When CBS premieres its 25th season of Survivor: Philippines next month, three former contestants will be making a second appearance -- along with one other familiar face: Facts of Life star Lisa Whelchel.
"I've watched every episode! Any episode I missed was only because TiVo missed it, then I went online to research what happened," self-proclaimed Survivor superfan Whelchel -- who played spoiled preppy Blair Warner on the 80s sitcom -- told Us Weekly during a chat on-location days before the game began.
Earning her spot on the series thanks to a viral video campaign where fans helped circulate her audition tape via Twitter, Whelchel, now 49, says she's more than ready to outwit, outplay and outlast her 17 competitors this fall in an effort to pocket Survivor's $1 million prize. "Last summer I went voluntarily on a vision quest [spiritual journey] for 10 days with just a backpack, water, and a tarp. I love this kind of thing!"
As she competes for Survivor's $1 million prize, Whelchel tells Us there's a good chance her former costars Nancy McKeon ("Jo"), Charlotte Rae ("Mrs. Edna Garrett"), Kim Fields ("Tootie") and Mindy Cohn ("Natalie"), will be rooting her on from their living rooms. "I'm kind of like the mama so I know where everybody is, what they're doing and I stay in contact," says Whelchel, who married and had three children, now grown, since Facts of Life wrapped in 1988.
She may even have a celebrity fan in former Facts of Life costar George Clooney, who appeared in a recurring role as George Burnett. "He was more like a big brother back then; it was great to have some testosterone on the set and he was really fun to be around," Whelchel says of Clooney, with whom she once had a kissing scene.
Now focused on the game, Whelchel thinks her odds at taking home the top prize aren't too bad. "I'm not one of those that say, 'Yeah, I'm going to win,' because there's so many things that could happen. But I think I could!"
Competing with Whelchel this season on Survivor: Philippines are: Sarah Dawson, Katie Hanson, Jeff Kent, Dana Lambert, Carter Williams, Abi-Maria Gomes, Roberta "RC" Saint-Amour, Artis Silvester, Peter "Pete" Yurkowski, Malcolm Freberg, Zane Knight, Angie Layton, Roxanne "Roxy" Morris and Denise Stapley. Three former contestants who were medically evacuated during their seasons will also join the newbies to take part in this season's competition, and will be revealed by CBS at a later date.
Survivor: Philippines premiers Sept. 19 at 8 p.m. (EST) on CBS.