John Cochran perhaps was the most awkward contestant out of the more than 300 ever to compete on Survivor. The Harvard law student arrived on the island so pale that he appeared translucent. He weighed 138 pounds, sported a nerdy sweater-vest and glasses, and used words his teammates could barely comprehend. But then Cochran made one of the biggest moves in the game's history, and everything changed. When the tribes merged during the show's eighth episode, he threw loyalty to the wind, and joined forces with the opposing team. Ultimately, the risky move probably cost him a hefty $1 million (he was sent home Wednesday night), but Cochran says it was never about the money anyway. "First and foremost I'm a fan of Survivor. In high school I wrote a Survivor newsletter and wore buffs to school," he says. "And when I found out I had made it on the show...it was unbelievable!" The 24-year-old chatted with TVGuide.com about his "bromance" with Coach, who he wants to win, and an experience he describes as the most "surreal moment of my life."
You're hands down the biggest Survivor fanboy to ever be on the show. When did you become so obsessed?
John Cochran: I'm not a camping enthusiast. I don't care about watching people build a shelter. I tuned in initially because I thought, "these people are going to be living in these horrible conditions. And maybe someone's going to die! And it's going to be fascinating." But the game shifted focus and now there's an interpersonal dynamic that creates a great psychological study.
Is it true you have every single tribal buff?
Cochran: I have about 15 buffs. And the vast majority of human beings don't own a single buff. So I'm like, really beating them.
It must have been pretty exciting for you to meet the legend that is Jeff Probst.
Cochran: Can you believe I talked to Jeff and he knows my name? I've made eye contact with him! It's unbelievable to me. It's a thrill! That was one of the more surreal moments of my life, meeting Jeff and talking to him. I think he's fantastic. All I want is his approval.
You made one of the biggest moves in the game by throwing your tribe under the bus and joining Upolu. In retrospect, would you do it again? Cochran: I still think I would have flipped. My mistake wasn't flipping. It was my follow-through afterward. I got really complacent. There was a period of five or six days after I flipped where I was like, "life is good! I got a final four promise from Albert, Sophie and Coach. These people seem to like me. I don't have to do anything." But I probably should have spent that time feeling out who the vulnerable people were on the Upolu tribe.
How genuine was your relationship with Coach?
Cochran: I hope our friendship exists outside the island. But maybe if you get a chance to talk to him you can ask him. I have no hard feelings about anyone; Coach in particular. He's a smart, funny guy. People are seeing more of that this season. He's still a little bit quirky with his whole "get on your knees and pray" thing, though.
Speaking of quirky, let's talk about Brandon.
Cochran: I tried to work with Brandon, but he's super inflexible to the point of, like, bizarreness. The whole "I can not tell a lie" thing gets old really fast. And his refusal to adapt ... the game is about adapting to situations, so that was frustrating.
Who are you going to vote for?
Cochran: It comes down to how the finalists can plead their case in final Tribal Counsel. Whether they can make a compelling argument for why they deserve to win.
I think you have a shot at getting fan favorite.
Cochran: Are you kidding? I haven't gotten player of the week once! I can't even win Sprint's "Player of the Week."
That's surprising! I assumed people found you endearing.
Cochran: Some people who don't like me literally come up to me and say, "You're annoying." To my face! And I just say, "You know? I don't think I'm that annoying."
So you've been getting recognized?
Cochran: I'm sufficiently weird-looking; so yeah, I'm recognizable. It's fun to talk to people that like something I already enjoy. It's a little bit weird, but it's a thrill!