Malcolm Freberg has now gone down in Survivor history for falling victim to one of the most jaw-dropping eliminations in the show's 34 seasons. It was truly epic as a twist forced two tribes to join together to vote off one person. After some chaotic last-minute scrambling, the ballots stacked up against Malcolm — arguably one of the strongest competitors in the game. During our one-on-one conversation with Malcolm, he revealed what we didn't see happening at that wild Tribal Council before explaining why his plan was to keep Hali safe. Plus, find out why he hesitated to return to the game for his third time.
SheKnows: Walk us through what happened at that crazy Tribal Council. What didn't we see?
Malcolm Freberg: I'll try to explain it to you, but I'm still trying to piece it together myself. J.T. went and talked to Brad and everything went to hell. I knew he was gonna go do it because he was buddy-buddy with Brad. The whole tribe knew that, but we had no way of knowing he was going to spill the beans on our entire plan. Once that happened it made it really easy for the other tribe. What you didn't see is that I knew J.T. wanted Sandra out. His original plan was to vote Sandra if the other tribe agreed to it. About two-thirds through that Tribal Council, J.T. starts freaking out because he knew they weren't going to vote Sandra and they were coming for me. We were good buds out there. He was trying to get them to change the vote, but he wouldn't admit it. He screwed us over royally. Instead, we had stuck to our play and now I'm talking to you.
SK: When J.T. stood up and walked over to Brad, what were you thinking was happening?
MF: I thought, "What the hell?" We all knew he and Brad were really close. That was a big part of our decision not to target Brad because we wanted J.T. on our side. We knew those two had been tight from their original tribe. We thought he was telling Brad that he's safe. I didn't see the need for that, really, but I tried to keep him happy. I wanted to play with J.T. later in the game. I was thinking long-term that I might even want Brad on my side later on. He said, "I'm gonna go tell him." Had he just told Brad that he was safe and not to worry about it, everything is fine. Our plan would've still worked. But he kept going and going and revealed our entire plan to them. That's when everything went to shit.
SK: When Tai stood up and played his hidden Immunity Idol for Sierra, did you know at that moment you were about to be voted off?
MF: Yep. That was the moment. Me and Sandra, who I love, were chatting back at camp before we went to that Tribal and we knew that it was gonna be one of us that they would target. Sandra is a two-time winner and I had been successful in challenges. While that Tribal was going on, at one point early on, I think, Hali was mouthing something to me. I think she was telling me, "They're voting for you." I was like, "Whatever." We were six to five. Our plan was solid. We thought through all the angles. Nothing could go wrong. I didn't think J.T. would be that much of a bonehead.
SK: Speaking of Hali, she was very vocal at that Tribal Council. What do you think she was trying to achieve?
MF: You asking me if I can explain Hali's actions is nope [laughs.] I'm friends with Hali, I love her to death, but she had a habit of saying ridiculous things at Tribal Council. We would all just let it go over our heads like she didn't know what she was talking about. My understanding with Hali was that she wanted to partner with us to make sure that everything was fine. We were so convinced we had everything on lock that we told her not to vote with us. We planned that. Our idea was to protect Hali and we wanted to reconnect with her later on in the game as the original Mana tribe. Our thought was to tell Hali to vote with them because it will look like you're loyal and protect you. We thought she would be safe for a while. At the end when she said, "You guys might regret it," I have no idea what she was talking about.
SK: You were very confident going into the game. Who did you hope to take to the end and why?
MF: There was nobody in particular, but in a macro sense I wanted to take a lot of very threatening people. I wanted the biggest names to stay a long time because that would create a heat shield around me. If I had created a target-rich environment after the merge, there's a lot better chance that I could go deep. My idea was to keep all those people that everyone is terrified of. I wanted them to stay in the game as long as possible.
SK: Is there anybody in the competition who you don't think deserves the title of being a game changer?
MF: I talked a good amount of trash before the game [laughs.] I named some names then, but the way the game is shaping up, a lot of people who may have been doubted by fans are earning their titles this season so far. Especially with Sierra, Tai and the way that all went down, maybe the time to talk trash is over as we're seeing the emergence of people who are about to change the game.
SK: Who do you think is the biggest strategic threat at this point?
MF: The minute you meet Sandra you know why she's won. She's good. She's been to several Tribal Councils without getting a vote yet. Sandra is dangerous and I love her. Strategically, the new version of Brad is just killing. I did not like Brad 1.0, but Brad 2.0 is awesome. Then there's Cirie. The most dangerous part of the game for her is the first few votes because she's such a liability in challenges. She's gotten past those first few votes and we're getting toward the mid-game now where she can come into her own. From a strategy perspective, I would watch out for those three.
SK: When CBS called and asked you to play again, was there any hesitation?
MF: There was definitely some hesitation. I had done pretty well for two seasons. I didn't get paid, but I had a pretty good run. It had been a few years. Real life was happening and I grew a bit of a beer belly. But a few things lined up, and I had been considering it again for a little while. My real life worked out that I wasn't going to miss out on too much for filming. It's really hard to turn down the opportunity to win a million dollars.
SK: Would you play again?
MF: I know I told you I hesitated to come back for a third time, but there wouldn't be a hesitation for a fourth. For me, if I ever get the chance again, there's no hesitation for a fourth.
SK: If you had to give your elimination a hashtag, what would it be?
MF: #Bullshit [laughs.]