Danni Boatwright reveals her one weakness heading into Survivor: Winners at War

The Guatemala champ talks about returning 29 seasons later.

That's because while players may be worried about names like Sandra, Parvati, Sarah, Tyson, and Boston Rob — a social, strategic, and challenge threat like Danni could easily skate by unscathed and then pounce for the win when the time is right, much like she did in Guatemala. But so much has changed since then. The first (and only) hidden immunity idol was first introduced back in that season — and since been multiplied many times over along with advantages and other twists galore.

How will Danni adjust to the new gameplay, and what is her one weakness that could possibly bring the entire endeavor crashing down? We asked her out in Fiji before the game began.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Danni, it's been a long time, so start off by giving everyone the update as to what you've been doing and what you've been up to and what's changed?
DANNI BOATWRIGHT: Well, after I won, it wasn't that long afterwards I ended up getting married. I still was traveling around, I worked with ESPN doing a fantasy football show. I was up in Chicago working for Intersport, and then when I was pregnant with my first child that's when I was like okay, time to be at one place for a while.

You can hardly raise a tribe all over the country. So that's when I went back to Kansas City, made it our home. My husband played in the NFL, and so we ended up moving to Denver for a while, but then back to Kansas City and that's where our base is. I started my own company, which is a game day apparel line called Sideline Chic. We're licensed with several universities in our area and then we do Royals and Chiefs apparel as well and that's done really well.

It's been a while since we've seen you. I remember I kept asking "When are we going to see Danni Boatwright on this show again?"
You know, I actually was called a couple of times but I was just either pregnant or just had a kid so it just never could quite work out. But I also really wasn't too interested in playing unless it was a winners season. Of course, we don't know that information when they ask you if you're interested in playing. But I was kind of thinking that that might be happening at this point when they called. So, I took my chances and it looks like I might be right.

It's been a while since you last played. How have you changed as a person and how do you think that changes you as a player?
I don't think, really, I've changed as a person. Like, I'm still that same person. My values haven't changed. The only thing that's changed is becoming a wife and a mother, which I think really works great for helping prepare you for Survivor. Because just raising kids, it's a lot of work, a lot of dedication, and a lot of patience. I feel like I'm constantly hunting down hidden immunity idols because I'm trying to find a shoe or a sock or a uniform. So, I've had some practice there. Then, just in being married, marriage is a lot of work. It has great rewards, but it's definitely… you've got to work at it just like you do in the game of Survivor with your relationships you have.

Yeah, a lot of negotiation.
Lots of negotiation. I'm not very good at that, dang it.

Fiji is a far cry from where you were in Guatemala. You've got to be happy about that.
Oh, right, what were they thinking?!? What were they thinking going to Guatemala? It was awful! I was surrounded by some really great people though. We had a wonderful cast. Unfortunately, since tribes swapped I got to meet some other people and it was really great fun as far as that goes, but those conditions were just brutal. I mean, I lost 30 pounds. So, at 5'10" I came home 96 pounds. That's awful. Just diarrhea, we were sick from the lake water and we had to eat maggot-infested corn because maggots got into our corn and it was bad. Really bad.

You've seen nine of the people that you're going to playing with and you have your guesses in terms of who else might be out here. First of all, were you starstruck by anyone? Were you excited to see anyone out here?
I love Sandra, so it was fun to see her here, she's the queen. I mean, she won twice, and is not a threat in challenges and she's managed to pull this off twice, it's amazing. To me, I think of her and Richard as Survivor.

So does that mean you want to work with her or you want to get her out?
It just depends. People ask you what your strategy is going to be. You can't, you've got to see what cards are dealt to you first. I do know I cannot play the same way I did in Guatemala, just because the way the game's changed and just with the clever people that are here playing the game along with me. That's going to have to change. I think Sandra's somebody you could work with, but we know Sandra: She doesn't care. She could get rid of you in her life if she needs to. But I think she's going to need people because she's got a huge target on her back, everybody does here.

You were here 29 seasons ago. The game has changed a lot. Your season was the very first season with a hidden immunity idol, and it was just one; it was very different than the way it is now. With advantages and all these things happening, do you think there's a learning curve for you?
Absolutely, and fortunately I've gotten to watch it, so it's not like I'm coming in blind to the situations that are going to be thrown to me. But that's where a lot of them have an advantage, because some of them maybe have searched these very beaches for the idols. They know how it's done, they know how to do it. I may have to kind of follow them, watch where they go, where are they looking.

I love when people follow tribemates and the music gets all fast and they're chasing them and they're running around a bend. I love it. Please do that.
I will! I'm going to learn. But yeah, so that's changed a lot. Our season there was the one idol and I think only Gary and I went looking for it. Judd told him to look low, so Gary, of course, is smart enough to know to look high — or it was the opposite, I don't remember. But now it's just changed as far as that goes, and so many twists and turns and voting blocs, and all of that's changed. But at least I'm up to date because I've watched it. I just haven't played with it like that. But I'm going to try to work that to my advantage too — that maybe that's a target on other players back instead of my own.

How do you think other people see you? You have your impressions of them, right? What do you think their impression of you is?
I would think this group coming in probably thinks I'm not as much of a threat. Which is great because my season it was about Stephenie, and it was a little bit about Bobby Jon, they showed so much of her that it took it off of me, which is great. Because people have no idea — Brian from my season said, "You were sneaky. You were really sneaky." I was like, yeah, I was in charge of my alliance and then when we merged the numbers were stacked against us, the men were thought of as the threat so they were getting voted off first. I had time to break an alliance, which I did. It was like an unshakable alliance, those two, and I broke it — with Stephenie and Rafe from their tribe. So I think they're just going to think that I'm just really kind of maybe an underrated player.

The underrated players are the dangerous ones though.
Yeah, and that's the thing too where they may not know my game so much so [they] might be a little concerned.

What's your biggest weakness? I mean you're a pretty well-rounded player, but do you have a weakness?
Puzzles. I can be the first to the puzzle, and since I knew I was coming on, I've been doing puzzles. Like, my eight-year-old beats me at puzzles. So I don't know how much I've improved. It's just because I've never had a passion for them. I'm so ADD and I'm just always on the go, I never sit down to figure those things out, so I've never had any interest in them. Since I knew I was coming back on, I've been working, working, working on them, so we'll see if maybe I have improved in that area.

Well, there's only so much you can do. I spoke to David Wright when he came back for the Edge of Extinction season and I don't think anyone did more puzzle prep ever than that guy. But it didn't translate once he got out here.
Yeah, it's just if your mind works that way or it doesn't work that way. It's just one or the other, but I've doing Rubik's Cubes, I've been doing these color slide puzzles, picture slide puzzles, word puzzles, Sudoku, everything I can possibly do in the amount of the time. I'm a busy mom.

Right, you've got that going on too.
I'm at the ballpark literally doing stuff. People try to come and talk to me, I'm like "Not now!"

What's your mindset heading into the game compared to last time in terms of nerves or anticipation?
I'm excited, but I don't want to say I'm nervous. At least I kind of know what to expect after playing the game before. I was terrified going into Guatemala, especially when I got off the plane and heard the howler monkeys. I was like, "Whoa, what is this?" I was really nervous, and I was almost a little bit quiet too with some of my interviews because I just was cautious of everything. I didn't feel like I could really let myself and my personality shine through on screen, like I think I'm willing to do now.

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