By Diana Nollen/ SourceMedia
Denise Stapley of Cedar Rapids is still trying to wrap her head around her million-dollar win on last night’s “Survivor: Philippines” 25th season finale.
We chatted by phone this afternoon (12/17/12) from Los Angeles, where she’s faced a whirlwind of red carpets, interviews and photos since her win was announced lived on CBS television. Her husband, Brad, and daughter, Sydney, 9, were in the second row to share in the anticipation and joy.
Entertainment Weekly caught up with Malcolm Freberg, the 25-year-old bartender who struck up an alliance on Day 1 of the 39-day odyssey. He was pretty hard on Denise at the final Tribal Council back in April, which aired on last night’s finale.
EW: “Why lay into Denise like that at the final Tribal about the head nodding and appeasing?”
MALCOLM: “I didn’t go into that ever not voting for Denise. I was pissed off, but I didn’t hold it against her. I understand that it’s the right move to get rid of me at that point and I was turning on her first so there’s no way I could be mad at her. But it was very clear to all of us that Denise was going to win. But I wasn’t going to let her off the hook. She was brilliant at deflecting hard questions with very politically correct answers so I was trying to get her to say something nasty at that point and just get under her skin a little bit. And it came off a lot meaner than I wanted it to. But there was absolutely no way I was never not voting for Denise and I think she absolutely played brilliantly and absolutely earned it.”
Denise told me she was surprised when Jonathan Penner called her a bitch on national television during that Tribal Council, adding that neither he nor Malcolm apologized for their harsh words.
“That was a little rough — I was not expecting it — but at the same time, that final Tribal is where they’re really pushing buttons. I think that was stemming off of a lot of interactions with Abi. The jury’s trying to light a fire, and he did. He and Malcolm did a good job of lighting that fire under me.”
We’re thrilled her torch wasn’t extinguished.
I’ll reveal much more of our conversation Thursday in Hoopla and on HooplaNow.com