The kid who used to wear buffs to school and write papers about his favorite reality show is a kid no longer. John Cochran went from almost being voted out in his very first Tribal Council in Survivor: South Pacific to being named champion of Survivor: Caramoan — Fans vs. Favorites. And he didn’t just win — he dominated, never having a single vote cast against him and then receiving every single vote from the jury to take home the million dollars. We caught up with the man with the most famous last name in reality television, and he talked all about how he did it, his thoughts on the Dawn-Brenda feud, and what he’ll be up to next! [NOTE: Click through to read both pages of the interview. Also make sure to read Dalton’s full finale/reunion recap. as well as his exit interview with Dawn Meehan, who talks all about Toothgate, and his chat with Erik Reichenbach, who slams the “farce” of a reunion show.]
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Have you slept yet?
JOHN COCHRAN: I didn’t do too much of the partying. I feel bad. I feel like I blew it. I’m always regretting things. I feel like I should have been out being some lothario and taking advantage of my fleeting notoriety, but I basically just holed up in hotel room and went out for a tiny bit. But I did not sleep. I’m pretty exhausted right now.
EW: Now, wait and minute. If you didn’t go out and party last night does that mean Eddie gets to go back and retroactively change his vote since you didn’t sit with him at the bar?
COCHRAN: No, I did meet up with Eddie. We were going to do photo op where I had a girl in each arm but that never happened unfortunately. God, that question of his. They didn’t even show it. I started to give a joke answer and then Jeff cut me off and said “It’s a really good question! Take it seriously!” So I then had to talk about my incredible growth and how much I wanted to go out with the bros. It was ridiculous.
EW: Well, you are out in LA with your family. Did you take your dad to Hollywood so he could grill some meat?
COCHRAN: What was the most disgusting thing was the first day we were here he was walking around Universal Studios and he had a black fedora on. This tiny black fedora on his bloated head. I have a big head too. He looks like a somewhat more bloated Walter White. And it looks ridiculous but he wouldn’t take it off! He’s gone completely Hollywood now. I know I have a weird definition of Hollywood apparently because I guess grilling isn’t synonymous with the Beverly Hills lifestyle or whatever, but yeah, he’s changed, man.
EW: I told you one year ago today before you left for filming that I didn’t think you stood a chance in hell of winning because of what you did last time in flipping on your tribe instead of pulling colored rocks. And not only do you go and win, but you don’t get one single vote against you all season. What the hell?
COCHRAN: That blows my mind. I always thought if I get to the final Tribal Council that will have meant that I played the sort of game that would allow me to win, but getting there was obviously the big difficultly. But yeah, no votes cast against me and then every vote at the end — that’s crazy. I didn’t think I had gotten every vote, so to be with JT as the only other guy to never have a vote against him and get every vote at the end is cool.
EW: Were you surprised how easy it was? I mean compare this to last time and there is no comparison really.
COCHRAN: It felt I was in The Matrix and I was dodging the bullets in slow motion. I could see the bullets coming and I got right out of the way. And I would talk to Dawn frequently about how it felt like a game of Whac-a-Mole. Malcolm was the big threat. We get rid of him and then Andrea pops up. So we knock her down and Brenda pops up. There were constant cutting off and regenerating serpent heads. What is that creature called?
EW: The Hydra!
COCHRAN: Hyrdra, right. There you go. It was all about timing. My name was being floated around but it was always for one or two Tribal Councils later, so that’s how I never had a vote against me. Brenda wanted to vote me out, but not then. It was going to be the next time. Malcolm wanted to vote me off, but I got immunity so it was going to be the next week. It felt perfect. And that’s why I don’t want to play again, among other reasons. Because it was just so perfect. And I feel so immodest saying that but I mean that I enjoyed my time out there. I’m not going to have as much good luck as this time, I’m certainly not going to perform as well as this time, and I’m not going to have the same kind of streak, so why ruin a good thing by gong back and blowing it and just being disappointed in myself? It holds no appeal to me.
EW: Imagine your 13-year-old self hearing that from you now, that going on Survivor holds no appeal to you anymore.
COCHRAN: What a jerk I am, you know! The kid who was made fun of for wearing buffs to school is so above it all 13 years later. Like, “If a third opportunity all winners edition is offered to me I will politely decline.” I have turned into a jerk, but I’m just being realistic.
EW: You and Dawn played the whole game together, yet nobody ever seemed to notice. How did you manage to keep that under wraps?
COCHRAN: We would say that to each other to! How could you not want to split us up? I mean, we’re a pair of people walking up to people and saying, “We need to vote out this pair because they’re a pair,” and yet nobody seems to realize that they are staring at the most powerful pair in the game.” I don’t know why that was. Maybe because the two of us are not intimidating people. Like if we had been two alpha males it would have been a different story, but since it was the older lady and the weak kid maybe it didn’t seem as scary as a Reynold or Eddie, or a Malcolm or Corinne. That still sort of baffles me.
EW: Dawn took all the heat from people because she made personal connections with people but then didn’t hesitate to vote them out. Did you purposely keep a little personal distance so that people wouldn’t feel as hurt by you when you got rid of them, or is that a fact of Dawn being so over the top with her emotions?
COCHRAN: I think it’s more the latter. I didn’t purposefully try to keep people at arm’s distance. I’m just not the type of person to have relationships with people on a reality show where I’m having super heartfelt crying conversations. That’s just not the person I am. It obviously worked out great from a strategic perspective and I was aware of it, but it wasn’t a calculated thing. That’s just how I function.
EW: What percentage of your comments to Erik before he got taken away by the doctors about being so happy to have made a friend were genuine and what percentage was you working a jury member?
COCHRAN: I will say — I hope Erik doesn’t read this — but I was putting on this fake sort of crying face when I was standing there and saying the whole thing about friendship. I do consider him a friend, but that was a little bit of pandering. And thank God they didn’t show it but when I got back to camp I was giving these really nasty interviews where I was like, “Why the hell is everyone crying? This is freakin’ fantastic! We’re final four now! Quit it with the tears, Dawn! Oh, he’ll be fine. Sure, he’s near death now, but he’ll be fine!” It was shocking, but I think I was more overjoyed by it than distraught.