'Survivor: Caramoan': And the Winner Is...

An unexpected elimination causes turmoil among the final players.

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"I've been obsessively following 'Survivor' as a fan for half my life, so the realization that I would be returning to the game as a favorite was exhilarating, humbling, and utterly surreal all at the same time." -- Cochran

SPOILER ALERT: The following story reveals the winner of "Survivor: Caramoan -- Fans vs. Favorites."

After 39 days, two medical evacuations, one impromptu tribal council, and multiple blindsides, 25-year-old John Cochran was named the winner of "Survivor: Caramoan -- Fans vs. Favorites" and scored a $1 million prize.

The Harvard Law student beat out Dawn Meehan, the 42-year-old mother of six adopted kids, and 41-year-old fast food entrepreneur Sherri Biethman.

Host Jeff Probst called Cochran "maybe the most unlikely winner ever." Indeed, as Probst noted, when the underdog and self-proclaimed "Survivor" nerd first played in the "South Pacific" season, his skin burned nearly instantly. He also hesitated to take off his shirt for fear of humiliation and was derided by tribemates as weak.

But the second time around, Cochran had mastered the social and physical sides of the game. He won several challenges, including the crucial final immunity competition. But it was his careful strategizing that helped him become sole survivor. One of the game's ultimate fans, Cochran boasted of watching every episode, recapping the show in a high school newsletter, and even writing a Harvard thesis on the "Survivor" jury system.

Whatever he said in his thesis must've been right -- he earned the jury's votes. In the reunion show, Cochran called the win "a dream come true."

To the 13-year-olds out there dreaming of playing on "Survivor" (as he once did), Cochran advised, "You have to be calm without being complacent, and be vigilant without being paranoid."

Though he will graduate this year from Harvard, Cochran told the audience that he isn't planning to become a lawyer; he hopes to write. "I have a gift for gab," he said. And for all the ladies out there -- "I'm single!"

The finale

The finale featured the twists and turns that made this season a thrilling roller coaster ride. Almost immediately, Erik Reichenbach collapsed and was forced to leave the game by medical staff. "In what's been a completely unpredictable season, this is another first," Probst mused.

With just four players remaining, a reward challenge granted one a big advantage in the immunity challenge. Cochran won the advantage and used it to win the final immunity competition.

Watch the reward challenge:

Watch the immunity challenge:

Though Eddie Fox made a last-ditch plea to Cochran to take him to the final instead of Meehan, the last of the Three Amigos was voted out.

After reliving their experiences on the island, the final three -- Cochran, Meehan, and Biethman -- made their cases to the jury. Meehan insisted she intended to play a cold-blooded game, while Biethman tried (and failed) to argue that she played smart strategy to get there.

Many of the jury members exhibited a strong antipathy toward Meehan, for forming close relationships with them and then turning on them. They also criticized her near-daily emotional breakdowns -- Meehan's crying bouts had become almost a joke.

Brenda Lowe was particularly harsh. Earlier this season, she saved Meehan's retainer, which covered up gaps in her lower front teeth. At the time, Meehan threatened to leave the game if the retainer wasn't salvaged, but Lowe "saved" her by diving to retrieve it. At the final tribal council, Lowe demanded Meehan take out her retainer and show her missing teeth.

In the end, Meehan drew most of the fire for what her partnership with Cochran wrought. She paid the price; he got the prize.

Reunion show

Most of the cast reunited to look back at their time on "Caramoan." The only jury member missing was Lowe, who revealed she was pregnant and close to her due date.

Then there was one of the more colorful characters from the season, Phillip Sheppard. When asked about his names for Stealth R Us, he nicknamed Probst "The Piercing Eagle" and welcomed him to their not-so-secret society.

Sheppard, who played with "Boston" Rob Mariano (arguably the best "Survivor" player ever) on "Redemption Island," also talked about his infamous "BR" rules. Mariano was in the audience and called Sheppard "one of the most entertaining characters the show has ever seen." He was flattered and was even inspired to write an official copy of the "Boston Rob" rulebook.

"You never know when CBS and 'Survivor' may call again; this may just come in handy for you," Mariano said.

The Sprint fan favorite player of the season was 25-year-old Malcolm Freberg, the "golden god" of "Survivor: Caramoan." He won $100,000 (and the undying love of many women, men, and children). The dreamboat bartender seems to be targeting a career in acting; Probst played a clip of Freberg on "The Bold and the Beautiful."

See Freberg's soap debut:

The reunion also featured a call-out to the first season, with an appearance by Rudy Boesch and a pretaped segment of winner Richard Hatch.

There was also a little tease of next season's new concept: blood in the water. Rumor has it that "Survivor" will pit family members against each other.

 

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