Survivor Analyst Russian Roulette: Malcolm Freberg

Welcome to Survivor Analyst Russian Roulette, where the authors of this site are randomly assigned contestants from the upcoming season of Survivor: Game Changers and must give an honest assessment of what to expect from them. Next up: Malcolm Freberg.

Editor’s note: Since six entries didn’t feel like enough for this series, we invited some more regular contributors to the site and put them through the randomizer. Long time commenter Diego Armando volunteered for the assignment, and he hit the jackpot.

Prior to Philippines, Survivor was in a rough spot. It had aired Nicaragua, Redemption Island, South Pacific, and One World in succession; all of which could have an argument made for being the worst season ever (it was almost certainly Nicaragua, though). One of the biggest issues of these seasons was a lack of truly great characters and players. Sure, Cochran made his first appearance here, and we had strategically flawless gameplay from Boston Rob and Kim. But these seasons were dominated by awful people mistreating each other or generally acting like douchebags, with little to no satisfactory comeuppance.

Then Philippines arrived and brought with it the fun, drama, and excitement the previous four seasons lacked. It also introduced the biggest star Survivor had since Russell Hantz, a glorious golden god named Malcolm Freberg

What makes Malcolm special is the fact that he appeals to almost every type of Survivor fan. He is handsome, funny, a competent narrator, good at challenges, great at finding immunity idols, and, most importantly, an absolute blast to watch.

He may also have Jedi mind powers. Petebro gazed into Malcolm’s eyes and determined that despite being extremely evasive when asked about it, Malcolm did not have an immunity idol (he obviously did). And who can forget that Malcolm once voted for Reynold (the master of throwing things into things), convinced Reynold to give him his immunity idol with three timeless words, and continued to have an alliance with him afterwards? Mind control is the only explanation.

Or they might not have been the smartest players.

Malcolm followed up the immortal “Hold Up Bro” with the famous double idol declaration, in which he pulled out two immunity idols, gave one to BarK owner Eddie, and declared that he and the rest of the Three Amigos were voting for Phillip. Unfortunately, he was called on this bluff and forced to play both idols, which left him defenseless for the next vote.

Armchair quarterbacks and people who oppose the “make big moves!” mantra Probst has been pushing for the past four years are quick to point out the flaws in Malcolm’s dual idol play. They have some valid points, but I remind them of Cochran’s reaction to that move, which was along the lines of, “Regardless of what happens, moments like this are why I love Survivor.” Everyone playing safe and small gives us seasons like Redemption Island, South Pacific, and One World. People playing risky games with big, go-for-broke moves gives us Heroes vs. Villains, Cagayan, and Cambodia.

Malcolm is unafraid to take big risks and produce massively entertaining moments for the audience’s enjoyment. And that is why we should all be excited to see Malcolm back.

Best-case scenario

I am optimistic about Malcolm’s chances. His biggest strength has always been his social game. Here is a short list of players Malcolm and a temporary or permanent alliance with during Philippines and Caramoan: Denise, Penner, Petebro, Abi-Maria, Lisa, Name Redacted, Carter, Cookies! (Angie), Phillip, Cochran, Dawn, Corrine, Eddie, Reynold, & Andrea. That he was able to retain strong relationships with people across this bizarre spectrum of age, personality, competence, and sanity illustrates that he has a level of likability and social skills few are capable of matching. I am unsure if a there is a player combination he would be completely unable to work himself into.

He also falls into the same sweet spot that Jeremy Collins did on Cambodia of being very good at most aspects of the game, but not as distractingly good as other players. Malcolm is good at challenges, but not as physically gifted as Ozzy, JT, Caleb, or Brad. He is good at finding idols, but not as good as Tony. He is a solid strategist, but not as cunning as Cirie or Sandra.

This jack-of-all-trades position allows him to constantly have a meat shield he can pull out. I could easily see other players deciding to keep him around and justifying the decision with, “Malcolm is dangerous, but I like him more than dangerous player X, so let’s get rid of that X and get Malcolm next week.” Unfortunately for them, when they finally do try and oust Malcolm, he may have enough immunities and idols to get to the end. He then wins unanimously.

Worst-case scenario

Malcolm does not really have much in the way of weaknesses, but he has a few potential areas of concern. He struggles in challenges that require him to hold his hands still. And that challenge will likely return since it cost both him and Cirie their respective games. He also has a willingness to take huge gambles, which could lead to him taking an ill-advised risk that backfires horribly (like JT giving Russell his idol).

But Malcolm’s biggest flaw is that he is a fairly obvious threat to win. I could see the other players realizing how awesome Malcolm is and refusing to offer him any sort of alliance out of fear that he will beat them. They would likely try to take him out at the merge. Or they think he is the guy that won all those challenges in Cambodia and vote him out immediately out of fear.

Joe <<<<<< Malcolm

Most likely scenario

Of all of the big names brought back this season (Sandra, Tony, JT, Cirie, Ciera, Ozzy), I think Malcolm is the one who is most likely to win. I think those other players, with the possible exception of JT, will all be targeted pre-merge. Malcolm is too physically useful and socially strong to be a pre-merge boot. The first few merge votes will be dicey, but he will likely be able to find some players who will either want to work with him or need his vote.

There will come a point where he will need to be immune to stay in the game, but he is capable of finding idols and/or winning immunity. Malcolm in the finale is a likelihood we should be both hoping for and expecting.