Against many odds, Lisa Whelchel made it to the final four on "Survivor Philippines," with a very good chance at sitting before the jury in the final tribal council.
She could very well win it all -- a big turnaround from her early days in the game, when she was picked on and targeted by her fellow Tandang tribe mates. Whelchel often seemed to be at everyone else's whim, whether it was staying loyal to Tandang or joining Malcolm and Denise's alliance.
But this is no dramatic transformation for Whelchel -- she planned to play this strategic, cold-blooded way from the beginning. Sure, she took a detour and shed a few tears along the way, but now the former "Facts of Life" star is doing what she first set out to do.
Before she even left for the Philippines, Whelchel worked with a sports psychologist. "That was really, really helpful to prepare mentally for the game," she told Yahoo! TV just before filming began.
Then, came physical training. "I've always worked out, but I started working out every day," she noted. Along with standard workouts, she found an army diver to hone her ocean-swimming techniques.
When she and the rest of the cast reached the Philippines, they weren't allowed to talk to each other before the game officially started. So, Whelchel engaged in some mind games, like wearing a triathlon T-shirt she bought on eBay.
"I've never competed in a triathlon -- there's no way I could," she explained to us, "but if they want to think I'm strong enough to compete in a triathlon, just to give me a little bit of a leg up the first few days, that is just fine with me."
She also decided not to tell anyone about her past, unless they asked her. "I don't think [being a celebrity] will help me, I hope it doesn't hurt me, but it could," she said pre-season.
It turned out that only Michael Skupin, Jonathan Penner, and Denise Stapley recognized her (Stapley has yet to acknowledge it on air). If either Skupin or Stapley reach the final, will they use that info against Whelchel to influence the jury?
Or will Whelchel's pre-season scheming and planning pay off and net her that $1 million and more importantly, the title of Sole Survivor?
The finale of "Survivor: Philippines" airs Sunday, 12/16 at 8 PM on CBS.