We certainly were hoping that it would be a while before we did a Tony Vlachos exit interview for Survivor: Game Changers. If we’re talking about players we love watching on TV, he’s probably #1 all time. He’s incredibly funny, super-charismatic, and hell of a strategic player. We talk about this in the exit interview, but there’s some sad irony in the fact that it was one of his greatest strengths (his ability to spy on people) that was his undoing this time as he did not hear properly what Sandra and Troyzan were talking about. The aftermath of this led to his demise.
The following Survivor: Game Changers interview may very well make you want to give Tony a hug.
CarterMatt – First of all Tony, how are you doing? What’s been the experience of decompressing this time around versus the first time?
Tony Vlachos – It’s absolutely devastating. It’s awful. To everyone who wants to play this game, you never come into this game not thinking 100% that you want to win. It’s so not worth it to lose this game. If you get on this show, you better aim for the stars.
You’ve heard this from me and probably millions of other people that you’re one of the greatest and most entertaining players ever. Going into the season, did you feel a lot of pressure to be entertaining and live up to that hype? Did that influence what you did in any way?
Before you get out there, you’re thinking about all of that stuff. The second you hit the beach, all of that goes out the window. Your family goes out the window, your bills, your expenses, your job, your fans, all of that goes out the window. The only thing you’re thinking about is the game.
Going into it, I knew I was going to be a target. People know how I played, and I knew there was no way I could change it up and hide from that. I knew I was the elephant in the room and try to hide behind someone like Hali. I couldn’t do that. I just though I should be upfront and in-your-face; they would expect that! I thought that would be better than being off and quiet, to the side. They would think ‘there’s something wrong, because Tony’s not being his normal self. He’s probably up to no good.’
I just wanted to throw it out there right away. As soon as I made it out there I made a big joke out of it — ‘I’m going to look for the idol, guys.’ I started crawling around and that worked! I looked like a maniac, a clown, ‘Tony being Tony.’ They chalked it up as that! That was nothing. It didn’t harm me in any way because I didn’t go home the first time.
That moment was great, and I’m sure it was just a small piece of you hunting for idols. You were the king of finding them in Survivor Cagayan, so what made it different this time where you couldn’t find them?
When we first started, we first walked around the entire camp like one big happy family on a field trip. We went to see where the tree mail was and where the water well was. With the tree mail, there were a lot of props around there and I thought ‘there’s gotta be something hiding in there.’ When we made our rounds and started making our shelter, I was like ‘I gotta make it back to the tree mail before anybody else,’ because I thought an idol may be hiding there. Every time I took two or three steps to the left, four or five eyes were following me. I took three steps to the right, six eyes were following me! These people weren’t letting me move! I couldn’t get out of there.
There was no point in trying to sneak off, so I tried to joke because behind every joke is some truth. I threw that joke out there because I really wanted to go search the tree mail. So I did! I went and searched the entire area, and I found nothing.
I think that [what happened] was both production changing things up when it comes to the idols, and the big typhoon that Fiji had right before I got there. Every tree was knocked to the ground. All of the palm fronds were destroyed, and there was nothing iconic that jumped out at me. I didn’t know what I was looking for, because I couldn’t find the iconic tree that sticks out by itself. Everything was knocked down, roots out, everything was crazy! It was just impossible for me.
I didn’t stop looking for the idol. They didn’t show it because it would’ve taken up the whole six days, but I was looking for it non-stop.
We gotta talk about you and Sandra. There was a moment during the episode, maybe it was just a few minutes, where it looked like you two were going to be working together. It was glorious, but it was over so soon. How long was that in place during the game?
It was the most beautiful feeling. I talked to Sandra, I talked to Aubry, Malcolm, Caleb, and I was like ‘we got it, guys. We’re good. We’re all threats and we could help each other. It’s no secret that I’m going to use you to protect me, and you can use me to protect you. It’s no secret!’ We needed that. That’s what we needed going into the merge when we’re going up against another team. We were so good. We had Hali, Jeff Varner, Troyzan — all great people, great players, but not bigger threats than us. We couldn’t use them as negotiation tools to throw in front of us. I was like ‘we’re golden.’ Everything was good.
Then, it was like two days, and I was working on my spy bunker when Troyzan and Sandra walked in and I snuck down and hid. I listened to what I was hearing, and I heard my name two times. The first thing on my mind, and it’s not paranoia — it’s the natural thing to think — was ‘what are they doing sneaking off the campsite at two in the morning and mentioning my name? They’re probably not saying they want to work with me; they’re probably saying that they want to get rid of me.’ That’s what I’m thinking.
I ran up to them real-quick to catch them off-guard, that way they couldn’t come up with a lie if I approached them later. I asked them ‘what are you guys doing,’ and they were like ‘oh, I’m looking at the tide, and the crates being so close to the fire.’ I’m looking at them and I’m laughing. I’m like ‘come on, guys. That’s nonsense.’ That’s when Sandra looked at me, I looked at her, her face turned color, and she was like ‘okay, I can’t work with this dude.’ Sure enough, in confessional she was like ‘he’s grilling me and I’m not having any of that.’ That was it. I knew she turned on me, she knew that I was going to be gunning for her.
That was it, man. That was the beginning of my end.
It’s funny that with all of the things you’ve come up with, maybe you could have invented a spy hearing aid…
In all seriousness Tony, what was the plan with the spy bunker? Were you going to bury yourself alive, or cover yourself up with palm fronds? How was this going to work?
It was perfect, man. I knew I wanted to build something underground to spy on them. I knew that they would probably be looking at trees to see if there was any brush anywhere. I wanted to do something different that they wouldn’t expect. For the first few hours I started taking all the different branches and palm fronds and different debris and throwing it next to the water well so that they could be used. They’re used to seeing a bunch of debris there. They wouldn’t think that there was something else there. I was then digging a hole under the debris, and as a matter of fact, I made myself a deep enough hole and I could cover myself with the debris. It would’ve been perfect! It would’ve worked so good, and I could’ve heard what everyone was saying. I was like fifteen, twenty feet away from the water well. I would’ve heard everything! They wouldn’t have thought anything different.
Tribal Council, going into it, did you feel like your number was up?
I didn’t feel it, I knew it. Before Tribal, everyone was telling me ‘we’re going to go with Aubry.’ Okay. I see Aubry sitting by herself and I ask her what’s going on. She’s like ‘oh, I’m just letting fate take its course.’ I asked her who she was voting for, and she was like ‘oh, I’m not too sure.’ I was right ‘oh my god. They must have told her to write my name down.’ I tried to talk to Troyzan, and he was like ‘I’m having a zen moment right now on the beach.’ I said ‘a zen moment? We’re a few hours before Tribal!’ It was at a point where I couldn’t get him. I went to Varner, and it was obvious that everyone was told to keep away from me because I would try to turn them. I talked to Caleb, and I told him ‘I know Sandra’s throwing my name out there. Please work with me, man. She’s pitting everyone against me.’ He just had a blank look on his face and I knew he was gone too. Malcolm, same thing.
I just knew I was done. There was nobody willing to give me a chance.
So moving forward, are you interested in a third time? Is that something you’d think about?
Right now if you were to ask me, I’d say ‘absolutely not.’ I wouldn’t go out there again. The way I feel I was a one-hit wonder in Cagayan. My style worked for me that time, and that’s the only time it’ll work. In watching myself get snuffed last night, I was like ‘the Queen Bee stung me, it hurts, so I’m done.’
What’s been the reaction you’ve gotten since being voted out? Have you spoken to the Cagayan cast? One of the things I always loved was your relationship with Spencer that season. Has the Young Lad reached out?
Yea, the Young Lad reached out, he’s offering me a shoulder to cry on (laughs). I appreciate it. He’s trying to keep my spirits up, and I get everything he says.
Ultimately, I have to feel for me that my first season wasn’t a fluke. I don’t feel that; I feel like it was a fluke. All the stars aligned properly. This season, look! Just one bad stroke of luck! Hearing my name from Sandra and Troyzan ruined my game! I was destroyed from that point on. Had I not heard that I would’ve been all right because they weren’t plotting against me. It just takes that one good stroke of luck or that one bad stroke of luck. It can break your game, and it broke mine.
As we said, Tony needs a hug. For the record, we don’t think his first season was a fluke. His win was a result of an insane amount of effort, and without that work, he wouldn’t have been successful. He swings for the fences, and while that makes him the winner sometimes, it causes him to go home at other times.
More Survivor Game Changers coverage
How devastated are you to lose Tony so early in the game? Share now in the comments! (Photo: CBS.)