Malcolm Freberg talks 'Survivor': Nuku's plan was solid, J.T. Thomas had a brain fart of epic proportions
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 03/24/2017
Malcolm Freberg was ousted from Survivor: Game Changers after a two-tribe Tribal Council twist on Wednesday night's episode on CBS.
After losing the season's fourth Immunity Challenge, the new Nuku and Mana tribes were forced to attend Tribal Council on Night 11 together. In a 6-5 vote with Malcolm's Nuku tribe having the majority, Sierra Dawn Thomas was technically voted out of the game with six votes.
However, thanks to information James "J.T." Thomas leaked to Brad Culpepper on the opposing tribe, Tai Trang played a hidden Immunity Idol for Sierra and therefore sent Malcolm, a 29-year-old from Hermosa Beach, CA, home with five votes.
During an exclusive interview with Malcolm on Thursday, the former Survivor: Caramoan -- Fans vs. Favorites and Survivor: Philippines castaway talked to Reality TV World about his "premature end" in Game Changers. Below is the first half of what he had to say.
Reality TV World: J.T. told Brad your tribe was going to vote for Sierra, but then he later ran back to him and said, "Vote for Sandra." Do you have any idea what was going through J.T.'s mind? Was he trying to render the situation and help your tribe at the end, maybe because he felt guilty for initially revealing the Sierra vote? Or did he really think Sandra was the target at this point?
Malcolm Freberg: I mean, I can try, but I'm still trying to figure it out too. (Laughs) My understanding of what happened there is he didn't tell Brad to vote for Sierra; he said he was going to vote for Sierra, which again, I don't understand. That doesn't make any sense to me, but it's the reason we are talking today.
He told Brad to vote for Sandra, and I think what happened was, J.T. -- and I don't know this -- I just think J.T. would've voted Sandra if he knew that entire tribe was going to vote Sandra. I think he was going to be the sixth vote assuming Hali would go along with the plan, which was a huge "if."
I think he'd vote for Sandra if he got everyone onboard with that plan, not saying that makes any sense, but I think that was the plan. But like I said, about two-thirds the way into this Tribal, J.T. panicked because he knew they weren't going along with his plan. So once he realized they weren't going to vote for Sandra, I think that he came back to our side and tried to vote Sierra for us. I think that makes sense! (Laughs)
Reality TV World: So at the end of the day, which tribe do you think J.T. was truly loyal to?
Malcolm Freberg: I think J.T. was trying to be loyal to his original Nuku tribe and then bring me along for the ride. We were that close out there; we talked about it. My loyalty was up for grabs as far as a good game decision. But in the moment, it still didn't make sense whatsoever.
Like I said, it didn't make sense in my head for J.T. to flip and do what he did because he had to go back to camp with people from his original tribe. In the short-term, his loyalty might have been misplaced, but in the long-term, he's definitely trying to stay true to his original Nuku.
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Reality TV World: Your tribe didn't seem to think anyone on Mana had an idol. Sandra was even shown saying that to Michaela Bradshaw. So does it make much sense to you that J.T. was so confused about whom to side with if he didn't think an idol was at least in question? Was J.T.'s behavior then some elaborate ruse because maybe he personally believed someone over there had a hidden Immunity Idol?
Malcolm Freberg: Don't give J.T. too much credit here. (Laughs) All the talk about everything -- it was Sandra, who just goes, "They ain't got no idol [Jeff Probst]," or however the hell she talks, but that's just Sandra being Sandra. Sandra makes a big deal at Tribal constantly. It's kind of like when Hali talks at Tribal, it's sort of the same thing.
You kind of let it go because it does or it doesn't make much sense, and we're just sort of used to it. So we at least talked about every situation involving idols going into it, and we thought we had a good plan to deal with. The only thing that screwed us over was J.T. literally telling [Mana] exactly where to play [the idol]. Otherwise, I don't think Tai would've handed it off, because he'd keep it for himself.
Reality TV World: J.T. obviously lied to you and your tribe about telling Brad how Nuku was going to vote out Sierra. Are you a little shocked at yourself and others for believing J.T. and not switching the vote to someone else just in case?
Malcolm Freberg: Not really, because he went over with the intention to get Sandra out. Right? It doesn't make sense but okay, whatever. After things aren't going his way, you can see him panicking. We were all like, "Why is J.T. freaking out?"
He was sitting there. He's leaning over and whispering in my ear, "Malcolm, we need to change the vote. Man, we need to change the vote." I sat there and asked him, "Why?" Because he was trying to protect me by saying this. J.T. is trying to help me as he's saying, "We got to change the vote. We got to change the vote."
But he wouldn't admit to what he had done. He told Brad that we were voting for Sierra, everything changes, and of course we'd change the vote. I mean, Sandra was probably smacking him around at the middle of Tribal Council because he just wouldn't admit to what he'd done.
So that's a whole different ballgame. Because he didn't want to fess up to the poor mistake he made three-fourths of the way into Tribal Council, everything went to crap. So, surprising? Yes. I hate to say it, but it was terrible, terrible gameplay for J.T., and it didn't cost him, it cost me.
Reality TV World: Are you still bitter about what J.T. did? Do you have any hard feelings toward him now?
Malcolm Freberg: I mean, yes and no. (Laughs) It's hard to watch, just sitting there like, "This is my buddy. Goddamnit J.T.," watching it back last night. But I tell him that he owes me several gallons of rum for what happened.
But no, I still love the guy. My mom, you know, I lost a game of Monopoly before -- it doesn't mean I'm going to stop loving my mom. I'm just mad for a little while. And J.T. ruining mySurvivor game, yeah, I was mad at him for a good, long while, but it doesn't mean I don't love him anymore.
Reality TV World: At the time of your final words, you were so convinced J.T. had betrayed your tribe. Was there any part of you wondering whether it was just an unlucky coincidence Tai played his idol for Sierra, the person your tribe voted for? You guys agreed she was the biggest female threat on that side.
Malcolm Freberg: Oh God no, because when it happened, Brad pointed at her. And we were just like, "Ohh!" And it took me a minute to put it all together, like a day or so, because I was still reeling from what happened, but once I put the pieces together, it was pretty obvious that J.T. had spilled the beans.
When [Tai] gave the idol to Sierra, the jig was up. There was no hesitation. Tai said something like, "Oh, I want to give the pretty necklace to a pretty girl," or whatever the hell he said, and I was just like, "Ohh, this is terrible rubbish."
Reality TV World: At the time you left the game, how did you think J.T.'s actions were going to affect his game going forward? According to the preview for the next episode, it's going to get rough for him on his tribe.
Malcolm Freberg: I think they are going to react exactly how I would expect. Sandra and Varner, who are the sassiest [players] in history, are going to react to a guy whom they thought was on their side knocking out his best friend. You saw the preview and that's exactly what I expected, that he's not going to be let off easy, especially in the short-term on his current tribe.
Reality TV World: Caleb Reynolds had told me last week that Brad was afraid of other alpha male players, which is why Brad had orchestrated his vote-off. Do you feel the same way about Brad? And what do you think about his gameplay so far watching the season back?
Malcolm Freberg: Well, I never interacted with Brad except nodding to each other at that Tribal Council thinking we were on the same page. That definitely seems to be the pattern, you know, the other tribe is wiping out big, threat guys. The new Brad is fantastic, he's playing great. I love the new Brad except for what happened last night! Yeah, I think he's doing an awesome job so far.
Reality TV World: Is there anything you want to add about the wild Tribal Council we didn't touch on that you'd like to say or clarify?
Malcolm Freberg: Yeah, if we had like two hours we could talk about it. (Laughs) Not too much. I don't think I can help you out too much with that. I think we got the key points.
Reality TV World: Awesome. So when you were approached to compete on this season, did you have any hesitation? And would you definitely play again if given the chance? I'm assuming the answer is yes.
Malcolm Freberg: There's always a little hesitation, like you have to take a big old break from your life, get your affairs in order and leave for two months. But it wasn't too hard of a call, it's been a few years. I kind of had the itch to go back again. And in terms of doing it a fourth time, well, now, more so than other times I played, now I absolutely have to go back. I didn't even play this time!
I'm sitting there, like, falling over things in challenges and laughing. I mean, I had more fun than I ever had on the damn show in those first 10 days, because it wasn't the time to start pushing hard on the envelope strategically. So it's really like I didn't get to play this time, and if I got another chance, yeah, definitely, there's unfinished business.
Reality TV World: Do you have any major regrets from this season?
Malcolm Freberg: I think besides not having a million dollars in the bank account -- well, really, the only thing is, watching myself the first couple of times on TV, I was sitting there like, "God, why did I do that?! Why did I do that?" This time, I was like, "Damnit J.T.!" But I really don't have a regret.
I mean, I'm sure the Monday morning quarterback will come up with something I could've done different, but I don't see it in any, like, rational place. Our plan was solid; J.T. just had a brain fart of epic proportions. So actually, there's really no regrets this time around except for cursing and bad luck.
To read the first half of Malcolm's exclusive Survivor interview with Reality TV World, click here.