30 from 30: #19 – Danni Boatwright Buys an Advantage at the Survivor Auction

The Moment:

The show introduces some strategy to the Survivor auction in the form of an advantage, and Danni Boatwright uses it to propel herself to victory.

We’re counting down the 30 Moments That Shaped Survivor, events that happened on the show that helped create and evolve the game and the series that we know and love. Go here to view the criteria we are using to determine what qualifies for the list. And since these posts are covering the first thirty seasons of Survivor, there will be spoilers for various Survivor seasons.

Why it Matters:

Danni Boatwright was just treading water. Nu-Nakúm was in the process of Pagonging her Nu-Yaxhá tribe (with a brief interlude to blindside crazy Jamie). The former beauty queen/model/sports radio host/Gary Hogeboom biographer was the last one left, hoping to stay afloat, but unlikely to do so in the three days she had to work with.

You could say that she was trying to keep her boat, right. ... I'l show myself out.
You could say that she was trying to keep her boat, right.

I’ll show myself out.

Sure, she was saying the right things like “this alliance is going to have turn on each other sometime”, but that time is typically after the person saying that is voted out (especially when they’re saying it when the remaining player total is even). But the game was about to throw her a life preserver. (Sorry. Last one, I promise).

At the Survivor auction, after she’d already purchased beef jerky for $20 and split a “Philly cheesesteak” (put in scare quotes on purpose) with Rafe, Jeff announced that the next item would be an advantage in the upcoming challenge. For the first time ever. This was just the break Danni needed. But remember, she’s already bought two food items. So if the rest of the players out there were thinking, she shouldn’t have had enough money to buy it (she is still eating her previously-bought food while bidding).

Most successful auction performance of all-time.
She is locked. In.

Fortunately for Danni, the other players were more concerned with other things, not knowing exactly what an “advantage” would entail. Stephenie bowed out at $180, and Danni Boatwright, underdog, bought herself a new life in the game for $200 (she still had money left over to bid after this). On the one hand, it’s forgivable. This was a completely unprecedented experience. They weren’t prepared for an auction to be about anything more than food or love letters. On the other hand, why would they let the only person not in their alliance have an advantage? Especially since you could all outbid her (sharing money was still allowed then).

The challenge was one of the classic ones where the players are human board game pieces, flipping over tiles when they step on a new one (Rudy won it in the first season). When there are no new pieces to flip, you’re out. Danni’s advantage? She gets to switch positions with any player at any point in the game. So, basically, unless she’s a total moron, there should be no way to lose this (particularly, again, since the other five players don’t work against her). She is not a total moron, and switches with Stephenie when it’s clear that Steph has an insurmountable lead (somewhat interestingly, the edit suggests this decision comes after Probst remarks on Steph’s good fortune), and Danni wins a timely immunity.

Theory: Steph built up her lead because none of her tribemates dared get in her way. Which is a metaphor for the season.
Theory: Steph built up her lead because none of her tribemates dared get in her way. Which is a metaphor for the entire season.

Sometimes in Survivor, you just need to win the right immunity. The tides can turn quickly, particularly when an alliance gets a taste for settling personal business. So Danni’s immunity allows her to join strategy conversations without seeming desperate, and point suspicions at Judd while building her relationship with Rafe. Then the Nu-Nakúms get pissy when Cindy doesn’t give them cars. Then their season-long annoyance with Lydia comes to a head, and Rafe’s loyalty to Danni is unbreakable. Now it’s the final three, Danni wins one immunity and suddenly she’s in front of a jury with no scores to settle and you can tell Jeff to cut the cheque (that’s right, with a q, bitches).

So the first time Survivor offers an advantage for purchase during the auction, its winner leverages it into the title of Sole Survivor. A little more impactful than the first time they threw an immunity idol into the game (for those keeping score, that was six days previous).

survivor-guatemala-danniwinsimmunity
Turning $200 of free money into a cool million? That’ll do.

The Impact:

For years, the Survivor auction was a simple little diversion from the game. A fun little segment of bidding, Monte Hall-style antics, contestants good-naturedly salivating over meager foodstuffs, an easy way to get some calories into starving competitors late into the season, maybe a little food porn mixed in for good measure.

Or, depending on your kinks, porn porn.
Or, depending on your kink, porn porn.

In this version, the way to “win” the Survivor Auction was to either get the best food or to hold out for something from your loved ones (typically a letter, although in Guatemala, it ended up being the actual loved ones visit). I’m guessing the loved one “something” is what Judd was holding out for. Maybe Stephenie as well (although she did bid on items without winning). It’s probably how Danni got her advantage for such a steal of a price. At that point, the auction was an easy way to get a little something for yourself in the game. And then things changed.

Welcome back old friend!
Welcome back old friend!

With that addition, strategy entered the auction beyond whether or not you should switch the item you won with what’s behind door #2. For those who enjoy strategy, this was a welcome way to spice up what was otherwise a fluffy segment. For those who feel that strategy has infected every single moment of the modern game at the expense of character-building and levity, it may have signalled the end of the fun.

Interestingly, it took awhile before people realized how powerful an agent for change this advantage was, even though the first person to get it won the whole fucking deal (to be fair to future contestants, they can be forgiven for forgetting the events of Guatemala, since the show itself seems to want us to do so). For a few cycles, it seems like the only person holding out for an advantage (or its successor, the immunity idol clue) was the underdog who needed it most (Corinne, Troyzan, Abi-Maria, Malcolm). Which speaks to how freaking hungry these people are. Hard to pass up food when you feel like you don’t really need an advantage to keep going, forgetting that if the only underdog gets the advantage, then one of you really needed it- unless you’re up against Corinne, who loses despite getting an advantage.

Or if Andrea won't let you find the idol.
Or if Andrea won’t let you find the idol.

In recent years, auction-as-strategy has been taken to its extreme. In Cagayan, three players refused to bid on anything (well, almost anything, as Tasha forgot for a moment), keeping prices for food low and turning the whole segment into a waiting game, then a random drawing for rocks (White fucking rocks! You’re killing me Survivor). They tried to mix things up by tempting the three people waiting it out for an advantage with loved ones letters in Worlds Apart, which ended up being a major turning point in the game (leading to a lot of the ugliest drama that dragged that season down). But in the end, it still came down to a rock draw for the advantage.

And that, I think, shows that we’ve stretched this auction advantage thing about as far as it will go. The trappings of the auction have been largely been rendered meaningless (although there’s now an argument to be made that if the advantage has become a matter of random chance, then you might as well load up on cheap food unless it’s your only way to remain in the game). Something needs to be done. Maybe get the advantage out of the way early. Maybe have more than one. Maybe you just don’t have one. The auction can still be a fun way to get some food into these people right around the time they’re too lethargic to do much else. But the advantage is now sucking all the fun out of it. Who knew too much strategy could be a bad thing?

Quite a legacy, even if Survivor would have you believe nothing of import happened this season.

What Else Made the List?

You can view all our 30 from 30 content by clicking here.

Andy
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Andy

Co-host of the Purple Rock Survivor Podcast and the Canadian of the group, Andy has been watching Survivor continuously since the very beginning and likes to treat that as some kind of virtue to lord over others.

Favourite seasons: Heroes vs Villains, Cook Islands, Palau, The Amazon, Cagayan
Favourite players: Boston Rob, Kim Spradlin, Tony Vlachos, Cirie Fields, Yul Kwon, Rob Cesternino
Andy
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  • Barbara Anderson

    Once again, I hate being this person but Cindy was the victim of the car curse this season, not Christy.

    • andythesaint

      Fixed. I blame the editor.

      Thanks.

      • Barbara Anderson

        Other than that small error, this is a really interesting article.

  • Godot123

    Poor Guatemala. You were an entertaining season, but the show decided that you will never be spoken up again.

    • Other Scott

      I think the problem with Guatamala comes down to its lack of uniqueness. Yes, the underdog took out the dominant alliance, but that’s been done in much more interesting fashion. It also doesn’t have particularly unique characters, they’re all very good and there’s no duds at all in the final 13 or so, which is very rare, but there’s usually a better version of the same archtype of character.

      Except for Judd, and that’s why when people think of Guatamala they think of “hope you get bit by a freakin crocodile. Scumbags!”

      • Purplerockmatt

        Seriously how has Judd not returned? Judd is the most entertaining blowhard the show has ever cast

        • andythesaint

          I think the problem is that they felt like the had 5 better male villains in S20. They did, but not the 5 they went with (how does Randy beat out Shane?).

          • Purplerockmatt

            And I guess it is tough to characterize Judd as a “favorite” though it would have been hilarious to see him versus Ogre

          • andythesaint

            And you can’t really take him over Brandon Hantz… waitasec.

          • Purplerockmatt

            how was he not even considered for Second Chances? I mean he probably wouldn’t have been cast, but still

          • andythesaint

            Yeah, he wouldn’t have gotten the votes, but they wouldn’t have known that. He should’ve at least been on an early list.

          • sharculese

            Replace Russell Swan with Judd on Philippines on the grounds that he got booted because of his ADD.

          • andythesaint

            How could you say that about a guy you just met? You just meet him and say “you have EH DEE DEE?!?”

          • sharculese

            Shane getting cut instead of Randy has to be up there with the dumbest casting choices ever made, non-let’s put a crazy person out there division.

        • Barbara Anderson

          I hear that Probst HATES him to almost-Fairplay proportions. If Probst doesn’t like you, you are never coming back.

          • Purplerockmatt

            What about Colton? It was pretty damn clear that Probst hated Colton and opposed the decision to bring him back for BvW

          • Barbara Anderson

            Two (admittedly out-there) theories: 1.) Caleb was who the producers wanted, not Colton. But since it was a BvW season, Colton had to come. 2.) Probst knew that there would some people on the street that would come up and ask him “If Colton doesn’t leave, would he win One World?” After seeing how some of the medevacs did on Philippines, Production decides to let on Colton as an experiment. Colton quitting must have been a birthday present for Probst to let out his rage about him.

          • Purplerockmatt

            So yes the producers obviously really liked Caleb, but I think it was pretty clear from the whole Colton quit thing and subsequent interviews that while Probst has a ton of say in the show he is just one voice and he can get overruled (or perhaps will occasionally allow himself to be persuaded into something he doesnt want to do). Now that being said, I think it takes pretty much unanimous support from the other decision makers to overrule him, but it can be done

          • Barbara Anderson

            I also think that they needed a true villain on the cast (no offense, Tyson). With Colton, they have someone who is a lighting rod for negative attention due to his past appearance.

          • Purplerockmatt

            i think that is the argument that probably persuaded Probst

          • andythesaint

            Unless you do.

            (Fairplay. Colton).

          • Barbara Anderson

            I know my logic is flawed with those two. I have some theories about Colton down below. I was wondering if Probst had as much control in Micronesia as he does now?

          • andythesaint

            All that said, if it’s true that Probst hates Judd, then he’s probably never coming back. He’s nowhere near as memorable or polarizing as Fairplay or Colton (and is from the forgotten season of Survivor).

            Here’s my rankings for who should be brought back from Guatemala:
            1. Danni (because an All Winners season is a significant goal of mine)
            2. Judd
            3. Brian (not going to happen, but I’d like it. He could fill the “brainy fan” role whose pool has gotten a little shallow now that both Spencer and Stephen were brought back).
            4. Gary (probably the best former pro athlete they’ve had on the show – in the game I mean, not in their original sport)
            5. Rafe (used to have him ranked higher, but it’s meaningless – he’s not coming back. Too busy writing TV shows. He was asked for Micronesia)

            That’s it. Sounds like they may have inquired about Cindy for BvW, but that’s probably because she’s a twin (Cindy and Mindy!) so they thought that might be interesting. Plus, I’m guessing they cast a really wide net with that season.

          • Barbara Anderson

            I am right there with you about an All Winners season and Danni would be someone I want to see come back. This season would be a chance for her to prove that she is worthy of her title as Sole Survivor, although some other winners would target her early because of her social game.
            I would be interested in seeing Brandon come back. He was good in confessionals and the challenges. Admittedly, he wasn’t good with alliances, but it would be cool to see if he is able to play the game now.
            Mindy was actually on Rock of Love, so the Hall sisters are familiar with reality tv. I believe Jamie also has a twin.

          • andythesaint

            Ah, so Mindy is probably the reason they contacted Cindy, not the other way around.

            I’d also be okay with Amy if there were a returnee BvBvB season.

          • Barbara Anderson

            I actually wouldn’t mind Amy back at all. Amy was a tough lady
            who got screwed over because of the weird tribe swap/shuffle this season on top of her two ankle injuries.

          • DrVanNostrand

            Brandon was great!! At first, he seemed like a complete hayseed, but then you started to realize his confessionals were good, and he was actually a pretty savvy player. He’s like JT without the natural charm, looks, and Stephen (so not really like JT at all, but still pretty great).

          • Purple Rock Emma

            Cindy, Jamie, and Judd all have twins. It’s bizarre.

          • Barbara Anderson

            Jamie was also in the pool for BvW with his twin, but his twin (who, according to Survivor Historians is named Ramie) couldn’t do the interviews. Boy, the BvW list is long.

      • Kemper Boyd

        Do you think it suffers from coming right before the Cook Islands where we got the greatest underdog story of Survivor?

        • andythesaint

          Hard to say, since the show doesn’t exactly champion Yul either.

          • Kemper Boyd

            Maybe because Cook Islands was my first season I have a huge soft spot for the Aitu Four, I even like Ozzy in that season so I hype them in my mind.

          • andythesaint

            I LOVE Cook Islands and the Aitu 4. But, you know, only one of them has ever come back. And Yul isn’t in that somewhat-sanctioned Hall of Fame thing.

          • Kemper Boyd

            I mean Sundra and Becky were non-edited, I strongly doubt they were as boring as the edit suggested which essential ruled them out and I think Yul did what he needed to do and would never have come back even if it was offered.

          • andythesaint

            I’m pretty sure he has been asked, but he’s been too busy building his life and his career. Selfish bastard.

          • purplerockpodcast

            Last I read, Yul was in charge of developing privacy standards at Facebook. I think I read in an interview that he’d consider coming back at some point, though. He hasn’t completely distanced himself from the show.

          • Kemper Boyd

            I see him as someone who might do a winner’s season but maybe not much below that. If they could get a winner’s season I’d love it. Would Sanda win it all?

          • purplerockpodcast

            No, because there’s no way the egos of Survivor players would allow that to happen.

          • Kemper Boyd

            She’d end up being the first boot.

  • andythesaint

    In preparation for this post, I re-watched Guatemala from the auction to the finale. And I was struck by this thought:

    Guatemala = Redemption Island if Rob had lost.

    Wait, hear me out. I’m not saying that Guatemala is as bad as Redemption Island (simply not having redemption island is a huge advantage). But both are defined by the story and game dominance of one of its two returning players as the inexperienced, starstruck players around them fall all over themselves trying to be besties with the returnee. It might not seem like it, because Stephenie isn’t given the glowing edit that Rob as, so it may seem like she was disliked and a goat for Danni. But this isn’t the case. Most of that cast (save Bobby Jon and Gary Hawkins/Hogeboom, who had past experience with actual fame) WORSHIPPED Steph.

    They took her on every reward (save one time when Lydia decided that Steph had gotten to eat more than everyone, and was verbally attacked by Steph for the mere suggestion. Lydia made sure to make up for this transgression by handing her money to Steph at the auction). Brian (whom I really like) had a hilarious quote in the beginning of the season to the effect of “we have Stephanie on our side, so we can’t lose”, which seems to ignore her previous legacy. Rafe felt so bad for Steph’s failure to win the final challenge after giving it her patented “all” that he released Danni from her word that she’d take him to the finals. Danni mentions several times, during a final tribal council that she is trying to win, that Steph was the best competitor and player there. There was this:

    Now, had Stephanie won like Rob did, she would’ve been portrayed in a more positive light. AND the show would’ve focused on her even more than it did, becoming the victory lap that Redemption Island was for Rob. But because she didn’t, they were forced to better develop the other players on the show (but not too much, after all, this is the season that the series has deemed devoid of future talent). If Rob had lost RI, I’d expect that we would’ve gotten to know the other players better. The other tribe would’ve been treated as plucky underdogs from which a victor would arise. You can say that RI didn’t have a Danni, but that’s not exactly true. It probably had several potential Danni’s. Rob just didn’t let any of them get a sniff of the finals. He made sure the people sitting next to him in the Finals were equally culpable for the eliminations of the jury and also really sucked. (If Steph were a better player, she’d have been in a final 3 with Judd and Lydia).

    Other comparisons:
    -Both featured a loudmouth antagonist who said funny things. On the plus side for Guatemala, Judd was far less annoying than Phillip and he was eliminated before the finale.
    -The grey-haired former NFL player in Guatemala was a far more interesting character than the one on Redemption Island.
    -Guatemala’s tough, older lady on the non-returning star’s tribe (Amy) was more interesting than Redemption Island’s (Julie).

    • Other Scott

      The difference to me is Redemption Island doesn’t have a Rafe. It’s pretty clear just through the fact that Danni stuck around and Judd, Jamie and Cindy were voted out when they were that Steph wasn’t nearly in control of the boot order as Rafe was. Those were all the people Rafe wanted out, Steph just got the blood on her hands as a result.

      Also, this ama paints a bit of a different picture than Steph being hero-worshipped, but admittedly Cindy still may be bitter:

      https://www.reddit.com/r/survivor/comments/2vphm3/cindy_hall_ama/

      • Purplerockmatt

        i watched Guatemala recently, and man Rafe really blows it at final 4. He has the game in the bag and basically lets his annoyance at Lydia and his friendship with Danni override his common sense. And the thing is that he plays a great game up until that moment. He has Stephenie convinced that he has as much blood on his hands as she does (when all the negative emotions seemed aimed at her), he is the social hub of everyone remaining, and he was likeable.

        • andythesaint

          Rafe completely fell apart from the final six on. Getting pissy with Cindy over the car was a bad look too. My re-watch told me that I’ve been overrating him this whole time.

          • Purplerockmatt

            The thing is I think the hardest part of the game is putting yourself in a control position for the end game where you aren’t perceived as the biggest threat to win (but actually are). Rafe did that, and did it very well. And then he blew the end-game! It is infuriating.

          • Other Scott

            Seriously, the end of Guatamala makes no sense to me and that’s part of the reason I can’t rank it in my top half. The majority alliance implodes, but they implode for no particular good reason like in other seasons.

          • Kemper Boyd

            I agree with you, having control is only a rateable quality in a player’s game if they use that control well. Rafe fucked it up, but Stephenie did too, she allowed Rafe to make stupid decisions, why is she voting out people when she knows she is losing their jury votes? Had Danni gone before Judd and Cindy then Stephenie could have taken Lydia to the end and won the whole thing, fuck she could have taken Cindy and won the whole thing.

          • andythesaint

            Or Judd.

          • Kemper Boyd

            I dunno, I feel Judd would have been a closer thing, he might have got a few of the dude votes.

          • andythesaint

            It would have been amusing hearing him argue his case in front of the jury.

        • DrVanNostrand

          YES!!!!! He just decided at some point that he was going to vote out whoever he didn’t like rather than take any one of the available goats to the end. It was infuriating watching him piss away his game like that. He was definitely in control, and could seemingly convince Steph to vote out whoever he wanted, but his decisions were terrible.

          • andythesaint

            I think that contradiction is why I over-rated him then. I respected how he had taken control of the game. But upon my re-watch, I couldn’t ignore that he used that control to make stupid decisions.

          • andythesaint

            If he’d have just shut up and listened to Stephenie, Rafe probably wins a million dollars.

        • gouis

          Rafe sucks.

      • andythesaint

        Yeah, I don’t really put a lot of stock in Cindy’s post-betrayal justifications. The reason they’re all so salty is a deep sense of betrayal from someone they adored. I mean, she did choose her to go on the reward.

        But even if they weren’t, that’s the STORY of Guatemala. Just like it’s the story of RI (whose cast, I’m sure, would also deny that they were starstruck by Rob).

  • Purple Rock Emma

    Probably a risky move to laugh at “porn porn” as much as I did while at work, but whatever, I hate my job anyway.

  • Zachary Chong

    this wasnt mentioned in the podcast was it?

    • andythesaint

      It was. I’ve been a champion of this moment since we recorded. It wasn’t a lock though. Had to get voted in by our audience.