HitFix Interview: Whitney Duncan and Dawn Meehan talk ‘Survivor: South Pacific’

Another week, another “Survivor: South Pacific” exit interview with the tattered remnants of the formerly strong Savaii tribe.
As was the case with Jim & Keith two weeks ago, my latest exit interview is a twofer of evicted castaways who left the game grumbling about John Cochran and his apparently unsuccessful defection into the temporary warmth of Coach’s Cult.
In this interview we’ve got frequently insecure Mormon college professor Dawn Meehan and not-especially-bashful country crooner Whitney Duncan, who had some of the harshest (most pixelated) words for Cochran after his flip-flop.
What do the two newest Jury members have to say about Cochran, Coach and Ozzy?
Click through for the full Q&A.
HitFix: So how tired have you guys gotten of talking about Cochran for these past few months?
Dawn Meehan: I’m actually not tired of it. We talked a lot about Cochran *in* the game, so it makes sense that we’re still talking about him. He was a big part of what took place for us.
Whitney Duncan: Yeah and in my everyday life, the only time I really talk about Cochran is on Wednesdays after the show’s aired and everybody’s giving me their thoughts on Cochran, whether it was a smart move or a bad move or whatever. In my normal, everyday life, Cochran isn’t even a thought in my mind, so I’m not tired of it.
HitFix: So amongst your friends and loved ones, has anybody at any point taken his side with you and suggested that maybe people should have been nicer to him?
Whitney: No, because there’s no proof that we were bad to him. I think if there was a lot of bullying going on — obviously Coach used that term, not  Cochran — but if we were so mean to him, I think they would have loved to have showed that and I felt there was nothing shown, besides maybe the chicken incident and then after the “Jack & Jill” challenge when everyone put their opinion out there that he had lost the challenge. Yeah, that wasn’t the nicest thing, but day to day, we got along with Cochran. I felt like we were pretty much kinda a happy family.
Dawn: Yeah, Jim and I were really close to him in the game, so I think there are a lot of really good memories and moments from the pre-Merge.
Whitney: Totally.
HitFix: So then in your minds, did Cochran getting voted off last night totally confirm to you or eliminate any doubts that he had made the wrong move?
Whitney: I didn’t have any doubts. I didn’t need any confirmation.
Dawn: He’d been told so many times, you know? It’s interesting that he still believed that Upolu was legit for him.
HitFix: There’s been a lot of discussion, certainly in the interviews last week, about how everyone in Savaii had a Final Three plan that involved Cochran. Could you guys each talk about what your hypothetical Final Three plans might have been?
Dawn: I think for me, from pretty much Day 16 on, the plan for me was to be with Jim and Cochran. I also had a pretty tight alliance with Whitney, so depending on how things would have shifted at the Merge, because there were still so many days left in the game, Cochran would have definitely been one of my Final Three. And he knew that. And Jim and I definitely talked about it, although I’ve heard Jim say since that he would have had to cut me loose.
Whitney: You think of every scenario and go through it in your head and who would be your obvious picks. You want to take people you can beat in the Final Three, of course. And to me, Cochran was one of those, though I never expressed that to him. So I can’t say that he knew that from me. If we’d been down closer into that, I definitely would have told him that and made him feel like that, but we were just so far away from those final days and you definitely think about it in the game, but you don’t always express it. So I think I should have expressed that to him. He definitely was in my Final Three. It would have been smart for anybody on our tribe to take Cochran to the Final Three. When you’re down to individual immunities — I hate to be this blunt and say this — but he’s obviously not going to win any of them and everybody wants to take somebody they can beat and I think everybody on the tribe felt like they could beat him on the Final Three. 
Dawn: The problem I see for Cochran, in terms of believing Savaii versus Upolu with Final Three, is that once the “Jack and Jill” challenge happens and the weight of that challenge falls on his shoulders, he really starts to doubt whether the tribe will take him to the Final Three, regardless of everyone’s plans. He feels a disconnect from the tribe and I really think it’s an emotional decision for him. He bonds with Coach. He believes Coach. He doesn’t have this experience of losing a challenge with Coach and Coach is telling him, “You’re a game-changer” and Cochran’s such a big fan. He adores Coach. So this is a big moment for him. He’s said he wants to be called by his last name. He’s being called “Cochran” in the game and now he’s doing Coach Chi. That looked like a pretty good decision to him at the time. I just don’t know that… To me, it seemed to obvious that he was being used, so it’s weird to me that he couldn’t see through that. It’s bizarre to me. I was offered the opportunity to flip and it just never felt genuine, but it really speaks to him. And that’s what makes him do it.
HitFix: OK. What you just said makes total and complete sense, but it makes total and complete sense in retrospect and having watched it on the show. How much of that would have been going through your head and seeming logical to you at the time?
Dawn: Sure. To me it did then. But I spent a lot of time with him.
HitFix: And you tried convincing him he was being used?
Dawn: I think that, for me, was why I’m so emotional in that episode and at that point in the game, is it’s just so intense for me. Really, the fate for the tribe is resting on that and I know that, but I don’t know how to get it back for Cochran. I don’t know how to compensate for what he thinks is happening to his game on the Savaii tribe. I just don’t know. I did go to Ozzy and tell him on the day of the vote that Cochran absolutely feels disconnected and he doesn’t feel like he’s going to go to the end with anybody here, this is happening, he’s talking to them and it’s not the double-agent thing. You could see him. He physically looked like he was enjoying the game. I told Ozzy, “I think you coming to him would make a big difference.” I think I even told him this was a million dollar discussion here. So Ozzy did go speak with him, spent about 15 minutes with him and came back to me and said, “We’re good. I talked to him. He’s not gonna flip. Everything’s fine Dawn. You’re just maybe a little paranoid.”
Whitney: I think that’s how Ozzy treated you [to Dawn] as well. He felt like you were a little paranoid, but over-reacting. I don’t feel like he felt you seriously when you said that. Obviously I wasn’t there, so I don’t know. But had you told somebody else, I would have probably done things a little differently than Ozzy did. I don’t feel like he took what you said to heart.
Dawn: And I went to Ozzy because I believe that we was the one that maybe had the most to repair for Cochran, in Cochran’s mind.
HitFix: Going off that… Whitney mentioned a couple things earlier that maybe could have been close to bullying, but whatever we saw seemed to come from Ozzy’s direction. Do you guys, in your minds, somewhat blame Ozzy for not handling things as well as maybe Coach did with his Tribe?
Dawn: You know, there are so many things that Ozzy does right in the game that it’s hard for me to say, “Hey… [unintelligible].” Because I’m on the Jury now and Ozzy’s at least on Redemption, so I don’t know that I can fault him. I think my feeling, you know, today is… He’s Bob Marley! He’s got other strengths, but it’s not necessarily that leadership role for the tribe.
Whitney: I don’t think so either. He’s more of a provider than a leader, I would say. He treated Cochran kinda like a friend and maybe did some things that he didn’t take as being bullying. It wasn’t bullying, but it was maybe not the nicest thing to do or the nicest thing to say, just because he’s probably that way with his friends. You know? I don’t think he ever meant it to upset Cochran.
Dawn: The thing is, Coach says things that are offensive or hurtful. I think you could say that of anybody using this intense persuasion. Part of Ozzy’s early game was to get Cochran out. That’s what he thought was best for his game. Cochran felt that and obviously didn’t like that. You don’t want to see your name come up at Tribal and he began the game with our first two Tribals basically looking like, “It’s gonna be you one of these times, Cochran.”
HitFix: Having watched and experienced some of it, are you guys impressed with the cult that Coach has created around himself?
Dawn: I’m impressed with the followers. I think I have more questions about that. 
Whitney: I’m not impressed. I’m shocked.
Dawn: I think I’m just surprised. We just never bought it. It never seemed authentic. At the Merge it didn’t. It’s so surprising. You felt a little bit and I think Whitney at a certain point even addressed Rick, like you almost wanna say, “Hey! Wake up! Wake up! Do you see this? Can you please tell me you see this?”
Whitney: What you gotta give props for is that Coach made everybody feel like they were going to the Final Three with him. So he played a great game in that way. Now Coach talks about Ozzy’s leadership and the way Ozzy does things and all this stuff, but Ozzy was a beast in challenges, he provided for us. We liked Ozzy. Coach puts everybody down and then he doesn’t do anything. He does no work around camp. He’s terrible at challenges. All he is good at is the social… making people feel… But it just never felt genuine to me.
Dawn: He’s great at the “Outwit.”
Whitney: Yeah, I never bought it, but for someone like Cochran, he obviously was gullible enough to buy into it.
HitFix: So you guys are convinced that if Coach had ended up on Savaii instead of Ozzy, Coach would not have been able to do what he did?
Dawn: No. Absolutely not.
Whitney: Coach wouldn’t have lasted to the Merge with us.
Dawn: At least with us, at the six, you had six people who were really gonna gun for the million dollars. We each thought of ourselves, we were playing our own game. I don’t know if that’s the case for Upolu at this stage. Maybe things will start to change now that they see… I think the comparison I use is it’s the Donner Party. It’s time to start eating.
HitFix: As a last question: Cochran aside, you guys have had a lot of time to think about how you’d have played things differently. In retrospect, what would you have done differently and when would you have done it to prevent your talking to me this early?
Whitney: It’s hard to say a particular move. I would definitely go back and think more about sending Elyse home. I think it was a little premature. If we would have gotten rid of Cochran at that time instead of Elyse, we might not have lost the “Jack and Jill” challenge, because when it comes down to it, you can’t blame just one person, but Cochran was a big part in losing us that challenge. I don’t think Elyse would have messed it up, honestly. So just looking back at that particular moment, we possibly could have changed that. I don’t know. That’s scary, because the problem with Elyse is that she would never talk about the game with anybody. I tried to talking to her on several occasions, but she’s not talking to us, but she’s talking  to Ozzy. So it was scary for us, with everybody else in the tribe knowing we had to get rid of Ozzy at some point, for him to have somebody in his back pocket was a very scary situation for us. So it might have been a little premature, but the Elyse decision could have been different. We also could have sent Cochran after the “Jack and Jill” challenge, instead of Ozzy trying to be the hero. Christine would have come back to us. I have no doubt about that. Either of those decisions could have changed the game for us.
Dawn: Absolutely the same on sending Cochran to Redemption and trying to work with Christine. I think the other thing for me that I’ve thought about over and over and over again is once I win Immunity and it’s time for us to vote at the Merge, should I have given Cochran my Immunity and drawn a rock myself? Would he have not flipped? Would that have been enough to say to him, “Listen, we’re going six of us strong and you’re in it to the Final Three, I’m willing to do this.” 
Whitney: Or Ozzy giving him the Hidden Immunity Idol. He could have done that as well.
Dawn: But for me, I just kept thinking, “You never give up Immunity in this game. Period.” You just don’t give it up, because you never know how it’s gonna change the next day or that night. Those are two things, the Christine possibility, because I would have loved to work with Christine and been in an alliance with her.
Whitney: She got the Coach thing. She saw Coach like we saw Coach, so I just don’t see her going back to that Tribe.