'Survivor: Caramoan's' Phillip on Malcolm's Big Move: It Was 'Stupid'
The returning player talks to THR about what Jeff Probst called "one of the craziest tribal councils" ever.
"Tonight, nothing can really go wrong," Andrea Boehlke said in Wednesday night's episode of Survivor: Caramoan -- Fans vs. Favorite as she and her alliance planned their voting strategy. Little did she know one of the most memorable tribal councils was in store.
Here's what went down: Phillip Sheppard sat out the immunity challenge (it was a water challenge, and he had an incident as a child in a pond that left him wary of the water). Reynold Toepfer won immunity. Malcolm Freberg found a second hidden immunity idol -- in front of rivals Andrea and Dawn Meehan.
At tribal council, Malcolm produced not only that hidden idol but the other one in his possession that he found days earlier -- which no one knew about -- and shared one of them with Eddie Fox, the third member of his and Reynold's alliance.
Suddenly, the other alliance was hit with the realization they would have to vote out one of their own. So who would it be? Phillip told his group to stick with the original plan -- split the votes between Eddie and Malcolm, ostensibly in the hope that they were bluffing and wouldn't play their idols -- even though Malcolm said they would be voting for Phillip. Or were they actually planning to vote for someone else?
Turns out, they were telling the truth the whole time. Eddie and Malcolm played the idols, and Phillip got four votes (which included Erik Reichenbach's "fillup!" vote) and was sent packing in what host Jeff Probst called "one of the craziest tribal councils ever."
Phillip -- the 55-year-old CEO of a software sales firm and former federal agent from Santa Monica -- talked to The Hollywood Reporter about Malcolm's tribal council shocker, whether he regrets sitting out the challenge and if he plans to talk to Brandon Hantz at next month's live finale. (On a side note: He also told THR that he watched Wednesday night's episode alongside Andrea and last season's contestants Abi-Maria Gomes and Pete Yurkowski.)
The Hollywood Reporter: What was going through your mind at tribal council as everything was going down?
Phillip Sheppard: I knew that I had played a great game up to this point and thought, "Gee, how silly of Malcolm to waste two idols on me." I was the 10th person voted out; half the people were left in the game, basically. He used two idols to vote one guy out; it was his only reason for doing it. He also said, and I quote, "I came out to play Survivor to have fun." My frustration was, I spent a good part of the day trying to convince the tribe, the Stealth R Us members, that I felt like he had two idols and they wouldn't listen to me. I spoke to Andrea about it, Cochran, Dawn and to a certain extent Brenda -- she wasn't as close to me as the others -- and all of them pooh-poohed it. "There's no way they have two idols." And of course they did.
THR: So you weren't surprised when Malcolm pulled out the second idol?
Phillip: It was more of a disgusted feeling. It was like, "This sucks." I knew he did and I wanted to come up with an alternate plan, and nobody did it.
THR: Do you regret telling your alliance to stick with the original plan to split the votes between Malcolm and Eddie?
Phillip: No, I do not regret that. There was nothing we could have done. We were so spaced out that the others would have heard what we were going to do. … And people like Cochran and Erik knew that if we changed the vote, they could keep the idols. It was a no-win situation there. I fell on the sword, so to speak, and stayed true to the alliance. My one challenge there was to make sure no fan had the idol. The week before, we flushed it out with Malcolm [when he asked Reynold to give it to him instead of using it on himself]. That's why he hated me. It wasn't fun for him to stand up and tell one of his bros, "Give me the idol," and we weren't even voting for that person. We voted for Mike. So Malcolm did two stupid things. And when he said the only reason he was voting me out of the game was because he was not having fun -- he was playing cards with his bros every day, talking with Andrea, walking along the beach -- I'm breaking up that party. He wasn't having fun with me.
THR: You said at tribal before being voted out that you wouldn't change your mind about not taking part in the immunity challenge if given another opportunity. Do you still feel the same?
Phillip: Absolutely, 100 percent. I also wasn't feeling good that morning. It was a combination of a lot of things. I noticed that when Reynold won the competition, Malcolm hadn't even gotten out of the water. Malcolm had already eaten on the reward and had more nourishment. But I didn't have that in me. I had gone on only one reward and gotten sick all night. I just didn't have it in me. And a lot more importantly, [the incident] from my childhood.
THR: Will you speak to Brandon at the finale, or will you try to avoid him?
Phillip: For me, I'm a class act. If you remember, people forget all the negative stuff Francesca wrote about me [the first time they played against each other]. With everything she said about me, and the last time we had played less than four days together, I never responded in kind. With Brandon, I would hope, whatever is going on with him both emotionally and otherwise, that he'd remember Survivor is a family-friendly show. … I would never want to do anything publicly or private that would bring disrepute on the Survivor franchise or something that makes CBS regret ever inviting me to play on the show. For a guy who is supposedly delusional and crazy, I've never been arrested, not for drunken intoxication or any of those things, in 55 years. I'm not about to start doing those things now. I will tell you that one of the people who is going to be [at the finale] is my brother, Charles Peterson Sheppard, who is a special agent in the state of California. He works with hardcore criminals. It would be a bad idea on anyone's part to come to that particular event … He has 20-plus years working with hardcore criminals, and believe me, that would be a mistake. It would certainly end rather quickly.
THR: Do you still talk to Boston Rob?
Phillip: Intermittently, we share calls during the holidays, text each other from time to time. By the way, he had nothing to do with the "Boston Rob rules." The BR rules had nothing to do with Boston Rob. I just did it. I wanted to try to show the audience that even though I came off a certain kind of way in the edit, I did pay attention to what he was doing. I took things I observed in him and brought some things to the game. At no time did I think I was Boston Rob. I'm not a good-looking Italian guy who married a good-looking woman and went on The Amazing Race …I wasn't trying to be him; I was just trying to show that I paid attention to the way he played and took those lessons and incorporated them into my own game. I've gotten wonderful and amazing tweets and posts on my fan page from fans saying they miss me and love the way I played. The loved Stealth R Us and want to have named and be a part of it. It's a wonderful thing.
THR: Would you play Survivor again?
Phillip: Under the right set of circumstances, I would definitely give it some consideration.
Next up, Phillip says he and Dianne Burnett, ex-wife of Survivor executive producer Mark Burnett and author of the book The Road to Reality: Voted off the Island!...My Journey as a Real-Life Survivor, have teamed up and are working on a project for film and TV based on Phillip's own book, The Specialist: The Costa Rica Job, co-written with his brother Charles, but he declined to say more other than he's hoping the TV portion of it lands at CBS.