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Tampa's Monica Culpepper loses 'Survivor' vote

Not unlike the Bucs, Tampa's Monica Culpepper made it to Survivor's red zone, but victory was elusive.

Tyson Apostol, a fan favorite from seasons past, on Sunday night won Survivor: Blood vs. Water, a twist on the game that paired veteran players with loved ones, including ex-Tampa Bay Buccaneer Brad Culpepper playing with his wife, Monica, who made it to the Final 3 of the game.

Apostol, a professional bicyclist, receives $1 million with his victory on the CBS television program. Monica Culpepper received one vote from the jury.

As jurors questioned the finalists before the vote, Culpepper became emotional several times, at one point asking why she faced such tough questions: "Have you all never met a nice person who isn't selfish? Have you all never met a neat lady?"

With questions about Brad Culpepper's outsized personality overshadowing her, she said firmly, "I made him."

In her biography on Survivor's website, she talked of giving up medical school to be a wife of her NFL star husband and a mother. But now, she wrote, "It is my time to 'step out' and see what grit I am made of."

She certainly flexed her very toned muscles, winning three immunity challenges and once sacrificing a feast of hamburgers and hotdogs that she had won to let the rest of the tribe eat. And as the game came to a close, she was repeatedly the swing vote needed to secure an alliance.

Playing the game was hard on the 43-year-old's body. After losing 20 percent of her body weight living on coconuts and chalky, hard bananas that she roasted on sticks like hot dogs, she said later that she found it difficult to adjust to eating again "because so much of what we eat is processed."

The Culpeppers both sported Plant High School ball caps on the program as a show of a support to the South Tampa school where their son plays football.

Brad, a Tampa lawyer, joined Monica in the show's first try at pairing veteran Survivor players with loved ones, which turned typical strategy on its head and earned praise from critics for reinvigorating the franchise.

Ratings have been solid and Survivor has been renewed through Season 30. Producers have said they will likely stage a loved-ones season again.

Brad Culpepper drew a lot of heat in the beginning of the season for his all-male alliance and was blamed for the ouster of his tribemates, which he said later he worried could cause trouble for his wife on her tribe.

He was the fifth person eliminated from the game.

Monica Culpepper was blindsided in her first outing in Survivor and as a result had been extremely cautious this season. Paranoid is more like it, some of her tribemates charged.

"I bet everyone sitting behind me wishes they were a bit more cautious," she said in an email last week with the Tampa Bay Times. "It's working for me. I'm still in it."

As the players headed into Sunday's finale, there were four players left in the game and three more at Redemption Island, only one of whom could make it back into the game.

Culpepper, Apostol and Gervase Peterson maintained a tight alliance, which put Culpepper in a "perfect pole position again" as the swing vote, she said, to choose with whom she wanted to sit in the Final 3.

Only one other Tampa Bay Survivor contestant has gone this far. In 2002, Lutz schoolteacher Jan Gentry made it to third place on Survivor: Thailand.

Tampa's Monica Culpepper loses 'Survivor' vote 12/15/13 [Last modified: Monday, December 16, 2013 10:25am]

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