‘Survivor’ Castaway Max – “The Reads I Had on Carolyn Were So Off”

"Survivor: Worlds Apart" (CBS)

Quick Note: We’re going to be bringing you all kinds of “Survivor” fun this season including episode recaps, exit interviews, and Power Rankings with Josh Canfield and Reed Kelly. Be sure to follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for up-to-the-minute news and info.

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I assumed Max had it in the bag. Surely he had some kind of tight alliance with Carolyn or he wouldn’t have been doing things to annoy his other tribemates.

As usual, I was wrong. You win again, “Survivor” editors.

I spoke with the bearded guy in the buff (take that either way) the morning after his elimination and asked him about what happened with Carolyn, his plan at the swap, and if his time in Nicaragua was everything a “Survivor” fan could hope for…

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Gordon Holmes: Oh, Max…
Max Dawson: Does this hurt my chances of doing Power Rankings?
Holmes: (Laughs) I assumed that was your first thought after Probst read that final vote for you last night.
Dawson: Well, hopefully Shirin will do better and if she does I’m happy to secede that honor to her because there is nobody in world who is a bigger Shirin Oskooi fan than I am.
Holmes: We’ve got two Survivors doing Power Rankings this season. Maybe we can arrange a three-way White Collar dance between you, me, and Shirin. We’ll see how it goes.

Holmes: I was at that first Tribal. I figured you, Carolyn, and Shirin were rock solid. When did that fall apart?
Dawson: You’re the one person, Gordon, thankfully who had an appreciation for how rock solid we were. Rock solid to the point where on day three I turned to Carolyn and said, “I will go to rocks for you at this first Tribal if it comes down to it.” And I meant it. No one was voting out my Mama C, not that day, not any day. What I didn’t realize was that the delicious “Big Brother” strategy of offering Carolyn up as a pawn to Joaquin and So would come to backfire and destroy my game in the long run. After the Tribal, Carolyn was livid that So and Joaquin had written down her name. She confronted Joaquin and he said, “Because Max told us to.” Of course I told them to, I was trying to blindside them. Carolyn was our pawn. Classic “Big Brother” strategy; put up someone you have no intention of voting out to get out a threat. Carolyn didn’t get that. Or maybe she didn’t like the fact that we used her as the decoy. From that point on she harbored a real animosity toward me. And it was amplified by the fact that she grew disdainful of Shirin. We’ve seen so many eye rolls from Carolyn while Shirin does the things that you and I love about her. She’s a quirky, off-the-wall individual. But Carolyn thought I was the Jim Jones of Nicaragua and it ultimately led to my downfall.

Holmes: That’s what got to me. The nudity,  your downtime, and Shirin needling Joaquin. I think you and Shirin are both savvy players and you wouldn’t be doing those things if you didn’t have the tribe locked down. Were you so confident in your three that you didn’t worry about rubbing people the wrong way?
Dawson: Yeah. Unfortunately, that assumption was incorrect and it made everything else I did completely horrible. If I had it correct that Carolyn, Shirin, and I were a rock-solid, 39-day alliance with Tyler as an accessory, as a big, beefy, meat shield accessory, then I have the capital to strip down and flaunt my beautiful bod on that beach. I thought I had the capital to work with Shirin to needle Joaquin and try to get him to lose his cool. The confrontation Shirin had with Joaquin over the idol search was very much motivated by a conversation that she and I had that Joaquin had done so well in the challenge that he was threatening to work his way back into the core of the tribe. Shirin and I set out to make sure he didn’t by putting him in a situation where he would be horrible and obnoxious to her. Unfortunately, what I didn’t realize that Joaquin calling Shirin a horrible woman and being obnoxious and sexist toward her, he would actually win the respect of Tyler and Carolyn. That was a head scratcher. Another misstep I made. We tried to cast Joaquin as the outsider, and it only cast Shirin as the person, as Tyler said, with a black X on her back and me as the guy who was using his cerebellum to make people do what they didn’t want to do.

Holmes: Did you and Shirin know that Carolyn had an idol?
Dawson: Oh no we didn’t. Oh, Gordon…there were so many moments that in retrospect were screaming indicators that she had the idol. But we took it as her being an old-school “Survivor” player. Carolyn kept saying how the idol would only bring divisiveness to the camp. And Tyler would agree. I was thinking, “How did I get on a tribe of people who think we’re playing in Vanuatu. How am I on a tribe with the casuals of all casuals who believed Boston Rob when he said they shouldn’t look for the idol?” A lot of assumptions I made based on the reads I had on Carolyn were so off. But, it’s tough to read someone like Carolyn who is incredibly smart and successful, but has that crazy motor, that crazy energy. She’d stay up all night tending to the fire, she’d barely eat. Then she’d go to challenges and kick butt. She had some inner fire that verged on mania. I thought, “This woman is pretty transparent. I can see where she’s going.” But I didn’t realize that she is a very multi-layered player.

Holmes: Once we hit the merge, everyone went for Kelly as the swing vote. Was there any talk of going for a No Collar who might be on the outs?
Dawson: Yeah, in retrospect I probably could’ve peeled Will off easily. Will approached me on the first day and said, “Man, it’s good to have another grown-up here.” I think he said the same thing to Carolyn. I think he’d reached the end of his rope, feeling like he was babysitting and not getting paid. But I had one intention going into the swap. Before I left White Collar beach, Tyler and I talked to the members of the group about how we’d reunite at the merge and be five strong. But our biggest priority was to remove the one I called, “Joey Amazing.”
Holmes: (Laughs)
Dawson: I watched that kid physically dominate. I watched him kill that first puzzle. All I could think about was, they’ve been wanting to give Malcolm a million dollars for a while. Maybe they’ll just give it to “Joey Amazing” instead. I saw Joe getting the winner’s edit as I was standing there playing “Survivor.” It was too obvious that this kid had all of the assets. I could already see the beautiful merged tribe flag that he was going to paint. It was too much. All I could think was I need to take the legs off of this kid’s table. And if I have to go to Tribal for the next three episodes and vote out first Will, because I know Jenn and Hali won’t play an idol for him. And then Hali and then Jenn, that is what I have to do. I have to take his legs and make sure my boy Tyler is there too because Tyler has so many of the assets that would make him a great ally and a big target on the new Escameca. I thought if we found a way to win a challenge, we’d come in and see Tyler gone. That would’ve broken my heart and thrown a huge monkey wrench into my game.

Holmes: Why do you think they targeted you over Shirin?
Dawson: Cause I’m more annoying.
Holmes: Fair enough, but you’re the tallest guy on your tribe and you lost a challenge where height is an advantage.
Dawson: This is the tribe that got rid of Vince and kept the guy who can’t swim and Nina. They’re clearly not making decisions based on thinking ahead.
Holmes: That’s so No Collar.
Dawson: We also knew that even though the first challenges privileged height and strength, pretty soon we’ll get to some that are balance, or puzzles, or something. They’d probably still lose a physical challenge with me.

Holmes: Let’s do some word association. We’ll start with Joaquin.
Dawson: Twenty four.
Holmes: So?
Dawson: Twenty six and or twenty two.
Holmes: Carolyn?
Dawson: Eleven.
Holmes: Tyler?
Dawson: Two.
Holmes: Jenn?
Dawson: Twenty one.
Holmes: Hali?
Dawson: Twenty three.
Holmes: Will?
Dawson: Twenty nine!
Holmes: Kelly?
Dawson: Nine.
Holmes: And we’ll finish with Shirin.
Dawson: Twenty eight.
Holmes: Is there a key for this?
Dawson: I’ll let you figure it out.
Holmes: It’s like “National Treasure.”

NOTE: Now that I’ve had time to think about it, maybe the numbers represent the season of the “Survivor” winner the person is most like? Let me know your thoughts.

Holmes: You’re a student of this game. What surprised you when you were out there?
Dawson: The good surprise was seeing the massive manpower and resources that goes into making “Survivor” one of the most astounding experiences that I’ve ever had. Seeing what goes into a challenge. Seeing what goes into producing the show. Seeing it up close and watching the men and women who make it happen only increased my appreciation for the game. The most unpleasant surprise was it’s really difficult to spend twenty four hours a day, seven days a week with reality TV contestants.
Holmes: (Laughs)
Dawson: They are highly unpleasant people who have been selected from pools of thousands. They possess qualities such as narcissism, exhibitionism…these are really unpleasant people for the most part. I  love my dirty thirty family, and I don’t keep myself out of that context, but we are all such lunatics. Just spending time with us is insufferable.

Holmes: How are you coming to terms with being the fifth one out?
Dawson: Imagine if someone came up to you and said you’re going to be starting pitcher for the Cardinals. You probably wouldn’t make it out of the first inning, but you’d have the experience of a lifetime. Maybe I didn’t make it out of the first inning, maybe I gave up fifteen homeruns, but I’m walking off of the mound, not hanging my head in shame. I’ve got the biggest (expletive deleted)-eating grin that somebody, somewhere made a mistake and let me play “Survivor.”
Holmes: Excellent analogy.

Holmes: After the challenge last night they cut to you and you’re saying that you’re glad you lost and you can’t wait to strategize. That is the classic sign that someone is going home. What was it like to watch that knowing what was coming?
Dawson: I love “Survivor” so much. And part of what I love is watching a cocky bastard who thinks he has it figured out get blindsided. It just so happens in this case it was me.
Holmes: We talked about seeing how the sausage was made affecting your love for things. Has being on the show enhanced your love, diminished your love?
Dawson: It’s totally enhanced it. The best part of it all is that I got to play “Survivor” with what I think is the best cast in the history of the show. I got to play in what I think might go down as one of the best seasons of this show. ‘Survivor” season 30 is going to be historic. If you’ve been unsatisfied, just give it time. This season will go down as massive.
Holmes: You’re making me giddy.

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

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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