Exclusive Tony Vlachos interview: What scared him "a lot" going into 'Survivor: Game Changers'?
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 03/15/2017
Tony Vlachos was voted off the "Mana" tribe on Survivor: Game Changers' epic two-hour premiere episode 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 a recent exclusive interview, 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 concluding portion of his interview.
Reality TV World: We didn't see you have much personal interaction with Jeff Varner, Hali Ford, and Troy "Troyzan" Robertson. Where did you think you stood with them in the game? Did you have any relationship with either of them, and if not, do you wish you had tried a little harder to bond with them? Maybe it wouldn't have been so easy for Sandra Diaz-Twine to build a team against you in that case.
Tony Vlachos: The thing is, when I went into the game, I was like, "Okay." I looked at Troyzan, I looked at Hali, I looked at Jeff Varner, and said, "Okay, these three guys, great players, great guys, great girl -- but they can't offer me any protection."
They're not bigger threats than I am, so they're not going to shield me. If anything, I'm going to shield them. So I'm saying to myself, "I don't need them; I can't use them for anything." So I was thinking they were going to be the soft targets.
I was thinking, "If we lose, they'll be voted off first." There was no reason for me to bond and get close with them. I did try to talk to them. Hali, she shut me out right away. [Hali] was like, "Oh, you're a cop. I know what you did in Cagayan. I don't trust cops. I don't trust what you did."
And she just shut me out! And I was like, "Wow, that's not a smart player." You sit back and think to yourself, "Don't tell me that!" I don't play the game personally, so I didn't personally target her, you know? I just let her go. So I just didn't work with her.
Jeff, talked to him, had a great time, we laughed, we giggled, we said jokes, and it was great! With Troyzan, same thing. He's a great guy, awesome guy -- great stories. And we got along fine, but I didn't talk strategy with him because I wanted him gone.
So I wasn't going to try -- there was no reason for me to do that when I had numbers. So there was no reason for me to keep them alive and string them along when I wanted them out.
Reality TV World: At Tribal Council, you gave this little speech about how you weren't the guy who loves to lie and betray anymore, that you had to become a different person since you were playing against a different caliber of players on Game Changers. Were you being honest there or just trying to convince everyone you'd be trustworthy in the game? If it's the latter, did you really believe people were buying it?
Tony Vlachos: Well, in the first part of the game when I was there, it was truth. I wasn't lying to anybody, I wasn't conning anybody, I wasn't trying to manipulate anybody. I was just going with them and going with the flow. They said, "Ciera," and I said, "No problem." I didn't go to Ciera and say, "Hey, Ciera, let's make a move here." I didn't do that and went along with everybody.
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So in the beginning, it was. It was the truth. I was being truthful with them and I wasn't conning them. I wasn't doing any of that stuff. So I was being sincere at Tribal Council and I wasn't trying to sway anybody, I wasn't trying to lie to anybody. I was being sincere and it was the truth.
And as a matter of fact, it didn't make the air, but I told them, "Not one of you guys can say I was trying to manipulate you or was talking trash. I challenge any one of you to say that I was talking trash about the person next to you." And nobody could say anything because I wasn't doing that. The only person I tried to go against was Sandra, and that was only because of the fact I found out she was against me.
Reality TV World: Sandra was really arrogant after you got voted off, yelling that the queen is staying the queen and stuff like that. How do you think the tribe is going to react to that, and do you think it could be dangerous for her game?
Tony Vlachos: Well, at one point, I'm like, "Wow, she got them all on her side. They voted me off. Kudos to her." I gave her props, "Good job, Sandra!" And then she started running her mouth. And that's when I said, "You guys are all suckers if you let her do that."
So I don't know. I mean, the vibe that I was getting from the tribe -- I'll tell you, she can run her mouth this second, but in the 59 other seconds in a minute, she's a sweetheart.
She's funny and she's nice and she's sociable, and you just cling to her. She's just a great social person that has great social skills. So for that one second she said something arrogant or dumb or whatever, and people see that, that other 59 seconds, she's awesome!
Reality TV World: Which players did you hope to work with going into the game. Since you're all returnees, you have the ability to talk to each other. So just to be clear, did you have any pre-game discussions with anyone or agree to any pre-game alliances?
Tony Vlachos: That was an issue going into the game also. I didn't want to nothing to do with any of the previous players. I don't like to lie in real life. I don't want to tell you something and then go in the game and I have to do something else. I didn't want to do that, so at all costs, I avoided conversations with any of them.
And I knew that what I didn't know -- the fact I didn't know who was in bed with one another outside of the game is what really scared me a lot, you know? I see Sandra talking with [Malcolm Freberg]. I see Malcolm interviewing with other players sometimes for Survivor. I saw [Andrea Boehlke] do interviews. So all these people have some kind of relationship outside of Survivor.
I didn't have any of that with anyone other than [Sarah Lacina]. Once in a while, Sarah and I would talk. I would talk to her, but I really wasn't in the Survivor loop. That kind of scared me also. So not knowing who's in bed with one another, made me a little cagey in the beginning.
I didn't want to say anything or mention anyone's name because I didn't know who was working with one another before the game even started. But, you know, all that pre-game stuff usually goes right out the window as soon as you hit the beach. So I don't think that had anything to do with my game.
Reality TV World: You took off guns blazing this season, looking for idols and building a spy bunker and stuff like that. When you began playing Game Changers, was there a part of you that found yourself sinking into your character from Cagayan as a villain because you kind of felt the need to live up to the reputation for entertainment or what your fans may expect?
Tony Vlachos: I don't think so, not consciously at least. I think I just wanted to go out there and act like a clown, you know, act like the jokester. It was like, "Everybody put your guards down. I'm not threatening." I was running around just being a goofball. And it worked! That's exactly what I am.
I am a big goofball, but when it comes time to sit down and strategize, it's a whole different story, you know? So in Cagayan, most people saw the strategy side of me, you know? Because I did good that season, so most of it was me talking about strategy and me doing strategical things. But they didn't see the other side of me, the jokester side of me.
So now that they got to play with me, they got to see how I am. I'm just a happy-go-lucky dude running around just having fun and just making the best of it. So then when it becomes time to strategize, business is business. And they didn't see the part of me strategizing at that point.
They saw me being a goofball and they kind of dropped their guards with me. They were like, "Alright. This is just Tony being Tony." And that's how they wrote it off as, and I was happy with that. It was exactly what I was looking for, and it worked! It worked until I heard Troyzan talking to Sandra and that's when everything went out of control for me.
Reality TV World: What was your reaction when producers asked you to come back to play Survivor again? Did you have any hesitation at all?
Tony Vlachos: I asked them, "What date? What time?" That's all I asked them. "I would love to, so just give me the dates and the time and I'll make it happen."
Reality TV World: Would you be up for playing again if you had another opportunity or do you think you're done?
Tony Vlachos: At this moment, no, I'll have to say no. But again, you don't know two months later. Two months later for a season I might be begging [Jeff Probst] to call me back. But right now -- when I got my torch snuffed, I said, "I'll never do this again. I'll never do it again."
Two months later, I'm like, "Oh my God, I wish I could back for another try. I want to play. I didn't even get a chance to play!" I didn't even get bit by a mosquito! That's how fast I got voted off the island.
I just want to go back and play! And then I saw what happened last night on TV, and I'm like, "I'm not going back. I'm done. Nope. Nope." I'm on a roller coaster of feelings and emotions, and who knows! Maybe two months later I'll be dying to go back again. But right, I don't know.
Reality TV World: What was your reaction when you saw in last night's preview there is a tribal swap coming up already?
Tony Vlachos: We talked about that. We talked about that. I was kind of nervous about that. Before going into Tribal [Council], I was saying, "Oh man, they can vote me off because there's no need to worry about keeping the tribe strong or that we need strength," because we were all assuming that there was going to be a tribe swap.
So we knew that. So "keeping the tribe strong" pitch kind of went out the window when we were saying, "Oh, there's probably going to be a swap now." We pretty much had an idea that there was going to be a swap after the second guy got voted off.