Exclusive: Tony Vlachos talks 'Survivor: Game Changers' -- I was disgusted by my vote off, there was no good reason for it
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 03/09/2017
Tony Vlachos was voted off the "Mana" tribe on Survivor: Game Changers' epic two-hour premiere episode Wednesday night on CBS.
After Ciera Eastin got eliminated from "Mana," the tribe lost Season 34's second Immunity Challenge in a row and therefore had to return to Tribal Council on Night 6 when Tony, a 43-year-old police officer from Jersey City, NJ, was voted off. He received all but two votes.
"I knew coming into the game that I was going to have a target on my back. I was the most viscous player out here and I tried my best to see if I could overcome the reputation that I had in this game, but apparently it got the best of me," Tony said following his ouster.
In an exclusive interview on Thursday, Tony -- who was crowned the champion of Survivor Cagayan -- Brawn vs. Brains vs. Beauty -- talked to Reality TV World about his short-lived Survivor: Game Changers experience. Below is the first half of what he had to say.
Reality TV World: You knew Sandra Diaz-Twine was gunning for you, but since you voted for Aubry Bracco, it didn't seem like you were blindsided by your vote-off. Is that accurate to say?
Tony Vlachos: Yeah, no, I was definitely not blindsided. Before going into that Tribal Council, they were pitching Aubry to me, right? They're telling me, "Aubry, Aubry, Aubry." So I walk up to Aubry and I'm like, "What's going on? Whose name are you putting down?"
Aubry said, "Oh, I don't know. Nobody has talked to me about anything yet." I said, "Oh, okay." So that right there, I knew already she was lying to me. I know they told her to write my name down.
So then I go up to all the other people -- I go up to Jeff Varner and I say, "Varner, you want to talk to me for a second?" And he's giving me -- you know, he's winking his eye at me and giving me the thumbs up, keeping his distance from me.
So I'm like, "Alright, what's going on here? Something is not right here. I try to talk to [Troy "Troyzan" Robertson] like an hour before Tribal Council. Troyzan tells me he's having a zen moment by the beach. He's like, "I don't want to talk strategy right now," you know, he's having a zen moment.
I'm like, "Oh no! Oh my goodness. These guys have turned on me!" I tried to talk to [Caleb Reynolds] and said, "Caleb, let's try to make a big move." And that's the part where actually I was like, "Come on, man! Let's play the game! Let's make a move." And he just had a blank stare on his face, you know?
So then I get [Malcolm Freberg] and it's the same thing. So at that point, I'm like, "You know what? These guys turned on me. Sandra got the best of them, and that's it." I was like, "My time is up."
Reality TV World: So it sounds like you didn't think anyone was working with you heading into Tribal Council.
Tony Vlachos: Yes, I knew nobody was working with me. I was hoping, but I was 99% certain. So that 1% uncertainty is what I was clinging onto.
Reality TV World: So tell me about your attempt to rally the troops to take out Sandra. At one point, it appeared Malcolm, Caleb, Aubry and yourself were set on this plan and you were hoping to get Michaela Bradshaw onboard. Is Michaela the reason this plan wasn't executed? When did you realize the plan had fallen apart?
Tony Vlachos: I don't think my plan ever even hit the ground. It didn't hit the ground. I put it out there and I was trying, but it just never caught any momentum.
And they actually didn't show it, but when I told Caleb and Malcolm -- I was like, "Guys, listen, I can get Michaela on our side for sure. Michaela will definitely vote with us because she's on the bottom and she knows she wants to keep the tribe strong, so there's no way she's going to vote for me and there's no way she'd want to vote off a strong player."
She didn't want to be weak in challenges. She was about challenges, you know? So she definitely would've voted with us to get rid of Sandra. But they just didn't want me to go scramble. They were like, "Ahh, just leave the vote alone. Let's just leave it at Aubry."
And again, it doesn't make me a rocket scientist to figure it out, but you could see it. The writing was all over the wall that they just didn't want anything to do with my plan. They were stuck with Sandra's plan. Sandra got them and they weren't budging.
Reality TV World: Were you shocked anyone in particular betrayed you or just didn't want to work with you, like Caleb or Malcolm? Because I'm sure Aubry was just desperately trying to save herself by voting for you.
Tony Vlachos: Absolutely. Absolutely. And that's why I was so kind of like -- I was, like, disgusted at the end of Tribal. I was like, "Man, you guys are all like sheep being led to the slaughter. You're going to let Sandra get to you guys and get rid of a threat, a big threat like me, who is someone who can help you in challenges? I thought we were strong! How did you guys do that? How did it come down to this?"
That's what I thought. Same thing with Aubry. When I was talking to Aubry, I thought things were good. I thought all of us were good -- me, Sandra, Aubry, Caleb and Malcolm.
We were all good until I heard Sandra and Troyzan talking about me, so the rest of us were good except for Sandra at that point. So what happened to the rest of us? Sandra was able to get them on her side.
Reality TV World: So why do you ultimately think you were eliminated? Was it more about the scheming, paranoia, running around, and looking for idols and such? Or do you think it all came down to Sandra working her magic?
Tony Vlachos: You know what? Sandra worked her magic. That's what it all boils down to. Because all of the shenanigans I was doing, everybody just chalked that up to, "Tony is just being a clown. That's who he is. That's his nonsense. Yeah, he might be looking for an idol -- he probably is, but so are we," you know? "But he's just doing it in his good, old Tony fashioned way -- a loud and in-your-face type of way."
And that was my whole thing going into the game. I was like, "I'm not going to try to hide; I'm not going to try to be the person I'm not."
So it's like just let me be in your face and do what I do all the time, you know, just be a jokester. Just let me run around like some idiot, you know? (Laughs) Sandra definitely worked her magic; Sandra is the one that made me go home.
Reality TV World: Sandra's original plan was to split the votes between you and Aubry in case you had an idol, but that didn't end up happening. Why do you think that was? Do you think Sandra, Troyzan, [Hali Ford] and Varner got cold feet about Michaela and decided they couldn't risk splitting the votes?
Tony Vlachos: I don't think her plan to split the votes ever [took off] from the ground. I think they didn't want to split the votes because they were nervous about somebody else not doing it, so I think Sandra -- just for her own benefit in case I threw her name down and played an idol -- she didn't want to be the one going home, so she probably wanted to tie with Aubry.
So she threw Aubry's name down, expecting me to throw her name down, and then it would've been a tie between them two, I guess. That's the only thing I can think of.
Reality TV World: You lost trust in Sandra the moment you caught her talking to Troyzan late at night. What did you hear them say exactly, and looking back, do you think you might've jumped to conclusions and your paranoia got the best of you? Or do you stand by the fact Sandra proved in that moment she wasn't on your side and wouldn't be loyal to you?
Tony Vlachos: No, the thing is, at that moment, I heard my name. That's all I heard, and that's all I needed to hear. You know, even if she wasn't against me, here's two people at 4 o'clock in the morning, or whatever time it is, sneaking off into the jungle, and they mentioned my name!
In my head at the time, I'm thinking, "Okay, there's no way they came all the way out here to say, 'Tony is a great player. We need to play with him.'" So, I'm thinking the worst and obviously I should think the worst because I need to protect myself.
I'm not going to be like, "Oh, okay, I heard my name. My name is being thrown out there but I'm just going to put my guard down." I wasn't going to do that. So, I wouldn't call it paranoia. I would just call it "trying to defend myself," you know?
At the time, if I had a magic ball and seen that they weren't talking about me, then it would've been a different story. I could only go with what I had, and what I had was these two people were out in the middle of a jungle, mentioning my name.
And then when I asked them, "What are you guys talking about," they gave me the worst lies that anybody in the game could tell you. One told me they were looking at the tide, and the other one is telling me that they were talking about the crates, the crates in the fire.
At that point, I was like, "Okay, these two people are against me." Troyzan, okay, I never had anything with Troyzan, but Sandra, I said, "Okay, she flipped on me, so now I can't trust her and I know she wants me out, so I've got to try to get her out first."
Reality TV World: You knew you entered the game as a threat since you were a former winner, but looking at the game from an unbiased perspective, do you think the tribe made the right choice in taking you out when they did instead of someone else? The tribe seemed focused on keeping strength and physically-capable players around for the challenges, so your vote off was a little surprising to me.
Tony Vlachos: Going into the game, I thought I had a bigger target on my back than I really did. Because when I got out there, they weren't saying, "Okay, it's Tony. It's a no-brainer. We're going to get rid of him." So I was kind of surprised that they were willing to work with me -- and they were, they were working with me.
Everything was going smooth until, again, that moment, the bad-luck moment. AndSurvivor is full of luck. You have good luck and you have bad luck, and I had the bad luck of listening to Sandra and Troyzan mention my name. That's what turned everything.
But going into the game, I was good, we were good, we were going strong. And I'm surprised because I thought they would use me as a negotiating tool come merge time, you know, Malcolm, Aubry, Caleb and Sandra, or whoever. Whomever's name was being thrown on the chopping block, they could've said, "Guys, I'll vote with you if you get rid of Tony."
You know what I mean? I thought they were going to use me for that come merge time, but I think it was way too soon to get rid of me. There was no reason to get rid of me that soon.
They should've held onto me until merge time. I can't win Individual [Immunity] Challenges. I've proven that. They could've used me as a negotiating tool later on in the game, but they got rid of me so fast. I didn't think that was smart.