Exclusive: Dawn Meehan talks about 'Survivor: South Pacific'
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 12/02/2011
Dawn Meehan was close to flipping on her former Savaii tribe members, joining fellow castaway and ally John Cochran in a big-move decision that would allow the former Upolu tribe to dominate the numbers and ultimately the game.
While Cochran followed through with swapping, Dawn refused to betray her tribe and the Upolu members wiped out Dawn's alliance one by one. Dawn saved herself a little time by winning an Individual Immunity Challenge, but she eventually got sent to Redemption Island and hoped she could battle her way back into the game and continue competing for the one million dollars. However, "Ozzy" Oscar Lusth won the duel against Whitney Duncan and Dawn, who were then permanently eliminated from the game -- becoming the third and fourth members of the jury during Wednesday night's broadcast of Survivor: South Pacific's eleventh episode.
On Thursday, in a joint interview with Whitney, Dawn discussed her Survivor: South Pacific experience with Reality TV World. Below is Dawn's portion of the joint interview. Click here to read Whitney's portion.
Reality TV World: Right after the tribes merged, we saw you crying about how your tribe had treated Cochran and considering joining him in flipping on the rest of your tribe. How close did you actually come to joining him in flipping?
Dawn Meehan: You know, I had talked to the Upolu tribe specifically to [Rick Nelson], because Rick and I are from the same state. So, I saw him as a possible flip to our side or I wanted to obviously look at my own footing in the game and see if it made sense to work with anybody there. So I talked to ["Coach" Benjamin Wade] and Rick, but for me, two things happened.
One, is when I won Immunity, obviously the chances of me getting to Final 6 at that stage seemed more likely once I'd won Immunity and we looked at the prospect of drawing rocks. It wasn't going to be me drawing, so at that point I thought, "It doesn't make sense to flip." But also, and this is probably why I'm more emotional in it and kind of working through it with Cochran, I just never felt like it was genuine.
I think, you know for me, the exchanges with Coach are uncomfortable. And I don't know why he really is persuasive to a lot of people, and so, I just didn't feel like it was a legitimate, "Hey, I'm going to take you this far in the game." I felt like it was just game play, and for whatever reason for Cochran, it seemed genuine.
Reality TV World: How had you seen the rest of the season playing out if Cochran had remained loyal. Did you see yourself going to the Final 6 with your tribe?
Dawn Meehan: Yeah. My plan was Final 3 with [Jim Rice] and Cochran, although I've heard Jim say since he's done his interviews that he told me that, but his plan was to drop me.
Reality TV World: Yes, when we talked to he told Reality TV World he couldn't take a Mormon mom of six to the end because he had no chance. (Laughs)
Dawn Meehan: What would he say? "I adopted seven children?" (Laughs)
So, I could see that. Obviously, number six [in our tribal alliance] for me would have been to take out Ozzy and then, I think really, we had a pretty strong five -- Cochran, myself, [Whitney Duncan], Jim, and [Keith Tollefson].
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I think that was a pretty strong group. We were all in agreement that Ozzy needed to go at some point. It was just a matter of when because it would threaten our game, but we all really believed it would be best to do after the merge, because he'd be a better target than ourselves. So, yeah. Cochran was always in my plan.
Reality TV World: That Final 9 Tribal Council where Whitney, Cochran and yourself were all still in the game seemed to be the obvious place for two members of the Upolu tribe to flip and make a move and that episode even showed Survivor host Jeff Probst coming right out and suggesting that to everyone, but no one made a move. How big of a surprise was that to you? You just mentioned you had approached Rick. Did you approach anybody else?
Dawn Meehan: Yeah, [Albert Destrade] is really -- I saw him as the only other person that could have influenced other people to change their direction on his own tribe.
So, really at that point, both Whitney and I were saying, "You've got the numbers with us, take Coach out now. He really is owning the game. He's made all the moves; He's the one in charge. He's the biggest threat to win the million. He might not be the biggest threat to win Immunity now, but he's the biggest threat to win the million if he gets there because he's going to basically say, 'I laid this all out. I made this happen.'"
Look where he was at the beginning of the game.
Reality TV World: What about [Sophie Clarke] and [Edna Ma]? Wednesday night's episode seemed to show Edna just realizing at that point that she was the sixth person in an alliance of six.
Reality TV World: Did that surprise you? Had she really been that unaware while you were out there?
Dawn Meehan: Mhmm. I wish I knew more about how Edna was feeling about the game. Coach had a pretty tight grip on how much she spoke to us. So, Edna would kind of give me the "I can't speak to you about the game but I'd love to do laundry with you!" (Laughs)
That's like -- I forgot the right word -- but kind of kudos to Coach, right? Because he's saying the best way to keep this group locked is to have no communication, because then there's no opportunity for changes in our direction and plan.
So, he's smart to do that. I'm just surprised that so many people followed, because do you think, Whitney? I don't think our tribe would have followed anybody that said that. (Laughs)
Whitney Duncan: No way, no way. In the first few votes, we made sure we got out people that Ozzy was aligning with besides myself and Keith -- [Semhar Tadesse], [Mark "Papa Bear" Caruso], [Elyse Umemoto] -- so we wanted to make sure we kept him injured until we could get him out.
Reality TV World: Last night's episode also showed you crying about having to burn your buff in the fire after you lost the Redemption Island duel, causing some viewers to wonder about some of your earlier tears like where you were shown crying about the way Cochran was treated. Can you talk about that a little -- are you just naturally a very emotional person?
Dawn Meehan: I think that -- that's kind of funny. To spend 28 days and struggle like that and play in the game and see myself accomplish this goal of getting on the show, really, that was an incredible goal. And so for me, it was the book-end moment to the experience, and so I think those were tears of joy.
I think I was more expressive. I think that's the word that Jeff used. It didn't show last night, but he's like, "You've been expressive." And I think I was, and just for me, I was kind of honest in how I felt and I think most people feel like you can't do that in Survivor.
But I don't feel like that was wrong for me to do. That was an accurate reflection of how I was in the game, and I don't think that it affected my game. I mean, I still really, really pushed in challenges and I worked hard around camp. I don't know that it affected other people.
Reality TV World: You were a member of the jury that decided the season's winner. What criteria did you use to determine your jury vote -- what was important to you when you were making that decision?
Dawn Meehan: For me, it's just looking at you know, the game is outplay, outwit, outlast. And so, it's looking at who did that.
Reality TV World: How were you cast on Survivor -- how did you end up on the show?
Dawn Meehan: I auditioned when I was 30 for Season 2 -- made it kind of far in that process and remained in contact with some of casting over the next 10 years!
Reality TV World: Survivor: The Australian Outback? All the way back then?
Dawn Meehan: Mhmm! Yup. I went to an open casting call and then was called back later -- really like four or five years later and they said, "You know what? Why don't you update? We think that we like you. We liked you then. We might want to work with you again."
So, it's been a lot of going through the process, getting as close as I could be. I was cast for last season and then cut shortly before they actually left, and then I went through the process again and was finally permanently cast.
Reality TV World: How do you think you would have done either onSurvivor: Australian Outback or last season compared to how you ended up doing on this season?
Dawn Meehan: Oh my goodness, I was so much more prepared and my kids were older now. So, it's much easier for me to leave. It would have been difficult to leave. My son was six, and now he's 16. (Laughs) So, I was much more physically prepared, more mature. I think it absolutely happened at the right time.
Reality TV World: He could go on the loved ones visit now. (Laughs)