There really was never any doubt that John Cochran would be coming back to play Survivor again. A huge fan of the show, Cochran became the face — and voice, as he will tell you later — of his South Pacific season from day 1 when he insisted Jeff Probst refer to him by his last name. He vacillated between cocky and self-deprecating and went on to make one of the most controversial moves in Survivor history, opting not to risk going home on a colored-rock-picking tiebreaker and instead turning on his Savaii tribe, which insured that his tribe (including himself) ended up being picked off one by one by the Upolu opposition. Now he has a chance to redeem himself as one of the returning players on Survivor: Caramoan — Fans vs. Favorites (premiering Feb. 13 on CBS).
Contrary to all the horrible things I wrote about Cochran last time due to his aversion to taking a well-calculated risk with the rocks, I genuinely like the guy. We’ve spoken several times and I always root for super-fans of the show to do well. A few days before filming commenced on Survivor: Caramoan — Fans vs. Favorites, I spoke with the man who made sweater vests cool again (or…maybe not) about his chances this time around. It’s an interview so action packed it could not be contained to a single page! (Read through both pages for the whole conversation.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Okay, here’s how we’re going to start this. Repeat after me: I, John Cochran…
JOHN COCHRAN: Well, shouldn’t I find out what you’re saying first?
EW: No. I, John Cochran…
COCHRAN: I, John Cochran…
EW: Will not be scared of colored rocks.
COCHRAN: Will not be scared of colored rocks.
EW: See! There you go! Wasn’t that easy?
COCHRAN: Yeah. Now that I’ve said it, I’m committed to that. No, you’re still harping on that being my big downfall, being afraid of rocks?
EW: Absolutely. You know how I feel about that.
COCHRAN: It especially hurt coming from you. I remember my mom was like “That Dalton Ross. Such a meanie.”
EW: I was looking out for your best interest, John. That’s the thing.
COCHRAN: I know, it was disappointment, right? If Elyse had been scared to pull a colored rock would you have been berating her? I don’t think so. There’s a certain kindred spirit, or something.
EW: You and I have talked about this. Is there any sliver of a chance in hell you win this season?
COCHRAN: Oh, God! You’re like my mom!
EW: You know what I’m talking about when I say that.
COCHRAN: You mean my reputation going into it?
COCHRAN: Well, since you have returning players, everybody has some sort of baggage. I think mine is worse than most of the people’s, and I bring virtually nothing to the table. Except promises. I mean, I’m bad in challenges. I’m bad around camp, which I’m going to try to work on, but I’m always going to be bad in challenges, I’m annoying and I’m a traitor. What I can say is, “Look, I’ve changed this time. It didn’t work out for me last time.” So there’s a sliver, yeah. I wouldn’t be playing again if I didn’t think there was a sliver. I think it’s going to be an uphill battle. I think the first few days are going to be very, very important. If I’m being kicked off for my reputation, that’s going to happen within the first two times I go to Tribal Council. So if I manage to dodge those bullets, I think, yeah, there’s a great shot if I’m able to entrench myself and ingratiate myself into some sort of alliance that lasts. Because that’s the thing — I never did have an alliance last time. I was never part of a cohesive unit of 5 or 6. And that’s an unstable way to play the game. It’s not the right way to play the game. And psychologically, it takes a toll on you. So if I can get myself into some sort of good position, I think I have a shot. I don’t know. What do you think?
EW: I think the key is to say to people “I’d be a fool to play that way again. I know I can’t do that in terms of backstabbing. I know I need to prove my loyalty.” And you go in really humble and say all those things. And we’ve seen other returning payers change their game up and it has worked.
COCHRAN: Yeah, that’s my philosophy. My only fear, like I said, is that I offer nothing. It’s not like they can say, “Well, at least he’s good in challenges.”
EW: But then you say you’re not a threat down the line.
COCHRAN: But that’s dangerous to play pre-merge. That might be getting ahead of myself. As for the flip, part of me wants to rationalize it, but that’s not going to earn me any favors. Obviously, I’m going to say that there’s no way that’s going to work. It didn’t work out last time. It was a poor decision. It’s something I regret.
EW: And I remember you telling me before last time that you were really bad at puzzles. Of course, you told your tribemates you were good at puzzles so they would keep you around, but we hardly saw you performing in them, so you can always tell your tribe again they need to keep you around for those.
COCHRAN: If I blow a puzzle, though, is that the end of the world or do I say “Well, it’s a good thing you didn’t have Brandon do it or it would have been even worse!”?
EW: Unless Brandon actually beats you in the puzzle, in which case you’re completely screwed. But listen to me, it’s a fresh season. Keeping that in mind, we’ve seen people like Coach always coming up with new nicknames for themselves. What about a new nickname for you this time around?
COCHRAN: A new nickname — that will really endear me, right? The more it seems like I’m trying to get even more camera time, it really makes my tribemates fall in love with me. Let’s see, I could do an amalgamation of everybody that’s ever had a nickname. I could be like ChickenShamboGC. Or I could say, “Look, Jeff, I know the players you really love you call them by their first names, so I’d like to be called John from here on out.” I think I’ll stick with Cochran. I think it works. And it lends itself to insulting nicknames, which is the cornerstone of any good nickname.