Tony Vlachos met his match in Sandra Diaz-Twine. An alliance between the two Survivor champs quickly crumbled and his torch was swiftly snuffed when Sandra rallied the tribe against him on Survivor: Game Changers. We talked with Tony about his brief time on Season 34, and he humbly admitted that his Survivor success is likely limited to what he accomplished in winning Survivor: Cagayan. He also revealed one of the goofiest unseen strategies he planned to unleash had he made it deeper in the game.
SheKnows: It was so entertaining watching the feud brewing between you and Sandra. Did we see everything that happened, or was there more to the bad blood?
Tony Vlachos: We had formed an alliance. It was me, her, Caleb, Malcolm and Aubry. There was five of us. Everything was great. I was happy. She was happy. Then it came down to one night when I was working on my spy bunker. I saw her and Troyzan walking off into the woods. I snuck down on the beach to eavesdrop when I heard them say my name. At that point I was wondering why they would sneak out of camp at 4 o'clock in the morning to talk about me. I came up to them and said, "What are you guys talking about?" They started telling me lies about the tide and something about crates being too close to the fire. I looked at Sandra and I was giggling because I didn't believe the nonsense she was telling me. From that moment on, I couldn't trust Sandra because she was talking to Troyzan, who was not part of our five. She also threw my name out at 4 o'clock in the morning. From that point on, I was against her and she was against me. In the end, she got the upper hand and she got me.
SK: When you went into that Tribal Council, did you know that the votes were about to fall against you?
TV: I was 99 percent sure it was me. When we lost the challenge, we were all talking and Aubry was the only one not there. Obviously, it was easy for everybody to pick Aubry. "Tony, vote for Aubry. We're voting for Aubry. Let's get her out. She's a threat." OK. Cool. Sounds good. So then I go to Aubry and ask her what's going on and why she's not chatting with anybody. She's like, "I'm just hanging out." So I asked her who they told her to vote against, and she was drawing blanks. That's when I knew there was something deeper to this. She was like, "Tony, I'm just gonna let fate take it's course." That's when I started having some suspicion that it might be me. I tried talking to Troyzan. He tells me he's having a zen moment an hour before Tribal Council. I go to Jeff [Varner] and ask if we can talk. He gives me a thumbs up and starts walking away from me winking his eye. He said, "Tony, we're all good. Everything is all good, Tony. Let's just go with the plan." I knew this was gonna be bad for me. I went to Caleb and told him I knew Sandra was throwing my name around, but asked him to please listen to me and make a big move to flip on Sandra. He had a blank look on his face and didn't really say anything. I was like, dang, she turned this guy, too. Same thing with Malcolm. When I asked him to do something about Sandra, he told me the vote was Aubry and to stop worrying. That was it. I knew it was over for me.
SK: When your torch was snuffed and you left the game, Sandra was very vocal in taunting you. How did you take that?
TV: In the heat of the moment, you get excited. When you have that victory like I did in Cagayan [Season 28] when Sarah was voted out at the merge I was clapping my hands and jumping with joy. It's nothing personal. I guess it's just pure emotion. She got the upper hand and she got the best of me. That was her way of celebrating by making snarky remarks. I don't know what I would've said had I got the best of her and she got voted out. I probably would've been jumping up and saying stuff myself.
SK: As two notorious winners, it was obvious you and Sandra had the biggest targets. Did you honestly believe that you had a shot at winning again?
TV: When I said yes to going back to the game, I really thought I could win again or else I would've never done it. When I got out there pre-game and I saw everybody giving me a fake smile, I could read right through them. They were already gunning for me. In my pre-game interviews, I realized I was the biggest target. Sure enough that was the case. Then, when I get to camp, everybody was so friendly and open. I was just being me. I was running around like being a clown, and they joked me off as just being a goofball. "That's Tony being Tony. Let him be. Let him run around wild like a maniac." After the first Tribal, I was thinking something solid could happen. That's when we formed the alliance of five people with me, Malcolm, Aubry, Caleb and Sandra. At that point, I was golden. I was feeling like we were on top of the world at that point.
SK: You had plans this season to take your infamous spy shack to a different level by digging a spy bunker where you could hide near the water well and listen to conversations. After looking at what you were trying to do, it didn't seem like your spy bunker was ever going to be successful.
TV: [Laughs] Let me tell you, that thing was gonna be 100 percent successful. It was great. When we first got there, I already had intentions of doing an underground bunker. When I found the water well, I started grabbing a bunch of branches and broken tree trunks to make a pile of debris. I wanted to get everybody's eyes used to seeing that there when they'd get water. So later in the game when I'm covering myself in that stuff, it wouldn't look like it was out of place. Then I started digging a hole, and I managed to get it deep enough to where I could put my whole body in there and cover myself with debris. They would've seen nothing! I could've breathed perfectly because the branches would be covering my face. You would not see anything, and I would've been able to hear everything that was said at that water well. It would've worked 100 percent, and it would've been perfect.
SK: I also heard you suggest using clones somehow? Please explain what this would have involved.
TV: That was for deeper in the game. I was planning on having rocks and try to prove my loyalty to people by telling them, "Hold on to my family. These are my rocks. They're sacred to me. They're sentimental to me. You hold on to them and I'm guaranteeing you that you'll be here tomorrow. You won't go home tonight." As soon as I'd give them the rocks, my plan was to make them feel at ease. They would think, "Maybe he's legit with these rocks because I see him kissing them every night and kissing them every morning." My original rocks, I would be kissing because they're my family. The clones, though, I would've given them up like nothing. They mean nothing to me [laughs.] Just rocks.
SK: Before the game began, was there anybody you were hoping to align with?
TV: The only person I would say would be Sarah. She's the only person I have a connection with outside the game of Survivor. We talk on the phone here or there. She talks about her family, and I talk about mine. We played together, and I guess that's why it would be only her. For everybody else, I only watched them on TV. I never talked to them. I never played with them. I had never seen them. I never went to any events to socialize with them.
SK: Under this season's title of Game Changers, which contestants do you think don't deserve that designation?
TV: That's a tough question. Like Jeff [Probst] keeps emphasizing, it has nothing to do with making big moves. It has everything to do with wanting to make moves and playing the game. It depends on how you want to break down the term. If it's just big moves, there's a lot of people that didn't make big moves. It's a hard question to answer. Only production knows because they hand-selected all these players. Just like I said in my pre-game interviews, I'm looking at Hali, the tall Sierra, Troyzan and Jeff Varner and I couldn't remember them doing anything grand. But, at the same time, they were selected for a reason.
SK: It was clear everybody was afraid of letting you get deep in the game because they had seen how strong you can play. Do you think maybe you started playing too hard on day one?
TV: No, actually. I started off running around, and it worked out to my favor. They felt at ease. It wasn't me sneaking away talking to people. It was just me being a goofball. I made them all at ease and they put their guard down with me a little bit. They didn't see me as the threat they saw on Cagayan where all I did was strategize. They saw me as funny, cool and a jokester. It worked! You saw I wasn't the first one gone. If they felt threatened by me initially running around looking for Idols, they would've got rid of me first. They really did see me as Tony just being Tony. The downfall was me hearing my name from Sandra and Troyzan. I confronted them and everything spiraled out of control.
SK: Would you ever go back to play again?
TV: At this very second, this very moment, I would say no. I think I'm done. I think I was a one-hit wonder in Cagayan where all my stars aligned. I think all the luck was there for me. Luck has everything to do with it. I had a lot of good luck in Cagayan, and I had one back luck moment this season by hearing Troyzan and Sandra mentioning my name. That was it. That was my demise right there.
Do you think Tony could ever win the game again if given the chance? Join the conversation and leave a comment in the section below!
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