Cochran opens the reunion by giving some of the best game advice I've ever heard. He says that you have to go to bed every night thinking about the best move for each of your opponents so that you can make arguments that take into account their self-interests. He adds that you need to be calm without being complacent and vigilant without being paranoid.
Dawn has a pretty good attitude about how much she cried. Probst tries to get her to talk about how the social media affected her, and she says that she shut down her Twitter account because she knows who she is and didn't need to see the negativity. They bring Brenda in via satellite (she's super pregnant and can't travel) to talk about their betrayal and they make up, sort of. They don't seem upset anymore, regardless.
Phillip whatever, but we do get a special appearance from Boston Rob, who has made a book? I don't get if this is a bit or if Rob is hawking his book or what. It's dumb.
Then Probst salivates all over Malcolm for a while. Gross. Andrea comes off as pretty likable. I think other than Cochran, Andrea might win the award for Most Redeemed.
Then there's a retrospective look back at season one for no reason that I can see, where Probst talks to Rudy who is really, really old, and then there's a taped bit from Richard Hatch, and just as I'm thinking they would never show the clip where Rudy calls Richard a queer, Rudy busts out, "I didn't even get to call him a queer!" Um.
Malcolm wins Fan Favorite, of course.
Then Probst makes it out like next season is going to be a huge surprise when, as usual, pretty much everyone knows that it's returning cast members playing with family members, and if you look around, you can even find a cast list already.
Turns out they only put the jury members up on stage, and I honestly didn't miss the pre-jury people, but I'm sure they were pissed to be ignored.
Cochran was just announced as the winner and had a few minutes to dispense hugs to family while the rest of us took a commercial break. I don't know if it's the money, but with a decent hair cut and some hipster glasses and the dimples, Cochran is... kind of cute? Like I wouldn't be surprised to see him getting some female attention.
The group is smaller than usual: turns out that they're only letting the jury members and finalists sit on stage, while the pre-jury evictees are relegated to the studio audience. Probst claimed in an interview that it was because they are in a new location and didn't have room for them, but I think that's horseshit. I think they were trying not to draw attention to the fact that Brandon was asked not to attend. Look, there's rarely anything useful from the pre-jury members being on stage, so I'm not sorry about that. What does bother me is that -- according to interviews/social media posts from them -- production didn't tell them that they weren't going to be on stage until the day of the reunion. So they all flew out to California, bought new outfits and told all their friends and family to watch... and then they're never really shown on camera. Bullshit. Handled poorly by production and handled poorly by Probst in post-reunion interviews. Just admit that it was botched, that you're sorry those people were disappointed, and you'll do better next time. Yet another example of the producers acting like they exist on a closed set, where no information gets out.
Anyway, back to the winner. We're treated to a quick clip detailing Cochran's journey from nerd to winner (or nerd to nerdy winner). Probst tells Cochran that he dominated the game, when he came into the show a huge nerd. And Probst can't believe that Cochran actually dresses nice! Probst kind of has a Madonna/whore complex with dudes -- it's like a bro/nerd complex. He can't imagine that someone could be both. Cochran explains that he was very worried the first time he played about how he would be perceived, but this time he was able to relax more and be confident. Probst then urges Cochran to tell us about how kids are inspired by his tale of success. Cochran allows that he's a "scrappy underdog."
Probst wants to know how Cochran has changed, because he seems very different. Didn't we already cover this? I don't get what Probst wants Cochran to say. Maybe, "Thank you, Probst, for transforming me into a true alpha male! I couldn't have done it without you, bro." Anyway, Cochran says that he wishes he could travel back in time to when he was a 13-year-old watching Richard Hatch win the first season and tell him that one day, he would win his own season.