Exclusive: Tony Vlachos talks 'Survivor: Cagayan -- Brawn vs. Brains vs. Beauty' victory (Part 1)
By Reality TV World staff, 05/22/2014
Survivor: Cagayan -- Brawn vs. Brains vs. Beauty crowned Tony Vlachos the winner of its $1 million grand prize during the live portion of Sunday night's finale broadcast on CBS from CBS Television City in Los Angeles, CA.
Tony beat Yung "Woo" Hwang, a 29-year-old martial arts instructor from Newport Beach, CA, in the season's final jury voting results, which Survivor host Jeff Probst revealed live during the broadcast. Both Tony and Woo had begun the game on the Brawn tribe.
Jeff revealed Tony had received five votes from the jury, while Woo only earned one. It's unclear which way the other three votes went. Kassandra "Kass" McQuillen finished the game in third place, and Spencer Bledsoe finished in fourth.
In an exclusive interview with Reality TV World on Thursday, Tony talked about his Survivor experience and victory. Below is the first half. Check back with us soon for the concluding portion and also for more interviews with the season Final 4 castaways.
Reality TV World: How surprised were you that Woo decided to take you to the end instead of Kass? Did you go into Tribal expecting him to keep you?
Tony Vlachos: You know what? I was 50/50. I had been with Woo since Day 1 and Woo's whole gameplay was to be honorable, to be loyal. And towards the end, I made a good point to Woo.
I said, "Woo, when you face the final Tribal and you get rid of me, what are you going to tell these people? You can't tell them that you came into this game wanting to be honorable, wanting to play with integrity, and wanting to be loyal. You're contradicting yourself if you get rid of me, so you have nothing left. So if you think you're going to go into that game taking somebody like Kass, thinking it's going to be an easy win for you, you're going to be mistaken. If you take me, it's going to be 50/50."
That was my pitch to him. It was not necessarily the biggest con, but it was definitely something for him to think about. It was a feasible argument, I believe, based on how he played the whole game. He played the game with honor and loyalty and integrity. So getting rid of me just throws that whole strategy out the window, so he has nothing left at that point.
Reality TV World: Jeff Probst polled the jury last night and the results seemed to be that Woo would've won the vote in a landslide against Kass. Do you think that's just rewriting history after the fact, in hindsight?
Tony Vlachos: Do you know what? I mean, knowing how everybody felt about Kass, I think they probably would've voted for Woo. They would've definitely voted for Woo actually.
I think they were being real by saying that there was no way they were giving Kass the million-dollar check because of Kass' gameplay. She didn't deserve to win -- to be the "Sole Survivor." Her gameplay was not strategic. It was emotional, it was personal.
Reality TV World: So looking back on it now, even though you thought Woo's [loyalty] argument would've been undermined if he had gone with Kass instead of you, you're pretty confident he cost himself the [$1 million prize by taking you]?
Tony Vlachos: Yeah, I guess you can say that. But out there, your emotions are running so high that you're not really thinking rationally, I guess, you know? So at that moment in the game, it seemed like it was the right thing to do, I guess, but after the game is over and you have food in your system and you've had eight hours of sleep, then you're just like, "Uh oh. What did I just do!?"
Reality TV World: How much sleep did you get last night speaking of which? (Laughs)
Tony Vlachos: I didn't sleep last night. I feel like I'm on the island again.
Reality TV World: What made you decide to not go along with Spencer's plan to vote Woo out and force a 2-2 tie at the Final 4 Tribal? Did you not believe Spencer's claim that Woo and Kass would both vote you off if there was a Final 3 Tribal, or did you just not believe there was going to be a Final 3 Tribal?
Tony Vlachos: Here's the deal. Just like myself, when I swore on my family and everything, my heart was in the right place when I made those promises. It wasn't part of my strategy to lie to people and to swear on my family to advance myself. My heart was in the right place and it was genuine when I made those promises -- at that moment. What happens five hours later, a day later, that changes.
You're like, "Hold up. My heart's out of the game now. Now I'm thinking rationally. Now I'm thinking strategically, and that's not the right move for me." So I do believe Spencer was genuine at that moment he was doing that, but I know how the game works. From minute to minute to minute, you change your mind constantly, coming up with new ideas and new scenarios that's going to benefit your game.
And there was no way, no how I wanted Spencer in the game any longer than where he was. That was my opportunity to get rid of him, because I knew that if he makes it to the end, he wins. And that's a big part of this game, social awareness and self-awareness. I knew I could not beat Spencer, and that's why he couldn't stay any longer.
Reality TV World: So given you ended up winning last night's jury vote in a landslide, do you still feel that way? Do you still feel that Spencer definitely would have beaten you if he had made it to the end?
Tony Vlachos: 100% hands down. It's just a natural instinct, you know? When you're watching the Nature Channel and you see the lions being the aggressor, chasing the gazelle, everybody's rooting for the gazelle to get away from the lion.
But it's the nature of the beast, the aggressor is going to win in the end and the lion does devour the gazelle and then everyone accepts it, like, "Okay. It's the nature of the beast. The lion did what he had to do to survive." And that's exactly how it was with me. I was the aggressor. Spencer was, I guess, the gazelle. And everyone was rooting for the gazelle to get away.
Reality TV World: How had you left the jury vote? Had you left it thinking you had won? Because the jury seemed pretty bitter towards you overall, and you seemed pretty somber at the end there -- especially when Spencer campaigned for you. You just kind of offered a pretty somber, "Thanks Spencer."
Tony Vlachos: Yeah, you know what it is over there? I knew the people that I was playing with. I spent a lot of time with them and I knew none of them were vindictive people. None of them were malicious, with the exception of Kass of course, but I knew the people. Most of the jurors, they weren't vindictive, they weren't malicious, they respected the game, they were huge fans of the game.
So I knew that they definitely appreciated the fact that it was, I guess, a compliment getting rid of them, because they were threats. I knew they just wanted to vent and that's what they were doing. They were just venting. They gave me a piece of their mind and I just absorbed the punches, you know? I mean, they really laid it into me, especially [Trish Hegarty].
And when Spencer stood up and he talked like that, I was like, "Wow, that's beautiful. I'm sure they're going to see through the emotional part of the game, and I'm sure they're going to vote like Spencer said and they're going to give credit to where credit was due."
And everybody knows that I didn't close an eye while I was out there. While everybody was sleeping, I was tending to the fire, making sure they had water in the morning, making sure there was rice being cooked, you know? And that wasn't part of my strategy. That's just who I am as a person and that went a long way.
And obviously, in the outcome of this game, you've seen that they gave a person that blindsided them, that lied to them, that broke promises to them -- they gave this person a million dollars as opposed to a very likable person like Woo. In itself, it speaks volumes of what kind of person I am genuinely, you know?
Reality TV World: Do you think the fact Spencer did openly campaign for you at the end played a significant role in why you won? Because when I just talked to Kass, she said she basically found Spencer's decision to do that insulting and she basically almost voted for Woo just because of that.
Tony Vlachos: Well, that's Kass. Everything Kass says makes no sense, so yes, I do think Spencer did have a big impact on the jury. Again, he had the last say in it and the last thing on their mind was like, "You know what? Spencer's right. Let's get our emotions out of this, we vented, let's do the right thing here."
Reality TV World: Do you think the fact it ended up being a Final 2 instead of a Final 3 played a big impact in the voting? Because there wasn't that third option?
Tony Vlachos: You know what? I mean, the Final 2, I shouldn't have been in the Final 2, you know? The Final 3, I planned my whole game around a Final 3, especially the lie with the [special] idol, trying to guarantee my spot in the Final 3.
When Jeff said it's going to be a Final 2, I was like, "Oh my goodness. Everything I worked so hard for, from minute 1 on the island, is going to come crashing down if I don't win immunity." That's how I felt at that time. But, you know, when Woo won [immunity], I mean, half a second. If Kass would've won that challenge by half a second, my game was over.
Reality TV World: I was going to ask you about that. We saw Spencer suspecting a Final 2 and sharing that with you before the Final 4 Tribal. But we didn't see you suspecting that. It sounds like you hadn't suspected that prior to Spencer bringing it up to you?
Tony Vlachos: Yes, that's correct. I had no idea. I mean, I am a fan of Survivor, but I'm not a student of it. I watch it for its entertainment purposes. I don't dissect the game. So I really didn't even remember that there used to be Final 2's. So that didn't occur to me. When Spencer brought it up to me, I was like, "You know what Spencer? It does make a lot of sense."
And that's when I continued my lie with the idol. I was like, "Wow! That's why I'm allowed to use this idol at Final 4, I guess." So I went along with it, you know? I acted really quick and I went along with that. But there was a 0.0 chance of me accepting Spencer's plea with me to keep him in the game -- absolutely not. There was no way he could stay in the game or he wins the game.
Reality TV World: Obviously everything worked out great for you, but do you think you would've done anything differently earlier in the game if you had known it was definitely going to be a Final 2 at the end? Would you have still voted Trish out, etc?
Tony Vlachos: You know what? Kass was my main person that I wanted to go to the end with for obvious reasons. I was pretty confident that there was no way she was going to get any votes from the jurors if she was up against me, and that would've been my main goal. So, for sure.
And then I still wanted to go along with Kass to the end, so I don't think it would've changed anything except for the lie with the idols. I would've told them that I could bring the special idol all the way to the finals no matter what.
Above is the first half of Tony's exclusive interview with Reality TV World. Check back with us soon for the concluding portion and also for more interviews with the season Final 4 castaways.
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