And then there were two. Malcolm Freberg and Denise Stapley are the Survivor: Philippines’ last remaining members of the Matsing (blue) tribe. With Russell Swan‘s exit — the first to go of the three returning vets — the handsome bartender and the fierce sex therapist must go it alone.
Although the tribes could merge next week, don’t forget that in “Survivor: Palau” the Ulong tribe lost seven immunity challenges in a row until all that remained of their tribe was Stephenie LaGrossa.
Which brings us to the first of 10 fun facts we learned from Malcolm and Denise when we interviewed them in the Philippines a day before the game began.
1. Stephenie is Denise’s favorite “Survivor” contestant ever. “I really liked Stephenie,” she told us, pleasantly oblivious to the fate that awaited her. “I mean, poor girl. Her tribe just kept getting picked off one by one. It wasn’t that she got to the end — it was just the way that she played. She was determined.”
2. Malcolm’s favorite player? “Thailand” champ Brian Heidik. “Strategy wise, I’m not a puppy hater [Heidik was arrested in 2006 for shooting a puppy with an arrow], but I really like Brian Heidik. You have to be a little bit of a psychopath to be successful out here. I don’t have criminal leanings or anything, but Brian Heidik played the game emotionless and super cool. Everyone liked him at the time — they didn’t realize what he was doing — and he won the game. I’m here to win a game, that’s how I see it, and he’s my favorite game player. Maybe not my favorite human being. He’s not going to win any humanitarian awards.”
3. About those criminal leanings… Malcolm also lists O.J. Simpson as his greatest inspiration. ” It sounds so bad if you just say it like that,” he admits. “But as a kid he had rickets and wobbled around, but he loved football…he went to a convention to see Jim Brown and looked him in the eye and said, ‘One day I’m going to break all your records.’ He overcame all the difficulties he had as a kid and ended up breaking most of them. And then…you know I try to block out the rest of that story. But I’m a sucker for inspirational underdog stories.”
4. Denise is a sex therapist, so we had to ask about her strangest client. (Besides Russell Swan.) “I had a guy that was into fog. Fog. Women in the fog, the fog from the freezer, the fog from car exhaust… Kinda some different fetishes, but those are not what walks through my door every day.”
5. Both Denise and Malcolm are “Survivor” super fans, but they also indulge in other guilty pleasure reality shows. Denise is especially partial to “The Real Housewives of Orange County.” “They are as f***ed up as they can be,” she chortles, grateful that none of them are her clients. “I don’t have to fix one of them. I don’t have to do therapy. I can just sit here and watch the destruction happen. I watch it just unfold. Someone else has to clean up that mess.”
6. Malcolm loves “American Idol.” “I want to be a rock star,” he enthused. “If I had the choice to win ‘Survivor’ or win ‘American Idol’ –all due respect to Jeff Probst and all the good people out here, [but] come on!” The only thing stopping him is his utter lack of talent. “No, I don’t have a musical bone in my body,” he admitted. “My mom yells at me to stop singing in the shower–it’s that bad.”
7. Neither Matsinger was worried about the game itself. “I’m actually not apprehensive about the elements — as hard as I know it’s gonna be,” said Denise. (Note: It was warm and sunny at the time.) Instead, she was most concerned about missing her family. “I’ll probably lose my s*** somewhere along the line,” she said. “I mean, who doesn’t? If you’re a mom, you connect with that.” And Malcolm’s biggest concern? “That my hair ties might break,” he deadpanned. “If this [his untamed mane] becomes too floppy, that might become an issue.” (So far, so good.)
8. Malcolm prepared for “Survivor” by losing weight. “Most people are trying to bulk up, but I dropped about 20 pounds in the past few months because it seems like it’s always holding your hand over your head or balancing on one leg when it comes down to what you need. So I’ve focused on flexibility and becoming limber and lighter and endurance stuff more so than bulking up muscle-wise.”
9. Denise doesn’t consider herself an athlete. What? “Yes I do triathlons,” acknowledges the muscular mama, “but I didn’t play sports. I was a pom-pom girl all the way through high school. I had the big hair, and I was a little bit more girly. Hopefully, I’ve got other people that can do well on some of the other physical challenges — things like basketball, not my strong suit. Strength and endurance? OK. You want me to stand on something for five hours? I’m good.” Too bad for Matsing that “Survivor” usually saves the balancing challenges for individual immunity.
10. Malcolm thinks Malcolm is awesome. An Ivy League footballer player, Malcolm describes himself as “brilliant.” Even though he now works as a bartender. “Hey, if you’re not tested, how is it going to get disproved?” he argues. “So it’s working out well so far.” He also said people like him because he has an “infectious, positive attitude”: “If you’re the guy who’s the light of the room, it’s going to increase the attitude of everybody around you. And I’m nice to look at. It tends to help.”
What do you think “Survivor” has in store for Malcolm and Denise? Will they be divided and absorbed by the other two tribes? Will all the tribes merge/reshuffle? Or will only pairs compete in the next challenge(s)?