The 40 Most Influential Survivors: Malcolm Freberg

Malcolm Freberg

Philippines, Caramoan, Game Changers

To celebrate the 40th season of Survivor, we’re counting down the 40 Most Influential Survivors to ever play the game. Because Survivor is a game, a tv show, and a rabid fandom, we’re taking all forms of influence into consideration for this list. Go here to view the criteria we are using to determine what qualifies for the list. Note: this list is presented in chronological order and there will be spoilers for various Survivor seasons.

Malcolm Freberg is the 30th entry in this series.

There’s one big reason that Malcolm Freberg is influential in Survivor: he’s the first contestant to be genetically engineered in a lab and shipped to Southeast Asia to dominate the game. 

No, really. Think about it. A guy who can win challenges, knows the game inside and out, AND gives likable quotes to both the cameras and his fellow castaways? That’s a Jeff Probst wet dream.

In Malcolm’s debut season, Survivor: Philippines, he was the full package: an Ozzy with a personality who could compete in challenges and charm you afterwards, AND a Fischbach-level nerd who had been watching the game since he was a kid and could make big moves.

How did this guy not win?

The flaw in the system…

After his fourth-place malfunction in Philippines, Malcolm was immediately brought back for the next season as a Favorite in Caramoan. It’s here where, all joking aside, his influence shone brightest. In both of his two back-to-back seasons—but especially in Caramoan—Malcolm made moves to ensure the decision wasn’t always locked in prior to being shipped to Tribal Council. 

Malcolm had no problem ignoring the “hidden” in “hidden immunity idol” at Tribal. He pulled out an idol in Philippines to scare the target off his back before the vote, which led Abi to reveal her idol for no reason. His flashy double idol play in Caramoan helped his minority Three Amigos alliance last past its shelf life and scare the tribe into taking out the ring leader of the opposing group. (At his request!) Rare until that point, it set the stage for active whispering at Tribal that now dominates recent seasons. He even once got his own alliance member to give him an immunity idol!

Survivor is still a numbers game, though, and Malcolm was booted shortly thereafter. (If only Andrea had let him search for one more idol!) But the excitement was too tempting for future players. Pretty soon, people were flashing immunity all over the place or actively lobbying to change the vote just before the vote: Hayden and Ciera in Blood vs Water… Tony in Cagayan…Mike and Shirin in Worlds Apart… Sticking to plans….

Sadly, there comes a time when our creations consume us. The modern era of Live Tribals™ would come into being during Malcolm’s third season, Game Changers, and would result in his bitter blindside pre-merge (that one STILL stings).

As an aside, Malcolm is personally influential to this writer. I took a nice big break from Survivor after China, thanks to college and life. After seeing an ad for Philippines, the prospect of Penner and…that other guy…coming back was too intriguing to pass up. I hadn’t seen a tribe fail so badly since Stephanie in Palau, and Malcolm and Denise’s buddy comedy charm was enough to get me through the first few episodes in order to enjoy a really awesome season. After that, my old Survivor addiction was back on. Without a charming player like Malcolm on screen to guide me through the Matsing mess, I don’t know if I would be writing and commenting here today.

Who else made the list?

You can see each entry on the list by clicking this link.