May 12, 2013 at 10:59 PM ET
"Survivor" crowned its 26th winner on Sunday, and as host Jeff Probst said, the newest champ"is one of the biggest fish-out-of-water stories in 'Survivor' history." The victor? Twenty-five year-old Harvard law student John Cochran.
The two-time contestant beat out professor Dawn Meehan and businesswoman Sherri Biethman to claim the $1 million prize for "Survivor: Caramoan -- Fans versus Favorites."
"The first time I went it into it ... everyone perceived me as a nerd, a socially awkward freak," Cochran said of his time on "Survivor: South Pacific" after being named the winner. This second shot to outwit, outplay and outlast? "I got to focus on the game this time instead of how I'm perceived. ... I'm kind of speechless. Accepting my eccentricities as just part of me instead of an embarrassment ... I'm proud of who I am!"
Cochran dominated in the season's last episode, winning both the reward and immunity challenges, and then earning the jury's votes in a landslide.
The season finale kicked off with a bit of drama as Erik Reichenbach started to get sick on day 36, immediately after last week's Tribal Council.
"In the middle of Tribal, I started to spin. ... Everything is spinning right now. I need to lay down," Erik said as the medics arrived on scene.
"Right now he’s going down and I don’t want him to go any further," said Dr. Joe. Concerned that Erik's body was going into "starvation state" combined with low blood pressure, the medical team pulled the favorite out of the game to leave a final four that also included Eddie, who was later voted out unanimously by Dawn, Cochran and Sherri.
Things became a bit heated during the final Tribal Council, with the jurors asking tough questions to drill down to which of the final three played the best game. At times, things got a bit heated.
"I’d like to enlighten you: You never played anything this entire game, you were a seashell on the beach," Erik stated flatly to Sherri.
"Obviously, I’m not going to get your vote. You can sit down," she snapped back.
Brenda Lowe was still smarting from Dawn's betrayal, and didn't hesitate to try to bring her former ally down a few pegs, reminding the teacher about how Brenda herself managed to find the older woman's missing teeth before being stabbed in the back with an elimination vote.
"Getting voted out by you, that’s where the pain came. I found (your teeth) for you," Brenda reminded her ex pal. "You said, 'I owe you everything.' ... I realized afterward, 'I had Dawn’s fate in the game literally in my hands.' Would you have really quit if I did not give you back your teeth? I want you to take out your teeth, Dawn! ... DO IT!"
After a lot of hemming and hawing, Dawn finally removed her bottom teeth and displayed her mouth to the cameras. "I wanted you to do that because that’s what I felt: A little bit of heartbreak," Brenda admitted.
As for Cochran, it was clear the jury respected his game and his answers in the final Tribal Council.
"I I played like a chameleon," he said. "I changed at a drop of a hat."
And it was exactly what was necessary this season to outwit, outplay and outlast.
What did you think of the results? Share your thoughts in the comments!