother do it, than having Cochran do it. And I don’t fault her for doing it. Voting people out was the hardest part, taking out my teeth wasn’t hard at all. And I did kind of feel like, “If this makes Brenda feel better? Amen.”
Holmes: We’re not all former cheerleaders.
Holmes: Some of us have imperfections.
Meehan: I hope she feels some peace. You don’t want anyone to be affected long term.
Holmes: Alright, word association time.
Meehan: I’m not as organized as Malcolm was.
Holmes: You’re not supposed to be!
Meehan: I have nothing but positive things to say.
Holmes: Well, that’s a waste. But let’s do it anyway. We’ll start with Erik.
Meehan: Insanely creative.
Meehan: He’s a brilliant strategist. The reason we won so many of those early challenges is because he was figuring out how to shave time off of the challenges. He’s very analytical.
Meehan: Extremely lovable.
Meehan: My favorite person on the planet.
Meehan: Andrea is family to me.
Meehan: My very best friend in the whole wide world.
Meehan: It’s so hard for me…he’s so many things… (to her husband) help me, Dave. I’m dying.
Meehan: He is loyal.
Holmes: You are the most dominant competitor in the history of the XFINITY TV Power Rankings.
Meehan: You think I’m kidding, but you helped me so much. I started to look at the game from every individual players’ perspective and not just my own. I felt like I had this ability to put myself in other peoples’ point of view. I said that in casting. That’s what changed the game for me.
Holmes: That’s awesome. See, I did something good for once.
Meehan: Andrea and I would talk about the Power Rankings out there.
Holmes: I assumed you two would just write them in the sand.
Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes