John Cochran, the newly minted winner of Survivor: Caramoan - Fans vs. Favorites, has a million-dollar check burning a hole in his pocket. How will he spend his prize money?
Why, he'll buy a new set of wheels, of course. But forget the fancy Maserati convertible: Cochran's headed to a Segway dealership.
"I've been wanting a Segway ever since it was first announced in 2003 or something," he told me backstage after Sunday's live finale. "I think I'm entitled to at least one nerd-out purchase."
"All those zeroes, my God," Cochran marveled when
I asked to see the freshly cut check. "I haven't seen six zeroes since the
Stealth R' Us alliance," he wisecracked—referring to Phillip Sheppard's loony-tunes
The Specialist's famous "BR Rules"—modeled after his mentor Boston Rob Mariano— received a special tribute during the reunion show, when the Redemption Island champ showed up to announce that Phillip had inspired him to write a book.
"Obviously, he didn't execute them as well as he was able to learn them," Rob noted backstage, after handing me a copy of The Boston Rob Rulebook: Strategies for Life.
One of Rob's rules (in addition to gems like "Smarten Up") is "Beware of the Underdog"—advice Cochran's competitors clearly did not heed.
"I played a kind of a low-key game where I just made
very time-efficient moves," explained the underestimated star of Season 26.
"Nobody voted against me the entire game! No votes cast against me, every
vote in the end, more challenge victories than anyone else. I mean, it's
bizarre. It's farcical—I'm aware that it's like a farce. I've completely ruined
Survivor's reputation. I hope it
continues on after this victory, because I know people are reeling right now."
Both Cochran and Dawn Meehan, his South Pacific comrade, suffered a violent outcry from fans following her betrayal and their blindside of Brenda.
"I was really frustrated with the reaction to Dawn's
decision, which was also my decision," he said very seriously. "I was not
happy that Dawn received such a lashing on the internet. People were wishing
death on her family members over a freaking reality show, a game show filmed 10
months ago where everybody gets voted off except three people."
For her part, "I had no idea people hated me that much," Dawn
told me. "I love Brenda, but…I promised myself that if your last
name isn't Meehan, I would vote you out no matter what. I shut down my Twitter
account because I really did get a flood of everything—like, 'You would probably
skin your children for a million dollars' [and] 'You're a morally corrupt
person.' … I don't wish anybody harm, that's not why I played the game. And we
did all sign up to play—I didn't randomly grab someone on the street and grab
their purse and run."
Dawn still hasn't watched the most unsettling scene from the
final Tribal Council—in which Brenda asked the finalist to humiliate herself in
front of the jury by removing her false teeth.
"I don't know what I was thinking, to be honest, Dawn said about complying. "I was so stunned that she asked me… I was troubled by it, to be honest. I was so stunned—I just voted people out; I don't hate any of you, please don't hate me. But it was an angry jury."
"The way I remember it, [the jury] loved it, so it was
humiliating. Oh gosh. I was proud of myself because I thought, 'If you're that
hurt, I'll do it. If that's gonna make you feel better.'"
Even more disturbing than Brenda's bizarre request was the reason
for Dawn's primal howl at the loss of her dental prosthesis. "I actually
had an incident where someone attacked me and I lost those teeth because I was
punched," she revealed. "So what happens after 22 days of no food and
no sleep and you lose something that was a traumatic event, you get to relive
it. That's what that cry was."
Dawn, whose emotional outbursts had become routine at camp, never told Brenda or her other tribemates about her attack. "I didn't want to make it like, 'Oh, here's my excuse for being a big ninny.' I just wanted it to be over."
Dawn acknowledges that much of the jury and audience's animosity is rooted in what they saw as crocodile tears. ("Nobody Likes a Crybaby." —The Boston Rob Rulebook, Page 9)
"I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I'm really emotional. In the game. I'm not [like that] in real life, which is hilarious; I don't know if my kids had seen me cry…. I think that being emotional, it was contradictory for people…. I had bonded with people, so I was really having moral conflicts. So I can see when you don't know someone it's easy to say that was game strategy, and she's just being kind of a hypocrite, I think that's how it was translated or that I was not grateful."
But Dawn is grateful, especially making it to the end with Cochran. "We did so good together," she said with a smile about her fellow outcast from South Pacific.
"I'm very, very close with Dawn," Cochran told me.
"I'm sorry she had to go through that, but I think she's bouncing back,
and I think a lot of the wounds are healing."
And if she plays her cards right, maybe Cochran will invite Dawn to join him for a victory lap—on his Segway.