Survivor Winners at War: How Danni Boatwright can win a second time

Photo: Timothy Kuratek/CBS Entertainment ©2019 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: Timothy Kuratek/CBS Entertainment ©2019 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved. /

Danni Boatwright outsmarted everyone (including producers) when winning Survivor: Guatemala. Can she do it again when playing Winners at War?

One of the great injustices concerning old school Survivor seasons is that, for the longest time, there were no players who first competed in Guatemala that have returned to the game in a future season. Danni Boatwright is righting a perennial wrong more than a decade waiting for a correction, as the stealth bomber is the perfect type of player to play Winners at War.

The stealth bomber moniker is one Danni gave herself, and it’s a fair assessment of her Survivor: Guatemala play. Her under-the-radar style of play extended to beyond just the players, as she would purposefully be discreet or outright indecisive when talking to producers in confessionals as to protect her game. She played against producers accidentally (or purposefully) bleeding her hand by asking others leading questions.

Much like Chris Daugherty before her, Danni’s original win came against all odds, especially as she swapped Nakum tribe formed an all-encompassing alliance at the merge with a 6-4 lead. Three of the first post-merge votes saw Danni’s Yaxha allies eliminated, and it took strategic allegiances made by Danni thanks to her impeccable social game for her to see the six opposing players from the swapped Nakum tribe fall one by one.

The players she chose to align with include Stephenie LaGrossa, one of two heroes from Survivor: Palau that served as captains. Danni knew how competitive Steph was, how resented she was by those she betrayed in getting to the end, and knew that Stephanie would have to burn bridges first if she were to make it to the Final Tribal Council. Danni also two individual immunities, including the Final Immunity Challenge, and received every juror’s vote but Rafe, winning 6-1.

Danni Boatwright’s Survivor: Guatemala win might be the most underedited and least understood when it comes to the fandom at large outside of a Natalie White win. She has the rare distinction of stealth bombing her way to the end by pitting a major alliance against one another when they had nobody but her to target safely, and she adhered to the egos of the returning players.

Must Read. Survivor: Ranking the best Survivor seasons ever. light

All of this pits her to be one of my favorites heading into Winners at War, as Danni is the kind of old-school winner that had the potential mentality of an advantage seeker. She had but the first example of a Hidden Immunity Idol back in Guatemala, and as she notes in her ET Canada preseason interview, it was just her and Gary Hawkins Hogeboom out there searching for it.

We have her on record having self-awareness that back then, the game required simple loyalty and maybe a small immunity run to secure an old-school victory, as Danni knows she’ll need to play into advantages, idols, and players’ egos. Danni was so adamant in winning her original game at the expense of screentime, so her idea to plant seeds into the minds of more prolific players could track.

Despite returning to the game at 43, she finds herself as one of the more athletic players in the game (per her CBS bio) and one who is battle-tested against the toughest of elements. People forget just how tough the conditions were back then, considering the ~115°heat, unending mosquitos, and rampant crocodile threat. She might be the best prepared even if voted out and has to live on the Edge of Extinction; it’s a step up from last time, even without fire tokens!

If Danni is to win Survivor: Winners at War, I feel like she’ll have to start out playing up how loyal she is to whatever faction needs her most. Being isolated from most old-school players in terms of seeing others’ games firsthand means she can play up her status as a free agent, letting her stretch her legs and form tight bonds heading into the merge.

Once she’s at the merge and the first Edge of Extinction player shenanigans are dealt with, that’s where Danni will likely need to make her push towards contention. Directing a vote here or there, switching sides, playing the middle; these are all things she’s done but now has more caché with the power of advantages and idols.

Next. Survivor winners: Ranking the best Sole Survivors by season. dark

Danni’s not quite the middle-ground player that’s primed to win an all-star season like Survivor: Winners at War, but she does have more than plenty of upside to win. The modern game requires a flashier style, even with so many legendary players; all it takes is one little notch higher and at the right time to make it work.