Interview: Max Dawson talks 'Survivor: Worlds Apart'

Former Northwestern professor and current reality TV consultant has a lot to say about his 'Survivor' run
<p>Max Dawson of &quot;Survivor: Worlds Apart&quot;</p>

Max Dawson of "Survivor: Worlds Apart"

Credit: CBS

The "Survivor: Worlds Apart" cast was a bit short on recognizable celebrities, if your idea of "celebrity" happens to be former professional athletes or nearly-forgotten '80s TV stars.

If, however, you spend time around the world of reality TV or academia, or you spend time around those who spend their time around those worlds, there's no question that Max Dawson entered "Survivor: Worlds Apart" as the season's biggest superstar.

As a member of Northwestern's Communications department, Max taught several years of a course titled "The Tribe Has Spoken: Surviving TV’s New Reality," as well as other courses on TV, new media and the business betwixt them. Several of my critical buddies, including Mo Ryan and Myles McNutt and Erik Adams, made appearances in the "Survivor" class. Since 2013, Max has worked as a consultant for and on the reality TV industry. 

He may not be Lisa Whelchel or Jimmy Johnson, but Max Dawson is almost certainly the most public and professional a "Survivor" super-fan to ever get to appear on "Survivor."

It didn't help.

There's no question that Max got screwed by a tribal shuffle in which he and White Collar cohort Shirin found themselves on a new tribe with a significant physical disadvantage, which led to a predictable defeat in the first post-swap Immunity Challenge. 

But whatever dismal cards the "Survivor" Gods dealt him, Max dealt himself some questionable cards. Did he really need to be lecturing Jenn on the Zodiac signs of "Survivor" winners? Were there alternatives to soaking his warty, ray-stung feet in the tribal water pot? [He says no.] Could he have done a better job of shoring up his alliance with Carolyn? [He says yes.] Should he have separated a bit more from Shirin and not become a two-headed super-fan target? 

This is one of those exit interviews in which I probably had enough questions for a four-hour conversation, but there was less time to get to general state-of-"Survivor" questions than I might have liked. Oh well.

Click through for my full Q&A with Max Dawson, beginning with my meta question about "Survivor" exit interviews...

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Interview: Lindsey Cascaddan talks 'Survivor: Worlds Apart'

One of this week's bootees discusses Rodney, Dan, Mike and the Blue Collar Tribe
<p>Lindsey of &quot;Survivor: Worlds Apart&quot;</p>

Lindsey of "Survivor: Worlds Apart"

Credit: CBS

It's likely that Lindsey Cascaddan's "Survivor: Worlds Apart" run will be remembered for her disagreements with the men in her Blue Collar tribe, escalating frustrations that had her targeting first buffoonish Dan, then slave-driving Mike and finally boorish Rodney in three consecutive episodes.

After interviewing the 24-year-old Florida hairdresser, I'm disappointed with didn't get to see more. Lindsey's read on her male tribemates is perceptive and nuanced in a way that Lindsey was never really given the chance to be on "Survivor." 

Instead, Lindsey was constantly on the defensive, fighting with the guys while simultaneously expressing great Blue Collar pride. 

And in her exit interview, even while lamenting the sexism she fought at the Blue Collar camp, Lindsey thinks there was a valuable lesson that she was able to convey through her experience, even if she wasn't able to stick around for very long.

Click for the full Q&A and see if that lesson comes through...

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Recap: 'American Idol' Season 14 - Top 10 Movie Night and Results

Plus, Jennifer Lopez promotes her new movie with a performance
<p>The &quot;American Idol&quot; Top 11</p>

The "American Idol" Top 11

Credit: FOX

Sorry, but I'm still annoyed that we sent Sarina-Joi Crowe packing. It's not that she didn't, at least on some level, deserve to go. She gave a bad performance at the beginning of a long episode, which is an easy path to being forgotten and being eliminated.

Still, "American Idol" lost a singer with almost limitless upside and we kept at least four or five people who almost certainly will never have anywhere near Sarina-Joi's potential.

Oh well.

After dedicating Wednesday night to two ridiculously high-rated hours of "Empire," FOX is turning Thursday over for a sure-to-be-lower-rated two hours of "American Idol" with a Movie Night theme. This is always one of the show's fuzziest and least justifiable themes and tonight we're using the theme as a hook so that Jennifer Lopez can perform the song she has in an upcoming movie.

Click through and follow along!

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Recap: 'Survivor: Worlds Apart' - Two episodes, Two eliminations

In a Wednesday double-dose, two castaways go home
<p>Jenn of &quot;Survivor: Worlds Apart&quot;</p>

Jenn of "Survivor: Worlds Apart"

Credit: CBS

Pre-credit sequence. Storms seem to be building as No Collar returns to camp. "Nina got what was coming to her," Hali cackles, malevolently, as if Nina had done her any harm at all. Hali explains to Will that his name only came up twice as a safety net. Will says that No Collar has the unit they want, but he also knows that he's doomed unless he can get Joe to turn on the girls this early.

He eats things that would make a billy-goat puke. Yikes. There's a big snake over at Blue Collar. Mike successfully machetes the snake and he skins it for dinner. Actually, it's not that big at all, but Mike is willing to eat anything, as he proved with the scorpion situation. Rodney is hesitant, but he wants protein. It seems that the hatchet has been buried between Rodney and Mike. That's nice!

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Interview: Nina Poersch talks 'Survivor: Worlds Apart'

Latest bootee discusses her hearing challenges and the challenges of the theme
<p>Nina of &quot;Survivor: Worlds Apart&quot;</p>

Nina of "Survivor: Worlds Apart"

Credit: CBS

All you need to know about the "Survivor: Worlds Apart" White/Blue/No Collar twist can be summed up in Nina Poersch's reaction to initially finding herself on the No Collar tribe.

"I thought in my head, 'Holy crap. I am on the wrong tribe,'" Nina told me in her "Survivor" exit interview. "I am not and have never considered myself to be a No Collar person. You might look at my lifestyle right now and think that, but that’s not me. That’s never been me."

By that standard, we probably shouldn't be surprised that Nina's "Survivor" run was a brief one, with the only surprise being that she escaped one vote for her No Collar tribe. 

Not only was Nina a spiritual outlier on her tribe, but she also was quickly on the outs with what last week's bootee Vince called The Barbie Block, a young alliance featuring Jenn, Hali and Joe. Did that trio dislike Nina because she's deaf or because she wasn't free-spirited enough or because she was older? Probably a little of each.

As Nina is quick to note, she made have disclosed her deafness to her tribe, but she has cochlear implants and hears fairly well. Other than asking me to repeat a couple questions, Nina's exit interview was entirely business-as-usual over the phone, as she discussed her distance from her tribe, especially with Joe, who announced he had special understanding of her deafness, but then squeezed her out in a key challenge.

Click through for the full Q&A, minus only a little trimming of the couple repeated questions: 

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Recap: 'The Amazing Race' - 'The Great Amazing Nasty Race'

The teams head to Bangkok for egg-eating, pool-shooting and more
<p>Rochelle on Friday&#39;s &quot;The Amazing Race&quot;</p>

Rochelle on Friday's "The Amazing Race"

Credit: CBS

I liked a lot of Friday (March 13) night's episode of "The Amazing Race," but maybe I didn't like it as an episode of "The Amazing Race," if you know what I mean.


I really did find myself getting a kick out of all of the bickering couples, but I may just have been amused by how silly they made this season's twist/theme look.

I enjoyed some of the things the pairs were getting to do, even though they didn't feel like "Amazing Race" kinds of things to do.

And I found myself really rooting for the team that went home, even though I never felt for a second like they had any chance of cheating their fate again...

More after the break...

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Recap: 'American Idol' Season 14 - Top 12 Performances and an Elimination

Plus, FOX tries to bring some 'Empire' juice to 'Idol'
<p>The &quot;American Idol&quot; Season 14 Top 12</p>

The "American Idol" Season 14 Top 12

Credit: Michael Becker/FOX

Sorry about the delay, kids.

I had to be doing PaleyFest 2015 red carpet coverage for Starz's "Outlander," so I was talking about wedding nights and spankings and I missed doing my normal Eastern Time "American Idol" live-blog. 

And, in fact, I got home nearly 20 minutes into the Pacific Time airing of "Idol."

So let's play a game and see how quickly I'm able to catch up with the live broadcast...

Follow through for my full recap of Thursday's (March 12) Top 12 performances and the first solo elimination of the season.

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Recap: 'Survivor: Worlds Apart' - 'Crazy is as Crazy Does'

I see your true collars shining through, that's why I'm bored with you
<p>Wednesday&#39;s &quot;Survivor: Worlds Apart&quot;</p>

Wednesday's "Survivor: Worlds Apart"

Credit: CBS

Pre-credit sequence. No Collar returns to camp after dispatching with Vince. Nobody's especially sure what happened, at least nobody other than Will, who screwed up the split-voting plan and also screwed up his chances of being trusted by anybody else. With new understanding, Joe is less grateful that Will booted his nemesis and more distrustful of a new nemesis. Will says he's playing chess, not checkers, which is irrelevant, because what he's actually supposed to be playing here is "Survivor." Nina announces that she knows she's the next one out. Once again, she's feeling like an outsider and once again she wants everybody to know that she's feeling like an outsider. She just asks people not to whisper behind her back. "Enjoy yourself, Nina!" Jenn instructs her, with the most half-hearted pep talk imaginable. We know how Jenn really feels about Nina anyway and it isn't especially attractive. "I get it. You're deaf. We all understand," Jenn tells us. Oy.

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Recap: 'American Idol' Season 14 - Top 12 Revealed

Presumably four more singers head home as the Finalists are unveiled
<p>Qaasim Middleton of &quot;American Idol.&quot;</p>

Qaasim Middleton of "American Idol."

Credit: FOX

There were definitely some surprises in last week's first Top 24 eliminations.

One week, Trevor Douglas was my pick to win the whole thing. The next week? Poof. Gone.

One week, it seemed like everybody hated Maddie Walker for taking Rachael Hallack's place in the Top 24. The next week? Bam! Embraced by America despite an utterly mediocre performance.

On Wednesday (March 11) night, "American Idol" is unveiling our Top 12 Finalists. How will the lucky singers be revealed? And what will we do to fill the hour? 

Click through and follow along!

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Interview: Vince Sly talks 'Survivor: Worlds Apart'

When is a 'coconut vendor' not really a coconut vendor? On 'Survivor'
<p>Vince Sly of &quot;Survivor: Worlds Apart&quot;</p>

Vince Sly of "Survivor: Worlds Apart"

Credit: CBS

Vince Sly does not have a feather in his hair as we talk in the aftermath of his "Survivor: Worlds Apart" elimination. 

We're on the phone, so I have to take his word for it. 

Vince also notes that he's not a coconut vendor, even if that's how he was introduced on "Survivor." He owns Coconut Caravan and that is, indeed, business that sells coconuts, but that's only a weekend job. He's actually a holistic counselor and owner of four art galleries.

Yes, Vince says things like, "I’ll never badmouth anybody in the show because you really are the center of your own microcosmic universe when you’re out there. Every thought, emotion, feeling, sentiment you have feels like it’s going to alter all of existence no matter what you do."

But he also says far more pragmatic things like noting that the difference between him and The Barbie Block in his No Collar tribe was that the lifestyle he lives is one that he's chosen and not a youthful uncertainty of trying to figure out what's next. I completely buy that this would be the thing that separated him from the Jenn/Joe/Hali alliance that ended up voting him out. 

Vince also takes exception to the way the editing portrayed his crush on Jenn and his rivalry with Joe.

Click through for the full Q&A, because what Vince says sounds pretty plausible, albeit occasionally trippy...

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