Interview: John Cochran Winner of Survivor: Caramoan

May 15 2013, 12:24 PM by Christine Montgomery

John Cochran has been questioning whether his Survivor legacy will be remembered as the unanimous winner of Survivor: Caramoan, or the "goober who begged for Twitter followers on live TV." His Survivor experience has transformed John Cochran into an unlikely sex symbol and millionaire, but underneath it, he's still the same nervous super-fan who wore buffs to school and once distributed his own Survivor newsletter. interviews John Cochran about how he won this season, his new business venture with Eddie, and Cochran shares a secret about his now infamous Harvard Law Survivor essay. 

John Cochran | SurvivorGetty

John Cochran, on Survivor: Caramoan How did you pass through the whole game without ever really being considered a threat?

John Cochran: I think I benefit from being an unassuming guy. I'm not super strong...people intended to vote me out, but it was never super urgent. There were always bigger much more urgent pressing threats to get rid of instead of me. Malcolm, Reynold, Andrea was because she's so well rounded, Brenda because she's so nice and doesn't have any blood on her hands. There was always like a "o.k., we'll get rid of Cochran in the next vote, or the vote after that." Brenda wanted to get rid of me at the next vote, Malcolm wanted to get rid of me until I won immunity– but the second that I heard that, I would mount a campaign to get rid of that person. I managed to get to the end without anybody voting against me. That was a pretty bizarre thing, nobody ever cast a single vote against me the entire game.


Was Dawn the villain of this season?

I can't think of Dawn as a villain! I think she played a good game. I guess she's the weepiest villain in the world! She made some cutthroat moves, is that villain-ee? I dunno, is villain-ee a word? Maybe she's a villain, but I think she was just an aggressive game player.


It seemed like you were the only castaway who wasn't afraid that if they took Dawn to the final three, she'd easily win the game. What did you see that everybody else didn't?

What I saw is that I played virtually an identical game to Dawn, and I thought I could probably articulate my game better than Dawn. I'd rather take somebody to the end of the game with me and claim that I did it better, than take somebody to the end with me who played a completely different game, because then it's hard for me to say why I'm better than that.

Taking Eddie– I don't think Eddie played a great game. Eddie only voted for the right person twice the entire game, he didn't win a single challenge, he never had any ownership over any actions, but, it was so different from mine that if what he did was appealing to the jury, then I'm never going to win. Whereas if what Dawn did was appealing to the jury, I could say "well I did what Dawn did, and I did this, and I'm more likeable or whatever."


Speaking of Eddie, have you fulfilled your promise to hang out with him at the bar yet? Follow up question: was it a dog bar?

It definitely wasn't that, thoguh I think we're going to become business partners! I did go to a bar with Eddie, because you do the Survivor stuff and we have to go to these after parties, and they're at bars. I was technically at a bar with him. I wasn't standing at the bar with him, and I certainly didn't have all the girls that I claimed I would, but maybe I'll do it again sometime. He's a good guy. Once you're out of the game, all the wounds are healed and you kinda like everybody because you shared this experience with them.


John Cochran talks Twitter, writing Survivor essays, and Big Brother

Survivor Caramoan Reunion Episodes

How many new Twitter followers have you acquired since asking fans to follow you on the Survivor reunion episode?

Oh my God! Have you been following that? It's unreal! I mean, the explosion. Well, this season I started at about 12,00. By the time the finale rolls around I was at about 40,00, and now I'm looking at about 112,000. 112,000! I'm too scared to tweet now. I feel like I have too much power or something. It's scary to me!

So, are you Twitter verified now?

I don't have a verified account! It's idiotic! I don't know. What do I have to do to get a freaking verified account? But yeah, these numbers will go down. There's always this cycle where there's this big rush at the finale, then a couple of months go by and I'll start tweeting, and people will be like "wait, why am I following this guy? Who is he and why am I following him?" So there' s a big exodus, every time I tweet something there will be like a hundred people who stop following me, and that will be humbling when it happens.

[Not an hour after our interview with Cochran, he sends out the following tweet:]


Fans have been asking where they can read your now infamous Harvard Law Survivor essay. Is it available online?

It's not online, but frankly, it's not that good either! It's not very long– it's a cute little paper I wrote for a professor that doesn't know that much about Survivor. For actual Survivor fans to read it, they'd be like "oh, so you vote people off in Survivor! Wow, so that's how it works!" It's well written but it's not insightful. So, I kinda like keeping it a mystery– like it's this Holy Grail of Survivor strategy – just so people don't get disappointed when they read it and see that it's basically Survivor for Dummies. I don't have any plans to release it, at this point, all I'd get is negative feedback!


Ian Terry wins Big Brother this year. Cochran wins Survivor. Are we entering a new era of reality television winners?

I mean, I don't know if you think I'm that much like Ian Terry! I came back from Survivor at the end of June, and then Big Brother started like right after it. I already knew that I had probably won Survivor, and then I have to sit through and watch as people compare me to Ian, who's putting a duck on his head and rocking back and forth and making all these weird noises. I'm like "that's who I am?! Oh. That's great." And of course, Ian ends up winning, and I'm like "well that completely takes the wind out of my sails." Now I'm just like, the second goofy weirdo nerd to win in the last few months. So I was actually a little bit upset about it. I was pulling for Dan just because I didn't want Ian to win. It takes away from my thing!

But, I think it speaks to now there is a generation of people who have been raised on Survivor, or Big Brother, or whatever show they like, and now they're getting a chance to play. These past few seasons of Big Brother and Survivor have proven that they can win, and that's cool. I like the idea of somebody who has watched their entire life coming and playing and winning.


John Cochran gets nerdy, answering questions about his favourite TV show

Survivor John Cochran

Why do you love Survivor?

I'm 26 now, and it started airing when I was 13, in the summer of 2000. I first tuned in like everybody in America - and probably the world - did. It was just this novelty, like "oh my god, they're putting people on an island, and they're gonna like die!"...As I watched more seasons and it went on, this beautiful elegant came emerged. They cast these wild personalities that normally wouldn't interact with each other and force them to rely on each other, it's great. And that's why Survivor can continue indefinitely, really. As long as Jeff and whoever else wants to continue doing it, the framework is always going to be exciting. It's exciting to put people in an uncomfortable environment, make them rely on each other, make them screw each other over, and then expect the people who screwed those people over to convince the screwed over people to reward them. Too cool! Then it comes down to the people, and there's no lack of bizarre, exciting and interesting people in the world. So, it's the perfect blend of everything that makes for good TV, and you know, it's something that I'm obsessed with.


As a Survivor historian, what do you think made Survivor: Caramoan a unique season?

For a show that's in its thirteenth year, the fact that this season in particular was shocking and exciting a lot of people, speaks to how great the Survivor concept is. Most Survivor seasons, they're fortunate to have one or two big moments that you remember– you know, water cooler conversations. If you look at per season, the sheer number of wacky stuff that happened was unreal: you've got a first vote out going out first out again, you have Shamar– the giant Marine getting medically evacuated for sand splashing in his eye, you have Brandon sabotaging camp life and a team willingly forfeiting a challenge just to get rid of that guy, you have Corinne bragging about how it's blindside time and subsequently getting blindsided, you have the immunity idol stuff– with Reynold showing the idol, and the next one where Malcolm pulled out two idols, you had Andrea gloating about a blindside and holding an idol and getting blindsided, you have the Dawn emotional betrayal, you have a medical evacuation on day 37 of the game. When you look at it like that, it's such an incredibly wild action packed season. I don't feel that there's been one like that in a long time, if ever.


Who's your favourite Survivor winner of all time?

Two jump to my head immediately. I'm very good friends with Yul Kwon who won Cook Islands, I kinda relate to him, he was a Yale law grad, kinda grainy guy. I tend to like the winners I can relate to, so I liked him a lot, I liked Todd a lot in Survivor: China, because again, he's kinda not a physically imposing guy, he's a super fan who was really Machiavellian. But I respect and appreciate everybody's game in different ways. Sandra is obviously– her record speaks for itself. And she's not especially athletic just like I'm not, and I can appreciate that.



When is Survivor Season 27 on TV? In Canada, Survivor: Blood vs. Water premieres in September on Global TV
Where can I watch Survivor online for free? streams full episodes of Survivor online for free - episodes are typically posted the day after the initial on-air broadcast.