Dawn Meehan is not usually the type of person to end up in a controversy. But the bread-baking Mormon mother of six adopted children created a firestorm when she voted off buddy Brenda Lowe on Survivor: Caramoan after Brenda had found her missing fake teeth and tried to bring Dawn with her on a loved ones reward challenge. A revenge-seeking Brenda fired back at last night’s final Tribal Council, as she sought to humiliate her former friend by making her remove her teeth in front of the entire jury (and country watching at home.) We caught up with Dawn to get her take on fans’ volatile reaction to her move as well as Brenda’s retaliation, while also asking her if the positive of making it all the way to the end of the game outweighs the negative of not getting a single jury vote. [NOTE: You can also read our interview with winner John Cochran right here, as well as and our chat with Erik Reichenbach, who slams the “farce” of a reunion show.]
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Ummm, I hate to bring this up, but you promised me no crying this season!
DAWN MEEHAN: I know! What is that all about? I promised no crying this season. What did you call me? Liar, Liar Pants on Fire?
EW: That’s the one.
DAWN: Well, this was my deceptive season, so I just started out with you. I wish that I could understand that better but for me personally I connect with people in my daily life pretty quickly. The game is very, very, very intense for me. It is such a difficult game.
EW: Oh, Dawn, just say “I’m a big crybaby” and be done with it!
DAWN: Okay. I’m a big cry baby. That’s how I express my difficulty — through tears.
EW: How hard was it this week dealing with all the hateful things people were saying about you and tweeting you in the wake of your decision to vote off Brenda?
DAWN: It was horrible. To me the reason it was difficult is not because people disagreed with my decision because before I came out to the island I made the promise to myself that I would vote off anybody that did not have my last name, regardless. It was very, very personal. It become threatening. I shut down my Twitter account, I shut down my Facebook account, and even this morning I got a message that said something to the effect of “You’d probably skin your children for a million dollars and you’re an ugly person and you’re going to hell.” So they’re very vindictive, pretty harsh things. It still hurts, even if you know who you are and have given yourself permission to play the game. It was shocking and a little bit frightening. It was super disappointing to read so much hate. But for every unkind thing I received, there were probably two positives.
EW: You know my take on your move. I didn’t like it strategically, but had no problems with it on any sort of personal level because it was not a personal move, it was a game move. But what Brenda did to you at Tribal Council in pressuring you to remove your teeth was strictly personal in that she just wanted to humiliate you for humiliation’s sake. Do you regret letting her do that to you?
DAWN: No. I was playing the game for the million dollars and the most painful thing I did was voting people out. I’m not kidding you, Dalton. I mean, I looooove Corinne and…
EW: Did you ever think you would be saying those words: I love Corinne?
DAWN: I even think you asked me about her in our pre-game interview and I was scared.
EW: But why let Brenda do that you?
DAWN: By that point I was beat. I lost 27 pounds this season, so that day I felt the way Erik did the day he left the game — dizzy, not well, and I just needed the whole experience to be over. I know people probably don’t agree with this but I like to think that I’m a fairly compassionate person and I felt like if this is what it’s going to take for Brenda to move on so she can put me in my place, it’s not going to hurt me to take out my teeth. All the hurt was playing this game and voting people out. That was where you see the tears. So taking out my teeth didn’t hurt me. My kids told me, “You looked strong. You smiled.” I didn’t watch it.. I was backstage. It was pretty painful and at the time I felt like wow, that was someone with just pure emotion needing to hurt me. But that’s how she felt. I can’t control how other people feel about the game.
EW: You all kind of talked at the Reunion, although it was via satellite and with Jeff Probst running interference so it was more like talking at each other than to each other. Do you think you two will ever have that clearing-the-air conversation?
DAWN: I did actually reconcile with her at Ponderosa. I had probably four hours with her, so I was under the impression I was on good terms with her when I left the game. I think she came home and probably processed a lot and it was still painful and she changed her mind about how she felt. So I pretty consistently reached out and wrote heartfelt messages. I had hoped she might say, “I’m sorry I humiliated you.” But that never really came about. It was more you hurt me, Dawn. Do I wish it didn’t hurt her like I did and do I wish she didn’t want me to suffer? Yes, but I couldn’t control that. So I wish her well. I’ve extended myself. I really, really have, and I know that. Last night was awkward. I had no idea that her satellite would be centered around me. I thought it would be centered around her pregnancy. I didn’t know that he was facilitating an apology. I love Brenda, but I do kind of feel Jeff was like, “Dawn, say you’re sorry.” And I said I was sorry and he was like, “No, mean it!”
EW: And not only that, but it was a one-sided apology. He didn’t ask her at all about what she did to you at Tribal Council.
DAWN: Just so people know, at Ponderosa, she did apologize. She did say, “I was just hurt. I felt like my boyfriend had broken up with me. I loved you so much.” And in her defense, she only had a few days out of the game before we went to Tribal Council. So I thought last night was awkward.
EW: You make it all the way to the end and then get the goose egg against Cochran, with him getting all eight votes. So where did you go wrong in terms of not getting a single vote?
DAWN: You had written that maybe I played too much like Coach where you make these personal connections with people and then they’re hurt by that. It’s just so personal. Someone on the jury said, “We couldn’t reward that.” Cochran and I made the same decisions, we made all of the votes together, we would get up every morning at 4am so that nobody would see us getting together.
EW: That’s smart!
DAWN: So in one way it hurts because you’re like, “I made all those decisions with him!” But the thing that he did was establish relationships that were maybe more in the context of the game. And there’s probably a little gender bias in terms of a mother is emotional and not stabbing you in the back but stabbing you in the front.
EW: So since you and Sherri both tied with zero votes, do you both get $100,000 second place money?
DAWN: What they do is take second and third and then divide us.
EW: So you each get, like $92,500?
DAWN: Yep. I’m a teacher, so I wasn’t joking when I said, I can get new teeth!
EW: Let’s use my handy dandy Survivor time machine to go back to exactly a year ago today when we spoke as you were about to leave for Survivor: Caramoan. And I tell you, “Look, Dawn, you are going to make it all the way to the very end, all 39 days. But here’s what’s going to happen: You’re going to have this whole situation with Brenda. You’re going to get horrible death threats and messages sent to you, and she’s going to try her best to humiliate you at the final Tribal Council. So do you want to go do this or not?
DAWN: I have more scars than I did — emotional scars. And I won’t lie to you — at the end of that Tribal Council I turned to Cochran and I said, “I’m concerned for my own mental safety right now.” But yes, I would do it again knowing what I know about how it ended.
Check out an exclusive deleted scene from last night Survivor finale below. Also make sure to read Dalton’s full finale/reunion recap, as well as his interview with winner John Cochran, and his chat with Erik Reichenbach, who slams the “farce” of a reunion show. And for more Survivor scoop all year round, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.