It has been a turbulent year for Lisa Whelchel. The "Facts of Life" alum returned to TV on "Survivor: Philippines" as a superfan. Going in, she felt pumped and focused; she even prepared for her stint by doing puzzles. A remarkably at-ease and levelheaded Lisa told Yahoo! TV before shooting had begun, "I love the game and was born to play it. I never wanted to do reality TV, but this doesn't feel like reality TV."
Unfortunately, the tides have dramatically turned for Lisa. In tonight's episode, her younger brother, Justice Coleman, visits her, and it's not going to be the expected happy reunion. In some startling comments to People magazine, Coleman said, "I wasn't prepared to see her at that level of desperation. It was immediately obvious she had hit rock bottom. I wasn't expecting her to be at the end of her rope. I almost didn't recognize her. She looked absolutely ragged: physically and emotionally torn up. I was imagining a big smile on her face, since she was so deep into the game and doing so well, but she started crying so hard. I was legitimately concerned for her."
But it's not Lisa's first meltdown on the show. In the Sept. 26 episode, Lisa was seen crying alone. She admitted to feeling like an outcast. "I don't feel like I'm fitting in. I'm already on the outside and don't really have anyone that I can trust or talk to," she said.
Sadly, Lisa's struggles this year go well beyond the challenges of reality competition. In September, it was revealed that Lisa and her husband of 24 years, Pastor Steven Cauble, had divorced; it was finalized March 1. Lisa, a devout Christian and Christian author, has spoken openly about the ties between her marriage and her faith. She and Cauble met in 1986 at a prayer group. They have three children together.
The list of struggles continued Nov. 13, when Lisa announced via Twitter that she's battling West Nile virus, which is spread by mosquitoes and causes body aches and fatigue. She tweeted:
"Dr. just called with blood test results … I have West Nile. Ugh. I'm fine, just tired. Takes a year to recover."
So far, no link has been made between her "Survivor" experience and her acquiring the virus.
Hopefully, Lisa is trying to stay positive; her brother is. Despite their difficult reunion, Coleman said that he's proud of his sister for making it so far in the competition: She was in the final six. "My sister has always been my role model growing up," he said to People. "In fact, she still is."
To see Lisa Whelchel's reunion with her brother, tune in to "Survivor: Philippines" on Wednesday, Dec. 5, at 8pm ET on CBS.
Watch a preview of the episode: