This was posted on Friday, March 24, 2017 by Rodney Ho on his AJC Radio & TV Talk
Former Marietta resident Malcolm Freberg waded deep into the "Survivor" pool twice and was close to winning at least once. But his third trip came to a thudding halt this past Wednesday, making him the fourth person out during this special "Game Changers"-themed episode.
The Tribal Council was a mess in a way never seen before. Why? Two out of the three tribes came together to eliminate one person. This meant people on the two teams had no chance to strategize with those on the other side. So they began doing so ad hoc at the actual tribal council, causing host Jeff Probst's mouth to drop.
In the end, it was Malcolm in shock because his team theoretically had the numbers 6 to 5 and he felt safe. His ally James "J.T." Thomas inexplicably sold Malcolm out by whispering to Brad Culpepper on the other side who they were targeting (Sierra Dawn-Thomas). This led Tai Trang to hand his immunity idol to Sierra, negating all the votes on Malcolm's team.
Yes, these are little details you'd only care about if you saw the episode or at least follow the show. Malcolm was traveling for work as a freelance travel writer in Columbia so I had to get him via email. Here are his responses to my questions today:
Your initial goal was to hide behind stronger players in the early going, try to stay under the radar. That seemed to work the first two challenges. But then you were split into three teams. How did the split hurt you in retrospect?
Not particularly — I still had JT as a big ol’ beefy shield, and from a ‘threat’ perspective, Sandra was still carrying the largest bullseye on her back. I felt well insulated in my new tribe.
Do you feel you are by your very nature hard to “stay under the radar”?
Generally speaking, yes, but there’s so many big targets around this season that I was doing a reasonably good job. The problem was the twist — it created what was essentially a ‘merge-vote’, which is always the danger zone for me. If the game had proceeded normally, I thought I was in a great spot for a good long while.
What was your reaction to the two tribe/one elimination tribal council concept?
In the moment, we loved it! Because we had the numbers advantage, it seemed like a gift had just dropped into our lap. That said, even at the time I didn’t love the idea of not having any chance to confer with people I was actually going to be sitting in tribal council with. I don’t think that’s ever happened in the history of the show, and it hurts me, I think, more than most other people, because the social aspect of the game is my strong suit. I didn’t think it’d be a problem this time, because of the aforementioned numbers, but I remember thinking it was a tad shady while I was there.
You clearly were shocked (as was I) by your departure at tribal council. Did you think Sandra was the one they were targeting?
Sandra and I had laughed about it before tribal, knowing that it was going to be one of us getting 4 or 5 votes from the other tribe, because we were the biggest perceived threats. I’m not too surprised they picked me over her — the game is still early, and they had a chance to weaken us in the challenges by targeting me. Sandra is a liability when competing for immunity, and I’m a big asset. It made sense for them to come at me.
J.T. considered you his closest ally. What made him think it was a good move to tell Brad your tribe’s intentions?
I still can’t explain it. Really, I have no good answer for this. I believe he thought his old tribe would all vote for Sandra, and then he’d also vote Sandra, resulting in her boot. I think that was his plan, but even that seems irrational, because then he’d be coming back to Nuku with us and we’d all know he flipped. He’d be public enemy #1 — even to me, who was his BFF out there.
Do you think J.T. may have inadvertently helped shift the vote away from Sandra to you?
I’m not sure that’s the case; if anything, he was actively campaigning for it not to be me, because we were so tight. I believe the other tribe had already decided to take their shot at me beforehand, unbeknownst to JT, and he handed them the Get Out of Jail Free card they needed to make it happen.
Do you think Hali was gunning for you and influenced the group to pick you over Sandra?
I’m also not 100% sure what was going through Hali’s head. I know she wanted Culpepper gone — that’s what she meant about taking out physical threats. But JT and Culpepper were tight, so we were trying to keep JT happy by leaving Culpepper alone. But to answer the question, Hali wanted to play with my tribe, but we told her to vote with her new tribe. We didn’t need the number (assuming we had JT) and that would give her plausible deniability back at their camp, keeping her safe and giving us a better chance of hooking up with her again later.
Why do you think the other side went after you instead of Sandra? Do you think her boast about being safe made the other tribe think she had an idol?
Sandra’s ‘boast’ had nothing to do with it. Sandra boasts all day every day. So much ridiculous stuff comes out of that woman’s mouth that we all just laugh and ignore most of it off. The vote was likely always going to me, based on challenge ability.
At this point in the competition, did you think Sandra had a prayer of lasting to the end?
Of course. You don’t win twice for no reason, and the minute you meet Sandra, you understand why she’s the queen. As long as she’s there, she’s got a shot — a better shot than most.
There were all sorts of conversations going on there at tribal council. What could you piece together both while you were there and while you were watching the episode?
The way I saw it on TV basically confirmed what I’d suspected happened. Our problem, the reason I got booted, was because JT told Brad we were targeting Sierra, but then, when JT realized he’d screwed up, he wouldn’t tell our tribe that he’d blown the plan. If he’d simply told us that Culpepper knew our plan, we’d have changed the vote in a heartbeat.
What do you think of the game play so far and are you looking forward to watching the rest of the season without you in it?
As much fun as that tribal was, it was amateur hour in terms of game play. You don’t expect a bunch of veteran players acting like scared noobs, or for a former winner to torpedo his best friend on accident because he’s overplaying this early. That said, I think a few contestants that the public questioned as ‘Game Changers’ are showing why they belong on the season.
Dalton Ross of Entertainment Weekly picked you as the winner of this season. Did he jinx you?
Yes, my getting eliminated was 50% JT’s fault, and 50% Dalton's.
Will this “Survivor” eat at you even more than the previous two?
Just the opposite. I don’t know what the hell else anyone expects me to do to save myself in that situation. The first couple times I got beat, I could look back and kick myself for the things I’d done wrong. This time, it was just bad luck and a dumb alliance partner. That makes it a lot easier to sleep at night.
"Survivor," 8 p.m. Wednesdays, CBS