NOTE: XFINITY.com is the place to be for all of your “Survivor: Worlds Apart” scoop! I delved deep into the Nicaraguan wilderness on a mission to bring you all kinds of stuff including behind-the-scenes tidbits, pre-game interviews with the cast, insights from “Survivor” host Jeff Probst and Challenge Producer John Kirhoffer, a look at the first Tribal Council, and much more. I’ll be cranking out this goodness daily in the weeks leading up to the premiere, so be sure to follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for up-to-the-minute updates on all of this season’s “Survivor” fun.
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Name: Max Dawson, Ph.D.
Current Residence: Topanga, California
Occupation: Media Consultant
Gordon Holmes: Your pet peeve is waiting. You’ve been sitting around, not talking to anyone for days. How are you holding up?
Max Dawson: The last couple of days have really put my psyche to the test with all of the sitting around, all of the inactivity; physical inactivity, mental inactivity, social inactivity. I feel like they’re pushing us to the brink of snapping, and then right when we get there Probst is going to say, “Come on in guys!” and they’re going to turn the cameras on and let us go at each other. So, I recognize what they’re doing. It’s been really hard. I think it’s going to put me into a fine form for when the game gets underway.
Holmes: You’re a super fan. You even teach a course in “Survivor.” Is it better to come into the game knowing so much about the show or is it better to trust your gut?
Dawson: I think being a “Survivor” super fan is something that really only hurts people in the game. I see one of two things happening; people start to over-analyze everything through the lens of past seasons. Well, it’s been nine days and we’ve got three tribes, so we probably have a swap coming up so I should probably be making my decision on this vote based on…you can’t do that. They love to lull people into a sense of security and then flip the script on them. The other thing is if you’re identified as a superfan, your competitors, many of whom will have very little familiarity with the show might identify that as some sort of advantage and use it as a reason to target you. I feel like it’s not something I’m going to hide, but it’s not something that I feel gives me any sort of advantage in this game. Quite the contrary, I think it puts a target on me.
Holmes: So, if your background comes out, it comes out.
Dawson: There are a lot of lies I intend to tell. What I do for a living is not one of them. I’m not going to say that I’ve met a lot of people who’ve participated in the game. But, if it comes up and somebody knows my class or they saw me on Twitter, I’m not going to lie about it. I’m going to do my best to say, “I love ‘Survivor’, I’m so excited to be here. But when we’re out here it’s about what’s in our hearts, in our heads, and in our guts as opposed to how many episodes we’ve watched.”
Holmes: You said “the game deserves to be honored.” Which is (expletive deleted) poetry.
Holmes: However, I read that and I worry that someone might make less-than-strategic moves to entertain the audience. That usually comes off poorly.
Dawson: When I think of honoring the game, I think of the way Jonathan Penner plays. He plays hard, he play passionately, he does what is asked of him which is giving every ounce of blood and sweat on the challenge field, which is fighting hard for his life in the social game, which is giving amazing confessionals, and doing great Tribals. It’s really participating. It’s throwing yourself in there and not trying to play under the radar. It’s not using this as a platform to get famous. It’s recognizing that “Survivor” is bigger than the individuals that play it. That “Survivor” rewards those who honor it. Those who play hard, those that give to “Survivor” everything it deserves…I think things turn out pretty well for them. They might not win, they might not be fan favorite, but they end up having really positive experiences.
Holmes: You’re very prominent in the “Survivor” online community. What happens if Probst drops you on a beach and three days later he’s snuffing your torch?
Dawson: Listen, there are certainly a lot of pressures that are on me that are not faced by the typical first-time player. In putting myself out here, I’m taking a big risk. Especially because I’m not just a young guy in his mid 20s who grew up watching this show. I’m a guy who actually stood up in front of a classroom and stood out in front of the world and expressed some kind of expertise about this show. So, I’m thinking there are probably a lot of people who would love to see me fall flat on my face. Some of them might be involved in production. I can’t imagine that someone like Jeff wouldn’t love to see this so-called expert go out there and be undercut by his own hubris. Well, the difference for me is that the appeal has never about the trivia. It’s not about the personalities. It’s about that primal fantasy, reconnecting with that core essential element of yourself, that reptilian instinctual person that lurks inside of us. That Robinson Crusoe fantasy, the Swiss Family Robinson, the thing that’s captured by “Lost,” by all of these pop culture texts that have tapped into that element of “what will happen to you when you are stripped of all of society’s trapping and are put into the wild.” In that case, I have a great deal of confidence that good things will come out of me. I will thrive in that environment.
Holmes: The first season I attended was “Survivor: Gabon.” I remember getting on this plane and being worried that this show I enjoyed was about to be ruined. What if Probst is a jerk? What if they have catering for the players? What if it’s really on a Hollywood backlot? Fortunately none of that was true. Are you worried about ruining something you’ve grown to love?
Dawson: There’s always the risk that when you find out how the sausage gets made that you’ll never be able to enjoy another cookout. That’s something that by nature of what I do for a living, I’ve had to contend with for a long time. By profession, I’m someone who takes his passions and studies them for money. I watch TV for money. I think about TV and pop culture for a living.
Holmes: It’s an awesome job.
Dawson: Exactly! Take your passions and make them your life. And that’s sort of what I’ve done with “Survivor.” It’s been a part of my life over the last eight years where it’s something that people identify me with having not even played it. And I feel fortunate that I’ll meet someone and they’ll say, “I know you, you taught that class on ‘Survivor.’” To be in any way able to bask in the halo of such a storied, legendary entertainment franchise is great. There certainly is the risk that a negative experience out here could sour my perception of the game. But the way I’m going into it is very much the way Ian Terry went into “Big Brother.” I want to eat slop. I want to go to Exile Island. I want to be on a (expletive deleted) tribe that goes to Tribal all the time. I want the “Survivor” experience, including being there on day 39 and explaining to the jury why I deserve the million dollars.
Holmes: Any worries that you might have trouble communicating if you’re viewing the game up here and someone else is down here?
Dawson: Certainly. The appeal for me has many layers. There’s the primal layer that I mentioned before. I love the unintentional comedy of “Survivor.” Some of the moments that I talk about the most are when Bruce Kanegai and Bob Dawg locked up in the (expletive deleted) and drank the wine and pissed everybody off. Those are the things that stick out for me. So, I certainly have that weird geeky appreciation for the show that might go over the heads of people who say, “I’m just like Parvati.” They were given “Heroes vs. Villains” and “Cagayan” on DVD and the three episodes they’ve watched are their entire exposure to the show. I recognize those people are going to be out here, and I don’t dismiss them. Those people are out here for a reason. And based on the casting of season 28, it seems like they’re moving away from putting in the human mannequins, the people who are just filling space. When you’ve got a season with returning players like “Philippines” and you’ve got Penner, you need a Katie and Dana. Because Penner is going to take up three times the screen time as a normal person. And they’re going to take up a third of the time of a normal player.
Holmes: So we can expect Max Dawson – Screentime Hog?
Dawson: I’m not one to be at a loss for words. Especially when I’m talking about my two favorite subjects; “Survivor” and myself.
Holmes: If there is a twist, what do you think it’ll be?
Dawson: I don’t think there’s any filler on this cast. They love the fact that people played hard on “Cagayan.” Jeff talked about it. You guys have talked about it. The fans have talked about it. I expect them to build on that success. My guess is eighteen people, divided into three tribes, and there are a lot of players. Either that or Malcolm and Reynold are at some off-site location waiting for the ultimate “Survivor” bro-down.
Holmes: “Survivor: Brodown.” That’s the subhead.
Dawson: (Laughs) “Survivor: Bro-back Island.”
Holmes: You mentioned lies you’re going to tell. Do you already have some brewing behind that beard?
Dawson: Not so much about myself. I tend to believe that people who go into the game prepared to tell lies about themselves…more often than not it goes wrong. Those interactions are the ones that build the trust that you later on will exploit when you blindside someone. So, they’re not identity-based lies. RC tried to tell people she was a receptionist as opposed to someone who worked in finance. That’s something you have to keep on your mind the entire time. I want to be keeping track of the fact that I told Dalton that I’m getting rid of Gordon and I told Gordon that we’re getting rid of Dalton.
Holmes: But you’d be keeping me right?
Dawson: We’ll see.
Holmes: (Expletive deleted)
Holmes: Women love, as a rule, “Survivor” super fans.
Dawson: Do they?
Holmes: They can’t get enough of them. So, will you be using flirtatious ways to get ahead?
Dawson: I don’t see that as being something. I’m comfortable with it, but I don’t anticipate it being a big part of my game. There are much cuter, younger guys with bigger muscles who I anticipate will attract that sort of attention. And I’m happy to let them too because we know any semblance of a showmance usually places a target on the backs of the people who are participating in it. If there’s someone out there who likes arrogant intellectuals with glorious beards, be they man or woman and they want to flirt with me to solidify an alliance? I’ll do anything to win this game.
Holmes: Any experience in the outdoors?
Dawson: I spend a lot of time camping, hiking, in the outdoors. In my early twenties I spent a couple of years living in Australia, most of it in the back of a van, doing the hippie/vagabond thing. I’ve never roughed it quite as hard as we’re about to in a few hours.
Holmes: If you could align with any past Survivor, who would it be and why?
Dawson: Wow…this is a loaded question for me. I think a lot of people will read this and be disappointed that I didn’t select them. I would pick Dawn Meehan. Not only because I find her to be a strong player, but I think she’s someone I can relate to on an intellectual level. I’ve just always loved Dawn. I’ve found her to be the ultimate wing woman. She’s trustworthy, loyal, tends to cry a little bit, but that’s endearing. I like that. Plus, I’m looking for a bread delivery in the near future.
Holmes: How do you do with extreme heat?
Dawson: I prefer extreme heat to extreme cold. I hated living in Chicago, I love living in LA.
Holmes: What about the sun?
Dawson: I’m a sun worshiper.
Holmes: Lack of food?
Dawson: That’s going to be tough. In preparing to play, when I was first contacted, and I was contacted, I’m not an applicant, I weighed 153 pounds. I’m 6’3”. I’d gotten so badly out of shape that I didn’t have anything on my bones. Between then and now, I fluctuate between 195 and 200. So, that required a lot of eating. Eating has become like my second job. The fact that I’m about to go cold turkey off of calories is a little daunting.
Holmes: What about extreme paranoia?
Dawson: I feel both positive and apprehensive about it. Positive because it suits my personality. I’m kind of a hyper vigilant person who can monitor three conversations at a restaurant while still being able to pretend to be interested in what the person across from me is saying. I tend to pick up on those subtle signs. I’m apprehensive because after 39 days and I’ve won and I have to go back to regular life, how do I reintegrate into society? It’s something that will come naturally, but I want to keep it in check.
Holmes: What are your thoughts on this cast?
Dawson: There are some interesting characters. There’s one guy who I think medical should take a look at. I think he was attacked by a seagull, there are feathers everywhere. It was quite tragic.
Holmes: I see what you did there.
Dawson: There are your requisite mom types, and it’s so funny to think an older woman on “Survivor” is 32. There is a guy who looks like he has a picture of Malcolm in his mirror and he looks at that picture every morning and he says, “You and me, bro. You and me.” He’s copied Malcolm down to the scrunchie.
Holmes: You can’t blame him.
Dawson: Listen, he is Malcolm. He is Mr. Survivor. There are a couple of bros. If you have a Malcolm you have to have a Reynold and Eddie, right? There’s going to be some broing down going on. There are some younger women who look like they could be in that vulnerable position where they’re looking to align themselves with a more experienced individual, be it male or female. But, who knows? They could be a Parvati-type and be extremely cunning and manipulative. There’s one guy who I know if going to be tough competition. Tall, well-built, blonde hair, clearly carries himself like someone who has accomplished a lot in life. He has an observant look and a self-assured gait. I’ve been keeping my eye on him. He’s either my top competition or my number-one ally. Either way I don’t want to be next to him at the end. I take every one of them seriously even though I might want to go off on their fashion sense. But, each one of them is here for a reason. Each one has a story. Even if their story is they’re a pageant girl who caught the eye of someone in casting. They’ve got something that made them stand out.
Holmes: So when you win…
Dawson: Right, when.
Holmes: First of all, I don’t think there will be any living with you anymore.
Holmes: What’s the plan for the money?
Dawson: I just got a divorce. So, I have half a set of silverware, half a set of glassware. Me and the cats, we’re roughing it in a little 375-foot rental. It’d be to start building up my life again. I was with my high school sweetheart and I’m 37 now. It’s almost twenty years of a relationship that’s come to an end. I’m starting a new life. This is a great transitional moment for me. Get something crazy out of my system and then go back to life, hopefully a million dollars richer.
Don’t miss the 90-minute premiere of “Survivor: Worlds Apart” on Wednesday, February 25, 2015 at 8 pm ET on CBS.