May 21, 2007 07:45 AM by Joe Blackmon
Written By Ryan Haidet – 39 days. 19 people. 1 Survivor. The 14th season of the hit show Survivor wrapped Sunday with Earl
Cole taking the title. He became the first African-American male to
claim the prize and won by a landslide with a 9-0-0 vote – the first
time it has ever been unanimous. “It feels good,” Earl said. “It
feels really good. I’ve never had a million dollars. I don’t know.
I’m at a loss of words.”
The final tribal council was held in December in Fiji when the nine jury members cast their votes. Although he had a long time to wait for the reveal on May 13, Earl said he thought he had won even though “you don’t want to assume that.”
Once again with three contestants at the final vote eligible for the $1 million, Earl said his win had to do with the ousting of fan favorite Yau-Man Chan of Martinez, California. Here’s what happened. Yau-Man’s ouster came as a result of Andria “Dreamz” Herd’s betrayal. Yau-Man won a truck during a reward challenge and bargained with the giant gas guzzler. He offered it to Dreamz, who said he didn’t own a car, in exchange for the immunity necklace if he won it at the final four. Dreamz won it at four but decided to keep it. Earl said this sealed his victory. “Even at tribal council, I was like, ‘What? You’re going to keep it? You just increased my chances.’ Of course, the next move, which was really hard, I had to vote out Yau-Man, my strongest competitor. So I didn’t want to take any chances. I’d rather, you know, increase my chances. So (I had to) take him out and go in there with Dreamz and Cassandra.”
Getting to be the sole Survivor wasn’t easy though as Earl endured 39 days of Mark Burnett’s twists and turns, starting with one many fans weren’t thrilled with – the haves versus have-nots. Starting with nothing, moving to the good camp, to eventually having it all taken away, Earl thought the idea was fun. “I definitely understand the concept CBS was trying to pull off,” Earl said. “A lot of people didn’t like it, but I was all for it. I said, ‘To me this just shows American society. What happens to an unreserved tribe/entity compared to somebody who has everything?’ You see what happens when you don’t have much. You start losing, you start feeling bad, you start acting crazy like Rocky. And that’s kind of how life is., Even though our tribe sucked, it wasn’t just because we weren’t eating. We had a weird chemistry.”
Then midway through the game when the tribes merged, the luxuries at Moto (haves) were taken away – including their shelter. “I laughed because it was funny to me,” Earl continued. “Because I had already trained over at Ravu (have-nots). I didn’t have anything. I was able to adapt to that situation, still have the will to keep going, to keep fighting. Then I go to the other side, when I’m moving on up to Beverly Hills, it’s like, ‘Wow you guys have everything here.’ It was like going to Disneyland all of a sudden. When I went around that corner and saw that everything was taken away when we merged, I was like, ‘Yeah, now it’s Survivor. Now I want these other guys to feel what it’s like.’” There was a sense something was up though. “People had a feeling that some things might be gone. We didn’t know everything was gonna be gone. But I was glad. I was like, ‘Good. Now all these people who got lazy and were eating all the time, now you’ve got to really play the game.’”
Playing the game, according to Earl, is all about the interaction of relationships. “It’s about recognizing people for who they are,” he said. “That’s how me and Yau became friends, because you have to be able to read people. Some people read (people) wrong, like Alex read his alliances wrong and everything. You know, you just have to feel it. Me and Yau just connected pretty quick. He worked hard, he had a great work ethic, good morals. So we bonded even though we’re an odd couple. You know, an African American and an old Asian guy. But it worked out and it’s about trusting people. (If you don’t) that’s when you start doing weird things, getting paranoid and then slipups happen. So I explained to Yau, I was like, ‘The only way we can go really far is if we can trust each other 100 percent.’ People don’t like to say 100 percent, but you have to. I wanted to feel comfortable going to tribal council.”
He said that all of his strategic planning is something viewers didn’t even get to see. “They did not get to see enough of what I was doing,” Earl continued. “How was I able to go as far as I did? I had six different alliances going. I managed all of them. It was a lot of work. I was always thinking. I had the other people thinking that I wasn’t thinking; that I wasn’t playing the game, I was just glad to be there. That was part of my game. I was never scared going to tribal council. I would set it up so hard and I would do so much to try to put trust in some people that I don’t want to be nervous every time. A couple times I was a little nervous, but I always felt pretty comfortable there.”
All that strategy paid off in a million ways. “My plans for the money is pay my taxes, invest it; try to turn a million into ten million.”
Extras with Earl
Reality TV Magazine: Is Rocky really that big of a personality?
Earl: “You can’t get any bigger than that. He’s really like that in real life, he’s just crazy.”
Reality TV Magazine: What was your best move in the game?
Earl: “My best move in the game was not even revealed. I had both immunity idols.”
Reality TV Magazine: Would you play again?
Earl: “I would play it again. I’m a big Survivor fan. It would be an ultimate challenge to play it again. It would depend on if other people saw me on this time. If they saw me it would be a whole new challenge. How can I show everybody that I can win again? How would I change my game? So now it’s like, ‘Earl’s a stealth guy.’ So I’d have to change it up.”