By Benji Glowinsky
In the year 2013, we got two seasons, and two victors of the TV Show Survivor. John Cochran won Season 26, which aired last spring, Survivor: Caramoan (Fans Vs. Favorites), and Tyson Apostol won Season 27, which aired this past fall, Survivor: Blood Vs. Water. Which one of these winners did The B-Glow Show crown as the ULTIMATE victor!?!? Read on to find out.
Cochran first played on Survivor in Season 23, Survivor: South Pacific as a new player. While he was labelled as the Harvard law nerd who knew everything there is to know about Survivor, Cochran came off very naïve. He was instantly an outcast on his tribe, being a target at every tribal council and being constantly looked down upon as the weakest link of the Savaii tribe. When he got to the merge, and there was a six-six split between the two tribes, he decided to flip on his own tribe and go with the Upolu tribe members to vote out all of his Savaii-mates, which, understandably, they did not take well at all (Former Savaii, Whitney went as far as to say, “You disgust me”). Now, don’t get me wrong, I have no issues with Survivor players flipping on their tribes. My issue with it comes when you flip on your tribe, and it doesn’t further your game more than staying with your tribe mates would have. This was the case for Cochran. He finished beyond the top six, which is an unsuccessful flip.
In Survivor: Caramoan, Season 26, Cochran returned to Survivor as a part of the second Fans Vs. Favorites season on the favorites tribe. He started out the game as the swing vote along with former South Pacific tribe mate, Dawn. Once they picked a side after the first vote-off, it was smooth sailing until the merge as a result of constant challenge wins for the favorites tribe, and even after a tribe swap they easily maintained their numbers. At the merge, Cochran was able to use the big personalities around him as a shield from being seen as a threat. He along with Dawn quietly masterminded the post-merge game and found themselves in the final three together. The jury admired the social relationships he made with them, and seemingly gave him all of the credit for the strategic smarts of his alliance. They also admired his challenge “dominance,” winning four individual challenges, considering in his past season he held his tribe back in challenges due to his incompetence. It helped him that between the other two finalists, the jury blamed Dawn for all of the backstabbing, and didn’t give the other finalist, Sherri, any credit for anything. With that, Cochran was rewarded with all eight jury votes, and won a perfect game (not receiving a vote against him the entire game, and receiving all of the jury votes).
Tyson first appeared on Survivor: Tocantins, the eighteenth season of the show. He was immediately villainous in his actions, and in his confessionals, never failing to be snarky to his fellow tribe mates. Tyson was in the majority alliance within the Timbira tribe and had a close relationship with Benjamin “Coach” Wade. While the alliance had some inner conflict, with Tyson and Coach not being particularly fond of alliance mates Sierra or Erinn, they stuck it out until the merge and had a 6-4 numbers advantage over the rival tribe, Jalapao. As expected, the former Timbira turned on one another, voting out one of their own at the first Tribal Council after the merge, Brendan. Tyson, coming off of two Individual Immunity wins, and having just voted out former alliance mate Brendan, was seen as a huge threat and was voted out the first night he wasn’t immune by the former Jalapao members, and some of his former tribe mates, ending his run on Survivor: Tocantins in eighth place.
Two seasons later, Tyson was asked to return for what had been Survivor’s biggest season yet, Heroes Vs. Villains. This season brought back ten of the most antagonistic people in Survivor history, and ten of the most heroic people in Survivor history, and placed them against one another. Tyson was expectedly placed on the Villains tribe along with former cast mate, Coach. The Villains were dominant through the first five episodes, only losing one Immunity Challenge, resulting in a cohesive vote-off of Villain, Randy. During those first parts of the game, Tyson was in a majority alliance with Coach, Jerri Manthey, Courtney Yates, Sandra Diaz-Twine, and “Boston Rob” Mariano. In episode six, both tribes attended Tribal Council, at which point the only Villains not in the majority alliance were Daniellle DiLorenzo, Parvati Shallow, and Russell Hantz. With Boston Rob knowing Russell was in possession of the Hidden Immunity Idol, the plan for the majority alliance was to split the vote 3-3 between Parvati and Russell. The intent was to force Russell to play his Idol, thus sending Parvati home and leaving Russell without an Idol. Tyson was supposed to be one of the three people voting for Russell. After Russell pulled Tyson aside saying he would be voting for Parvati, knowing he’d be safe with his Idol, Tyson decided to change his vote from Russell to Parvati without telling the rest of his alliance. At Tribal Council, after the votes were cast, Russell gave his Idol to Parvati to play, and with Tyson having changed his vote from Russell to Parvati, it negated the now four votes against her. Since there were only two votes cast against Russell, and Russell, Danielle, and Parvati all voted against Tyson, Tyson was eliminated in a 3-2-0 vote. Tyson essentially voted himself out with the move, which has been referred to as one of the dumbest moves in Survivor history. It left Tyson with a bruised ego, a tarnished legacy, and a fifteenth place finish.
Tyson was brought back a third time for Survivor’s twenty-seventh season, Blood Vs. Water, which pit former contestants against their loved ones. Tyson brought along his girlfriend, Rachel. Starting out on the Galang tribe of returning players, Tyson was a part of the early alliance of himself, Aras Baskauskas, Tina Wesson, Monica Culpepper, and Gervase Peterson. They comfortably sat as the majority for the first quarter of the game, in which Galang only attended Tribal Council once. During that part of the game, it was Aras who came off as the leader of the alliance. Tyson started off as his usual self, crackin’ wise around camp, but once his loved one, Rachel, was voted out and subsequently eliminated from the game, a spark went off in Tyson’s head and he kicked his game into high gear. He formed a sub-alliance with Gervase, who had also lost his loved one, and they decided they needed to blindside Aras at the first chance they got. After the tribe swap, Tyson found himself on a tribe with Aras, Gervase, and new players Hayden Moss, Caleb Bankston, and Ciera Eastin. Tyson brought the three new players into an alliance with himself and Gervase telling them that they needed to get rid of Aras at the merge. Once the merge hit, they did exactly that. Tyson also brought Monica back into his core alliance, making the new alliance of himself, Monica, Gervase, Ciera, her mother Laura, Caleb and Hayden the new majority alliance. They instantaneously picked off their enemies one after another, and Tyson was virtually in control of the game. He was ready to take Gervase and Monica to the final three, and once it got down to almost only the majority alliance members, he picked off Laura, and then Caleb. Once he had to get rid of Hayden, problems arose. He was forced to pick rocks in order to determine who would go home, and luckily he was safe and rival Katie went home. With a Hidden Immunity Idol in his back pocket, and two Immunity Challenge wins in a row, he stormed his way to a 7-1-0 victory over Monica and Gervase, respectively. The jury was impressed with how well he controlled the game.
So who was better? Cochran, or Tyson?
There’s no denying how well Cochran and Tyson played, but the way they played was very different from one another. For Cochran, he was never The Diplomat (As AJ Mass would say) in his alliance. He was able to hide his game behind the loudness of Phillip for the first half of the game, and there was always a bigger target than him to get rid of up until about the final six, whether it be Malcolm, Reynold, or Andrea. I wouldn’t say it was easy for Cochran to go through the game and finish with no votes against, but it’s not surprising given the circumstances he played in. For Tyson, he very much was The Diplomat of his alliance, and was labelled as such by other players. While he was quiet over at Galang, he immediately positioned himself as the head of a big alliance when he formed the majority group over at the new Tadhana. From then on, there was never a moment when Tyson wasn’t being called out as the leader of the alliance, the most notable one being when Hayden announced to the tribe that no one stood a chance against Tyson in the finals. Cochran often hid his strategy behind Dawn, and her big moves which left a lot of blood on her hands. No one was labelling Cochran as the strategic mastermind until the end of the game when it was down to him and mostly incompetent players. Tyson was easily seen as the biggest strategic threat on the island, and the other players knew it the minute he blindsided Aras. However, no one was able to do anything about it. No one could get him out, and he was able to finesse his way to a victory. Going in to the game, in many of the pre-game interviews, people (most notably Tina) mentioned how dangerous Tyson was, and how they didn’t want to work with him and he needed to be rid of soon after the game started. Those same people blindly aligned with him up until he cut their throats, and for most of them, he was still able to get their jury votes. For Cochran, I certainly don’t remember anyone labelling him as an imminent threat in their pre-game interviews. The point is, Tyson had to overcome much more adversity to get to the finals, whereas I think Cochran had an easy ride up until the very late stages of the game.
Another aspect I felt Tyson exceeded Cochran in was his strategic game, and how his strategy came off to others. For Cochran, he had a couple bumps along the way. There is no doubt in anyone who watched Survivor: Caramoan’s mind that you could tell that everyone and their mother out there wanted to take Phillip to the end with them. Watch every post-game interview, and listen for the question, “what would your ideal final three have been,” and I guarantee you almost all of them will include Phillip. Cochran was unable to do that, and had the rug pulled from under him in the Tribal Council where Phillip left. Tyson on the other hand had Gervase in his endgame plans since near the beginning of the game, and at the merge solidified a final three deal between himself, Gervase, and Monica, which he executed. He never had to hide behind the outlandishness of a Phillip, and never needed a goat to take to the finals. You may say, “but wasn’t Gervase a goat?” Maybe in your eyes, but in a postgame interview, Tyson mentioned how he was shocked Gervase got no jury votes. He truly believed the votes would be split between himself and Gervase, but they weren’t. That’s the important thing about a goat. It’s all about who perceives who as a goat. If Tyson didn’t think Gervase was a goat at all, it means he was willing to take people to the end that he knew could very well take votes away from him. Cochran was well aware that no one on the jury took Sherri seriously, and knew that he could exploit Dawn as cold-hearted, and take credit for many of her moves with an easy victory in sight.
If we look at Survivor history, I would place Cochran’s win in the same realm as Sophie Clarke, the winner of Cochran’s original season, South Pacific. Sophie, like Cochran, took Coach to the end, knowing he had most of the blood on his hands for the moves they made as an alliance. For Tyson, his win should be talked about in the same breath as Kim Spradlin, Boston Rob, and other great winners who really controlled their respective games, albeit with some luck, but in essence ran their seasons all the way until the finish. Look, I am by no means saying Cochran played a bad game, in fact he played a very impressive game, I just think that Tyson played a better game of the two, and to me, he is this year’s ULTIMATE Survivor winner. But Cochran’s none too upset about that. In fact, as you’re reading this, somewhere in California, Cochran is doing more important things, like trying to make Will Arnett funny again.