The 40 Most Influential Survivors: John Cochran

John Cochran

South Pacific, Caramoan, that scene in Game Changers

To celebrate the 40th season of Survivor, we’re counting down the 40 Most Influential Survivors to ever play the game. Because Survivor is a game, a tv show, and a rabid fandom, we’re taking all forms of influence into consideration for this list. Go here to view the criteria we are using to determine what qualifies for the list. Note: this list is presented in chronological order and there will be spoilers for various Survivor seasons.

John Cochran is the 28th entry in this series.

John Cochran was not the first nerd to be cast on Survivor, nor was he the first superfan. But after 22 seasons, the show had reached the point where the younger cast members were children when Survivor premiered. Many times, these younger cast members were “mactor” types, recruits who didn’t watch the show. But that was not the case for the Harvard law student, who asked Jeff Probst to call him by his last name. After all, who wants to be yet another John? Almost certainly tongue-in-cheek given his stature, he wanted the last name treatment given to the host’s favorites. And then he really became one of them.

Before Cochran earned Jeff’s love, and thus, the wrath of the internet, many fans hated him for flipping on the tribe that made Brandon Hantz seem gentle and kind. While another John flipped to avoid rocks only a few seasons earlier, he’s only remembered for marrying Parvati. No, it’s Cochran people think of when a potential tie comes up at tribal council. Despite his triumphant second season, there are many people – players and fans alike ­– who consider this the cowardly way out. Had the rest of South Pacific gone better for him (and truly, for us… no offense to Sophie, but what a slog of a post-merge), perhaps the move to flip would be viewed differently. But Cochran had a chance to rewrite his story, and assert his influence in a different way.

Through his fashion sense, obviously.

In Survivor: Caramoan, Cochran played the second ever perfect game, and it was not as different from JT’s as one might expect. But it was really his character that makes him an influence in the world of Survivor. As addressed before, Cochran is not just a superfan. Adam Klein may have called himself a “super-duper fan” several years later, but Adam wasn’t writing law school papers about the show or wearing a Buff in his yearbook. (And frankly, good for Adam.) Those of us in the online fandom community have likely experienced encountering a fan and thinking, “Oh wow, I thought I was a nerd about this show, but clearly I was wrong.” That’s what Cochran was to every nerdy fan-turned-player who came before him. And because he led to interesting moments on the show, there have been more people like him since. People like us, RHAP patrons, Survivor redditors, and even a Survivor professor. People who are acutely aware that they are on a TV show with a history that’s been carefully dissected by the fan community at large and make moves and give confessionals like those people are watching.

It’s not just casting who’s keeping an eye on his archetype though. While he won by charming his tribemates in the pre-merge (and being on a tribe that won challenges) so they wouldn’t think of him as a liability or a threat, players that followed have been more wary. Just like any attractive young woman could be the next Parvati, and young man who has seen the show before and isn’t a challenge beast could be the next Cochran. He even helped Jeff Probst realize there are different kinds of players. It’s not Boston Rob whom Jeff cites as his favorite winner, it’s Cochran.

Also he obviously influenced Debbie in Game Changers.

Who else made the list?

You can see each entry on the list by clicking this link.