I had a chance to sit down with all twenty of the “Fans vs. Favorites” competitors the day before they left for the Caramoan Islands. I’ll be posting exclusive interviews with each contestant every weekday until we get through all of them. Be sure to follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for tons of updates.
Name: Dawn Meehan
Hometown: South Jordan, Utah
Occupation: English Professor
Previous Finish: Dawn came in 10th place in “Survivor: South Pacific”
Memorable Moment: Dawn won an immunity challenge for the Savaii tribe by outlasting Stacey Powell in an impressive weight-holding challenge.
Note: The “Survivor: Caramoan” pre-game interviews are unlike the pre-game interviews we’ve done in the past. Usually, the interviews take place on location, this time they took place in Los Angeles before the players flew out. At this point, all the “Favorties” know is that they’re flying out in the next few days. They have seen each other, but haven’t seen the new players. They don’t know for sure where they’re going, and they don’t know any of the season’s twists.
Gordon Holmes: OK, I know we don’t have a friendly past, but I’d appreciate you keeping your language clean, this is a family site.
Dawn Meehan: (Laughs) When I get mad I do swear like a sailor.
Holmes: Like every other word. It’s uncomfortable.
Meehan: It’s true.
Holmes: I was a little surprised to see your name on the cast list.
Meehan: So was I! (Laughs)
Holmes: It doesn’t make sense, but it does makes sense. You weren’t like this big, flashy (expletive deleted), but you can only have so many of those. You had a great story with how you turned things around during your time in Samoa. Either way, I was excited.
Meehan: Aww…thank you.
Holmes: You are the most dominant XFINITY TV Power Ranker of all time. Now, you didn’t play a full season, but every round you played, you won. And you nailed the “One World” final five exactly.
Meehan: I know.
Holmes: Do you think that exercise will help you in the coming game?
Meehan: I really enjoyed doing the Power Rankings because I felt like I wasn’t emotionally attached and I could really understand personalities. Like, who was fishing together and who was sleeping next to each other. I just watched those things and went with what I thought based on what I saw. I think when you’re inside the game sometimes you become too emotionally attached and you don’t use logic. You just use emotion and you make decisions that aren’t necessarily rational. And I thought about it each time I’ve done rankings and though, “If I could just play like this,” which I know I can. It kind of gave me confidence realizing I can do this. My perception is right.
Holmes: So, if you pull this off…
Meehan: If I pull this off I think that the Power Rankings will be the best PSAT course ever for “Survivor.”
Holmes: You’re so going to owe me.
Meehan: For a million dollars? I’ll get you a new mug.
Holmes: Oh sweet. Man, you hate that mug.
Meehan: I hate muggsy.
Holmes: I don’t want to get you too excited, but Coach got to the finals of your season after being a Power Ranker.
Meehan: (Laughs) That’s right!
Holmes: Before the Power Rankings, he was like the ninth guy out.
Meehan: I know.
Holmes: After the Power Rankings, final three.
Meehan: That’s right.
Holmes: Final two, actually. He got some votes.
Holmes: Bad news though, the mug was cast too. And it holds a grudge.
Meehan: (Laughs) I’ve beaten that mug before.
Holmes: Alright, I hate to besmirch your character, but is it true that you’ve been bribing people with bread?
Meehan: Yes, I will always bribe people with bread. In fact, I don’t even know if I’d call that a bribe, it’s just me. I like bread, a lot of it. I make it every day to eat. I can’t imagine not giving it to people. My arms are all burned from the baking.
Holmes: That’s terrible. How does that happen?
Meehan: When you take it out I always hit a heating element. So, if I win the million, new oven.
Holmes: If you win the million, instead of oven mitts, we will get you full oven sleeves.
Meehan: I could get longer sleeves, I could take Panera on.
Holmes: Someone on Twitter called you “Dawn of the Bread” and I was jealous that I didn’t think of it first.
Meehan: The bread sounds so cliché, but I love carbs.
Holmes: One of the things I remember about our interview before “South Pacific” was that you were very wary of being deceptive in the game. Now that you’ve got some experience under your belt, has your attitude changed?
Meehan: I totally get that it’s a game. I wasn’t easily offended in the game. It didn’t bother me to blindside Elyse. That’s what the game is about. I don’t like harming people in the game. So, decisions that affect the outcome of the game? No problem. Things that you say in the game or decisions you make that are going to damage someone’s credibility in real life? That bothers me. So, I don’t like to be super negative or criticize people’s behavior. I don’t like to cut people down.
Holmes: There’s a line with that kind of stuff. Lie to get ahead.
Holmes: But don’t do things just to do them or to make people feel bad.
Holmes: (Laughs) Maybe that’s a terrible attitude. I’ll lie to you, but only if it benefits me.
Meehan: I think I’m stronger emotionally this time. There is a tiny bit of me that’s probably the Sally Field, “You like me, you really like me” because I’ve been invited back. That was really humbling. I think I’ll have a little more confidence this time.
Holmes: I had to pull some strings to make it happen.
Meehan: (Laughs) I so appreciate it. I’ll thank you in my large-check acceptance speech.
Holmes: That leads right into this…why do you think you were brought back?
Meehan: I think because I was a competitor. I was tough in challenges. I did have some moments where I was able to stand out. I think I had some moments where people were able to see themselves. I’m just an average person that got to do something extraordinary.
Holmes: I’m a fan of whenever someone gets to have a defined character arc in a season. You got to have that where you went from crying to Ozzy on day three to being a challenge bad ass.
Meehan: I think this season will be a continuation. I felt like there was so much game left in me when I was voted out. I was just kind of getting it. It was finally happening. So for me, this is more act two than it is a different version. I think it’s a more confident Dawn, who’s still able to do well in the challenges, but maybe more strategic than I was.
Holmes: What’ve you been up to since we saw you last?
Meehan: I’ve been tweeting. (Laughs)
Holmes: That is true.
Meehan: I love Twitter. I’m teaching back at BYU. I’ve been speaking at a lot of universities and a lot of high schools, talking about the experience of “Survivor.” There are so many fans of the show who want to know how did you prepare for it, was it as a hard as you thought, that kind of thing. I told my husband, “I can’t believe they’re having me back.” And he says, “Every time I go hear you speak I think they’re going to have you back because people love to hear about it and you’re a regular person.”
Holmes: Do your kids know what Mom’s up to?
Meehan: My kids do know, they have to sign the releases.
Holmes: Are they psyched?
Meehan: Yeah! They sent me with all of these cards and pictures. It was harder for them this time. We had just adopted our last two kids three months before I left last time. So, this time they’ve been with me over a year. So, I think it was more emotional for them.
Holmes: So you just bring in new kids and are like, “See ya.”
Meehan: (Laughs) Totally.
Holmes: Your husband is a saint.
Meehan: My husband is a saint. I missed our anniversary last year, anniversary this year, the daughter that we just adopted her birthday last year, her birthday this year. I said to her, “I’ve been your mom for two years and I’ve missed both birthdays.” So, we did her birthday before I left.
Holmes: Think of how you can spoil her for her next birthday with a million dollars.
Meehan: They reminded me. I always say that, “Your wealth is in your family.” And the kids said, “Do you know much good can come from a million dollars?”
Holmes: That’s a lot of bread…no pun intended.
Meehan: (Laughs) So they say, “Think of all the kids you could adopt.”
Holmes: So, after you win, six more?
Meehan: Sixty more! Why not?
Holmes: Sixty six kids? You’ll get your own reality show, you won’t need “Survivor.”
Holmes: “Just the Sixty Eight of Us.” I’m going to go grab that url.
Meehan: “Sixty Eight Is Enough!”
Holmes: Damnit, that’s way better.
Holmes: You played with returnees. You played with Ozzy and Coach. What did you learn from watching them?
Meehan: Well, I learned that as a newbie you’re not super thrilled to play with someone who is returning. And, you want them out. That’s something that I’m a little bit nervous about. You do come in with a target on your back. I think in my case, I’m hoping that the way I played will still keep people thinking, “She’s a good person to keep around. She’ll be good pre-merge, she’ll be good in challenges, you can trust her, she went down with her sinking ship.” Maybe that way I’ll be seen as someone who can be aligned with.
Holmes: As someone who has a reputation for being a nice person, does that give you the opportunity to be more devious?
Meehan: Yeah. I think I was that way in the game before. I was willing to take Ozzy out. I really was willing to make the big moves. I’m going to have to take control if I want that to happen instead of just following.
Holmes: And you’re prepared to do that?
Meehan: Yeah, for sure. The Power Rankings made me realize that.
Holmes: I know!
Meehan: I’m not kidding. Because when I’d be right on I’d think, “I knew it! I saw it the week before!”
Holmes: You’re going to be a rich lady.
Meehan: I hope so.
Holmes: You’re going to love this.
Meehan: Oh no.
Holmes: Between “South Pacific” and “One World” we’ve seen people who are on the bottom of their alliances who either don’t realizing they’re on the bottom, or aren’t willing to do anything to get on top until it’s too late. Why do you think that happens?
Meehan: I think the person that’s in control of the decision making has persuaded them to the point that they don’t believe…Kat did not believe Troyzan. It’s not that Brandon was OK being sixth or seventh, he thought he was going to be top four or top three. He believed that. It’s not being accepting of this mediocrity or just “Hey, I wanted to stay until the family visit.” Someone’s been persuasive enough that you don’t believe the other person. So, I think hats off to Coach for giving four other people the sense that they were in the top three.
Holmes: So, the Coachs, Sophies, Kims, should be commended more than the others should be given grief?
Meehan: Yeah. Edna didn’t believe for a minute that she was the bottom, even with Jim laying it out at Tribal Council. It didn’t matter. She still believed it. I think people all thought that Kim was taking them to the final three. Coach and Kim were very similar, people trusted them.
Holmes: What are your first impressions of the cast members you see running around here?
Meehan: OK, nervous about Corinne. We have a different approach (Laughs) to the game. I’m nervous about her, not because I’m afraid of her, but she’s definitely tough. I’m excited about Francesca. I loved her. I was sad to see her go. I don’t know her, so I’m excited to get to know her. I think she’s someone I could trust. Not sure what’s going to happen with having two other players from my season who both voted me out. To me, Brandon and Cochran developed a really strong bond. That’s what I saw in the game, almost a brotherhood.
Holmes: Well, when you share a sweater vest…
Meehan: I expected Brandon to name a child after John.
Holmes: Give him time.
Meehan: It was only them in a bubble for a lot of hours every day. They’ll be strongly aligned and Cochran will probably need someone like that quickly. I don’t know where I’ll fit in with them.
Holmes: Is there anyone in particular that you want to align with?
Meehan: Well, I love Erik, just from a fan standpoint. I love the way he played. I just think he’s so authentic. I’m looking toward Francesca, Andrea, the two from my season, and Erik. I’m nervous about Phillip because I just don’t know Phillip well enough from outside of what I’ve seen in the game. Is he crazy like a fox or just crazy? I saw the feather today.
Holmes: He brought a feather?
Meehan: The mug and the feather are doing their own junket.
Don’t miss the two-hour premiere of “Survivor: Caramoan – Fans vs. Favorites,” Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.