‘Survivor’ Malcolm: “I’m Still Snarky, and Talking Trash, and My Ego Is Somewhere in the Stratosphere”

Malcolm Freberg (CBS)

QUICK NOTE: The good folks at XFINITY sent me deep into the Fijian wilderness to bring you an exclusive look at “Survivor: Game Changers.” While I was there I conducted interviews with “Survivor” host Jeff Probst and the entire 20-person cast. I also captured exclusive photos and other behind-the-scenes tidbits. So, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for up-to-the-minute updates.

Name: Malcolm Freberg
Age: 29
Hometown: Hermosa Beach, CA
Previously Played On:
“Survivor: Philippines” – Finished 4th and Jury Member
“Survivor: Caramoan” – Finished 9th & Jury Member
Best Known For: Asking a bro to, “Hold up.” Then using two idols to eliminate Phillip Sheppard.

Gordon Holmes: You know the deal, everything you say here stays here until next winter.
Malcolm Freberg: Right.
Holmes: I only share information with people I’m rooting for.
Freberg: (Laughs)
Holmes: (Whispers) Malcolm’s targeting you.
Freberg: Right, everything stays here except for the sexual innuendos.
Holmes: My wife…she described this trip as “Gordon’s going to see his boyfriend.”
Freberg: (Laughs) And that’s how I got my third case of syphilis.

Freberg: Hey, I’m mad at you.
Holmes: Why?
Freberg: The Power Rankings have me freaking out because I talked a lot of (expletive deleted) about Brad in the Power Rankings.
Holmes: You think he can read?
Freberg: Well, we know he can’t count.
Holmes: I think of it this way; the Power Rankings gave you an unfair advantage. You’re in the trenches, you really have to study the game.
Freberg: You could say that being on “Survivor” twice, being on one of the worst tribes ever, being on the bottom of Stealth R Us, these things would battle harden me. They’d prepare me for “Survivor: Game Changers.” When people ask me what really prepared for this, I say the Power Rankings.
Holmes: I’ve got bad news for you, you’re not the only Power Ranker out here. You’ve got Ciera, you’ve got Andrea…
Freberg: Oh yeah! You’ve got a lot of…ugh…
Holmes: You’re screwed.
Freberg: It’s true.
Holmes: The playing field is even. Which is good, you’ve got to earn this million.
Freberg: Instead of just having it handed to me…which I was hoping for.
Holmes: Instead of Sia storming the stage to write you a check for taking care of a chicken.
Freberg: I tell you, I’m going to be the biggest animal advocate this season. (Laughs) I’ll take the sure hundred grand.
Holmes: Sia is the new Sprint.

Holmes: What’ve you been up to since we saw you on Caramoan?
Freberg: Working, I’ve been working in editorial for the last couple of years. I’m a managing editor for a start-up pop-culture website. And honestly, it plays a big role here. I haven’t worked in an office since college. It hurt my soul to do it. And when you can deal with managing creatives, you can deal with any egos on the planet.
Holmes: That’s very true.
Freberg: I think that will help out here. Living in the same place, a couple of relationship came and went. But, from that you learn a little emotional maturity that wasn’t there the first time around. It’s been four years and a lot of stuff has happened.

Holmes: Your bio says your hair is two inches longer. How is that going to help you?
Freberg: Did I write that?
Holmes: Yeah, I circled it. Seemed important.
Freberg: I write such nonsense that I can’t remember everything. It keeps the flies off of your back like the tail of a warthog. (Sings) When I was a young wart hog.
Holmes: This is a pretty bad interview.
Freberg: (Laughs) No, I got it cut before I came out because my mom said I had split ends. So, it looks good. It’ll flow very gracefully.

Holmes: Let’s see here…you also claim to be more mature. I do not believe you.
Freberg: To be honest, this is weird, almost a fifth of my life has gone by. It’s been four years… so closer to a sixth. A lot of stuff goes by. I was talking to Probst about this and I said I feel like an older, more mature guy. I’m still snarky, and talking trash, and my ego is somewhere in the stratosphere.
Holmes: Obviously.
Freberg: From an emotional intelligence standpoint, I’ve been through some relationships that didn’t work out. This time around when you talk about people you want to model your game after, I want to incorporate a little Penner and Denise from the Philippines. Like Penner with Lisa Whelchel and Denise with everybody. I want to make more human connections this time.

Holmes: You’re no longer with So?
Freberg: Right, it ended three months ago. We’re on good terms now.
Holmes: Sorry to hear that, and that’s great that it ended on a positive note. However, she was a member of the “Worlds Apart” Dirty 30.
Freberg: A couple of the clowns from the Dirty 30 are here. And I know them due to my relationship. I don’t approve of any of their hashtags or shenanigans. But, they’re here and you have to deal with them. But Hali and gargantuan Sierra, I don’t really know what to expect from them. Hali is wandering around the beach, she’s giving me Brenda vibes from Caramoan. Just wandering aimlessly in her own little world. And Sierra…she’s a literal big flirt. I don’t 100% know how they’re going to play it this time. I have to keep them at arm’s reach because I don’t know what they’re going to do inside the game.

Holmes: What do you make of all this “Game Changers” business?
Freberg: I used to work at a bar called Game Changers. It was three months and my boss was a drug addict and evil. So, I had flashbacks, but I was excited once I calmed down.
Holmes: Was this a sports bar?
Freberg: Yeah, and they’d have murals of various icons. And all the dishes had names like the Jerome Burger Bettis or something. Terrible puns. But yeah, I’ll take it.
Holmes: How are you a game changer? How did you change the game, Malcolm Freberg?
Freberg: (Laughs) I hope you ask everybody this question.
Holmes: Don’t you worry.
Freberg: Cause I’m shaking my head at some of these people. “Tall Sierra, how did you change the game?” I think I’ve earned it.
Holmes: Handsome challenge studs have played before, Malcolm.
Freberg: Yeah, but my short answer is; Probst new favorite term is “Live Tribal Councils.”
Holmes: Meaning the vote hasn’t been decided yet.
Freberg: Meaning everyone is trying to figure it out in the moment. I think I can take the lion’s share of credit on that one. Throwing out idols at Tribal, I did that multiple times. And since then, once a season someone tries to pull something that I think I influenced. I think I’m the generator of live Tribal Councils. And that didn’t exist until I had some half-cocked idea to start waving idols around. Now it’s a mainstay.

Holmes: When I heard that subhead I looked around…
Freberg: Yeah, not everyone fits that description.
Holmes: But I wondered if maybe he thought these were people who were going to change their personal games.
Freberg: Oh…I imagine that’s the interpretation some people are going to have to go for. Because I can’t see Hali Ford saying she changed the game.
Holmes: She did jump all in with the naming of the Merica tribe.
Freberg: I take it back. That’s wonderful.
Holmes: She should have named it after her mother.
Freberg: That’s the hardest thing. When people find out you’re going back, they say, “Will you name the tribe after me?” Everybody wants me to do it. And I have like eighteen suitors for this thing.
Holmes: The name is always something like, “Oh, it’s the Fijian word for harmony.”
Freberg: I was going to go with “The Noble Warriors.”
Holmes: I want something like “The Thunder Fire All-Stars.”
Freberg: (Laughs)
Holmes: I just want to hear Probst say it.
Freberg: “Team Lightning Force Voltron.”
Holmes: I wonder if I bring it to all of you today, someone will remember it twenty days from now.
Freberg: “Holmes wanted it.”
Holmes: Anywho, back to the point of this, are you going to change your game?
Freberg: You have to if you’re 0 and 2. I think if you asked me right after the first times I played, I would’ve been defensive about people saying I was more social than strategic. I would’ve been defensive that my big moves were not always at the best time. But once you’ve had more distance and you’re more self-aware, you realize that I’m not the cold-hearted…I think I told you I was going to be like Brian Heidik.
Holmes: Oh yeah, before “Survivor: Philippines” you were telling me how you were going to be the biggest villain ever. And I was like…get outta here…you’re adorable.
Freberg: (Laughs) And that’s just not how it works out here. You can’t fake anything. You’re going to end up being who you are. Brad’s going to end up being Brad…unfortunately. So, now knowing that I’m a dominant social player who has a creative mind for strategy, rather than a dominant strategic player, I know that making a big flashy move at the wrong time isn’t the best strategy to play the game. That self-awareness has to be applied or we’re going to be commiserating on the phone about this. And you won’t break your string of not picking the winner, because you know who you have to pick.
Holmes: Everyone I pick to win “Survivor” loses. I can’t do that to you again.
Freberg: We’re going to do this together.
Holmes: I can’t have this on my conscience. You’re my favorite human being on this planet…and I’m a married man
Freberg: Let the record show that we’re spooning right now. We’re going to break this together. Or…you’re not going to pick me and I’m going to win and I’m going to laugh at you so hard. You’re not even going to get an exit interview. I’m just going to laugh for ten minutes.
Holmes: I hate your dumb face.
Freberg: (Laughs)

Holmes: Alright, what do you think of this cast?
Freberg: A lot of strong players, which is good for me. Camouflage…meat shields is Jeremy’s term for it…which is clever. There are a lot of people who fit the definition of “Bro.” And you remember the Three Amigos, I can bro-down when I need to. If I can get a lot of meat shields, it works well for me. It’s fun to have JT and Ozzy around. A couple of old legends.
Holmes: You don’t get as much credit for this as someone like Cochran, but you’re a “Survivor” geek. You know your stuff. So, to be out here with those guys has got to be cool.
Freberg: Oh yeah. These are the guys I grew up watching. I used to love JT. I never loved Ozzy, but I loved JT. And so you see people and you get excited. But, you see someone like Cirie, who you also liked as a strategist, and you remember what she wanted to do in “Heroes vs. Villains” where she wanted to get rid of targets early. I loved watching you on my TV, but you might be an early target for me.
Holmes: Who else are some early targets?
Freberg: Cirie and normal-sized Ciera.
Holmes: Classic Ciera.
Freberg: Yes, Ciera Classic. I loved watching her on TV. She swings for the fences. But when I see someone who’s like me and knowing that I wouldn’t want to play with me. So, she’s a target.

Holmes: Anyone you’re excited to align with?
Freberg: Caleb might be a fun one. He looks like a big old puppy dog. He’s only played for nine days, he’s never been to a Tribal Council. Of everyone out here he’s got the least experience. JT…he’s a good ol’ boy from the south. He’s every guy I went to high school with. And weirdly, if Brad Culpepper doesn’t hold my Power Rankings against me, he’s an ex-football guy and I’m an ex-football guy. I grew up with guys like that. I know how to make them happy. He could be my Phillip this year. Like with Stealth R Us…ow…hurts my heart to talk about it….
Holmes: What was your nickname again?
Freberg: I don’t talk about it. I’ve literally cauterized that part of my brain so I don’t think about. But, if I could get into that position with Brad, I’d do it. I know how to play a guy like that.

Holmes: You’ve played with Andrea before…
Freberg: Yeah, I voted for her a couple of times. She sat on my idol and got me booted. And it’s funny because outside of this we’re friendly. Inside of this we’re very mistrusting of each other. I tried to get her out many times in Caramoan. And she’s aware of my scheming. I’d imagine her alert is high.

Holmes: You were in the same position as Michaela and Zeke. They’re playing before anyone has had a chance to see their season. How do you handle them?
Freberg: That could be an easy early bond for me. Zeke looks like a little English villain and Michaela is really cute, really athletic. I have no idea what they did, so it’s a little bit of arm’s reach. But, if they’re wandering around and they don’t know who to go to, that could be a connection. “I’ve done exactly what you’re doing.” It’s a very easy way to start a conversation.

Holmes: We’ve got four people from Kaoh Rong.
Freberg: I know…it’s a little cringey in my book. There’s a couple of Brains, Aubry and Tai worked together. But, everyone knows to keep an eye on it. Nobody here is a dummy. In this case it’s a blessing because nobody is going to let them get away with it. I’m not going to sweat about it as much as you are in this heat.
Holmes: Joke is on you, smart guy. I can edit that little comment right out.

Holmes: Are you a part of any pre-season alliances? Is anyone dumb enough to hitch their wagon to you?
Freberg: (Laughs) It was very quiet. I didn’t reach out to anybody. I got a lot of messages, but I kept them at arm’s reach. When I was on Caramoan, I wasn’t contacted because nobody knew who I was beforehand. I was out of it. But I knew what happened afterwards. Here, I was expecting it to be like Caramoan with people calling at all hours, and from what I understand it didn’t happen. I’m hoping I’m not outside the loop.
Holmes: If you don’t know who the mark at the table is…it’s you.
Freberg: (Laughs) Exactly. That could be the situation. But, I’m hard to get rid of early. My reputation is likable, useful, rational.
Holmes: Well, that’s your reputation to your face.
Freberg: Exactly. That’s what I tell myself in the mirror every morning when I do my daily affirmation. So, I have to hope that if everyone is talking, I can float long enough to figure out what’s going on.

Holmes: People are always winking and smiling in the pre-game. Are you doing any of that?
Freberg: You have to. If you’re not doing that, you’re throwing the wrong signals. Poor Aubry, who I hope I like out there. I like Cochran a lot and she’s like Lady Cochran. She has resting bitch face. She sits there, she colors her coloring book, and she snarls at it. Not intentionally. But she is snarling.
Holmes: Extreme coloring.
Freberg: Just grinding that crayon into the paper. If you’re not smiling and winking then you’re setting yourself up for trouble because everyone else is doing it. But you have to find a balance so you’re not doing it too much.
Holmes: Who’s doing it too much?
Freberg: As you’d expect, Brad is the loudest person in pre-game. He’s yelling about his bags at the airport. Classic temper tantrum from Brad. Nobody else is talking like Brad is talking. Who knows what’s going through his head. I just assume his skull is three times the density of everyone else’s.

Holmes: I’ve been doing this for a long time. I think the highlight of my career as a
“Survivor” journalist was when you, Cochran and I were at Comic Con and the reporter from TMZ called Cochran…
Freberg: Colton! (Laughs)
Holmes: Has he given you any advice?
Freberg: Not advice, so much. I talk to Cochran, I talk to Denise. It’s not game advice so much as trying to be very positive.
Holmes: Denise is a sex therapist, is that why you’re calling her?
Freberg: No, I’m fine there. I can give you her number though.

Holmes: Alright, I’m going to give you a reason someone might use to get rid of you. I need you to counter it.
Freberg: Got it.
Holmes: Malcolm has got some challenge skills. Let’s bounce him before he makes a run for it after the merge.
Freberg: Did you watch the end of Philippines? The ball was supposed to stay still for half an hour and two minutes into it it was a hundred feet above my head.
Holmes: Didn’t you get a second chance in that one?
Freberg: Yeah, and I lasted about thirty seconds.
Holmes: Oh, now who needs the sex therapist?
Freberg: (Laughs) Well played. But when it comes to the individual immunity challenges, I’m not Joe, I’m not Ozzy. I can’t stand in one place for a while. I’m not going to win the carnival games. I’m not that good. And I plan on Keyser Soze this thing. Maybe come up with a little limp early on.

Holmes: Malcolm’s way too crafty. He pulled that business with the two idols. Can’t trust him, let’s send him home now.
Freberg: I did pull a thing with two idols. But remember, I gave away my idols to save my alliance. I’ve gone all the way to the end with someone. I’ve rode and died…that doesn’t sound right.
Holmes: Rode and dode.
Freberg: I’ve rode and dode with the Three Amigos until I crashed and burned. When I have an idol, you’re going to be aided by that.

Holmes: Malcolm’s good at finding idols. I don’t want to worry about that. Let’s get rid of him.
Freberg: If that happens…there’s no defense for that. I’ve even thought if I do find it early, I’ll act really panicked like I can’t find it. If I’m not looking for it, they’ll assume I found it.

Holmes: If there is a twist, what could it be?
Freberg: I hate twists.
Holmes: Too bad. That’s not the game you signed up to play.
Freberg: Just have immunity idols. Swaps are always a problem. After a swap, I’m easy pickings. But, these days you have to count on it. Please no Redemption Island. I’m OK with Exile Island. Redemption Island, those aren’t the games I’m good at. They have to match for girls and guys, so it’s not speed or strength. I can do puzzles, but balancing and cards and holding a ball between your toes…I’m never going to win.

Holmes: I’ll give you a twist, you tell me if it’s awesome or awful. Hidden immunity idols?
Freberg: Awesome.

Holmes: Redemption Island?
Freberg: Awful.
Holmes: Exile Island?
Freberg: Awesome.
Holmes: Medallion of Power?
Freberg: Awful. (Laughs)
Holmes: Extra vote?
Freberg: Awesome because it never works out and makes me laugh.
Holmes: If you got it, would you just burn it?
Freberg: I wouldn’t burn it. I’ve thought about this. I think it’s better use is as leverage.
Holmes: Steal a vote?
Freberg: Awful.
Holmes: Eliminate a juror?
Freberg: Awesome. I loved that. I thought that was a fun twist.

Holmes: Alright, I have in my hand a deck of cards…
Freberg: It’s all games with you.
Holmes: It’s just gimmicks. I don’t have the energy to ask anything insightful.
Freberg: You just want to go run your challenge.
Holmes: You win eight challenges in a row, then you come talk to me.
Freberg: (Laughs)
Holmes: OK, I have seventeen cards in my hand. Everyone is in here except for you, Michaela, and Zeke. I left them out because we don’t know anything about them. I’ll hand you three cards at random. You tell me who you vote out first, who you work with and eventually eliminate, and who you take to the end.

Round One: Sierra, Caleb, and Ozzy
Freberg: We’ll get rid of Yeti Sierra. It’ll make me feel more confident because I won’t feel so short. Ozzy…align with him as a meat shield. And I’ll take Caleb to the end because how can you vote for a guy whose picture looks like that.

Round Two: Andrea, Ciera, and Sandra
Freberg: You get rid of normal-sized Ciera first because she’s too much like me. Sandra can come to the middle, but you can’t let her get too far because she’s going to win. Andrea to the end because I can outtalk Andrea. I won’t say that about everyone out here, but I can outtalk Andrea.

Round Three: Troyzan, Cirie, and Tai
Freberg: This is a good game. You’ve gotta go, Cirie out first. She’s a problem. Tai is my alliance. Even though I’d love to play with Tai and do a Penner/Lisa Whelchel situation because he’s so emotionally turbulent. And Troyzan at the end because I can’t see the jury awarding a man who amended his name for “Survivor.”
Holmes: Your final argument could be, “This guy takes pictures of women in bikinis for a living. He’s won enough.”
Freberg: He’s won life.

Round Four: Sarah, Brad, and Debbie
Freberg: I think Sarah first. She looks scared. Her eyes are always moving quickly, she doesn’t seem sure of herself. Everyone else I have a read on. Debbie…I’d team up with Debbie. I can play with Lady Coach. Brad to the end. His demeanor plus NFL money…he can’t win.

Round Five: Jeff, Tony, and Aubry
Freberg: I get rid of Jeff first. He was so all over the place last time. I’d like to play with Jeff, but with these cards… Aubry can’t go to the end again. We’ll align. I’m an inner-nerd and she’s 100% nerd. And Tony is a little scary, if I get to the end and it comes down to me and him, I’m more well-spoken.

Holmes: Alright, two left. Work with one and boot the other.

Round Six: Hali and JT
Freberg: Hali to the end because JT’s has got that charm.

Don’t miss the two-hour season premiere of “Survivor: Game Changers,” Wednesday March 8, 2017 at 8 p.m. ET.

Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes

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