Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Survivor’s Malcolm Freberg repeated the words in his head as he saw a million dollars ripped right out of his reach.
After one of the the most shocking tribal councils in the show’s 17-year run, the three-time vet was booted from season 34 during the Wednesday, March 22 episode. (Refresher: The game’s two losing tribes were sent to tribal council and were instructed to vote out a single player. Down in numbers, the Mana tribe played an idol, which sent the opposing side’s Freberg home.)
“It went through my head that this is probably it for me,” the season 25 and 26 competitor tells Us Weekly. “Three times is a soft limit on the amount of times people play Survivor. This could have been my last chance.”
With his torch snuffed and his fate set, he lost his composure. “It was less about the game as it was a chapter of my life coming to a premature end,” the California-based bartender says. “I’ve been doing this for five years now. I didn’t come into this to be on television. I grew up loving Survivor and I would still be doing everything I did if there were no cameras out there. It’s the only show I’ve ever wanted to do.”
Freberg, 30, shares more with Us.
Us Weekly: How was watching the episode for the first time?
Malcolm Freberg: Honestly, I’ve had experience being kicked off Survivor, unfortunately. This was probably the easiest one to watch. Not that it sucks any less. But the first couple of times I can point to strategic moves and decisions that I screwed up on. This time, I’m pretty blameless. It makes it easier to fall asleep at night and swallow the pill. There’s nothing else I could have done here except not be friends with a dumbass Alabama farmer [J.T. Thomas]. If you’re going to get kicked out, it might as well be from some insane twist when your best friend makes a mistake and something that people are going to talk about for a long time.
Us: Do you think J.T. set you up?
MF: Producers hinted that we were close in the episode, but really since the moment we swapped and got paired up together, we were bromancing hard, whispering sweet nothings in each other’s ears and hanging out on the beach. It was encouraged by my former tribe mates because we knew we might need J.T. at some point. We were inseparable. So he wasn’t trying to get me out. He wanted them to go for Sandra [Diaz-Twine]. He had given the other tribe the golden ticket by telling them we were voting for Sierra [Dawn Thomas].
Us: Why did your tribe go for Sierra over Brad Culpepper?
MF: J.T. and Culpepper were close. He had been talking about him for days and days and days. We needed J.T. on our side for this vote, so to vote Culpepper would have put J.T. against us. We were trying to play to what J.T. wanted and we knew he wasn’t super tight with Sierra. Also, the thought was that Sierra was the last person on that tribe who was ever going to find an idol. I know she’s rodeo champ and she’s a friend of mine in real life, but that girl doesn’t like getting her nails dirty and she’s not going to be around camp hustling for it.
Us: Describe tribal in three words.
MF: Can you print cuss words [Laughs]? Ridiculous, terrible nonsense.
Us: When Sierra played the idol, who did you expect was going home?
MF: Sandra and I had been talking back at camp and we agreed it was going to be one of us. Tribal is a bit of a blur and I’m still trying to figure out everything that happened, but I think even Hali [Ford] was trying to tell me that they were voting for me, but I shrugged it off. I assumed they would and we had the numbers anyway.
Us: Why were you a target?
MF: Perception is reality in Survivor. I think everyone going into it thought of me as a threat. Actually, this is probably the best I’ve done in challenges ever, which didn’t help my cause. It was going to be me or Sandra because we were picked out to be the most threatening people on our tribe at this stage of the game. I’m a lot more useful than Sandra, who, as much as I love her, is the queen of sitting out. So they were trying to weaken the tribe and take out the biggest threat.
Us: Sandra has won the game twice. Shouldn’t she be the first one out?
MF: If you take somebody who already has $2 million, is the jury really going to give her a third million? She was a vote on my side the entire time. Sandy and I were buddies. I was going to get rid of her whenever. At no point is Sandra all of a sudden going to start winning immunity challenges. She’s probably not going to find an idol. Right now, we need to keep as many people from our original tribe as possible.
Us: If it was just your tribe at tribal council, who would have gone home?
MF: It would have been interesting. Sandra and Aubry [Bracco] are feuding hard. It hasn’t really been shown but those two did not get along. I wanted Michaela [Bradshaw] because she was driving me crazy. On top of that, [Jeff] Varner blew that challenge. So it would have been a very, very chaotic discussion that afternoon if it was just us. I can’t tell you who exactly it would have been because so many names were being kicked around.
Us: Why are Sandra and Aubry feuding?
MF: Every time you talk to Sandra she would talk about wanting Aubry out. And Aubry, hearing this, would want Sandra out. This was going on since the original days at Mana. I don’t remember how exactly this feud started but it was very real. Those two just did not get along from jump street.
Us: Would you play again?
MF: Yes because I didn’t even get to play this time. I was just sitting there, making jokes and enjoying things because I didn’t think the game was going to get going from a strategic standpoint for another week or so. I was sitting in a great spot, just biding my time, waiting to make move. I never got to do anything except get voted off and cry on camera. So if I get a fourth chance, I’ll probably be out there.