If there has been a fan favorite on this season of CBS' "Survivor," it's former teen actress Lisa Whelchel. Few expected the "Facts of Life" star to last this long, but she has proven to be adept at playing the game while making few enemies. The actress spoke with Zap2It about her experience on the island and the personal growth that she felt came with it.
Last week saw Whelchel engaging in an emotional embrace with her brother on this season's 'loved ones' episode. Probst noted that it was among the most profound reunions on the show ever, and Whelchel agrees. "I think it was so much even bigger than 'Survivor.' I think that what Survivor did was strip me of all my coping mechanisms -- of even the fact that I had just gotten divorced before I came out there," Whelchel said. "So at that point, not only 33 days of the emotional conflict of 'Survivor,' but years of this leading up to the divorce, and I had nothing left of the dam to hold it in. And yet, I couldn't let it out; there was no safe place to let it out. So as soon as I saw my brother it was like a safe receptacle for all of this that's killing me if I don't get it out."
Throughout the season, Whelchel has been a frequent target on screen of the egotistical Abi. While the abuse has resulted in the audience rallying behind the former child actress, Whelchel shrugged it off as typical of her life experience. "It just didn't faze me. I don't know why I was able to kind of just go, 'Oh, that Abi. Oh, that's so Abi,'" she said. "That's also part of my own background -- I've got a history of people taking out their anger on me, and so it feels normal. It's just part of my issues that actually was very helpful now in watching it, to go, 'Why did you put up with that? Come on, you should tell her to back off or something!' And thinking, 'Come on Lisa, you are totally a doormat!' Who gets a perspective to watch themselves like that, and learn? So that was another thing I learned."
She continued, "[There] is an equal number of real, true "Survivor" fans that are just lashing me up one side and down the other. Because they say I'm wishy-washy, or I don't deserve to be out there if I don't play the game, or now that like last episode I prayed -- and I purposely was not going to pray on the show, because it never translates well -- but my brother, who's a pastor, said, 'Let's pray about this.' And I'm not going to say to my brother, 'No! Shhh, we're on TV, we can't pray,' So now it's the whole, 'She's such a Jesus freak.' And of course then it just catapults from that to, 'Oh, and she's antigay.' It's like where does that come from? Just because I'm a Christian does not mean I'm antigay. So then you get this whole lash of hate from that side; it's just like, Oh my goodness, why did I sign up for this?"
Don't miss the final regular episode of "Survivor" tonight on CBS! Will Whelchel make it to the two hour finale on Sunday night?