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Survivor: Winners at War is on the verge of its big premiere. It’s a hallmark moment for fans of the show, representing 40 seasons of strategy and physical prowess with host Jeff Probst and the various castaways. Even more exciting, it’s an all-star season, meaning fans will see some of their favorites return to battle it out. However, one particular fan favorite winner is missing from the mix — John Cochran. As fans may know, Jeff Probst loves John Cochran, and was highly impressed with his win. So why isn’t the Survivor star making his way back to the screen?

‘Survivor: Winners at War’ isn’t Probst’s favorite idea 

John Cochran of Survivor
John Cochran of Survivor | Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic

While many fans have expressed excitement at the prospect of an all-star season of Survivor, Jeff Probst was not previously keen on the idea. In fact, he never wanted an all-stars season to begin with. 

Jeff Probst explained to Us Weekly that he just didn’t think it would work. He said, “We can’t do all winners. As a producer, I would never suggest it. I would say it’s not a good idea. We have 10 great winners that you’d want to see play again,” he says. “We don’t have 20. We don’t have 18. Some of the winners don’t want to play again. Some of the greats are like, ‘No, we’re done.’” 

Probst added, “CBS wants to do it. They’re pitching me all the time. And I’m going, ‘I’ll sit down with you and show you the list!’ We don’t have it. And if I sat down and we wasted our time and I walked you through all our winners, you would say, ‘Oh, you’re right. You don’t have a season.’ We have a tribe of winners, that’s it.”

While it’s unclear whether Probst changed his mind, or if CBS just decided it would happen regardless of his feelings, Survivor: Winners at War is on. However, fans have noticed that John Cochran hasn’t appeared on the cast list, which has come as something of a surprise 

Why John Cochran isn’t coming back

Jeff Probst and John Cochran of Survivor
Jeff Probst and John Cochran of Survivor | Monty Brinton/CBS via Getty Images

John Cochran was a fan favorite during his winning season, Survivor: Caramoan. It was his second appearance on the show, he’d come in eighth place for Survivor: South Pacific. Even Jeff Probst loved the castaway, and it seems the two developed a friendship beyond the show. 

So it came as a surprise to fans when they discovered John Cochran wouldn’t be participating in Survivor: Winners at War.

Jeff Probst told Entertainment Weekly, “I can tell you that of all the people we wanted. I would say Cochran is the only one that would have been on the list [where] if he had said yes would probably have a spot on the show.”

However, it seems as if John Cochran has no interest in returning to Survivor. During an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Cochran explained, “I feel bad saying this but I don’t think that I would [return]. I don’t think I’d do as well. I’m aware of my limitations. I’m aware that I lucked out a lot this time, that a lot of stars aligned, the timing was perfect, everything was great. And I had such a great time in addition to all that. I really enjoyed it.”

Cochran added, “First of all, I’m not going to do as well, that’s inevitable. I probably won’t have as good of a time, and my last Survivor memory’s going to be losing and not enjoying myself as much. I kind of would like to end on this note, where everything is going to be perfect for me and I’m happy. Doesn’t it seem better to quit while you’re ahead rather than coming back and bungling it?”

Jeff Probst reveals a new ‘Survivor’ twist

Jeff Probst and John Cochran of Survivor
Jeff Probst and John Cochran of Survivor | Greg Gayne/CBS via Getty Images

Meanwhile, there’s a new twist for fans and castaways to get accustomed to on Survivor: Winners at War. Probst explained that fire tokens will be added to the game — a form of currency for castaways to use as a barter system. 

Probst told Entertainment Weekly, “And the way it works is, everyone starts with one. And when you are voted out you have to will it or bequeath it to somebody still in the game as you head to the Edge of Extinction.” 

Those on the Edge of Extinction will find advantages that they can barter for fire tokens from castaways still on the island. They can then use those fire tokens as a way to earn themselves advantages that could help them return to the game.