Interview: Malcolm Freberg talks ‘Survivor: Caramoan’

I seems like I just talked to Malcolm Freberg about his last “Survivor” experience, a near miss on “Survivor: Philippines.”
Malcolm didn’t fare nearly as well on “Survivor: Caramoan.” The X Factor among the returning Favorites, Malcolm had only two weeks between his seasons and he wasn’t the dominating force he was the first time around. He also never had the strong alliance he had the first time around, when he paired with eventual winner Denise from the first day. Instead, he found himself forming an minority alliance with Alpha Males Reynold and Eddie, who were outsiders in the Fans tribe from the start.
Still, despite never having a power position or any real traction, Malcolm made things interesting. Malcolm found two Hidden Immunity Idols and used both of them in a dramatic move to take Phillip “The Specialist” Sheppard out of the game. That came one week after Malcolm got Reynold to hand him another Idol in an ultimately unnecessary attempt to shake up the game.
Regrets? Malcolm’s got a few and, as always, he shares them with good humor. 
Click through for discussion of the Three Amigos, The Specialist and his between-seasons conditioning strategy…
HitFix: Hey Malcolm, how you doing?

Malcolm Freberg: I’m doing alright. I appreciate your sad tone of voice, though.
HitFix: I guess I’m just a bit mournful.
Malcolm: I’ll take it!
HitFix: First question: If you’d had an Idol to play, would you really not have played it during that Tribal Council?
Malcolm: I don’t remember saying that. I saw it and I was like, “Wait. What? Hold on. No…” I don’t know. I think I was trying to rationalize it in my brain for not finding it. I don’t know what that was and I don’t know where that came from. If I had it, it would have been a much different scenario. Yeah. I don’t know what that was.
HitFix: How frequently does that happen where you hear something you said in a confessional and have no memory of having actually said it?
Malcolm: Honestly, it’s most of them. Occasionally I’m like, “Oh yeah. I remember that. I remember being witty that day.” But most of the time, I’m watching it for the first time, too. Sometimes I say something funny and I’m like, “I don’t remember saying that!” And sometimes I say crass things about women and I’m like, “I don’t remember saying that!” So it’s kinda like watching it for the first time.
HitFix: Going back to what led to your demise. You took responsibility for Sherri, while Eddie and Reynold took responsibility for Erik. Who do you think had the harder job and who dropped the ball?
Malcolm: It wasn’t the harder job, it was just the only job. Erik… I didn’t trust Eddie and Reynold to sway anybody. After playing with them for as long as I did, you learn not to trust those two with too many responsibilities. So I told them, “Go work on Erik,” but I never really expected them to pull over Erik. Erik’s been in La-La Land for a month. I had no read on him whatsoever. So I went to work on Sherri knowing it was going to be a tough sell. I was sorta like, “Hey, you’ll make it farther with us” and, you know, I did think that was true, but it was obviously a sell. I didn’t think it was a great shot, but I didn’t think we had a shot. What I didn’t know was how horrible her, Reynold and Eddie were treating each other in the beginning at the Fans’ camp. I’d heard that they didn’t get along, but I didn’t know until it came on TV a couple months ago how much they actually were going at each other’s throats those first couple days and I think that actually played a big part in her decision not to flip.
HitFix: So then is your regret with not trying to cultivate Sherri as an option sooner? Or is your regret with the whole Three Amigos thing as your primary alliance in the first place?
Malcolm: You know, the Three Amigos was just… I keep saying… It was the dumbest thing. I wanted to punch Eddie when he called us “The Three Amigos” in the middle of Tribal. It was a fun little joke for us in the woods, but what worse way to sway people to come over to your side of the numbers than if you announce, “Yeah. We have a name.” There’s three of us, and the name has “three” in the name. “Yeah. Come on with us. We’ll bring you to the end.” Awww. I wanted to elbow him. Anyway. Sorry. We kinda talked to Sherri and I couldn’t really feel her out after the swap, but I talked to her and we had a good relationship. But I think after we all kinda turned our back on her on that first vote when we were trying to trash her her after the Merge and instead Corinne went home, she really took it personally, which was kinda a shock to me. I would never take a vote against me personally if I thought it made sense. So she took that vote against her personally. It’s something I could have worked on, but for the original plan, I never planned on needing her.
HitFix: It doesn’t sound like you have a tremendous amount of respect for Eddie and Reynold [he starts laughing]. What is like being out there and finding yourself relying on people you don’t maybe respect so much?
Malcolm: I love Reynold and Eddie to death, but as far as “Survivor” strategy goes… A couple times it was like, “Guys, what are you thinking?!?” Like, especially with Eddie running his mouth to Andrea that day. I was shouting at my TV. And then Reynold’s the eternal optimist. If somebody throws an idea his way that could possibly work, he totally goes for it. It’s like, “With allies like these, who needs enemies?” Right?
HitFix: Do you think that you were maybe too quick to slip away from the Favorites and ready to be a free agent? Or was that always your plan?
Malcolm: In hindsight, it’s kinda easy to think that. It crosses my mind from time to time. But you have to go back to the very beginning and the whole dynamic with me and none of the Favorites knowing who I am. So yeah, I managed to weasel my way into the majority alliance, but I was never a core member. I was always just on the fringe and I was never going to be able to work within that group to go to the end. So really early on, I knew I was going to have to try to turn the game on its head and I felt I had to do it early, like right after the Merge, because we’d voted out so many fans. I couldn’t have planned on the Favorites being so dominant pre-Merge and getting rid of all of my potential allies that way. So very early on in the game, I knew I was going to not stick around with Stealth Nonsense until the end. I don’t think it was too early, because if I wait any longer, there’s no one to flip.
HitFix: How about once Corinne went out and your original alternative alliance fell apart. Was there anything you could have done in that moment of uncertainty, rather than, I guess, again… the Three Amigos?
Malcolm: Yeah, I see what you’re saying, like kinda like snuggle back in with the majority and like go kiss Phillip’s butt. I did manage to come out of that vote unscathed on reputation, so I still thought I could pull it off. I still thought, “If Dawn comes along…” Now that seems silly watching it on TV, because I didn’t know that Dawn was the one who trashed Corinne at the time. So I still thought we could pull it off, but obviously not.
HitFix: How do you look, in retrospect, at the two Idols you played that maybe, in a totally literal sense, you didn’t need to play to survive?
Malcolm: Nothing about any Tribal Council since the Merge went the way I planned it to go and that one was no exception. All that move was supposed to be was basically a bluff a la the Philippines when I did it and then Kent went home, where I pull it out and make a big show and then just put it back in my pocket. The idea was just to double-down on that bet, put a necklace around Eddie’s neck and then create enough smoke and mirrors and confusion to get everyone to vote for Phillip. And it didn’t work out that way. So that was really my worst case scenario, having to play it and I knew that going into it. It was a risk, kinda a swing-for-the-fences, do-or-die moment and it just didn’t work out.
HitFix: Last week, Phillip wanted to make it very, very clear to me that the only reason you would have voted him out was because you viewed him as a threat. So, did you view him as a threat?
Malcolm: [Laughs.] Well, Phillip said it, so it must be true.
HitFix: Yup. That’s how I figured it.
Malcolm: You know, Phillip was handed the keys to the car. I was doing it to. It was like, “Here, Phillip. Go have fun. You be in charge.” We seceded all power to him within minutes of hitting the beach. Giving him credit… He was doing a good job out there, but he didn’t get taken out because he was a threat necessarily. We targeted him because we felt that he was the cog holding all the pieces of the majority alliance together. He was in everyone’s endgame plan and he seemed like the best way to create a fundamental shift in the dynamics on the beach. As a threat? He was never gonna win, so I don’t know how much of a threat he was, but he was playing a good game out there. He went because he was the best way, we thought, to shake the game up.
HitFix: Since we’re playing a lot of “in retrospect…”
Malcolm: I know, right? “Malcolm, if you could do it again? If you did this again?”
HitFix: It’s the game I play.
Malcolm: I gotcha. No worries!
Malcolm: So in retrospect, would you have targeted someone different, thinking back on targeting Phillip?
Malcolm: If I knew that I was gonna have to play two Idols to get somebody out and that was already pre-determined that that was going to happen? [He sighs.] No. No. Because you can get rid of a threat, but then Phillip’s still there and he’s still calling the shots, he’s still gonna be there not letting people talk to us on the beach. He had us on lockdown while he was there, nobody was allowed to talk to us. Andrea was scared to have conversations with us in front of him. Phillip had to go because he was doing a good job and he was the figurehead for the status quo. Getting rid of him, it didn’t change things enough to keep me around, but it did create some sort of shift.
HitFix: Last night we saw some night-vision fun with the standoff between you and Andrea at the well. How much of that was editing fun? How long would you say that actually lasted for?
Malcolm: I was up as soon as there was a crack of daylight, out there digging again. This was like the day after. I’d already dug for hours looking for that thing. And then she walked in and just decided she was going to sit down. We probably sat on the well for… It was probably half-an-hour. It just happened to be right at dawn, so they got to have some fun with their cameras. We probably sat there for a half-an-hour kinda laughing and at the same time, I was really annoyed with her. At that point, I was already despairing of finding that Idol, so was like, “Can we just walk away?” And we just walked off and I ended up bluffing that I had it.
HitFix: Did you give any consideration to starting a digging race and just letting the chips fall for whoever could find it first?
Malcolm: It kinda turned into that at one point and then I was like, “This is dumb. I’ve looked everywhere I can come up with to look. I’ve been digging for days.” So I ended up just stopping looking and the idea was to give the impression that I did, in fact, have the Idol, so that they had to split the votes and so that bringing Sherri over would be enough to get me through the next vote. 
HitFix: You mentioned it early, but you were sorta the great unknown of the Favorites. What was the advantage and what was the disadvantage of that?
Malcolm: There was an advantage in that no one knew what to expect. There are two sides to the coin. The advantage is that no one knows what to expect. The disadvantage is no one knows what to expect. There was really no way to know how it would play out, but early on it became a disadvantage, in that as much as I was part of the majority, I wasn’t a part of the majority of the majority. Let’s see how many more times I can say “majority” in a sentence. And then I felt the need to try to make something happen, because there was no way I was gonna be able to just be taken to the end, especially because of the fear of me being the next Russell Hantz or something and nobody knowing what to expect.
HitFix: What did you tell people about your season?
Malcolm: I told the truth. I gave like 100 percent, all the facts. The first time I started in the Philippines, I had this whole elaborate lie about my backstory, about where I went to school and my college football career and all of these lies that I’d compounded up, to as a story to make me less of a threat. This time I gave the complete truth and I made that decision as we were hitting the beach. The idea was that I needed to come off as genuine as possible if these people who have all the power are gonna keep me around, that if they sense that I’m lying or they sense I’m being deceptive, they’re gonna sniff the bluff really quick. So they got the full truth. They knew everything within the first hour.
HitFix: What was the turnaround between the two seasons and how did that impact your physicality out there? 
Malcolm: I told myself, “With two weeks off, you need to eat right and work out lightly and just restore your body.” That two weeks was like hedonism. I was so bad. I wasn’t a kid in a candy shop. I was a grown man in grocery store spending way too much money on Fruity Pebbles and baked goods. My muscle mass just wasn’t the same. I wasn’t in the same spot. Watching myself last night, even looking at myself with my shirt off, it’s like, “That’s not lean-healthy, that’s gross-sickly.” My muscle-mass was just gone. I had no reserves. I was not in the same spot on Day 30 in Caramoan as I was on Day 30 in the Philippines, not even close.
HitFix: And you’ve now had a bit of downtime. Are you itching to get back out there and do it for a third time?
Malcolm: [Lets out a sigh.] You know, if I’d won, I might have hesitation. I’d like a little time off, I think, still. Like a summer hanging out on the beach where I don’t have to worry about starving or people talking behind my back, but it’d be really hard to say “No” if they asked me again, because… Yeah. Not having that victory lights a fire in my belly.