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Scott D. Pierce: Leave Dawn alone! 'Survivor' is a game

Published May 18, 2013 4:35 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Haters got to hate. But the haters who went after Utah "Survivor" contestant Dawn Meehan were displaying ignorance.

Meehan, of South Jordan, became the object of insults because of the way she played the game of "Survivor." Which is what you need to remember — she was playing a game.

Clearly, the Brigham Young University English professor didn't play it perfectly. She made it to the final three of "Survivor: Caramoan — Fans vs. Favorites," but she didn't get a single vote from jury members, who voted unanimously for winner John Cochran.

And Meehan got beaten up on social media. The comments were vicious and cutting — with some people wishing her sick or dead.

Really. Over a TV show.

It was so bad that Meehan shut down her Twitter and Facebook accounts.

The tipping point came in the penultimate episode when she voted to oust Brenda Lowe. They were friends, and when Lowe found Meehan's missing retainer/false teeth in a lagoon, Meehan professed gratitude and undying friendship. She didn't promise to help her win the money.

If my best friend and I compete for $1 million and she votes me out, I'll be upset — because I didn't vote her out first. But I know it's a game. Hopefully, I'd get over it.

Meehan made a strategic move to oust a strong threat. In the short term, it worked. In the long term, it didn't.

You can hate the game without hating the player. And no one has ever won "Survivor" without betraying an ally at some point. That's the way the game works.

If anyone was violating the spirit of "Survivor," it was Lowe. Her inability to separate the game from friendship was sad. Insisting that Meehan remove her false teeth on air was pathetic. Meehan tried to win; Lowe tried to humiliate Meehan.

And there's a huge element of sexism in the reaction to the game Meehan played. Cochran came up with the plan to oust Lowe, and he was seen as a strategic player.

Meehan joined that plan, and she was seen as a backstabbing bitch.

I don't really know Meehan. I've interviewed her a couple of times, and she came across as very pleasant.

I agree with her detractors on many issues. Her excessive crying and paranoia were annoying. She always seemed ready to hug other contestants who could help her in some way — which came across as phony.

Honestly, I wasn't rooting for her to win. But I wouldn't dream of vilifying her for her attempts to do so.

She was playing a game.

And, by the way, she didn't altogether lose. She and Sherri Biethman — the other finalist who got zero votes —split the second- and third-place money and each took home $92,500.

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.