Survivor: Caramoan will see the second iteration of Fans vs. Favorites, with a host of diehard fans duking it out with a cast of first-time returnees. Among them will be the man who, arguably, was the star of Survivor: Philippines – Malcolm Freberg.
The 25 year-old heart throb was as strategically-savvy as he was physically capable, proving to be a formidable threat in his first playthrough. Had the final immunity challenge not been a balance challenge that, from his own admission, he would never have won in a million tries, he might have won the whole kit and kaboodle. Malcolm now joins a short list of contestants who’ve played back-to-back seasons, a list that includes Rupert Boneham, Stephenie LaGrossa, Bobby Jon Drinkard, Amanda Kimmel, James Clement and Russell Hantz. However, Malcolm is also on an even shorter list among these names – a list that includes only he and Russel Hantz, as the the only two players in Survivor history to play a second time while their first season was still airing in the States. No one knew who Russell Hantz was when he walked out onto the beach in Heroes vs. Villains, and the same is true for Malcolm, a complete unknown to both the fans and favorites of Survivor: Caramoan.
This brought about the issue of what host Jeff Probst would tell the other contestants, regarding Malcolm:
“We treated him the same way we treated Russell,” says Probst. “Like in Heroes vs. Villains what we said about Russell was ‘Here’s a guy you don’t know, and he’s on the Villains tribe along with four of the other most notorious male villains, so read into that whatever you want.’ And so we bring Malcolm back as a Favorite, clearly we think he’s a favorite, so read into that whatever you want. And everybody gets it. They know. Just looking at him, they quickly assume, okay he’s gonna be like Ozzy, probably. Pretty gifted in challenges, and he’s a bit of a beach boy so he can probably climb up a tree. And hopefully his social game will suck just as much.”
Of course, given the two and a half week turnaround between seasons, the question would then be when the producers decided that they would bring Malcolm back for a second season.
“With Malcolm, we knew we were bringing him back probably 20 days into the game unless he won,” says Probst. “I was calling Mark [Burnett] and saying, ‘I think we should consider leaving an opening,’ and CBS was very trusting and we just said, ‘Look, we got a guy we think is going to be a star, and so let’s leave a slot open for him.’ And by day 27 or something we had all committed and said, ‘Okay, let’s see how this goes and if he doesn’t win, he’s in.’”
Probst, hardly one to waste time hemming and hawing, says he approached Malcolm immediately after his elimination about returning.
“When he was voted out, I think it was maybe, no exaggeration, maybe three minutes after he was voted out when I went to him after his torch had been snuffed and said, ‘Sooooo….’ And he goes, ‘You want me to play again.’ I said, ‘Wow, how did you know?’ and he goes, ‘I can tell. I know. I get it. I should play again. And I’m ready. I don’t even need to go home. I’m good to go.’ He knew!”
For many Survivor fans, there’s a sense that bringing back a player for a second season so quickly after his first can lead to an unfair advantage, given that he’s as much an unknown a variable as a new castaway would be. Probst, however, disagrees. “I always felt it’s a pretty fair trade off,” says the host. “On one hand, he has an advantage in that he’s been playing, so he’s in it. He doesn’t need a warm-up, he’s thinking all the time. On the other hand, he just finished playing and he’s exhausted. So it kind of evens out to me.”
Full story: Entertainment Weekly
Will Malcolm goes as far as he did in Survivor: Philippines? Find out when Survivor: Caramoan – Fans vs. Favorites premieres Feb 13 on CBS.