Exclusive: 'Survivor: Cagayan -- Brawn vs. Brains vs. Beauty' winner Tony Vlachos (Part 2)
By Reality TV World staff , 05/29/2014
Survivor: Cagayan -- Brawn vs. Brains vs. Beauty crowned Tony Vlachos the winner of its $1 million grand prize during the live portion of the 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. Both Tony and Woo had begun the game on the Brawn tribe.
Survivor host Jeff Probst 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, Tony talked about his Survivor experience and victory. Below is the concluding portion. Click here to read the first half.
Reality TV World: Can you elaborate on your medical state after the game? You mentioned on the reunion show you had lost 45 pounds and had parasites in your stomach?
Tony Vlachos: Yeah, there was a point towards the end of the game where I didn't even have the energy to start making fires, so I was just drinking the water out of the well with dead lizards in it and rat guts floating in the water. I was drinking it just straight out of the well like that.
So, (laughs) that did mess me up internally. Physically, I wasn't sleeping at night. Not sleeping is worse than dehydration and it's worse than starvation. When you don't sleep out there, man, you've seen me with the puzzles. (Laughs) I didn't even know what I was looking at, you know, when I got to the puzzles.
The lack of sleep really hurt me out there, really, big time. It took a big toll. I got back to the states, I went to the doctor, I had parasites, I was on medication, I was out of work for three months because I couldn't even make a fist.
I couldn't even make a muscle. I had no muscle mass in my body. It was all gone. Here we are almost a year later and I still don't have my strength that I had before I started the game. It's just amazing.
Reality TV World: Were you surprised that people seemed to believe your claim that you could use that special powers idol all the way to the Final 4 Tribal? Because given the fact Kass and Spencer both seemed very knowledgeable of the game, the idea you could just randomly find an idol and be guaranteed a spot in front of the jury seemed ludicrous.
Tony Vlachos: You know what it is? My whole game was created in reasonable doubts in these people. Sometimes I told truths that were lies, making them think that it was truth. Sometimes I told them lies, making them think it was truth, and then I would just keep confusing them.
So it was much easier for them to say, "You know what? We don't even want to try to figure out what's going on with Tony. Let's try to work around it." And that was the same exact analogy I gave Jeff last night.
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I told him, "When there's a car thief and he's looking to steal a Bentley, you could see the most beautiful Bentley -- it's all tricked out with the nice rims, it's all shiny -- but it has a club on it. When you have two other Bentleys right next to it, you're going to go for the two ugly Bentleys because you don't want to waste your time on the one with the club. You're just going to say, 'You know what? Let's just leave that one and go with the easier route -- with the route of least resistance.'"
So that's why I kept creating all these lies and then I was telling them the truth. I was making them believers. I would tell them things like, "Listen, guys, I found a special idol." And no one believed me.
And then when I showed it to them, they were like, "Oh, man! You can never tell when this guy is lying!" And that was my strategy behind everything. I always created a reasonable doubt and I always made them believers at the end.
Reality TV World: Do you think Woo really thought he could beat you in a jury vote at the end or do you think, deep down, he knew he was probably going to lose and just felt he needed to honor his martial arts principles regardless? Maybe he was unable to separate the game from real life?
Tony Vlachos: I think it was a totality of the circumstances. I think it was who Woo is as a person and I think it was the pitch I made to him about, "Listen, if you take someone like Kass, they're not going to respect you because you just contradicted everything you said you were playing for -- which was the honor and the integrity part." So I think it was a combination of all that. That's why he felt it was 50/50, and that's what I pitched to him.
I told him, "Listen, if you go with Kass, you have zero chance because no one's going to respect your game, especially when you tell them your game plan was to be loyal throughout the whole game and you just ousted me at the last second. So that game plan goes out the window, so what else do you have for these jurors? Nothing. You have nothing else. With me, at least you can tell them, 'Listen, I stayed loyal to Tony from Day 1. That was my game plan. It was my choice to be second in command. I let Tony get all the blood on his hands, and here I am today.'"
I mean, it was 50/50 and that's why he kept saying that. He's like, "Tony, I'd rather have a 50/50 chance," and that's what he truly believed at that point. And again, it was the totality of the circumstances -- him being a martial arts instructor, him dropping his guard from the game, him not being able to distinguish the game from reality at that specific moment.
Reality TV World: It seemed like you spent the end of the game thinking your idols were the only thing keeping you in the game. But many castaways appeared to want to take you to the end, thinking you'd be perfect to sit next to in the finals. Was that accurate? Did you not realize there were people who didn't want to vote you out and therefore hoped to take you to the end?
Tony Vlachos: The only person that thought that was the delusional one, and that's Kass. Nobody else thought that. Everybody there knew I was a threat. The beauty of it was, Spencer was a much bigger threat than me. [Latasha "Tasha" Fox] was a much bigger threat than me.
So my whole alliance was blinded by the fact that Spencer and Tasha were still in the game, which allowed me to make these crazy moves and still get that support when it became time to vote off Spencer and Tasha. They really didn't have a choice. So when I did my moves and blindsided my alliance, they couldn't go with Tasha or Spencer because they knew they would lose to a Spencer or Tasha -- as opposed to me, where they had some kind of chance.
Reality TV World: I think it's safe to assume you don't have a lot of regrets given the way things worked out for you, but do you feel guilty at all for saying anything this season? What about when you lied on your wife, kid and father and what not?
Tony Vlachos: Yeah, absolutely. Going into the game, my strategy was not to swear on my family, it was not to swear on my loved ones, on my deceased dad. That was not my strategy whatsoever. When I made those promises, when I swore on my family, at that moment, my heart was genuinely in the right place. It really was, at that moment. But the heart is blind and my emotions took over me just like me screaming, "Top 5!" That was just raw emotion and it wasn't strategic and it wasn't thought-out.
At the end of the day, that's when I sat down and said, "What did I just do!? How could I just promise [Trish Hegarty] that I'm taking her to the end when I can't do that?" And that's what happened, and that's when I broke those promises. I took no pleasure in breaking those promises and it was definitely genuine when I made those promises to those people.
It wasn't part of my strategy and they knew it was genuine. And that's why they believed in me, because at that moment, it was really genuine. So it was a good read on them to believe in me when I made those promises, because it was true at that moment. But like in the game, everyone knows that what's good this moment is not necessarily good for you in the next moment.
Reality TV World: So when you were making your argument to Woo that he needed to stay loyal to you otherwise he would lose his code of ethics and stuff, how do you justify that argument to him when obviously, outside the game, you're a good person but inside the game you're a different person? (Laughs)
Tony Vlachos: Well, (laughs) you know what? It was a feasible argument, I guess, because I pretty much wasn't talking to them about my game. I was talking to them about his game. And his game, like I said, at the final council, what was he going to tell these jurors?
His only game plan was to be loyal, was to be honorable, and to play the game with integrity. So getting rid of me at that last moment blows his whole strategy out the window. So what else did he have left? And I think that was a feasible argument to make to him.
Reality TV World: Did Jeremiah Wood's speech at the final Tribal Council surprise you, that he was so angry and attacked you the way he did?
Tony Vlachos: Oh yeah, no, absolutely it surprised me. Because I don't recall ever making a promise to him or swearing on my kid to him or my family to him. I don't recall ever doing that to him -- the same with Spencer, you know? I did swear to Spencer that in that vote, I was going to protect him because I needed him to vote for [LJ McKanas], and they were concerned that I was lying to them.
I said, "Listen, guys, that's on everything I love. I'm not lying to you. There's no reason for me to lie to you now. We have the numbers against you. I'm coming to you with a strategy plan to get rid of somebody on my own team." So I didn't know where Jeremiah came out with that, but I'm sure it was a misunderstanding on his part. But I never swore to him, and I was trying to explain myself but he didn't give me the opportunity to.
Reality TV World: What are your plans for the money and how are things going with your wife? You mentioned she's on bed rest. When is she due?
Tony Vlachos: My wife is eight months pregnant. She was supposed to come with me to this event. We were going to take the train here to LA to watch the event, but the doctors did not allow her. They put her on bed rest because she was already starting to dilate. She's doing fine now; I spoke with her on the phone. Thank God she didn't deliver the baby after watching the results, so she's still hanging in there waiting for me.
As far as the money, after hearing Spencer and after hearing these Brains talk -- the way they talk so fluently and so smoothly and they're so educated -- I'm going to make a decision that I definitely want my kids to have a college education unlike me. All I have is a high school diploma, and listening to people with a college education, I was very inspired by it. My kids will definitely go to college and have a great education paid for courtesy of Survivor.
Above is the concluding portion of Tony's exclusive interview with Reality TV World. Click here to read the first half.