Exclusive: Malcolm Freberg talks about his time on 'Survivor: Philippines' (Part 1)
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 12/18/2012
Malcolm Freberg was voted off Survivor: Philippines just shy of making it to the Final 3 during Sunday night's finale broadcast of the season on CBS.
Malcolm, a 25-year-old bartender from Hermosa Beach, CA, was eliminated from the game thanks to a plot devised by the Final 3 castaways -- winner Denise Stapley, a 41-year-old sex therapist from Cedar Rapids, IA; Lisa Whelchel, a 49-year-old former actress from Dallas, TX; and former Survivor: Australia castaway Michael Skupin.
During the subsequent live reunion show, Jeff revealed that Lisa had won $100,000 as the winner of the season's "Player of the Season" home viewer vote. Malcolm came in a very close second for the prize, as only 0.7% percent of a vote separated the two deserving castaways.
In an exclusive interview on Monday, Malcolm talked to Reality TV World about his Survivor: Philippines experience.
Below is the first half of Malcolm's interview. Check back with Reality TV World soon for the concluding portion. To begin reading our interview with Denise, click here. Also, to start on Lisa's interview, click here.
Reality TV World: Were you surprised that Denise won the game and also that Lisa and Skupin only received one vote each -- or were you surprised Lisa and Skupin even got one vote at all?
Malcolm Freberg: Yeah, I'm surprised that Lisa and Skupin got the votes they did. (Laughs) Really, Denise had that thing in-hand. We got to the Final 4, I think me and Denise snuck off to the woods and kind of like did a little dance, because one of us was going to win this game. And watching it on TV, Lisa and Skupin were playing much better than I was giving them credit for out there.
But it's so much about perception when you're going to make a case for the jury, and nobody on that jury perceived that Skupin and Lisa were playing a good game. Skupin was just kind of like a bumbling fool for awhile and Lisa was like this Christian lady who kept crying every other day, and no one wanted to reward them with the money.
So when I said -- when I got voted out, I said, "Congratulations, Denise." That was absolutely what I believed was going to happen, and yeah, I was not shocked with what happened last night.
Reality TV World: So what was your perception of how everyone viewed Denise's game?
Malcolm Freberg: Everyone completely respected Denise out there. I think I made friends, but people respected what she was doing. She was absolutely integral in all the moves that both of myself and her in our alliance made, and she was absolutely playing brilliantly. She wasn't making enemies.
I mean, she wasn't making tight bonds like I think I did with some of the kids, but her tight bonds with Lisa and Skupin are a big part of probably what caused that at the end. Denise was doing everything right. Look at [how] she's a little rock of a woman. She's got the body fat percentage of like a marathon runner from Ethiopia.
I mean, she's like this little woman who's still a threat in challenges. Socially, she's the coolest lady to sit around and talk with in the world, and strategically, we all knew she had a good head on her shoulders. So once it was going to be Denise versus what really was unfortunately two goats, we all knew how that was going to go.
Reality TV World: Before you got voted off at the Final 4 Tribal Council, you said one of the reasons Lisa and Skupin should keep you around was because you had "blood on your hands" and had flipped on people. Could you elaborate a little on what you were referring to there, because it didn't seem like the Tandang alliance was ever really that strong after the merge. Were you referring to what happened at the beginning of the season with your former Matsing tribe?
Malcolm Freberg: I mean, 95% percent of things said at Tribal Council aren't true. (Laughs) You're trying to paint a picture. You're trying to make an argument, and what I said I think was true, thinking that I was the driving force behind a lot of the strategic decisions.
Like me and Denise absolutely worked together and she was a big part of that and we absolutely discussed everything and she was completely 50/50 complicit in a lot of the things that happened. But I was seen -- again, perceived, as the driving force behind a lot of the hard kind of cutthroat decisions that were made to cut people out of the game.
And I was trying to -- that was all me trying to convince Lisa that I was less of a threat than Denise. All I was trying to do was convince those two that they had to get rid of Denise that night instead of me. I think what I said was true, how I was seen as the driving force behind a lot of stuff, but I also think that I played it off well enough not to worry. It wasn't going to hurt me as much as I was making it sound.
Reality TV World: You seemed completely shocked when you were at Tribal and Lisa told Jeff Probst she couldn't think of any reason to take you to the end before you got voted off. Was that actually the case? Did you really not see that coming at all?
Malcolm Freberg: I don't know if it's a blindside when they tell you -- when you find out in the middle of Tribal that you're going home. But I honestly thought, even after I lost immunity, all day long, I saw Denise working on Skupin and stuff. I had seen all these conversations take place. When there's only four people at camp, you know who's talking.
But I absolutely still thought I had -- I still thought Lisa and Skupin were going to take me, because I painted Denise to be the bigger threat. And then Lisa said, and again, I was watching this in a green room and I haven't watched it again since and heard it all, but whatever she said, I knew right then I was toast.
In my fate -- and you could see I got emotional right then. I was like, "You've gotta be kidding me, like, is this really happening?" I really thought I had it in the bag until like halfway through Tribal Council that night.
Reality TV World: It seemed like your fatal flaw in the game was hesitating to tell Denise whether you were onboard with forcing a 2-2 tie at the Final 4 Tribal Council. After that, she started scrambling to get Lisa and Skupin on her side to vote you off. Could you talk about what was going through your mind during that conversation?
Malcolm Freberg: All that happened after I had made my deal with Lisa and Skupin, and I really thought -- well what was going through my head was -- "I had made a deal with Lisa and Skupin for the Final 4 and they've stuck with it so far, and they've stuck with the Final 4. So if I can get them to swear on their families and parents, brothers and sisters, whatever -- if I can get them to swear again for a Final 3, they won't turn on it."
Because Skupin and Lisa, they're both Christians really, people who weren't playing the game in my mind at the time -- obviously watching it on TV, they were playing much harder than that -- but they were people who I thought were going to stick by their word.
Reality TV World: So it was just you didn't want to lie to Denise because you wanted to keep her jury vote?
Malcolm Freberg: Yeah, yeah. It was jury management with Denise. I absolutely thought I had it when I shook hands with Lisa and Skupin. I absolutely did a big goofy laugh on the boat because I thought I just became a millionaire.
And no, that was absolutely jury management -- not going with Denise. I think she still would've voted for me if I had lied to her now looking back on it, but I was just trying to keep her happy as possible, because I already saw her -- I had a mental image of her being the last jury member.
Reality TV World: Do you look at that as a potential million-dollar decision? Do you think if you had lied to her, she would've believed you and then kept you around instead of what actually happened, or do you think that actually wasn't a factor at all?
Malcolm Freberg: It was a factor, but it wasn't the fatal factor. The fatal factor was my read on Lisa the entire game. I mean, she was a mess, and I don't think anybody could've kept up with reading what she was going to wake up as. But I continued to trust Lisa for a long time after I really should've stopped.
All the signs were there and I should've stopped, but I just kept on trusting her because I thought if I got her word, I was good. I really had no way of knowing she was so set against me.
Reality TV World: What happened before the Final 5 Tribal Council where Denise approached you about your second idol? Again, you kind of hemmed and hawed and wouldn't commit to giving it to her.
Malcolm Freberg: The same thing -- same jury management thing. I was trying to -- well, I said that wrong. It wasn't jury management. I threatened to use it for her to Skupin when he approached me. So Lisa and Skupin thought I was going to give it to her, but then I was trying to keep Skupin and Lisa close to see me protecting Denise, because I think they're my allies at that point.
Reality TV World: I guess I'm trying to say, what was the upside of not giving your idol to Denise, unless in the back of your mind you were [actually] considering voting her off at that point?
Malcolm Freberg: The upside, I knew she was safe because I threatened it, and there was no way Lisa and Skupin would get away with it. They just didn't -- I mean, you watched it all season. They don't have the nerve to pull off a move with any risk involved.
Reality TV World: Did you just want a souvenir that bad, I guess? (Laughs)
Malcolm Freberg: (Laughs) Yeah. I thought -- I knew I could get away with it and it would make it look less like I was -- and I'm completely taking it from Lisa and Skupin's perspective when I did that -- [I didn't want to actually give her the idol because] I didn't want them thinking I was protecting Denise.
I wanted them to feel like they could trust me 100% percent. All I was trying to do for the last two episodes was engender trust with Lisa and Skupin.
Above is the first half of Malcolm's interview. Check back with Reality TV World soon for the concluding portion. To begin reading our interview with Denise, click here. Also, to start on Lisa's interview, click here.