Exclusive: Max Dawson talks 'Survivor: Worlds Apart' (Part 1)
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 03/19/2015
Survivor: Worlds Apart switched up the tribes and eliminated Max Dawson during the second half of the special two-hour episode of the CBS reality competition's 30th season on Wednesday night.
After the three tribes became two -- the red Nargarote tribe and the blue Escameca tribe -- the Nargarote tribe members voted off Max, a 37-year-old media consultant with a Ph.D from Topanga, CA, on Night 14 at the season's fifth Tribal Council session.
Max was eliminated instead of his closest ally Shirin Oskooi after their tribemates determined "who's more annoying."
In an exclusive interview on Thursday with Max, a student of Survivor with a lot of passion for the game, he talked about his experience on the show and ouster. Below is the first half. Check back with Reality TV World soon for the concluding portion.
Reality TV World: Sorry things didn't work out better considering you're a hugeSurvivor fan.
Max Dawson: Me too, but you know what? I got a chance to see Jeff Probst's botox, so that was kind of cool. So it was all worth it.
Reality TV World: (Laughs) I assume it's safe to say you were blindsided. Did it shock you watching the episode back and seeing what your tribemates said about you? They kept repeating the vote came down to "who's more annoying." What was your reaction to that and does it change your opinion of anyone?
Max Dawson: Well, Shirin is clearly much more annoying than I am. I can say that in full confidence, and so in that respect, I think that might've been a little bit of a red herring. As for whether or not it was a blindside, within a few minutes of Tribal Council starting, I knew something was awry.
[Carolyn Rivera] was giving off a little bit of a fishy vibe. She wasn't as personable and connected to me and Shirin as she had been previously, and she was making a very distinct body language statement in terms of turning herself away from us. When it came time to vote and people went into the voting confessional, I would count how many letters they wrote down.
It's possible to watch and see if they write down three letters or four letters or seven letters. And as soon as Carolyn wrote down three letters, I turned to Shirin and said, "I'm going home tonight." So as far as it being a blindside, clearly I didn't plan on going home that night, but by the time Jeff read the final, I already knew it was my time.
Whether or not I'm annoying, if lovingSurvivor and talking about it makes one annoying, I am the most annoying motherf-cker on the planet. And this experience has only made me more annoying because playingSurvivor only increased my love and appreciation for the show and for the game.
Reality TV World: So prior to Carolyn's questionable behavior right before and during Tribal, why were you so convinced you had her on your side when she clearly wanted nothing to do with you or Shirin. Was she that good of an actress or did you just assume you'd be a solid trio because of your roots on the White Collar tribe?
Max Dawson: Carolyn was very vulnerable in the first Tribal Council -- not as vulnerable as I thought she was at the time, given that I didn't know she had the idol -- but there was a strong movement led by Joaquin Souberbielle to vote her off.
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Shirin, Carolyn and I on the first day of the game made an alliance that I had every intention of staying true to for 39 days. I honestly hoped that I would be sitting there at the end with Carolyn and Shirin, and not because I thought they would be easy to beat but because I thought they would be good people to play the game with.
During that first Tribal Council and in the moments leading up to it, I made a number of statements to Carolyn about my loyalty to her and then I made good on those statements by letting [So Kim] and Joaquin know just how unacceptable I thought it was for them to put a target on Carolyn for extensively being weaker or not stepping up.
I came to her defense. I viciously attacked the other alliance and I voted the way I said I would, which was to protect my ally and to vote out the people who were targeting her. My intention was to establish that bond, to make that gesture, to prove to her my loyalty -- and to then use that as my basis for a strong three-person alliance with Carolyn and Shirin.
What I didn't know was that after that Tribal Council, Carolyn was very perturbed about the fact that she had two votes thrown at her by So and Joaquin. She asked Joaquin, "Why did you vote for me?" And Joaquin said, "Because Max told me to."
I did tell Joaquin to vote for Carolyn so that there would be a takeaway so that Joaquin and So thought they were safe in the event they had an idol and that they would vote for Carolyn.
They would think they had all the votes they needed to think they were sending Carolyn home with my assistance. So in order to save Carolyn, I had to offer Carolyn up as a pawn. Carolyn didn't understand or didn't appreciate that, and from that point on, harbored resentment towards me.
And that resentment only would amplify as her disdain for Shirin grew. I thought Carolyn and Shirin were really tight. They were two women who seemed to be marginalized by the younger, more attractive, athletic members of the tribe. I thought they had something going on that was really tight and unbreakable.
And given I was not a part of that younger, athletic group as well, it bonded us three together. What I didn't realize, again, was that Carolyn was souring on Shirin rapidly. And then it wasn't just a matter of her being annoying, it was a matter of her having real disdain for her.
The fact that I didn't pick up on that, there are a number of reasons why. Some of them have to do with me not paying as much attention as I should have. It also had to do with the fact Carolyn's general edgy-New York demeanor isn't really warm and fuzzy, and so for her to be kind of short with Shirin or to roll her eyes and to just kind of be like, "I can't even!" to me, that just was Carolyn.
What I didn't know at the time, was it was Carolyn deciding, "I can't stand Shirin. I'm angry at Max for that first vote. The two of them together piss me off. And the first opportunity I'm going to get, I'm going to break them up."
Reality TV World: So Carolyn's comment to Joaquin and [Tyler Fredrickson] being "the cult leader" and the "head of the snake," do you think that's a result of what you just explained to me or do you think she really viewed you that way and therefore she saw you as a threat?
Max Dawson: Carolyn's comment seemed out of context given that there wasn't a lot of evidence demonstrated for it beforehand with the exception of Shirin saying, "Max is a trendsetter. He gets naked, I get naked."
But there was a strong perception amongst the other members of my tribe that I had a dangerous level of control over Shirin's actions. I don't think it was accurate. No one controls Shirin. Shirin is one of the most intelligent and independent and accomplished human beings I've ever met.
But to people who are not that accustomed to interacting with a woman of Shirin's capabilities, there's a tendency to say, "Well, there must be some man telling her what to do." That was true of the guys in my tribe. That was also true of Carolyn.
And so, there was this perception and this chatter -- which came to surface in the episode last night -- that I was a Jim Jones cult leader who was controlling the actions of other people. I'm incredibly flattered. Jim Jones is a very horrific individual. It's fun to have that name tossed around in casual conversation and be compared to that person as I saw last night.
But the truth is, I did have good relationships with Joaquin and Tyler and Shirin, and I had a way of bringing up ideas and implementing decisions I thought were maybe not in some domineering-alpha man style that you typically see in a Survivortribe leader but more insidious, more effective, more suggestive.
I'll give you an example. In the first episode, when we were talking about the vote, I said, "Let's check in with the big guy. Let's check in with the big man." Now, I'm about three inches taller than Tyler but I wanted everyone to think of Tyler as the "big man."
I wanted everyone to see him as the decision-maker, as the core force within our tribe. That was my strategic inclination -- to try to assign roles to people that would help me and conceal me and would be shields in front of me.
So in the event of someone feeling like the tribe was being led in the wrong direction, they wouldn't have accused me, they would've accused Tyler. So if that's sort of being "the head of the snake" or being "the cult leader," I am guilty as charged.
Check back with Reality TV World soon for the concluding portion of Max's exclusive interview.