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Exclusive: Lisa Whelchel talks 'Survivor: Philippines' (Part 1)


By Reality TV World staff, 12/18/2012 

Lisa Whelchel was beaten by winner Denise Stapley during the live portion of Sunday night's finale broadcast of Survivor: Philippines on CBS from Los Angeles. 

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Lisa, a 49-year-old former actress from Dallas, TX, tied with fellow castaway Michael Skupin, a former Survivor: Australia castaway, after they each received one vote. "RC" Roberta Saint-Amour voted for Lisa, while Carter Williams voted for Skupin to win. Denise had received the four other votes which were revealed by Survivor host Jeff Probst and therefore claimed the $1 million grand prize.

Also during the live reunion show following Survivor: Philippines' finale episode, Jeff revealed that Lisa had won $100,000 as the winner of the season's "Player of the Season" home viewer vote. Malcolm came in a very close second for the prize, as only 0.7% percent of a vote separated the two deserving castaways.

In an exclusive interview on Monday, Lisa talked to Reality TV World about her Survivor: Philippines experience.

Below is the first half of Lisa's interview. Check back with Reality TV World soon for the concluding portion. To begin reading our interview with Denise, click here.

Reality TV World: Congratulations on getting so far but sorry things didn't work out for you!

Lisa Whelchel: Oh, no. (Laughs) I don't feel that way, I mean, I feel thrilled and great about winning "fan favorite." I quoted that book that meant so much to me about getting -- or even auditioning for Survivor called The Barbarian Way.

And after I auditioned and knew I was going to be on the show, I met with the author again and he said, "Lisa, for you, winning the game would be great, but winning the audience would be more important." And so ultimately, I feel just thrilled at the way that it turned out.

Reality TV World: That's great. So were you surprised that Denise won, or had you gone into that final Tribal Council already thinking she was going to win or did your thoughts change after the jury questioning? What was your perspective?

Lisa Whelchel: I wasn't surprised that Denise won. I did go into the final Tribal pleading my case and wanting to make a case to win, but I was also pretty realistic about my game and kind of the messiness of the game I played versus what was a beautiful game that Denise played.

Reality TV World: So it sounds like Tribal Council kind of played out as you had anticipated?

Lisa Whelchel: I don't know. If you're a competitive person in a game, you don't want to go in there thinking, "Um, I can't win." So I certainly had a scenario in my head that I thought there was a chance I could win, and I wanted to concentrate on that chance instead of all the other arguments about why I couldn't win. So, my head was in it to win it at the final Tribal Council.

Reality TV World: The show made it seem like you kept Denise over Malcolm because you seemed certain Malcolm would win the jury vote if he got to the end. But it sounds like then you still thought Denise had a pretty good chance too, but you just thought her chances weren't as good as Malcolm's, I guess? 

Lisa Whelchel: Yeah, exactly. I mean, they both had an awesome story. They both played an amazing game, and I just think Malcolm was just a little bit more charismatic than Denise and everybody just loved Malcolm. And so, there were at least a handful that had an issue with Denise.

Reality TV World: Penner had publicly proclaimed that Skupin and yourself were handing Malcolm or Denise a million dollars when you two decided to align with them instead of Penner and Carter Williams. So what exactly happened there? Because it sounds like you thought Malcolm and Denise both had pretty good arguments. So did you think Penner and Carter had better arguments, or how did you come to that decision?

Lisa Whelchel: No, I wanted to go with Penner and Carter. If you recall, Penner would not make that agreement with me. So I needed to make an agreement with someone that wanted to be in an alliance with me, and Denise and Malcolm did. So my first choice was definitely Penner and Carter.

Reality TV World: Okay, but it sounds like you didn't put much confidence in Penner's explanation for hesitating when he said it wasn't that he didn't want to align with you and Skupin but rather he just felt making a Final 3 deal with you guys that far removed from the endgame would be kind of an "empty promise."

Lisa Whelchel: Well, at that point, it was too late because then you give your word to two people and then put them on the jury. When the jury is only eight people and you know going in that you might as well just knock out two, it wasn't worth it at that point to eliminate two votes right there.

Reality TV World: Did you believe Penner's statement but just assumed it was too late at that point, or did you think he was just playing strategically and didn't really mean it?

Lisa Whelchel: No, I totally knew he meant it, and I agreed with him!

Reality TV World: So wasn't it kind of a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" type of situation then at that point?

Lisa Whelchel: Well, as most any decision in Survivor, that can be said. And so, there's usually not many clear-cut decisions to be made. You have to weigh all the different options, and I was still in that mode of putting a lot of value in not breaking my promise.

It was before my brother visited when he said, "Part of playing the game is breaking promises and everybody plays by the same rules, and that's one of the rules of playing the game. So play the game." But that was before I had that encounter with my brother, so that might have made a difference.

Reality TV World: Abi-Maria Gomes had also said Skupin and yourself couldn't win the jury vote against Malcolm and Denise. And you two had a chance to vote off Denise instead of Abi at the Final 5, but you didn't do that. If I recall, that came after your brother's visit. So I just wanted to understand what made you come to that decision at that point. Why would you choose not to go to the end with Abi?

Lisa Whelchel: Well, we had been going straight from there to Tribal Council, and if Malcolm wasn't in the picture, that would have made a lot of sense. But there were still a few more decisions and some more game that needed to be played.

And so, had we voted out Denise, then Malcolm would've been very upset with us and possibly brought Abi into an alliance with him, and then they would've split up Mike and I. And so, it was just a straighter route to the end to keep the promise and then have Denise there to possibly knock out Malcolm in the Final 4, because anybody who sits next to Malcolm isn't going to win.

Reality TV World: Although the jury said otherwise when Jeff Probst polled them last night during the live reunion show.

Lisa Whelchel: They did say that in hindsight, but in one of the earlier Tribal Councils, it was not shown in the edit, it was very obvious that Malcolm was beloved by everyone.

Reality TV World: So did the fact that Malcolm had a second immunity idol that he could've given Denise to use at that Final 5 Tribal Council play any role in why you guys decided not to team up with Abi and vote Denise out or was it strictly because of what you just mentioned now?

Lisa Whelchel: No, not really, because it wouldn't have made a difference. Because had Skupin and I chosen to target Denise, and Malcolm and Denise were still going to target Abi, even if we had written down Denise's name and she had played an idol, it would've been null and void and Abi still would've gone home. It really didn't even -- It wasn't a deciding factor.

Reality TV World: Sure, that's what I figured. I just wanted to clarify that. So if Skupin and yourself had gone to the Final 3 with Abi, it seemed like most people thought you definitely would've been able to win the vote. Do you agree or disagree with that?  Because when I talked to Skupin, he said he thought Abi definitely would've had a good argument and been guaranteed at least a couple votes with Pete Yurkowski and Artis Silvester.

Lisa Whelchel: Yeah, I think it would've been definitely split between the three of us, and anybody could've won at that point, depending on the swing vote and whether they voted emotionally or strategically or for some irrational reason. It often does happen on Survivor

Above is the first half of Lisa's interview. Check back with Reality TV World soon for the concluding portion. To begin reading our interview with Denise, click here.

(Photo credit CBS)


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