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'Survivor' And 'Naked And Afraid' Alumni Break Down Their Shocking 'Snake In The Grass' Episode
Earl Cole, Yul Kwon, and Malcolm Freberg of "Survivor" fame, as well as Jeff Zausch of "Naked And Afraid," discuss the jaw-dropping reveal in their episode of "Snake In The Grass" and give advice to other competitors.
When Earl Cole, Yul Kwon, and Malcolm Freberg of "Survivor" fame went toe to toe with Jeff Zausch of "Naked And Afraid" on the latest episode of "Snake In The Grass," the end reveal shocked everyone.
While everyone turned on Yul early on as the potential Snake, it turned out to be someone no one had seriously suspected: Malcolm! Yep, Malcolm was the one secretly lying to the rest and sabotaging them during challenges. It didn't make for hard feelings, though — instead the reality TV legends were impressed by the way Malcolm played the game. The four recently spoke to USA Insider about why they wanted to do the show, what they thought of the Malcolm reveal, and their advice for other "SITG" players.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Why They Decided To Do 'Snake In The Grass'
Earl: They didn't tell me anything about it. I was just told, "You're really going to love it. It's very adventurous. It's something really cool. It might be similar to 'Survivor,' but it's pretty different from that. You'll want to do it." Out of curiosity, I was like, OK, I'm in.
Yul: The description I heard was, "It's kind of a combination of 'Survivor' and an outdoor escape room.' I got the impression it was something like the game Mafia or Werewolf where someone might be designated as a mole or something, and has to sabotage the group. I've always liked games like that. The thing I liked about "Survivor" was not living out in the water and sleeping on the ground. I've always liked "Survivor" because of the social and psychological elements of it.
The other thing is whenever you go through, like, a really kind of different or intense experience, you always get something out of it. I feel like if nothing else, you come away or come back with a deeper appreciation of the life that you actually have and it just helps to kind of see your life and your experiences in different ways. So I figured, why not?
Earl: Yeah, it was a why not? And then also for me, I haven't done a show like this in many years, and so now I have kids so my kids can watch it. I have more friends, and obviously I have the "Survivor" fans, and they haven't seen me on TV in a while, so I did it for them as well, and I'm glad I did it. It was really a fun experience. And I got to play with Yul. Him and I have been friends for awhile, but we've never been on TV together, even though we've always wanted to.
Jeff: I wanted to do this because obviously I'm well known from "Naked and Afraid." I've done more days on that challenge than anybody else, and so for me, survival is what I'm really good at, but I'm not necessarily so good at the social side of things. I typically ruffle some feathers while I'm out there in the jungle. I'm great at surviving, but this was going to be a social challenge which I really wanted to push myself at.
What They Thought When They Learned About The Snake
Malcolm: The Snake was told 24 hours beforehand, and the rules before everyone else. So it was a lot to process, but then I have to say I got excited: I get to be the Snake, I get to be the main character, and I love games of bluffing and deception. So it was right up my alley.
But I would also mention that there's a lot of nerves because of the way the prize is split. It occurred to me the night before that it might have been a safer financial situation if I was not the Snake, probability-wise.
Yul: I was really disappointed. I was hoping I'd be the Snake because it just seems like such a fun thing to do. And I've generally been ... [Earl and I] are pretty straightforward. The way we played "Survivor" for the most part, was pretty straightforward. We didn't really do any kind of nasty stuff, and I don't know, I relished the idea that my role would be to actually lie and deceive, and that was what I had to do. So I was really looking forward to it, and I was really bummed.
Earl: [Yul] subconsciously wanting to be the Snake made him have innate Snake-ness. Like, wait a minute. Maybe it is you. Because he sure seemed unhappy. Like, "Oh, I'm not the Snake, but wouldn't it be great to be the Snake?" We were like, "That's a very Snake thing to say."
Yul: I've realized that the term "That's a very Snake thing to say" can be applied to anything. I kind of thought Earl might be the Snake just because I thought he was such a stand-up guy that he'd make the perfect Snake ... It'd be too obvious to have the guy with the man bun be the Snake.
Jeff: Once I found out that there was a Snake, I was instantly upset because I knew that I'm just finding out about this now, which means I can't possibly be the Snake, and I wanted to be the Snake! It sounded like a lot of fun. But I don't know how good I would have been, if I'm honest with you.
Earl: We never did trust Jeff at all during the game. Jeff, we learned his personality later on. He's so loud and vocal but very transparent. There's no way he could be a Snake. He would be a terrible Snake, the way that he plays. But that's just who he is!
Who They Suspected During The Show
Earl: I suspected everybody from the start. I didn't trust Malcolm because he was a little sick at the start and I knew people are going to try all kind of antics to throw us off. So I had my eye on him, which is the reason why I took the Snake piece from him from the start, because I didn't trust him ... but that kind of led into him being able to say it was me when I knew it wasn't me. I was really 50/50 going into the final Snake Pit. I think for me, it was like, OK, Yul, just one last chance. Prove to me you're not the Snake and I will vote for Malcolm. We just did not get on the same page.
Malcom: One of the funniest scenes that's not in there is Jeff starting to suspect me. The second day we had like a one-on-one conversation and he's just asking me these questions and it's the first time I really started stumbling through my lies and I realized it was happening. So I excuse myself from the conversation way too abruptly, like in a comedy movie sort of way I just walked away like, we're done, I'm making this worse for myself.
Jeff: What got my suspicion off Malcolm early on was he did well during the challenge. So, I thought, all right, I'm going to focus on Earl and Yul. I didn't know any of these guys, so I didn't know their personalities. I didn't understand that Yul is naturally a very chill, mellow, calm dude. I took that as he's holding his cards close to his chest, so I didn't really have suspicions about Malcolm early on. That developed over time, but still, even at the end, I'd say I was 70% Yule, 30% Malcolm.
Malcolm: I performed well in the first challenge. That was definitely part of the plan. I wanted to come out strong to avoid detection at the beginning. That was definitely part of the plan. I had some other schemes going. I knew not to deny what was in a clue ... to give the illusion of being forthright.
Jeff: The one thing that Malcolm did really well that that threw me off is that when I was very open about my suspicion of Yul right off the bat, I noticed that Malcolm did not jump on to that bandwagon. He didn't attack Yul. I thought, OK, well, if Malcolm was the Snake, he probably would latch onto this because it's like a shark finding a wounded seal or something.
Yul: I think we all kind of pieced things together afterward. I think if we had just even, like, one more opportunity to have a conversation before we went to the Snake Pit, I think we would have figured it out. I think for me, early on, I thought it was Earl mainly because the first challenge. I think Malcolm actually did a really nice job kind of throwing Earl under the bus. So I thought Earl initially, but then over time when I started looking for the clues, the clues seemed to point at me, but I knew it wasn't me. It felt like they could fit Malcolm. I thought it was Earl or Malcolm, but then the third clue pointed at Jeff.
I think Malcolm really played a brilliant game. He did lots of subtle things. One of the things he did was during the Snake Pit, he proactively at one point went to me and said, 'Hey, maybe it could be Jeff, maybe with that third clue.' That stopped me from trying to point the finger at Malcolm because I was thinking, look, I know for sure it's not me. So if they all vote for me, we're all going to lose. If there's some chance that Malcolm isn't the Snake and he's willing to vote for someone other than me, I should just go along with it because at least there's some chance we might be right, even though I kind of suspect it might be Malcolm. So that was a really good play on Malcolm's part.
Malcolm: Everyone's starting to suspect me at the end. I knew it was shifting towards me very rapidly by the end. So the one thing I was very proud of is I turned to Yul when everyone was piling on him ... and tried to turn him onto Jeff. I did the best acting performance of my life to Yul about 10 minutes before we voted.
What They Thought After Voting
Jeff: I was pretty confident that we had just won the money. I was more confident than I was nervous.
Malcolm: I can tell you on TV the time between "it's time to vote" and Bobby revealing who it is is very quick, but in reality, that was about 20 to 30 minutes for us. Yul, Earl, and I are from "Survivor,'"and we're all very stoic and we're not going to get excited or anything yet. I think I've got it, but I'm not about to start grinning like a maniac. Jeff, though, is sitting at the end of the line just grinning before the Snake was revealed ... He's already spending the money in his head. I'm like, oh, I'm going to feel bad about this.
Jeff: When Malcolm stood up ... son of a bitch. Instantly, I was impressed, though. I was just in awe. I'm never going to trust another human being ever again. Malcolm stole my innocence that day and I have yet to regain it.
Yul: I obviously knew at that point that we were't going to win ... but Malcom, he did a lot of things that were really subtle. I thought he played an excellent game. So when they made the reveal, I was like, yeah, he totally deserved it.
Malcolm: Throughout the game, Jeff told me on multiple occasions, at least five times, if you're the Snake, we are not going to be friends after this.
Jeff: I did tell Malcolm we wouldn't be friends anymore. Now, looking back, that was harsh, but at the time, I meant it because I was so into it. I'm a very competitive person, but of course, Malcolm and I, we're great friends.
Their Advice For 'Snake In The Grass' Players
Earl: My advice is to keep in mind you don't have that much time. We're used to our "Survivor" days of having time to talk with one another and get people to like you, where this is much less of that. Time is on the Snake's side, so they want less talking, less everything, less getting to know each other.
Yul: The biggest thing for me is this is a lesson in the power of cognitive biases and specifically confirmation bias. It's very easy to initially have a suspicion of someone and just filter out all the things that don't fit with that hypothesis and only emphasize the things that fit with it. So I think for all of us, we all kind of got anchored in one view and then you just keep on trying to validate that view. It's human behavior. Just be skeptical about your own intuition, be open minded. If you end up having that tunnel vision, you miss out on all the other things that might actually be clues.
Jeff: Don't believe a damn thing anybody says at all. Don't believe anybody.
Malcolm: I would say if you're the Snake, roll with the punches. The wins and losses are going to come in very quick succession. You just have to roll with it. Also, remember that if you've done a good enough job where everyone's pointing at somebody else, that person is going to obviously freak out. So you need to be very good about managing the person everyone thinks is the Snake. That really was what, in the end, kept it off of me for just long enough to break poor old Jeff's heart.
Tune into "Snake In The Grass," airing Mondays at 11 p.m. ET/PT on USA Network.