05/12/2013 at 10:20 PM EDT
It has been an exceptionally cutthroat season of Survivor
, full of blindsides and broken promises. Two contestants were medically evacuated, one player was voted out in an impromptu tribal council and big characters went down in flames.
On Sunday, the season ended
with an unlikely final three: Dawn Meehan
, Sherri Biethman, both over 40, and 26-year-old John Cochran
, who played his previous season as what some might call a weakling.
The final tribal council was contentious, with each of the nine jurors taking their shots at the finalists. Biethman was criticized for riding the coattails of the other two players. Meehan was attacked for forming personal relationships with contestants before backstabbing them. And Cochran took some heat for sitting back and allowing Meehan to do the work.
And then it was time to reveal the votes. Jeff Probst read the nine votes, and a winner was crowned.
With a unanimous vote, John Cochran was voted the sole survivor.
Meehan and Biethman received no love from the jury. Many of the contestants took their ouster personally.
Brenda Lowe, who departed last week, was stabbed in the back by both Cochran and Meehan.
"I had a close personal relationship with Dawn," Lowe tells PEOPLE. "I felt like I could trust her completely. I gave her immunity because she wanted it! So when she stabbed me in the back, it felt like a horrible breakup. I was devastated."
After hugging his family, Cochran became slightly emotional.
"Obviously, it feels incredible," Cochran said after the vote was revealed. "I've loved this game for half of my life. It's a dream come true."