‘Survivor 40: Winners at War’: Denise Stapley Got ‘Let Go’ and ‘Endure’ Tattooed on Her Wrists After the Show

Survivor 40: Winners at War finalist and “Queen slayer” Denise Stapley explained in a confessional that she wanted to get two important words tattooed on her wrists. Only a couple of days after returning home, Denise got “endure” and “let go” tattooed on the inside of her wrists as a constant reminder of the life lessons she learned this season.

Survivor Denise Stapley
Denise Stapley | CBS

Denise Stapley on ‘Survivor 40: Winners at War’

49-year-old Iowa-based sex therapist Denise Stapley returned for Survivor 40: Winners at War, seeking her second win. Initially placed on the Sele tribe, they lost nearly every immunity challenge, much like her experience in Season 25, Philippines.

Even though she became a target at the first Tribal Council for leaving camp with Adam Klein, she managed to make the tribe swap as there were other bigger threats than her.

She switched to Dakal 2.0 alongside Jeremy Collins in the minority, and they all decided to vote for the Philippines champ at their first Tribal Council. However, Sandra Diaz-Twine approached her with a deal to give her an immunity idol for two fire tokens.

While Denise already had an idol she found on the Sele tribe, she agreed to the plan but insisted they exchange one fire token before Tribal Council and one afterward.

Everyone voted for Denise as planned, but she played an idol on herself, the other to guarantee Jeremy’s safety, and then voted for Sandra, single-handedly sending the Queen home.

The tribe then won the following two challenges and made it to the merge. Denise continued her alliance with Kim Spradlin-Wolfe, but they were in the minority and frequently on the wrong side of the votes.

During a Live Tribal Council in Episode 12, Denise hastily shushed Jeremy, who attempted to strategize with her.

Denise Stapley got ‘let go’ and ‘endure’ tattooed after filming

In the following episode, the 49-year-old explained her outburst came from exhaustion as she’s tired of the way she’s dealt with the game. She also noted she’s not a “tattoo gal,” but realized she needs two as a constant reminder of acceptance.

The Iowa-native wanted to get “endure” on one wrist to remind her that she’s “capable,” and “let go” on the other wrist because letting go is also “OK.”

After the episode aired, Denise shared a thank you letter to executive producers Jeff Probst and Matt Van Wagenen on her Facebook page. She explained that she questioned her purpose in competing several times on the island and wasn’t sure if she could finish.

However, after shedding “a crap ton” of tears, the Philippines champ reminded herself that she is enough, “can endure this to the end,” and is capable of letting go of the “chaos.”

Because she was “challenged to levels I never envisioned on an emotional level” during Winners at War, she feels grateful for the experience. Denise also shared she credits the reality competition show for several things in her life, including a changed perspective, an “appreciation for those I love that would not have happened without that time on the island,” and life lessons.

Therefore, she got her first tattoos, “endure” and “let go” within 48 hours of returning home from the show. The finalist closed by thanking Jeff and Matt again and included pictures of her family and newly tattooed wrists. Survivor 40: Winners at War finale premieres May 13, 2020, at 8 p.m. EST on CBS.