"Survivor: Philippines" winner is Denise Staley
Denise Stapley, the winner of CBS' "Survivor: Philippines" walks the red carpet at CBS Televison City on Dec. 16, 2012, in Los Angeles. / Frederick M. Brown
Iowa sex therapist Denise Staley emerged Sunday as the winner of "Survivor: Philippines."
She beat out "Survivor" veteran Michael Skupin and former child star Lisa Whelchel to claim the $1 million prize in a two-hour finale, delayed in some areas of the country for an hour by a longer-than-expected football game and coverage of President Obama's remarks at a memorial service for victims of Friday's school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
"Survivor: Philippines" finale
Host Jeff Probst opened the one-hour reunion show that followed the finale with a moment of silence for the shooting victims.
A strong and feisty player, Staley called the prize "life-changing."
"In Iowa, " she told Probst, waving the check he had just given her, "you can do a lot with this."
Staley had the distinction of playing on all three tribes and attending -- and surviving -- every one of the season's tribal councils. She was voted the game's winner by a jury consisting of the last eight castaways voted out of the game.
Whelchel,who played Blair Warmer in the 1980s sitcom "Facts of Life," won Sprint"s $100,000 Player of the Season award, chosen by online fan voting. Whelchel managed to fly under the radar, with only two of her fellow cast members aware of her career. One of them told the other members of the jury about it just before the final vote.
Whelchel narrowly edged out California bartender Malcolm Freberg for that fan honor. A "Survivor" fan since he was 12 years old, Freberg dominated in the challenges and was strong in strategizing. He made it into the final four and was voted out of the game in the last tribal council Sunday night.
Skupin, the third finalist, was pulled from season two's "Survivor: The Outback" after he fell into the campfire and was badly burned. He was one of three castaways this season who had been medically evacuated from previous season's games. The other two were Jonathan Penner and Russell Swan.
The other secret celebrity in this season's game was World Series MVP Jeff Kent. Like Whelchel, he managed to keep most of his fellow castaways in the dark about his former fame.
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