updated 11/28/2012 AT 5:00 PM ET
•originally published 11/29/2012 AT 11:30 AM ET
Lisa Whelchel is full of surprises. Sitting in her home outside Dallas, she still looks every bit like Blair Warner, the pretty rich girl from the 80s sitcom The Facts of Life. But what she’s saying is decidedly un-Blairlike.
“I’m outdoorsy,” she says. “I love to exercise and be outside. I don’t care what I’m wearing, and I don’t care if I’m uncomfortable. I am nothing like Blair.”
Whelchel, 49, has proved this to fans of Survivor: Philippines, in which she has demonstrated hard work around camp, a surprising proficiency for puzzle challenges, plus all the backstabbing and social skills necessarily to go deep into the game. (She made the final six without a single vote cast against her.)
But then, when asked about the breakup of her 24-year marriage to Steve Cauble, Whelchel gets quiet. “Of course I still believe in marriage,” she says. “I never thought divorce would happen to me. But Steve is still my best friend. We just couldn’t be married.”