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[Warning: Spoilers head if you haven’t seen Sunday’s episode of Survivor: Caramoan — Fans vs. Favorites.]
John Cochran — a self-professed Survivor super-fan — won the game in his second attempt, as revealed on Sunday night’s live finale.
The 25-year-old Harvard law student who lives in Washington, D.C., was perceived as a weakling in his first time around, but he did a total 180 to win four individual challenges this season and win the $1 million prize in a unanimous vote. He received all of the eight possible votes to take the win over Dawn Meehan and Sherri Biethman.
The Hollywood Reporter: How do you plan to spend your winnings?
John Cochran: It’s going to be a lot of boring stuff; it’s going to be invested, probably a down payment on an apartment, and I’m thinking of a little impulse purchase. Nothing extravagant that I’m going to spend my money on. When I get a new apartment, I’ll probably … soup it up? Soup it out? I don’t even know the lingo. I’ll probably make it as high-tech as possible, a lot of wireless gizmos and stuff. And I kind of want to get a Segway, as lame as that it. I don’t know how often I’d use it, but I’d like to just ride around on one. Even if it’s just doing circles in my living room.
THR: You said in the finale, you probably won’t become a lawyer and instead have aspirations of becoming a writer. What kind of writing do you want to pursue?
Cochran: It’s an abstract aspiration at this point. I’ve always been a good writer in school. … Maybe I’ll write some sort of screenplay, or comedy writing. Then I start thinking, am I really that funny, or am I just deluding myself?
THR: You wrote a thesis paper on Survivor and the jury system. Is this available to read online or anywhere else?
Cochran: It’s not that good is the thing. It’s been mythologized as this incredible work of Survivor genius. It’s basically Survivor for Dummies. … But it’s not that great, and I feel like it’s better left a mystery than revealing how lame it is to the world.
THR: You won the title of Sole Survivor by a unanimous vote, which is a pretty amazing feat.
Cochran: Not to toot my own horn, but I won unanimously, and nobody cast a single vote against me the entire game, which is only the second time in Survivor history that’s happened. J.T. [of Survivor: Tocantins] had the same thing. On the one hand, you could I’m say not a threat; nobody bothered voting for me because I’m such a loser, but I’m kind of a winner now, so maybe they should have voted against me.
THR: We really saw a big turnaround in you this time around. When did this transformation take place?
Cochran: Watching yourself on Survivor is a tough experience. You get a lot of criticism online. You have to grow thicker skin. I think that helped going into this season. I had thicker skin. I was very aware of what my flaws were. And I’d been ridiculed so much that it loses its sting. You’re a little bit more callous and you don’t have to worry about your character flaws, and I have an abundance of that. Not only that, but the people I played with and on my tribe, we got along great. The first time, nobody liked me. Getting along with people is a huge benefit. It put me at ease. I was able to think about the game in a very focused way instead of worrying, oh my god they think I’m some loser. I was probably still a nerd, or loser, but I got along with everybody and it wasn’t always dominating my thoughts.
THR: Was there a point where you felt like you had it in the bag?
Cochran: Dawn and I always talked about the game, that it was like Whac-a-Mole. From the very first day, I was thinking [Malcolm] was my biggest threat. He’s a smart, charming, athletic strategist, so we knocked him down, but then Andrea pops up. And Andrea’s playing a very strong game. She has an idol. She had kind of wooed the enemy [and secured jury votes] from the other tribe. So we knocked her down, and all of a sudden Brenda is someone who’s a legitimate threat because she hadn’t really crossed anybody. So there was never a moment where I was like, now Malcolm’s gone, and here’s my victory march to the end. I think when I won immunity, and I knew I was going to be in the end, I thought, “I actually played a well-rounded game.” …. [At the final tribal council], I felt pretty confident. I thought I answered my questions pretty well, and people seemed receptive to my answers. But this was filmed 10 months ago, and that’s a long time for doubt to start creeping in. I felt pretty confident, but a lot of that confidence kind of diminished as time went on.
THR: Is there a scenario in which you’d ever play again? Say they did some sort of all-winners edition?
Cochran: I feel bad saying this but I don’t think that I would. I don’t think I’d do as well. I’m aware of my limitations. I’m aware that I lucked out a lot this time, that a lot of stars aligned, the timing was perfect, everything was great. And I had such a great tine in addition to all that. I really enjoyed it. First of all, I’m not going to do as well, that’s inevitable. I probably won’t have as good of a time, and my last Survivor memory’s going to be losing and not enjoying myself as much. I kind of would like to end on this note, where everything is going to be perfect me and I’m happy. Doesn’t it seem better to quit while you’re ahead rather than coming back and bungling it?
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