Survivor: Caramoan - Finale (Part 1)
Million Dollar Question
By Ben Willoughby
May 13, 2013

In a huge shocking twist, neither of these players won Survivor.

Previously on Survivor, “the world’s biggest reality competition,” there were some big personalities including heroes (Malcolm footage), villains (Brandon footage) and underdogs (Cochran footage). Apparently, CBS decided that we wanted to see more of the big personalities, because they were brought back for this season.

Andrea voices-over that the theme of the season was that all of the “favorites” had made big mistakes and this would be a chance to correct them. Or more often, make the same mistake all over again. And to compete with these returnees, Probst flat-out lies that the show sought out and cast “super fans”, instead of, say, people who had missed the last dozen seasons or so and didn’t know what a Cochran was.

Arriving on “favorites” beach, Phillip put together “an unbreakable alliance” and gave everyone silly names. Francesca was voted out first, wasn’t that hilarious? Meanwhile among the “fans”, there was a “cool kids” alliance, which was quickly voted out by everyone else. Shamar made all of the other “fans” miserable before he was medically evacuated. Brandon made all of the other “favorites” miserable until they forfeited a challenge and had an impromptu Tribal Council to get rid of him.

There was a merge, and Corinne and Malcolm put together a fragile eight to break away from Stealth R Us. However, the eight was too fragile, Stealth R Us remained in control of the game and Malcolm was only in control of how immunity idols were played. They ended up using three to vote out Phillip the fun-sponge. After that, the former Stealth R Us alliance started falling apart and turning on each other.

There was a series of great Tribal Councils, with the bootings of Corinne, Michael, Phillip, Malcolm, Andrea and Brenda. You could argue that this redeemed the season from its terrible start, but the question really is “how come the early part of the season wasn’t as good as this? Maybe next season I’ll start watching after the annoying people are gone."

So it has come to this, our final five: Erik, “who made one of the most famous Survivor mistakes the first time he played,” Sherri, “the only fan to successfully infiltrate Stealth R Us,” Eddie, “a target since day one has charmed his way through the game,” Cochran, “the Survivor nerd has transformed into an all round threat," and Dawn, “who has battled her emotions to get this far. Will her heart get in the way of the million dollar prize?” Find out who will claim the million dollar prize and the title of sole Survivor.

Day 36. The castaways are walking back from Tribal Council. Erik is sitting down and everyone gathers around. “My head is killing me. Everything is spinning. Dawn Cochran interview that at Tribal Council Erik “looked very dazed and disoriented.” But this is not out of character for Erik.

Probst sighting! He has immediately shown up to check on what is going on. It must be important to call him away from his trip to the mini-bar. Erik says that it started in the middle of Tribal Council. Probst explains to Erik that “Doctor Joe” is here. Doctor Joe’s verdict is that Erik can’t take any more. Erik has reached a starvation state, and while the body compensates, there is a limit. Doctor Joe is going to stick an IV into him, and when Erik asks about the fluids, Eddie - who up until now has been a firefighter, but now is revealed to be “firefighter/EMT” – is the one to describe it to him.

Anyway Erik’s pulse is very slow and blood pressure is 100/70, which is very low. Doctor Joe does not want Erik to go any further and pulls Erik from the game. Probst has some manly words for Erik: “Brother, after 36 days as a 'fan, coming back as a ‘favorite’, after 36 days you’re not going to finish this one either.” Way to rub it in, Probst. Cochran gives a brief interview where he tries not to seem too elated that a big obstacle has been removed from the game. “This game just got rocked again,” says Probst.

The others all crowd around to say goodbye to Erik. Erik tells Sherri that “I did not think you could do this game but you can do this game”. Cochran claims that he didn’t come here to make friends, but he found a friend in Erik. Erik tells Cochran that “you are the challenge monster now. Take up the reins.” Probst sends them all packing with a reminder that they now have a one-in-four shot at winning, and since they are low on food and near-collapse they will have to “figure something out.”

It’s difficult to tell exactly what happened there. We all saw the footage of Erik climbing impossibly tall coconut palms and having self-harming thoughts last episode. Reading between the lines of some later comments by Erik, he’d been sick for a while. Not just starving sick, but physically sick from the rigors of the game. Sort of like Dana was last season.

I believe Erik was holding it together because he could see himself going further in the game, but then with the surprise Brenda boot at Tribal Council everything just fell apart for him. He couldn’t see a path to making the final, so keeping mental control wasn’t as important and his body gave out. The timing is too coincidental for me. It’s like Erik was in an endurance challenge for 38 days, and all of a sudden he just didn’t have any more. Also, I’m neither a doctor nor a psychologist, but I am available for medical advice!

Anyway, poor Erik. It sucks to leave the game like that, and I was looking forward to seeing how he would have played the end-game. I look forward to plenty of attention being lavished on Erik at the reunion, with questions like “what exactly happened there?” and “how did it feel leaving the game like that?” Ha ha ha, I crack myself up.

After the credits, the castaways arrive back at camp. “Talk about crazy,” says Eddie. Dawn interviews about how tough Tribal Council was, first voting for Brenda and then losing Erik on the walk back. But in camp, she says, “But he had those rewards.” Eddie agrees: “he went on every reward." They both interview about how Erik leaving the game benefits them.

Meanwhile Cochran says that “after we exchanged a few sad pleasantries, he is already thinking about the game. He is “pumped to be in the final four”, but believes that Eddie is the most likely to win the next immunity. Really? Eddie? I know he’s a physically fit guy, but he has won zero immunity challenges so far and he once quit a challenge after ten seconds for donuts. The final immunity challenge is always “mind-over-matter,” which Erik will lose, or a “run an obstacle course, then do a puzzle at the end”, which Eddie will also lose because, puzzles. Anyway, Cochran thinks it’s important “to be the first to get to Eddie” for some reason.

Cochran talks with Eddie about who they should take to the end. Eddie wants to go with “you, me, Sherri.” It’s the right thing to say to Cochran, but Eddie seems to mean it because in interview he talks about Sherri third, Cochran second and him coming first. Poor delusional Eddie.

Treemail! The castaways could win a competitive edge but they have to “dig deep!" Everyone jumps up and down. Dawn says that everyone was unsettled, but she seems quite chipper now. She tells Cochran and Sherri, “I’ll be so relieved to have my brain back." “Because you’ve lost part of it out here?” Cochran can’t help himself. She interviews about how in her last season she made zero strategic moves, but now she can say that “I have done all this stuff!” She seems happy, like she won’t get any blame for it.

Probst sighting! Reward challenge! It’s another challenge we have seen before. With one hand the castaways have to steady a balance, while building a house of cards (technically, tiles). First to build their house up to the mark – about six feet from the ground – wins reward. This was clearly supposed to be an immunity challenge, but as they are down to four already, the winner will get a “huge” advantage in the next, final immunity challenge.

Everyone starts building, with “Eddie bringing up the rear.” Cochran is the first to have his tiles collapse in a heap, followed by Dawn and then Sherri. Eddie is “slow but steady.” Dawn is about one tile away, but gets the shakes again, and blurs her mouth when the tiles fall. Meanwhile, Probst drones on about not getting frustrated.

After what seems like a few more collapses from everyone, Cochran and Sherri appear to be dead even at five feet. But then Sherri’s stack of tiles falls like a tree that got lumberjacked. Cochran’s remains relatively steady, and he is able to put a last tile on top to reach the mark. Cochran wins! Something that isn’t immunity!

Cochran gets a big hug from Dawn and the others all congratulate him. It is “Cochran’s third individual challenge win, and this could be a million dollar reward." Cochran is to keep it sealed until the next challenge. Dawn interviews about how she’s happy Cochran won, but if he doesn’t win immunity he is on the chopping block.

The castaways arrive back at camp, and all congratulate Cochran again. Aren’t they allowed to talk to each other on the way back, except if one of them collapses? We always see this grim march back from challenges, with conversation only breaking out once the tribe flag is planted.

Cochran interviews that “my streak... has come roaring back... I am the challenge beast.” He was concerned that Eddie would win the challenge and reward, and he also didn’t want Dawn to win either because he might want her gone, but also presumably because if she won immunity she might turn on him.

The others are also talking about positioning. Sherri is buttering up Eddie, saying she would much rather be there at the end with Eddie than Dawn. She claims Dawn is playing the sympathy card too much, and Eddie thinks Dawn would win all the jury votes. “I’m not sitting next to that,” says Sherri.

Meanwhile, Cochran is affirming to Dawn that he “is locked” to go to the end with her, and Sherri is also “locked." Dawn is nervous because the other pair are obviously talking, and the only logical conclusion is that they are talking about getting rid of Dawn. Cochran suggests Sherri is just trying to curry favor with the inevitable immunity challenge winner.

Cochran interviews that “every day I get to see a new freak-out from Dawn." He goes through them all, “over the top weeping, flailing of arms, asking to be left alone” and says that today it is a “catatonic breakdown... with a sudden influx of paranoia." As superior as Cochran sounds in this interview, he doesn’t seem wrong. Dawn has an interview where she agrees. “The longer I am out here, the harder it is not to be paranoid.” She is embarrassed by her behavior, which she compares to “a baby stomping my feet."

Anyway, Cochran reinforces to Dawn that there is no scenario where he would be voting her off, before an interview where he says “every day is a roller-coaster with her, it’s not fun, it’s not funny. On Day 37 she should be paranoid, because I’m considering ditching her." That would make the game more interesting.

After the break. Cochran and Dawn come back with treemail, which contains a truly appalling poem, even by treemail standards. It’s time for the Walk of Fallen Survivors. Cochran blankly stares in interview as he lies about how he has been really looking forward to this. Not if he is a fan of the show, he isn’t.

Here are the list of the fallen.

Francesca. Cochran says she made Survivor history, but at least she was voted off for being a huge threat this time. Francesca voice-overs that she is honored to be there, even if she is the least successful of everyone. But she finds it pretty funny.

Allie. Cochran is confused about which blonde Allie was. “Reynold’s blonde,” says Sherri. Allie learned quickly that Survivor is not about money, and declares she will be “friends for life” with the other cool kids who she knew for six days. Doesn’t she have any real friends?

Hope. “Eddie’s first Survivor sweetheart,” says Sherri. “My first Survivor love,” says Eddie. Hope voice-overs that it was an incredible experience, and she “would do it again in a heartbeat, without Eddie.” It sounds like Hope is used to dealing with unwanted boyfriends.

Shamar. “Brother from another mother,” is how Sherri describes him. A mother with mood swings and anger management problems. “Misunderstood in this game,” says Sherri, which is probably true. Shamar voice-overs that he has never had that much pain.

Laura. The only thing said about Laura is Cochran saying “Laura." She talks about how she appreciates the people back home more.

Brandon. Dawn says Brandon was a “challenge beast," but his “personal life became too difficult to manage." Brandon voice-overs that “I was giving it everything I got. I was playing for a million dollars, and when I knew I couldn’t have it. I just wanted to starve some folks. I made it rain,” he says which is an accurate description of the huge tantrum he threw at everyone, including the people who liked him, and squealed like a baby. He “don’t regret nada," and claims to have been “the author of my elimination." Still trying to make fetch happen. I look forward to seeing you at the reunion, Brandon!

Matt. No one says anything about him either. He talks about how hard Survivor is and how he feels he is way stronger now.

Julia. No one says anything about her. Julia will be applying the lessons of Survivor to race-car driving. In particular, she will be more “ruthless and more aggressive in getting what I want."

Corinne. “Strategic, charismatic, lots of energy,” described Dawn. Corinne’s voice-over is self-mocking, saying she was going to flip for a gay and three hotties. Ha! She explains that you have to take risks in Survivor, and also that “I am exactly who you think I am." I did enjoy you a lot more this season, Corinne.

Michael. Nothing said about him. He wanted to do it all, and he’s proud of his game.

Phillip. Cochran talks about how he created Stealth R Us, was a powerhouse and eccentricities aside, he did know his game. Well, he knew the game enough to put an alliance together and control it, but not enough to have any chance of winning at the end. Dawn and Cochran agree that they were glad to play with Phillip but it was surreal. Phillip voice-overs that he hopes this season proves “to put on full display my ability to grasp and learn something from a true master of the game, Boston Rob” but really, if you’re over 50 and you feel the need to prove that, what does it say about you? He would like his legacy to be that he’s “not the crazy guy," but this season just cemented it.

Malcolm. Dawn says “challenge beast” for what must be the eighth time this episode and “the biggest threat to win the game." Malcolm ruefully describes how he “crashed and burned," and also that “part of me needs to be here to get the job done." See you next returnees’ season, Malcolm.

Reynold. Eddie’s best friend in the whole game. Reynold gives a more self-aware voice-over than I’d credited him capable of. “In a little bit over my head… you need to always keep your guard up. I was never able to get there.” I have a suspicion we’ll be seeing Reynold back in a couple of seasons too. I’ll always remember him as the guy who said “Hope is the only one worth **ing anyway."

Andrea. Cochran says she is charming and beautiful, and then with a look at Eddie, really really smart. Andrea is glad that she played more aggressively this time, but going home with an idol in her pocket was the low point, especially as she thinks she could have made it to the end. When I first saw Andrea cast, my initial thought was “who?” but she was one of the few good casting decisions for this season. Note to Survivor: this is what happens when you give those supposedly “uncompelling Survivors” a second look.

Brenda. Cochran describes her as “one of the strongest players, physically, spiritually and emotionally." Brenda is still hung up on Dawn. “Maybe the game isn’t that black and white, maybe you can make real strong connections out here and be motivated to keep those connections." She’s “very proud of what I did, and I wouldn’t change a thing."

Erik. Dawn thought he would be in the final three. Erik voice-overs that “I was sick to my stomach the whole game” and that he finished fifth, same as last time. “I dunno, just fate” his voiceover says about being medevac’d on Day 36. I have mocked Erik, and he’ll never completely lose the stigma of "ice cream scooper who gave up his idol," but he didn’t play a terrible game and it must be heart-breaking to end the game like that. But it wasn’t a game to take in front of the jury either.

Anyway, Dawn, Eddie, Cochran and Sherri take the plaques they have been collecting and put them in the idol. “Burn this down!” says Dawn, as eager to get this over with as I am. Eddie is hoping for a physical immunity challenge, especially given Cochran’s advantage.

Probst sighting! “Come on in guys!” It’s the final immunity challenge. There’s a brief interview from Dawn about how Cochran has that advantage, and if he wins, I hope “we’re still trusting each other."

Probst describes the challenge. The castaways will race up a tower, and untie a bag of puzzle pieces. Then they will slide down and run over to deliver the bag to the puzzle station. Three stories, three puzzle bags. Once all the bags are done, they can start work on their puzzle, which is shaped like a fire. It’s full of squiggle pieces, like the tree puzzle we saw last season. Winner will get a chance to plead their case at the final Tribal Council.

Cochran gets to reveal his advantage, which is that he will not have to untie the puzzle bags. They will be waiting for him to pick up when he gets to there. Given how many knots we have seen need to be untied at previous challenges, this looks like a big advantage.

The challenge begins. Cochran races ahead, and is quickly up and down with his first bag while the others are still at the knots. He goes to get his second bag, and arrives just as Dawn and Eddie have just delivered their first. Sherri is still untying knots.

Cochran heads up for his third bag, and gets back at the same time as Dawn and Eddie return with their second bag. Cochran starts untying his bags. “Big advantage, don’t squander it!” urges Probst. Dawn and Eddie now have their third bags, while Sherri is still working on untying her last one.

Cochran still has no pieces in place when Dawn gets her first piece, then her second, then her third. Then Sherri comes out of nowhere, and gets two pieces right. Cochran? Still at zero. But then he gets a first and then a second.

Dawn now has five pieces, and Cochran is “starting to figure it out” and catches up to Dawn. “Maybe the least likely person to be dominate in challenges,” mocks Probst. Now he is at eight, just ahead of Dawn at seven and Sherri at six. Eddie, immunity challenge threat, is still at zero. But he gets his first piece and then his second.

Cochran is going places now. He has six pieces left, then five and “Dawn and Sherri need to pick it up." What happened to Dawn in this challenge? Cochran has an easy path from here – three pieces left, the one, then “Cochran! Wins! Immunity!”

“Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh!” says Dawn, who seems genuinely happy for Cochran. “Do it, do it, do it, do it!” Cochran urges Probst to give him the necklace. Probst declares that Cochran is in “an elite group”, having won three individual immunities. And only two of them were due to an advantage in the game! And the other one was a food challenge! Cochran claims to Probst that he should be among the Donaldsons and Marianos. This may be a sign of a burgeoning ego, but I think he is mocking Probst’s love of the alpha male here. “So this goes back to Day One, the first time you played, when you said please call me Cochran."

“Yeah,” confirms Cochran, “I thought I proved myself last time” [footage not found] “but I wasn’t aware of what I could prove this time until I played this time around." Anyway, he interviews that things couldn’t have gone better for him. Everyone wants to work with him, and he is thinking it might be best to cut Dawn loose.

The unlikely story of Cochran’s triumph will be continued tomorrow.