You know, entire seasons of these types of shows like Survivor—where a jury casts votes for the winner—are always viewed through the prism of that final vote. When I think of past seasons of Survivor, I don’t think about what location they were, or what twist they added to the game, I think of the winner. Most of the time, I feel that’s unfortunate. Too many seasons have been tarnished by a bitter jury.

Luckily, it was nearly impossible to screw this one up.

Cochran won, garnering all nine votes and, like I said last week, he deserved it. I’m sitting here trying to come up with the most artful justification of his winning, but it’s really all there in his jury speech. He’s a "superfan" who has watched every season with his mother. He performed very well in challenges, or as he puts it, “I am the challenge beast.” He is charming on a social level, and he had a preternatural sense of timing.[1] 

His is the ultimate story of redemption. He talked about how the first time he played Survivor, he was very uncertain of himself. People treated him like he was worthless and he began to see himself that way. This year he owned his weirdness. He let his freak flag fly (which the island was kind of primed for) and he won. Dawn said it was a “storybook ending” for her to be sitting next to Cochran and it was, but what a beautiful sentiment to end a show on: Being comfortable being the person you are and not feeling intimidated or dejected for being different. Follow your dreams, kids.[2]

Let’s back up and talk about some of the preceding events of this finale. Firstly, I am horribly disappointed that Erik left the game like he did. I know I periodically use Erik as a human punching bag, but he was actually in a decent position to make the final three. Would he have won? Probably not. I think he haphazardly fell into this fortunate position and his success at that final puzzle is dubious. Nonetheless, it sucked to see him get medically evacuated.

Halfway through the season, after a friend of mine read one of my editorials he asked me for my top prospects of the remaining contestants and I chose Cochran. I wrote, “Personally, I think the smart money is on Cochran though. He is very under the radar and yet he seems to have a lot of sway.” I am an idiot for not writing this into one of my columns. In addition to his covert sway, whenever he would win immunity everyone would be elated for him. They celebrated Cochran’s victory. They should have all known at that moment that he was a serious threat. My one gripe with Cochran’s game was always that I believed his game hinged on his ability to win the final-four challenge which I thought was inconceivable. Well, after he wins the card stacking competition, it starts to become a little more conceivable.

Of course with that advantage he goes on to win the final immunity proving me wrong. He had a major head start on everyone, but I legitimately thought Dawn was going to take it. She was burning through that puzzle. He eventually started figuring it out though and pulled a comeback. However, I must admit that I thought that the final challenge was slightly anticlimactic. It felt like a standard multiple-part challenge. Where’s the maze? That’s the best part right? They usually put the puzzle pieces in a maze; for whatever reason they abandoned that part of the competition. It doesn’t diminish Cochran’s win but it wasn’t as electrifying as it usually is.

I love Eddie’s logic for taking him to the final three. “The jury loves everything you say,” Cochran says suspiciously. “That’s because I’m an idiot,” replies Eddie. Well, the man’s got a point doesn’t he? He subsequently begins regaling us in a confessional of his dream to open up a bar where you can take your dog, if he were to win the million. Eddie, Cochran can’t hear you in these bits, you can’t stop selling the idiot angle. Cochran eventually chooses Dawn and I do a happy dance in front of the TV.

Let’s take a detour and talk about Dawn. Dawn is the sweetest human being on the planet. End of story. I don’t think that her backstabbing Brenda did anything to detract from that. I’m honestly surprised that incident caused such uproar. Dawn made some of the biggest moves in this game. More times than once, she extracted pertinent info out of the opposition and orchestrated her alliance to act accordingly. Cochran needed Dawn to get to the end just as Dawn needed Cochran.


guess it was her mental instability that was her cross, and I don’t have a coherent reason explaining this, but her breakdowns made me like her more. Maybe I guess it’s because I see a little of myself in her and it’s cool to see that reflected on television, or maybe it because I read books like this. They just struck me as incredibly sincere and human. It seems to me that is how one would react after 40 days on an island under constant stress. Her breakdowns weren’t violent. They didn’t put anyone in danger. It’s almost suspicious that more people aren’t acting like this.

She attributes her crying jags to the emotional toll of lying to people, of exploiting her genuine friendships to further her in the game. That seems plausible to me. She’s right: No one else had to carry that burden out there because no one was making the kinds of earth shattering moves she was making.

I would have been fine with Dawn winning, that’s how highly I hold her in esteem. Cochran’s game was masterful and I agree with the jury: Cochran should have won. Yet, I absolutely contend that Dawn still should have received a few votes. She practically played along in Reynold’s dominatrix fantasy and she still didn’t get any love.

Speaking of which, here’s some of my favorite individual moments from the round of questioning:

  • Dawn: “I kicked your ass in this game!” Reynold: “And I liked it!”
  • Sherri telling Erik to sit down
  • Phillip rescinding Sherri’s Stealth R Us name[3]
  • Brenda demanding that Dawn take out her teeth and Dawn actually doing it
  • Cochran’s line about going to the bar with the Three Amigos and having a girl on each of his arms
  • Everyone glossing over Sherri, like I’m essentially doing in this editorial

All in all, it was a very satisfying finale. I can’t remember a finale to one of these shows that I found as fulfilling as Cochran’s victory in Caramoan. Also, although my loyalties shall forever stand with Phillip Sheppard, I was pleased to see Malcolm win the fan favorite vote.  I even somewhat enjoyed the much maligned nostalgia tour, for it made me realize that Michael will always be singularly remembered for being Corinne’s gay.[4] My one complaint is that I don’t really know why we had to check in with Rudy and Richard Hatch; that didn’t add anything to our understanding of this particular season.

But everything just kind of went right this year. This was a terrific season of Survivor and a terrific victory for Cochran.

[1] He even brought up that quote of his on timing (which I hope is in Boston Rob’s book) that I trot out every week in these articles.

[2] Evidently Cochran’s next dream is to become a writer and I wish him the best.  

[3] I suppose her position is replaced by Jeff Probst, who Phillip names, “The Piercing Eagle.”

[4] And that is not a bad thing. Corinne was great!