Danny McCray shares lots of unseen secrets from Survivor 41
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Despite having played football for the Evil Empire known as the Dallas Cowboys, Danny McCray proved himself to be a pretty likable dude on Survivor 41. He comforted Heather when she was distraught after blowing it in a reward challenge. He never made it personal or messy when he targeted or voted people out. And he refused to campaign against his island BFF Deshawn when it was clear one of them would be sent to the jury.
But you can't let likable people with million-dollar smiles get to the end of this game, which explains why Danny was voted out in sixth place on the season's penultimate episode. Now, the morning after his televised ouster, Danny talks about his bromance with Deshawn, that damn hourglass twist, and what we didn't see on our TV screens.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First question: How bad are the Dallas Cowboys going to get trounced by my Washington Football Team this Sunday?
DANNY McCRAY: It's not happening. This is where we get back on track and we start rolling through for the playoffs. And so, sorry to upset you, but it will be "Go Cowboys" on Sunday.
Well, I will point out that the Washington Football Team is undefeated against the Dallas Cowboys. I mean, it's only been two games and your quarterbacks were Andy Dalton and some dude named DiNucci, but we'll take it. Okay, so what's harder: NFL training camp or Survivor?
I would say Survivor because you don't have all the things that you need to survive in training camp. The goal is to keep you as healthy as possible so you can perform at your best, and the goal of Survivor is to strip you of everything you have and see how you perform when you don't have as much stuff as you usually have.
You overlapped on the Cowboys with Alan Ball from season 35 of Survivor. Have you talked shop with him at all?
I spoke with Alan before I even thought about sending in an audition tape and he told me what he liked and what he didn't like, but I haven't talked to him since. So I'll be sure to give him a call to let him know I went a little further than he did.
Of course! You have to rub it in. Look, couldn't you just have just said, "Go Bears" when you got voted out? And with that camera angle, it looked like you were looking right at me when you said it. I felt disrespected.
It didn't show it, but I was pointing at Xander because I had told him a little bit more about myself just to try to gain his trust before he decided that he was going to not vote with me. So it was more letting him know that that's the team that I played for. So it didn't look like it, but I was really pointing at Xander, letting them know that I played for the Cowboys.
Interesting. I assumed that was to Deshawn.
No, Deshawn already knew. It was more letting my guy Xander in and letting him know I wasn't upset with him and we can continue to talk after it was over with.
You and Deshawn were super tight, but he appeared to make a bunch of other really close bonds with people like Heather and Erika. Was that a problem with your game in terms of not making more social connections? Because we didn't see as much of that with you.
Yeah, I thought that was very interesting to watch because if you listen to a lot of people's exit interviews and you see how I interacted with people, you would see that I actually had a lot of close relationships. Now, me, Heather, and Erika weren't really that close. We were on Luvu for a while so we kind of butted heads because I was on the side of Sydney. But I made a lot of close relationships out there — Tiff, Evvie, Xander, of course, Shan, and Liana. I haven't seen anybody who said anything opposite of that. So it was very interesting to see that that wasn't shown, and it was assumed that all of a sudden these people just loved me as a person.
How did you and Deshawn come to the understanding that you were going to vote for each other in that situation?
Yeah, that's the interesting thing about me and Deshawn's relationship. And at the end of it, we still understood that it was Survivor and Deshawn was one of those players where temptation could kind of get him, so I think he just wanted to make sure that he wasn't tempted to stab his guy in the back. So we just agreed to go ahead and make it that way so nobody was tempted to go put another name down to save themselves.
We saw Shan and Ricard were really tight, but they always kind of said, "Look, we're going to have to take a shot at each other at some point." What was the dynamic with you and Deshawn? Were you guys really planning to go all the way to the end together, or were you thinking, "Hey, at some point I might have to take this guy out"?
I didn't think that just because I was able to step back from the game and see how many people were upset with who, and who didn't like who, how many people stabbed each other in the back. So if you look at the jury and you see how many people disliked Deshawn and you see how many people did not have that relationship with me, I thought it would have been just fine for me to go with Deshawn and be able to explain my case.
Everything depends on whom you're sitting next to, but how do you generally think you do with votes if you get to the final three?
I actually think I do okay. It depends on who's sitting there. I think the only person that would have really run away with it if I was in there was Ricard. He was playing an incredible game and I've been trying to get him for the last two votes and he's been able to get away from it. So he's playing excellent. But other than that, Xander's been on the ropes fighting an invisible opponent, so we've had him kind of sitting back, not being able to do much. Heather and Erika are just now starting to show what they're able to do. So I think I had a good case for being able to explain my way to a win.
I think a lot of people are watching and they're like, "How is nobody making a move on Xander with that idol of his?" Why weren't you guys making a move on him? I realize there were a lot of threats out there, but why weren't you all trying harder to get Xander out?
If you watch the jury and you hear what people say about him, a lot of people did not respect the game that he was playing. A lot of people thought that when he stepped out of the challenges that it was for show and it wasn't because he really cared. So as the game goes on, you're like, "This guy is not an issue. Why are we worried about the idol? A lot of people want to go sit at the end with Xander so they can explain how they played a better game than he did." So it just became a non-issue, which is why I went to him and [said], "Hey, we need to vote out Heather." We never thought about voting Xander at this last Tribal Council because he's a good guy to take to the end and he can also help us beat Ricard. So it would have worked out for us two times.
What about the move to take out Shan? When you look back on that now, was that a mistake? Because you see in the edit, she says, "Deshawn's really worrying me, but I still want to stick with the four to get to the four." And then after she goes, it's like dominoes falling from that alliance. Do you think that was the right call or not?
So just to clear that up, I think a lot of people are asking why we ended up voting out Shan. And it seemed like we were going to stab her in the back before she caught wind of it, and that's absolutely not true. What they didn't show was as me, Deshawn, and Liana were having that conversation, I stopped and I say, "Hey, Liana, Deshawn, I'm going to tell Shan that it's time to vote out Ricard. And we're going to see if she's able to say yes, and then if she's not, then we'll find a way to move forward."
I then sit Shan down for 45 minutes and I say, "Hey, this is what we need to do." She agrees. So when she talks to Liana, she already knows that we're voting on Ricard. So when she goes back to tell Ricard, that is what upset me, because it's like, "I put my trust in you. You said you trusted me and then you stabbed me in the back." So it was obvious that at that point she was not going to be a vote for us. She was going to always side with Ricard, which would have still been dangerous and put us in that same position. She would have had no trust from Deshawn — and her, Liana, and Ricard would have probably been able to make some type of moves to get us out.
Wow, that is fascinating how that info changes the dynamic of that vote. Okay, so how much did it hurt to watch the episode last night and see how close you were standing to that immunity idol or advantage or whatever it was in that hidden package?
I'm just making myself feel a little better and saying that that was just a little trick from the cameras and that it was an illusion and it wasn't really there. I walked around that island almost every day to look for an idol. And I looked in that same place, 'cause it was very obvious that something could be hidden there. I looked in that same place so many times and didn't see anything. So maybe just that one time I was kind of brushing over it and didn't look as hard as I needed to. But that was very, very unfortunate. I was hoping it was an extra vote that would have saved us.
And you probably never knew how close you were till you watched last night.
I had no idea. The way that the game was being played, people were looking for idols once people got voted out and we never found them. We had all assumed to some extent that there weren't any more idols being put out, that the game was just three idols and this is all that you guys get.
So we saw you voice your displeasure with the hourglass twist on the air, but apparently, you talked more about it with Jeff Probst at Tribal Council. What did you say there and how did he respond?
We're competitors. A lot of us leave a lot of things at home to come out here and play this game. And we put a lot on the line and there's an essence to competition. You play to win so you can win something, right? That's the only reason that you would go out there to compete. And the fact that he was able to lie to us, to trick us and make us work as hard as we did just for it to be taken away from us, it just wasn't cool with me. And his response, you know, it was what it was. I won't really get into that, but it just didn't float with me. So I didn't like it.
I didn't like it either. I think a lot of people didn't like it. But they try new things on this show all the time and if it doesn't work, they'll get rid of it. So hopefully, we don't see it again, and hopefully, he listened to you.
I don't have big faith in that one. My reality TV days may just be over because that was a very, very tough situation for me to handle and process, that I was out there in a situation like that and allowed myself to be put in a game to where somebody could just look at me, tell that lie, and I just have to accept it.
Yeah, yet another reason why I would never go on reality TV. Okay, the thing I always say about Survivor is it is such an extreme setting and you're isolated and you're hungry and you're cold that it amplifies all your emotions. So with all that in mind, tell me about being out there on the 25th anniversary of your father's death?
So when you're on the island, you have no TV, no cell phone, no close family next to you. You can't go get a drink and hang out... nothing to distract you from your thoughts. So that was literally the first time where I had been in that situation. It's just silent. And it's May the 4th, so I can hear all of my castmates talking about "May the fourth be with you." And that's always how I know it's that day. So it was just one of those moments where I finally had to face what I've been feeling for pretty much my entire life. And it was very, very fulfilling at the end of it.
Were you surprised at how emotional you became after winning that immunity challenge?
Oh, absolutely. My family didn't even know how I felt about that whole situation at that time. I guess it was a release, right? Because you sit there and you wait for a sign your entire life, no matter what it is. You're like, somebody give me a sign to let me know that there's somebody up there in heaven hearing me. And I felt like that was the ultimate sign: The one day that I decided to let all of that anger go, it's the time when I win an immunity challenge. So it was just a great feeling.
You've already shed a lot of light on stuff we didn't see. What's something else that didn't make it to air that you wish we could have seen?
A couple of things. I caught a few fish, and they show a quick clip of the boat flipping over. So at that point, we lost all our fishing gear and all the fish that I ended up getting. It would have been funny to watch, but it brought me to tears when it actually happened.
And then as far as gameplay, what you didn't get to see was me actually playing the game and trying to try to make moves happen. And if you ever get a chance to speak to Ricard, I think he'll tell you that the Naseer vote out — when they use Heather to hype him up and all that stuff — that was a plan that I came up with that morning before we all got split.
I had known the dynamics between Naseer and Heather and how Naseer felt about Heather. And once I knew that he thought Heather wrote his name down, I was like, "Naseer is going to be blinded by his anger for Heather. And this is the time to take him out." We split, we come back and I'm like, "You guys put my plan into play. Congratulations for being able to do it." And I think you hear Ricard say, "Yeah, the reason we did is because everybody wanted Naseer out." Everybody was [me]!" I wanted Naseer out because he flipped on us. And he's the reason that Sydney went home, actually.
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