Quick Note: Don’t miss out on our interviews with “Survivor” champion Denise Stapley and runner-up Lisa Whelchel. We’ll also be having an exit interview with Michael Skupin later this week. Follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for up-to-the-minute updates.
Don’t let the headline of this interview fool you, Malcolm Freberg and Lisa Whelchel are still buddies. That’s just another example of what made Malcolm such an effective “Survivor” player.
Malcolm wanted to play with the icy efficiency of a Brian Heidik…and he did. He didn’t hesitate to send people packing when he needed to. But, he paired that with a charm that probably would have earned him a million dollars if he’d gotten to the end.
Now, it isn’t news to anyone that my pre-game intuition isn’t always dead on. I thought Ace Gordon would be the major villain coming out of “Survivor: Gabon.” I thought NaOnka Mixon was way too sweet to compete in “Survivor: Nicaragua.” And, I thought Malcolm Freberg would win “Survivor: Philippines.”
However, I was right when I said that America was going to fall in love with the charismatic bartender.
I spoke with Malcolm the morning after his elimination and had a chance to apologize for placing a curse on him, ask him about the hesitation that probably cost him the game, and make him feel worse about his loss…
Malcolm Freberg: Hold me.
Gordon Holmes: I’m glad you’re in a good mood, but I feel terrible.
Freberg: Be my big spoon. I need some comfort. (Laughs)
Holmes: I feel awful. I’m the reason you’re not the “Survivor” champion right now. I cursed you.
Freberg: That’s true, you jackass! I see “Oh, wow, I’m Gordon’s favorite! Oh, now it’s not going to work out. I’m toast.” (Laughs) This is all your fault. Seriously. I’m going to start taking a chunk out of your paycheck up until a million dollars over the next 20 years.
Holmes: (Laughs) It’s going to take a lot longer than that.
Holmes: Alright, let’s talk about this awful, crappy show that has ruined so many lives. What was your thinking when Denise came to you with the plan to split the vote and you responded by being non-committal?
Freberg: I didn’t see how dead set Lisa was on getting rid of me. I had no idea. All that I’d seen was that Lisa and Skupin shook hands with me and had stood by a final-four deal. So, if I can get them to shake on a final-three deal, that’s set in stone and that’s done. It sounds horrible, but as soon as we shook hands on that boat I thought, “Got it. Done,” even after I lost that immunity challenge. So, when Denise came to me I was just trying not to piss off a jury member. It’s a little bit of a cocky thing, but I thought I had it. I found out in the middle of that last Tribal that I was getting kicked off. Unfortunately, Lisa Whelchel is a (expletive deleted). (Laughs)
Holmes: (Laughs) So, at the final five when it was a possibility to take Abi to the end, you didn’t see the need because you had complete faith in your alliance with Skup and Lisa.
Freberg: I didn’t need to. I didn’t want to piss anyone off. I thought I had it. Have you ever played “Mortal Kombat”?
Holmes: I have.
Freberg: You know when you don’t get hit and you win the fight and they go, “Flawless Victory”? I’m pretty sure I said that in my head before we went diving with whale sharks. I thought I’d just won the game.
Holmes: So in your mind, you’ve got a Westman/Spradlin-esque perfect clean run to the end.
Freberg: It turns out I’m not as good at challenges as I thought I was, but I thought I’d pulled it off. I thought I had it locked. I had their word. Skupin doesn’t really have a mind for strategy and Lisa, I had no idea she was a professional actress. I just thought she was a crazy Christian woman who cried all of the time. I really thought I had it locked.
Holmes: When did you learn about Lisa’s role on “The Facts of Life”? At Ponderosa? (Note: Ponderosa is where the jury stays when they’re not at Tribal Council.)
Freberg: Nobody knew until Penner’s speech at Tribal. I had no idea. And when he said “Facts of Life,” I think me and Pete said, “What the hell is ‘The Facts of Life’”? (Laughs) Penner didn’t tell us beforehand. And I’ll tell you, Penner’s final Tribal Council speech was all-time awesome. They didn’t show it, but most of the jury applauded when he was done.
Holmes: So you’re trying to tell me if Lisa Whelchel had been on “Boy Meets World” you would be a millionaire.
Freberg: …That’s a really sad, true statement. (Laughs)
Holmes: (Laughs) My goal was actually to make you feel much worse.
Freberg: I know, really! Everyone else is being so nice and comforting and telling me I did a good job. You’re just throwing out scenarios to make me realize how close I was.
Holmes: I think you did a fantastic job. You went out there and you were like, “I’m going to be cold-hearted, this is going to be a business trip. I’m going to be like Brian Heidik.” And you didn’t have to. The only misstep was trusting Lisa. I thought if you won immunity that would have been a slam dunk.
Freberg: I’ll stand by my logic based on the knowledge I had at the time. The only thing I had wrong was my read on Lisa. She absolutely played me. And good for her, it’s a game. I told everyone going into this; if you get me, good on you. I’m not going to be mad at you. But, I’m going to be pissed off that I lost. If we were sitting around playing Candy Land I’m going to be pissed off if I lose, I’m a competitive guy. And “Survivor” is the biggest stakes you can play for.
Holmes: You can’t beat me at Candy Land.
Freberg: (Laughs) You haven’t seen the way I can pull cards.
Holmes: (Laughs) You haven’t seen my ability to pull the card that shoots you ahead to the…peppermint…thing…I don’t know. I’m canceling this joke.
Freberg: (Laughs) You can’t remember the fine details of Candy Land.
Holmes: You’re a gamer. I knew you were going to vote for Denise because you respected that she got the best of you. But, you still gave her a hard time. Were you worried that something you said might have cost her some votes?
Freberg: Our jury knew who was winning that game. When I said “Congratulations, Denise” after I got booted, that was just the truth. Me and Denise at the final four, one of us is going to win a million dollars. They wanted it to look like Skupin and Lisa had a chance. They never had a chance. Nobody respected Skupin’s game. I still like Lisa and Skupin, I talk to them all the time. Nobody respected Skupin’s game and nobody thought Lisa was playing the game. She clearly was, but we didn’t know that. She was doing it all in interviews and confessionals. She was just this weepy Christian lady to us. So, everyone was throwing Denise softballs and I came off much angrier than I meant to. (Laughs) I wanted to make her get defensive. I wanted her to rip on Lisa a little bit. But, there was no doubt about who was winning that thing.
Holmes: As an original Matsinger, I wanted to ask about how Russell Swan was at the reunion. He and I spoke after his elimination and he hadn’t come to terms with what had happened out there.
Freberg: I get along with all but very few of the people at the reunion, but Russell, he’s just still that guy. He is not over it. He was not talking to anyone. It hit him hard. I’d be upset too if I got a second chance, and I was taken out a bad way the first time. He didn’t get to win a thing. The only thing he won was the challenge they did on “The View.” He’s still hurting. He was perfectly polite. We shook hands a few times. But, he’s still hurting really bad.
Holmes: Alright, let’s do some word association…
Freberg: Wait! Hold on, let me get my computer out.
Holmes: No, no, no…
Freberg: I didn’t prepare for this at all…obviously….but I need to look at my answers. (Laughs)
Holmes: (Laughs) Damnit, Freberg.
Freberg: You know I read your stuff every week. Obviously I prepare for these things.
Holmes: I’ve had people before who’ve said, “I knew this was coming, why didn’t I prepare?!” And you’re the first one to ruin my fun.
Freberg: (Laughs) I came up with this idea on how I was going to do this…I think I was drinking somewhere. I got home at like three in the morning. I thought, alright, this is happening, and I wrote it all down.
Holmes: Somewhere drinking? That doesn’t sound like you.
Freberg: I know, right? I have a Sierra Nevada in my hand right now.
Holmes: You’re defeating the purpose of this exercise.
Freberg: (Laughs) You don’t get to boss me around. I’m doing it the way I thought, and it’s awesome.
Holmes: Well, after I screwed up your game, I guess we’ll call it even.
Freberg: You cost me a million dollars, I get to cheat at word association.
Holmes: Fair enough. Let’s start with Abi-Maria.
Freberg: Abi is Iago.
Freberg: Carter is Scooby Doo.
Freberg: Pete ‘s Scar.
Freberg: Denise is Pongo.
Freberg: Lisa is Dory.
Freberg: I couldn’t come up with one. Let’s come back to him. (Laughs)
Holmes: (Laughs) You cheat and you can’t come up with one?! Skupin?
Freberg: Skupin is the Sultan from “Aladdin.”
Holmes: Let’s finish with Penner.
Freberg: Penner is the Cheshire Cat.
Holmes: Do you have one for Artis or do you need a couple of minutes and Google?
Freberg: You didn’t ask me everyone.
Holmes: If you’ve got your list, just rattle through it.
Freberg: Kent is Jafar, RC is the second evil stepsister, I couldn’t think of one for Artis. Which Disney character just sits there and is a funny, charming guy who stares angrily at you and looks like he wants to kill you the entire time?
Holmes: (Laughs) I don’t know.
Freberg: That’s who Artis is.
Holmes: (to the CBS Representative) He broke the word association, how did you let this happen?
CBS Representative: (Laughs) This is a first.
Freberg: (Laughs) I didn’t win “Survivor,” I did win the word association.
Holmes: OK Mr. “Survivor” fan, you got to go in there, tear it up, win immunities, meet your hero Jonathan Penner. What’s your takeaway? Was it everything you wanted minus that million-dollar check?
Freberg: Yeah, except for the amount of bank accounts I have to open today. It was everything I could have hoped for. Every time something I saw on TV would happen I’d have like a little baby fit of giggles. I didn’t play it cool at all. At the merge, when I got to make the flag, it was awesome except for coming up a day short.
Holmes: Malcolm, I love you.
Freberg: I love you too, buddy.
Holmes: Although I hate you for the mockery you’ve made of my gimmick.
Freberg: (Laughs) I wasn’t going to let you off the hook, you cost me a million dollars!
Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes