‘Facts of Life’ Star Lisa Whelchel Wins Big on ‘Survivor: Philippines’: Did She Have an Unfair Advantage?

Christmas Comes Early for a Former TV Star

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‘Facts of Life’ Star Lisa Whelchel Wins Big on ‘Survivor: Philippines’: Did She Have an Unfair Advantage?
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Jeff Probst crowned a new 'Suvivor' winner.

She wasn't the sole "Survivor" -- that distinction would go to sex therapist and $1 million winner Denise Stapely-- but actress Lisa Whelchel did take home a very big prize on the 25th season finale of CBS' "Survivor." The former "Facts of Life" star was voted Player of the Season and won the $100,000 second place prize.

Whelchel kept quiet about her Hollywood past during her time on the reality show, opting not to tell the other cast members that she played Blair on the popular '80s TV sitcom "The Facts of Life." Only two other players recognized her from the series, and her sitcom past wasn't revealed until bitter ousted contestant Jonathan Penner spilled the beans right before the final tribal council vote.

But Sprint's Player of the Season vote is decided by the viewers, and Whelchel already had a built-in fan base from her years as "America's Sweetheart." Did anyone else ever have a chance?

This season's resident hunk, Malcolm Freberg, came close. Host Jeff Probst revealed that the final vote came in with only a 0.7 percent margin between Whelchel and Freberg.

After the finale, Lisa Whelchel tweeted to her 40,000 Twitter followers: "Thank you sooooooo much. YOU are the reason I won "Player of the Season!" I am so very grateful!!!! I totally owe it all to you. Huge Hug!

Meanwhile, Freberg -- who won a slew of immunity challenges and was deemed the toughest competitor on the show -- tweeted to his 11,000 followers: "I need a hug."

Whelchel's fame once brought a respectable paycheck to the former child star, but she wasn't exactly rolling in the dough before her "Survivor" windfall.

At the beginning of the season she revealed that the money she earned from TV years was lost due to bad investments in the 1980s, and she wanted to keep her celebrity past a secret in case her cast mates assumed she was wealthy.

In an interview with Out in Hollywood, Whelchel's "Facts of Life" co-star Mindy Cohn said the actors from the series "never got paid, and still don't get paid for DVDs and reruns." (Isn't it all about residuals in this biz?) The cast banded together for the 2001 "Facts Of Life" reunion because they felt they deserved a big payday.

In the end, by managing to keep her competitors in the dark about her past Hollywood stardom for so long (and convincing the two players who knew about it to also keep her secret), Lisa Whelchel may have indeed outwitted, outlasted and outplayed them all.

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