Utahn Dawn Meehan said she accomplished what she set out to do on the 26th season of “Survivor: Caramoan — Fans vs. Favorites.”
“From Day 1, it was to go to the end with (John) Cochran and win $1.1 million,” and we did that, Meehan said in an interview with the Deseret News after Sunday's finale and reunion show.
The season pitted a team of Favorites, or returning players, against a tribe of long-time Fans of the show, which features twists, complications and challenges as the castaways survive in primitive conditions, make alliances and vote out others during the 39-date competition.
Meehan was previously on “Survivor: South Pacific” with Cochran and the South Jordan mother of six adopted children was invited back to play again. She planned to play a more aggressive game and did, which helped her make it to the final three.
“I still never had my torch snuffed,” said Meehan, who teaches English at Brigham Young University and is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
She lasted all 39 days and faced the jury of eight voted-out castaways, who decided among Meehan, Cochran and Fan Sherri Biethman who would get the ultimate $1 million prize. Cochran ultimately swept the vote.
The show was filmed last summer and included a roller coaster of emotions that included two castaways who had to be medically evacuated and an impromptu tribal council at a challenge.
“It’s been super humbling,” Meehan said of watching the show. Although she had previously played the game and knew some of what it took, this time was tougher. “We didn’t know it would be this hard.”
For Meehan, it also meant developing friendships with people and then turning on them as she helped orchestrate votes and blindsides to get to the final three.
The cameras captured her tears and emotions.
“My own feeling is that everyone expressed their emotions” on the show, Meehan said. Each dealt with the stress of the situation differently — sleeping, swimming or chopping down bamboo. Hers was crying, even though it could be seen as vulnerability during the game.
“It’s interesting to me that it became, ‘Oh, that’s Dawn,’” said Meehan, who lost 27 pounds during her 39 days on the island and didn’t sleep at all during the last 11 days.
It was Day 26 on the island that featured one of the happier times and one of the lowest moments on the show.
Meehan was on the team that won a Reward Challenge. “Strategically, it felt so good to stick it out and win,” she said of the challenge.
The five castaways were flown via helicopter to a resort where they had food, a chance for an outdoor shower (with soap!) and could swim in a pool.
The lowest point was when she lost her retainer with several bottom teeth in the lake that morning.
Meehan had helped orchestrate a move that took Favorite Corinne Kaplan out of the game — the first of the string of Tribal Councils where she voted out people whom she considered friends.
“I was very close with Corinne,” Meehan said, adding they had a similar sense of humor and could laugh about things at camp. “Her vote was the first time I realized that I would vote people off that I loved.”
Meehan had taken the things that the blindsided Kaplan had left to bury them.
“It was my own little memorial service,” Meehan said, adding that she had spent more than an hour at the lake. “And I rinsed out my mouth and I lost my teeth.”
It was Brenda Lowe who came and helped the emotional Meehan find her teeth.
Meehan said she had lost those bottom teeth when she was mugged while on a business trip several years ago. Losing her retainer of teeth had brought back some of the memories of the mugging, Meehan added.
After finishing the 39 days in the game, she did explain the situation to the show’s medical and psychological staff. She also had time to reconcile with Lowe about helping to vote her out.
“I feel horrible that I hurt Brenda,” Meehan said. “We made apologies” at Ponderosa before leaving the Philippines.
Meehan had emailed Lowe several times in between when the taping wrapped up and Sunday’s reunion show, but hadn’t heard back from her until Meehan’s public apology Sunday night.
“No matter what, that was genuine,” Meehan said.
Meehan said that she was “super close” with Corrine and has “nothing but respect and love for her.” She spent the weekend with the other castaways prior to Sunday’s Reunion Show and she’s on good terms with all of them.
Her six children were also in California for the Reunion Show.
“They loved being in the front row,” Meehan said, even though some of it was a bit uncomfortable, like watching the clips of their mother crying.
It was after last Wednesday’s episode when Lowe was blindsided that Meehan shut down her Twitter account, in part because some of the messages were threatening and some were targeting her children.
But she’s also felt support from many, including her family, friends, religious community and other Utahns who have played “Survivor.”
“They know that I was Mormon,” Meehan said of her fellow castaways, but some didn’t know too much about it. “There were a lot of hilarious questions.”
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