A Survivor castaway recently opened up about his experience on the show, including that production coached him to be a better participant. Max Dawson from Survivor: Worlds Apart told the Spectacle podcast that he was surprised at how production coached him on the show and how that actually led to his downfall.
Dawson Came In With a Strategy And Found That The Game Was A Lot Harder Than He Anticipated
On the podcast, Dawson, who prior to the show actually taught a college course on Survivor, said that being on Survivor was really eye-opening for him, exposing him to a lot of people he would never have met in his real life.
“I was coming from a life that had been pretty much focused on head-down academic achievement and scholarship, and suddenly I’m in a world with people who are very unlike me … it was a very eye-opening experience for me,” said Dawson.
He also revealed that he came into the show with a set strategy — target some outcasts and form an alliance with them. But playing Survivor for real is a lot different than watching from your living room or even teaching a class about it.
“My plan was to find the two people who seemed to be most on the outs, who would be most vulnerable and offer them my loyalty and protection in exchange for theirs. And I followed through with that, I formed an alliance with two women on my tribe. We were able to prevail at our first Tribal Council, but over time, I realized that making that sort of strong bond with two outsiders didn’t put me in a position to move forward very easily,” said the former castaway.
Production Also Had Their Own Strategy For Coaching The Cast Members
Dawson also pulled back the curtain a little bit on how involved production is in trying to make the best TV show they possibly can. It’s no surprise that they are more involved than viewers might realize.
“I had a producer take me aside at one point and say, ‘Max, who are your favorite Survivors?'” he recalled. “And I said [John] Cochran and [Jonathan] Penner and she said, ‘What did they always do?’ And I said I don’t know, they were always great in confessionals.”
But that wasn’t what she meant. She meant the way they helped the show was why they were easy to feature and highlight.
“[She said] they always made sure they explained things while they were doing things. They never whispered. So if you’re going to take Shirin [Oskooi] away, I need you to kind of tell that you’re going to take her away. Talk to the camera. Wait for the cameraman, let him get in position. So I was being coached to be a little more televisual,” said Dawson.
However, once he started to do that more for production, that negatively affected his game as well. What happened was that he was concentrating so hard on what he was going to say in confessionals or what he was going to show to the camera that he started to become oblivious to what was going on around him — and he got voted out.
It’s interesting to hear about production coaching castaways. We have to imagine there are some great “characters” who were not really featured on the show because they couldn’t give production enough good footage and perhaps other castaways who were elevated on the show even if they weren’t playing the best game because they were giving production what it wanted or needed.
Survivor season 41 begins filming soon with an expected premiere date of late September 2021.