He excelled both socially, strategically, and physically — which is exactly why his tribemates voted him out just prior to the Survivor: Philippines final Tribal Council. And for Malcolm Freberg, that was the harshest reality of all. We spoke with Malcolm the day after the finale, where he shared his frustrations over being so close, yet so far from the million dollars.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What’s worse psychologically — getting voted out early or making it that close to the end and coming up short in that last challenge?
MALCOLM FREBERG: Oh, it’s absolutely worse going that far and having it go south in the final hour. You know, we talked before the game started and I was out there to play the game to win the game. I was livid after I got kicked off. I was like, What the hell did I do this for? Why didn’t you just vote me off? Flip spots with me and Zane, is how I felt about it. Let me get out of here first if I’m not gonna win this damn thing. I just starved for a month for nothing in my opinion. I was not in the best of moods after that happened.
EW: That moment where Lisa said she did not see any reason to bring you to the final, you could see the life being sucked out of your entire body.
Pretty true. I figured it out after her answer. Even after losing the challenge, good on them — they led me to believe that I was golden. I was not happy at all.
EW: Were you angry at them, angry at yourself, or just angry at the situation?
For a minute there, I was angry at them. I’m not bitter at all. Lisa is still a good friend of mine. We talk all the time. Denise is still one of my best friends to this day and I’m in a good spot with Skupin even. I’m still bitter at losing and coming that close. I’m still pissed off that I lost. You lose a football game, you don’t hate the other quarterback that beat you, but you hate that you lost. So I’m cool with the people, but the situation is rough, I’m not Jeff Kent with a World Series to play for. I got my chance to play Survivor and came up 24 hours short.
EW: Why not make a final 3 deal with Denise when she approached you? Were you thinking jury too early and that you didn’t want to piss her off and lose her vote?
That’s absolutely what it was. It’s probably a little bit of a case of arrogance. I thought I had it locked in with Lisa and Skupin. I didn’t see that Lisa’s brother was gunning for me the minute I brought him on the damn reward. So if I could get away without lying to Denise, that was one more vote in my favor. I’ll stand by my logic on that one because I thought I had it locked. I just had no idea who Lisa was and had no idea she was a professional actress.
EW: I was shocked to see the jury members at the reunion say they would have voted for Denise over you in the finals. I don’t buy that for a second.
Yeah, so the honest truth right there is that before we went out there, Pete and Carter said “We’re gonna mess with Probst. We’re not gonna raise our hands when they ask that question.” Because they knew it was going to come up. Pete, Carter, and Penner were all in on not raising their hands for me when they would have. It’s absolutely true. They were just screwing around to enjoy themselves. If you go back and watch the finale — and I don’t know who goes back and actually watches the finale — but if you want to, just watch their faces and the things they were doing to the camera. They were out there just enjoying themselves and having fun at CBS’ expense.
EW: Why lay into Denise like that at the final Tribal about the head nodding and appeasing?
I didn’t go into that ever not voting for Denise. I was pissed off, but I didn’t hold it against her. I understand that it’s the right move to get rid of me at that point and I was turning on her first so there’s no way I could be mad at her. But it was very clear to all of us that Denise was going to win. But I wasn’t going to let her off the hook. She was brilliant at deflecting hard questions with very politically correct answers so I was trying to get her to say something nasty at that point and just get under her skin a little bit. And it came off a lot meaner than I wanted it to. But there was absolutely no way I was never not voting for Denise and I think she absolutely played brilliantly and absolutely earned it.
EW: How much talking and campaigning for people at the Ponderosa jury house went on?
Not a whole lot. And let me say that it was very clear by the time I got there that we all knew who was gong to win the game. I didn’t know Carter was going to vote for Skupin until they read that — and then we immediately all knew it was Carter by the spelling. And we all figured RC would do something dumb like that, but when I got there it was very clear it was gong to be Denise after I was gone. They had to make it look suspenseful like Lisa and Skupin had a chance, but nobody respected Skupin’s strategy and it as really great TV to watch Lisa emotionally struggle, but that’s not great gameplay, so they never really had a shot at it.
EW: You ever go back and watch any Facts of Life episodes?
Nope, we do not. It came on Nick at Nite when Pete was staying with me about a month ago and we turned it off. Lisa is Lisa to me. I love her. We talk all the time. Her daughter is gorgeous! I’m still working on that. We all still like her. I’ve never seen an episode, but I haven’t heard the nicest things about Blair, so we want Lisa to be Lisa and we’re not going to watch it.
EW: Who performed the best at that final Tribal Council?
Denise’s opening speech was perfect. She did exactly what you’re supposed to do: I’m not apologizing for anything. I kicked your guys’ ass. And right there she had it. Skupin wasn’t good. Lisa also was really good. She was putting up a fight. And it was actually cool to watch. On TV for the past few episodes, she’s been in Machiavellian mode, but I didn’t know that at the time. And her putting up a fight was the first time I saw her speak from a strategic standpoint. Lisa did do a good job, but our jury went into that thing knowing whom we were going to vote for. I will say Penner’s speech was the coolest thing I’ve ever been a part of in my entire life. We applauded. They didn’t show it. The entire jury applauded when he was done with his little thing. It was awesome.
EW: That’s an actor making good TV there.
Oh, he knew exactly what he was doing, but it was still so good.
EW: Denise told me this morning how Russell still really holds a grudge against her, which I found odd. Because while I know he has a lot of issues with what happened out there and how he did in the game, I thought it was more issues with himself and his own portrayal, but I didn’t realize he was still upset with other people. Are you two good?
He definitely holds it more against Denise than he does with me. What you say is true in that he is more upset with how the game went than being upset with us, but we’re guilty by association with the game of Survivor right now. Russell is not a happy man. I don’t listen to a lot of podcasts, but I listened to the Russell stuff because it was mind-blowing how rattled he still was. And he really is still struggling with it and holds it more against Denise than me. I get along with all but a very few people from the show, but Russell’s one of them. He just hasn’t gotten over it. I went up to him and said hi and he had to walk away. Eventually we shook hands and were very cordial, but Russ still doesn’t take it well.
EW: What surprised you the most about this experience?
I think I was really well prepared because I was a fan and knew what to expect. The only thing that surprised me was how bad other people were at the game. How poorly prepared other people were. I thought everybody would be like me. I was practicing challenges. I was working out and building fires in my backyard with my dad before I went out there. Other people were like, oh, I’m going to watch two episodes of Heroes vs. Villains and mention Parvati in my interviews and sound like I know what I’m talking about. If you’re gonna be on the show, get ready for it and prepare. The way that other people weren’t prepared was the most shocking thing to me.
EW: But you know Survivor well enough to know that they find so many of these people in bars and beauty pageants and that they often have never even seen the show.
I guess I was just optimistic on humanity and it turns out I was wrong.
Check out all the rest of our ‘Survivor’ finale coverage, including Dalton’s full episode recap, exclusive intel from the host on next season, Probst’s thoughts on the finale, our interview with winner Denise Stapley, and our interview with runner-up Lisa Whelchel. (Mike Skupin interview coning soon.) Plus, enjoy an exclusive deleted scene from last night’s finale — as well as pre-game interviews with the final four — in the video player below. And for more ‘Survivor’ scoop all year long, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.