Danni Boatwright defeats Stephenie LaGrossa to win 'Survivor: Guatemala'
By Reality TV World staff, 12/12/2005
Benefiting from the fact that her Final Two competitor had betrayed several allies that would ultimately determine which finalist would win the competition, Danni Boatwright, a 30-year-old from Tonganoxie, KS, defeated Stephenie LaGrossa, a 26-year-old from Tom's River, NJ, to emerge as Survivor: Guatemala's ultimate survivor and $1,000,000 winner during last night's season finale broadcast on CBS.
After retrieving a Tree Mail message that informed them that they were now "a part of" Maya history, Danni, Stephenie, Rafe Judkins, and Lydia Morales were visited by a small group of Maya descendents. Setting up in front of the ruin's largest Maya pyramid, the group performed a ritual ceremony that included the sacrifice of a live chicken. Although the group shared tamales with the castaways, they were told that the chicken caress that had been tossed into the ritual's fire was off-limits and intended as an offering to the Mayan gods.
Later in the day, the castaways assembled for the competition's penultimate Immunity Challenge, a demanding challenge that required the castaways to retrieve eight colored puzzle pieces from within the most complex Survivor maze ever constructed. After gathering the pieces, one station at a time, from the maze's six stations, and transporting them to puzzle boards set up atop a pyramid-like structure, the castaways had to assemble the eight three-sided puzzle pieces to form one of three Maya animal images. The first castaway to correctly assemble one of the three valid puzzle images would receive immunity from the evening's upcoming Tribal Council.
As the castaways wandered through the maze, the physically demanding challenge eventually turned into a two-person race between Rafe and Stephenie. Both finished retrieving their finish pieces within seconds of each other, but in the end Stephenie proved unable to overcome Rafe's slim lead and Rafe won the challenge, ensuring himself a place in Survivor Guatemala's Final Three.
Once the castaways returned to camp, Stephenie approached Rafe -- the sole member of her one-time six-person alliance that she and he had neither betrayed or disowned -- with the suggestion that in order to improve their chances of winning the game's final immunity challenge, they should keep Lydia and vote Danni, the physically stronger player, out at the evening's upcoming Tribal Council session.
Rafe agreed that Stephenie's suggestion was possibly the more strategic decision, but he had agreed to a Final Three alliance with Danni -- an agreement Danni proceeded to remind him about as the two ground corn. Changing the subject as Stephenie approached, Rafe asked if the morning ritual's chicken caress was still around -- knowing that Stephenie, always hungry and having already previously asked the Maya descendents if they could eat the offering, would quickly pounce on the idea again if given the opportunity.
Having volunteered to go gather the chicken with Stephenie, Lydia took advantage of the opportunity to ask Stephenie to vote off Danni instead of herself off at the evening's upcoming Tribal Council. Stephenie explained that she'd already suggested the idea to Rafe and the two returned back to the main camp area with the chicken caress. Once there, Danni joined Stephenie and Lydia in pouncing on the chicken, however Rafe felt uncomfortable about the idea and opted to pass on the meal.
Then, shortly after the three women had dined on what was supposed to have been a sacrificial offering to the Mayan gods, a huge afternoon thunderstorm hit the area, prompting the castaways to wonder if the gods were upset and punishing them for their actions. Somewhat surprisingly, neither Danni or Lydia appeared to approach the other with the suggestion that they target Stephenie at the evening's vote, and after the storm ended the castaways headed off to Tribal Council.
Once at Tribal Council, Lydia told Survivor host Jeff Probst that she "knew for a fact" that the afternoon storm had been caused by Mayan gods who were upset that the women had feasted on the sacrificial offering. In the end, Stephenie proved unable to convince Rafe to break his Final Three deal with Danni, and as a result, Lydia was eliminated from the game in a 3-1 Tribal Council vote.
The next morning, the three remaining castaways retrieved a Tree Mail message directing them to hike to the temple ruins where they would pay tribute to their fifteen fallen comrades. Once they burned drawings of their eliminated competitors, the threesome gathered for the competition's final Immunity Challenge.
An endurance challenge that required balance and concentration, the challenge required the castaways to balance on a wobbly platform for as long as they could, with the person that managed to go the longest without touching the ground winning immunity and the chance to choose their fellow Final two finalist. The castaways would be able to support themselves with two ropes for the first sixty minutes. After that, they could continue to use one rope until the ninety minute mark, at which time the castaways would have to release the second rope and balance themselves without the use of either rope.
All three castaways successfully made it to the 60 minute mark, however all of them lost their balance after releasing one of their two ropes, leaving them freely swinging from their sole remaining rope. Remarkably, all three castaways -- led by Stephenie, the first one to lose her balance -- managed to successfully reposition themselves into positions that left them leaning out onto one of the two nearby poles from which their previous support ropes hung.
All three castaways remained in the same position until the ninety minute mark, at which time they were forced to release the second rope and -- without the ability to use either of their hands -- continue to remain leaning against the poles that allowed them to remain positioned on their wobbly platform. Five minutes later, Rafe absentmindedly used his hand to support himself as he attempted to improve his position, a move that eliminated him from the challenge.
More than an hour later, Danni and Stephenie both still remained in the competition and unlike most other Survivor final challenges, neither appeared to be suggesting that the two end the challenge by agreeing to take each other to the Final Two jury vote. While Danni's longer legs allowed her to appear rather effortlessly comfortable, Stephenie, feeling significant back pain, had slowly begun to side down the pole she was leaning on. Unable to reverse her slow slide, Stephenie eventually slid completely down to the ground after nearly three hours, making Danni the challenge's winner. As Stephenie began crying, Rafe approached Danni -- who had approached Stephenie in an attempt to console her -- and told Danni that he was "releasing her" from her promise that if she won Survivor: Guatemala's final immunity challenge, she'd select him as her Final Two partner.
Once they were back at camp, Rafe again told Danni to not feel beholden to her earlier promise and instead base her decision on whatever criteria she felt was appropriate. "I want Steph and I to still be fighting together [tonight] ... I feel like Steph deserves a chance," Rafe explained to the cameras.
Meanwhile, Stephenie also told Danni that "you don't owe me anything" -- but promptly followed the comment up with a reminder that if not for her and Rafe deciding to vote Lydia off the previous evening, Danni would already have been eliminated from the game. "Rafe and I could have guaranteed ourselves the Final Two spots if we took Lydia," Stephenie noted to Danni.
As the castaways left for Tribal Council, Danni still claimed to be undecided about her decision. "I'm still really torn... it's such a hard decision but you're here to win, it's definitely going to be a gametime decision," the sports talk radio host/model remarked as the threesome left camp.
At the Tribal Council session, Jeff questioned Rafe and Stephenie's previous night's decision to, after weeks of voting off the strongest competitors, vote off Lydia, the game's weakest remaining competitor. Claiming she had no regrets, Stephenie explained that Rafe's Final Three alliance with Danni had left her rather powerless and in a position to have only forced a 2-2 tie vote.
Afterward, Jeff questioned Rafe about his surprising decision to release Danni from their Final Three agreement -- a decision that seemed to amuse several members of the watching jury. Prodded by Jeff, Danni acknowledged that Rafe's request was forcing her to make a difficult decision -- although she wouldn't be in her current position without Rafe, Stephenie (having upset more jury members) would be the better choice if Danni wanted to win the show's million dollar prize. Rafe refuted Danni's suggestion that Stephenie was the better choice, noting that as Stephenie's key ally, both he and Stephenie had "pissed off" the same jury members.
In the end, Danni decided not to -- in Rafe's words -- "go with her heart," opting to instead take Stephenie to the Final Two jury voting. Although Rafe claimed to "understand" Danni's decision, he quickly made it clear who he'd be voting for during the final jury vote. "Stephenie, I'm absolutely rooting for you... I'll be voting for you tomorrow night," he remarked during his immediate post-elimination interview.
After leaving camp for one last time on Day 39, Danni and Stephenie faced their final Tribal Council, during which the seven member jury had a chance to question them before voting to determine who would win the million dollar prize. As the eliminated castaways confronted them, Danni made it clear that she felt she had been a strong and honest competitor who managed to make the Final Two despite having entered the tribal merge in the minority side of the 6-4 split. Meanwhile Stephenie acknowledged that she had backstabbed several of her former allies (Cindy, Jamie Newton, and Judd Sergeant) but said that she was still proud of way she had played the game.
When it was Rafe's turn to question the women, he asked Danni why -- feeling that he was more "deserving" than Stephenie -- she didn't follow through with her previously stated claim that if she had to choose between taking a Final Two competitor that she could beat or taking a Final Two competitor that "deserved to win," she'd take the person who "deserved to win." Danni replied that after witnessing Stephenie's performance at the final immunity challenge, she felt it was "a tossup" as to whether Rafe or Stephenie had been the "more deserving" castaway.
Afterward, Judd -- who had vocally hoped "you all get bit by a freaking crocodile" after he was blindsided during Night 33's Tribal Council -- was comparatively mild and unmemorable when it came his turn to question the women. After accusing her of "skating" through the game, Judd suggested Danni "go to confession" as soon as the castaways returned home. Judd was harsher with Stephenie, accusing her of always complaining about being hungry, "backstabbing everyone in the game," and "crossing the line" by lying to Judd's wife, who had spent an overnight reward challenge visit with the castaways.
In the end, it appeared clear that most of the jury deeply resented Stephenie's betrayals and/or the fact that, as a former Survivor: Palau contestant, she had been given a second chance to win the game -- making Danni Survivor: Guatemala's sole survivor and $1,000,000 winner via a 6-1 vote.