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N.C. 'Survivor' outlasted rain - but not an unanticipated ruse

It's tough to say whether Jane Bright's Carolina roots were a blessing during her time on "Survivor" - or a curse.

"In the beginning, I think it was a big disadvantage," Bright recalled in her strong Southern drawl during a phone interview Thursday, "because the minute I opened my mouth up and started talking, I got the reaction, 'OK, she's a redneck hillbilly.'"

But the 57-year-old dog trainer - who lives in Jackson Springs, near Pinehurst - forged a strong partnership with another North Carolinian on the show, and together they outlasted 14 other contestants.

In the end? He turned on her.

More than 12 million viewers nationwide were watching CBS on Wednesday night when Bright was eliminated in this season's penultimate episode, by a 5-1 vote. The show, filmed in Nicaragua over 39 days this past summer, offers a $1 million prize to the winner.

Bright was among three contestants this season who had strong N.C. ties.

Kelly Bruno, 26, who was the sixth person voted off this fall, is a Duke graduate and attends med school at UNC Chapel Hill. But it was 24-year-old Chase Rice, a former Charlotte resident and Hendrick Motorsports pit crew member, who developed a close relationship with Bright; on Wednesday, he reluctantly voted her out and is now among the remaining five contestants.

The "Survivor" season finale airs live on Sunday night.

The wiry Bright showed her mettle early and often, starting a fire for her tribe using a pair of glasses on Day One and outlasting fit men half her age in endurance challenges, including one that required players to lean back while holding onto a rope ... until they couldn't hold on any longer.

But she also had a sneaky side - she cooked and ate fish and eggs behind others' backs multiple times (sometimes with Rice) - and a temper, which flared up on Wednesday's episode. After learning that Rice and two others she thought were on her side were planning her ouster, she angrily extinguished the group's campfire and lashed out at the ex-UNC football player: "If I was Chase, I wouldn't show my (expletive) back in North Carolina."

That bit of tape was recorded months ago, but the anger doesn't seem to have subsided.

"The only regret I have is putting as much trust and faith in Chase as I did, thinking he's a Southern boy and he's gonna be true to his word," the Gaffney, S.C., native said Thursday. "Most Southern men are pretty honest and forthright. That's not Chase."

She said the toughest things about the experience were "enduring the rain and sleeping on bamboo," and "getting along with everybody."

The easiest thing? Losing weight. She dropped 24 pounds over the course of her 36-day run.

"I don't really wanna gain it back," said Bright, who celebrated her 57th birthday on Monday. "I look good in my little booty jeans."

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