This was posted on April 25, 2013 by Rodney Ho on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
For Walton High School grad Malcolm Freberg, second time was not a charm on "Survivor."
After two wild and wooly tribal councils, the Dartmouth grad and bartender was finally eliminated Wednesday night, finishing the show in 9th place. The first time around, he finished fourth. (Read a post-mortem I wrote back in December.)
While that may not sound impressive in and of itself, it is.
Malcolm is the first person to ever do back-to-back "Survivor" seasons with so little time between seasons (all of two weeks.). So he effectively spent 68 days starving in a span of just over three months. And by the end, he said he felt every bit of that time in his aching body.
"To this day, I haven't fully recovered," Freberg said in a phone interview Thursday from his home in Los Angeles. "It's been a year and I work out regularly but I'm still not where I was."
He spent the two-week break eating everything in sight and sitting on the couch. (Read his prep work here.)All those empty calories carried him for about a week in the current season. But from a strength standpoint, he knew he couldn't barrel through and win all the physical individual challenges the way he did during the Philipines around. And he knows he lacks steady hands, a problem that cost him a spot in the finals and perhaps $1 million during "Survivor Philipines," which aired last fall.
So by day 68, he was spent. "I looked pretty sickly by the end," he said. (Then again, Erik and Brenda looked far worse.)
Malcolm, who was part of the "favorites" crew this season but was unknown since nobody on the island had seen "Philippines" yet, was an immediate threat. Despite his own complaints of his relative physical weaknesses, he was still physically stronger than most of the other contestants. He is also charming, whip smart and strategic. Several of the favorites found him dangerous, especially Cochran. (I ran out of time and didn't get a chance to ask Malcolm whether Cochrane's desire to vote him off was more strategic or personal.)
So once the teams splintered, Malcolm decided to join in an alliance with some of the remaining fans rather than stick with Phillip's crew, which also included one fan Sherri. "It was born out of necessity," he said. "Else, I felt I would have ended up sixth at best."
But the fans didn't have the numbers. Malcolm scrambled against odds to stay around, finding immunity idols and setting up one of nuttier tribal councils in "Survivor' history in an episode that aired April 17. Phillip's group had seven people. Malcolm's alliance had only three, including fans Reynold and Eddie. Reynold won immunity. Then Malcolm had found an immunity idol out of pure luck 45 minutes before going to tribal last week, he said. So Phillips' alliance of seven was planning to vote for Eddie. A no brainer, Phillip said confidently.
But none of the favorites knew Malcolm had a backup idol, which he handed to Eddie. This left Phillip's crew scrambling as Malcolm announced the trio would vote for Phillip to leave. Six of them voted for either Malcolm or Eddie anyway, in case they didn't use their immunity idols. But Erik flipped and guaranteed Phillip would be voted off.
This allowed Malcolm to survive another week. But the numbers were still against him. During the reward challenge, he spent $480 to get instructions on how to find yet another immunity idol. Though CBS cameras did not show it, he said he spent hours digging around the area where he thought the idol was but couldn't track it down. "My hands were bleeding," he told me.
That failure cost him. He had no immunity idol. He didn't tell the alliance of six that this was the case. But the six strategically split the vote between Reynold and Malcolm so there would be a tie, just in case. (Malcolm, Eddie and Reynold voted for Andrea.) With Malcolm, Andrea and Reynold not voting, the main alliance had the numbers and voted Malcolm off. He was helpless. Even if had gotten the idol, his ally Reynold would have been voted off. His alliance would have been down to two.
His only path to win at that point was to win all the remaining immunity challenges, a daunting task.
Ultimately, Malcolm tried and failed to get Sherri to change sides, partly because she had butted heads earlier with Reynold and Eddie. Reynold's effort to get Erik to give the "Three Amigos" a shot failed as well. Malcolm knew Cochrane, Dawn, Brenda and Andrea were not going to go with him. He also felt Erik, who had voted Phillip off, was too much of a wild card and couldn't be trusted.
Nonetheless, "I was happy how it went," Malcolm said. "I liked the way I approached things although I made a ton of errors sprinkled all over the place."
And like former metro Atlantan and ultimate winner Parvati Shallow, Malcolm is ready to go a third time if "Survivor' asks. "The fire is still there," he said.
He is undoubtably a popular player. I expect he will be back in some fashion.
Stephen Fishbach, a former "Survivor" runner up, wrote a strategy piece for People and agreed: Malcolm will be back. He admired him for the same reasons I did and also enjoyed him for his flaws and mistakes, which made him an interesting player. Read his take here.
"Survivor," 8 p.m Wednesdays, CBS