Tony Vlachos' dreams of becoming a two-time Survivor winner came to a crashing halt on Wednesday's premiere of Game Changers, when the Cagayan champ became the second person eliminated after Ciera Eastin.
Predictably, Tony came out of the gate firing on all cylinders, making no secret of the fact that he was on a personal mission to find immunity idols and setting to work building a secret "spy bunker" to gather covert intelligence on his fellow castaways.
TVGuide.com caught up with Tony* the morning after his torch was snuffed to find out the details of his feud with Sandra, where he thinks he went wrong, and whether he'd play Survivor again if asked.
Going into Tribal, was the vote really as up-in-the-air as we saw on TV, or did you have a bad feeling?
Tony: It was pretty evident to me. Right before we went to Tribal, I tried to talk to everybody, you know, a last-minute pitch to them. I tried to talk to Aubry. I went up to Aubry ... and she told me, "Tony, I'm just going to let fate take its course." And I'm like, oh, man. She's done. I go to Troyzan. He tells me he's having a zen moment on the beach. An hour before Tribal, he's having a zen moment! He didn't want to talk. I go to Jeff Varner. He winks his eye and gives me a thumbs up, and he keeps, like, a mile distance between us because he didn't want me to go close enough to read him. I'm like, wow, your body language told me more than your voice would have told me. I go to Caleb, I go to Malcolm. ... I said, you need me. I'm a big shield for you guys. Let's get rid of Sandra. She's stirring up trouble. She's trying to get me out. Let's get rid of her or let's get rid of one of the weaker threats. Hali, Jeff Varner, Troyzan. ... And they were just like, "Tony, we all said Aubry, let's just go with Aubry. If you start scrambling now and start changing the vote..." And I'm like, "No, guys. There's still time. I can do it." They just didn't want to do it. They're like, "Tony, let's just stick with Aubry." And meanwhile, I know it's not Aubry. ... I knew I was done.
The fact that you went looking for the idol right away seemed to leave a really bad taste in your tribe mates' mouths. Do you regret doing that, or is that just Tony being Tony?
Tony: That was one of my strategies, to be up all in your face with my antics, because that's what I'm known for. For me to sit down and be quiet, they're gonna be like, "Alright, this guy's doing something sneaky, because that's not how Tony plays. He's up to no good." He's up to thinking. For me, running around and clowning around and just being a big goofball, everybody was laughing at that. I was looking for it, but it was OK with them. It was accepted. Because they'd seen it. Everything was fine. They weren't coming for me. Because, remember, I did that the first 10 minutes of the game, where I was running around looking for the idol. If they were going to be scared about that, or if I put my foot in my mouth by doing that, they should have voted me out first. But they didn't. So the fact that I was doing all that stuff had nothing to do with me getting voted off. Me getting voted off was because of that stupid conversation Troyzan and Sandra had where I overheard my name, and that's when I went up against Sandra, and that's what did me in.
When you arrived on the beach and saw who you were playing against, were you nervous, or did you think you had a pretty good chance of making it to the end?
Tony: Before hitting the beach, I thought that I was done. I didn't think that they would even shake my hand and say "Hello, nice to meet you." After I hit the beach, we were all talking, we all shook hands. Everything was fun. And then I played around and said, "Hey, I'm looking for the idol. And then I came back and we all laughed. Like, "Tony, calm down, man. We just started playing the game. Just relax." That's when I said, OK. I'm looking around and I'm saying, OK, I'm a big threat that these guys can use for protection. I'm like, alright, we could throw Michaela under the bus if we needed to. We know she did something good to come back, but we don't need to find out what she did. Let's just get rid of her first. Then we have Aubry. She's four strong with Kaoh Rong. They just recently played. They have a good relationship. We could get rid of her. We have Hali. Hali's not going to offer anybody protection later on, because she's not that big of a threat that can protect anybody. We have Varner, same thing. We have Troyzan, same thing. They're not that big of a threat that they can protect me. They can't protect Sandra. They can't protect Malcolm. They can't protect us. So, I was saying to myself, oh man, I might be good. If we lose challenges, we have any one of these that we can pick, and I can throw that pitch to any single one of them and they're gonna go for it.
I set up the alliance with Sandra, with Aubry, with Malcolm, with Caleb, with myself. That's five strong. We were golden, golden, until that conversation took place. Like I tell people, in Cagayan, all my stars aligned perfectly. The luck was on my side. This time, that one minute of bad luck that I heard my name being thrown out there at 4 in the morning, off deep in the jungle, I heard that and that was the end of it.
So if you had to pick one regret about the game, what would it be?
Tony: There is no regret. It was just that moment. That's the only thing that got me voted off, was that moment that I heard my name and I confronted Troyzan and Sandra. That's when I thought Sandra was against me, so I started trying to scramble the troops around. And then, she knew I was against her so she started scrambling the troops against me. She has the upper hand. I went home. That's the moment.
You and Sandra did some trash talking as you left. Everything good with you guys?
Tony: The trash talk was one-sided. She was trash-talking me. I was referring to the rest of the tribe. I was talking to Malcolm, I was talking to Caleb, to Aubry. None of them wanted to work with me to get rid of a weaker threat. That's why I was saying, "You guys are sheep being led to the slaughter," and I said, "Sandra, good job." Because she pulled it off. And then she started running her mouth, saying things. It was definitely nothing personal on my end. In my exit interview, I gave her her props. I didn't say nothing bad about her. It didn't faze me. If she was upset that I was gunning for her and she was mad or whatever, she took it personal, I didn't. But no, it's all good. Water under the bridge.
Tell us about the spy bunker. What were you trying to accomplish with that?
Tony: My first season on Cagayan, I built a spy shack, which was behind the shelter, and I had an opportunity to listen to what people were saying inside the tent. Then I discovered that everybody goes to the water wall and that's where they do all their strategy talking. So I built another spy shack down by the well and I was like, wow, this is great, I can actually hear what people are saying, clearly. So, this time around, I said, I've got to do the same thing, but knowing that they know my game, I've got to take it underground now. Nobody's gonna expect somebody burying themselves underground trying to listen to you. That's just idiotic. That's what I'm good for, idiotic things. So, the first thing I did was, I found the water well and I started throwing debris where I knew I wanted to dig my spy bunker, because I knew I was going to need the debris to cover myself after I get in the hole. So I just wanted to try to get them used to seeing that debris in that spot, so later on they wouldn't say, "Oh, hold up. Something looks out of place here." I was setting it up. I set it up from Day 1. Then on Day 2 and Day 3 I started digging and digging and digging and making my hole.
What I was planning on achieving with that was, I wanted to hear everything they were saying at the water well in my absence. So if I heard A tell B something about C, I would go back to C and say, "Listen, A and B said this about you." And then I would go to B and say, "Listen, A told me that B said this about C." And I would give them verbatimly what they said. And there's only one way I would know that's what they said verbatimly, and that's because somebody involved in that conversation would have to have told me what they said. There's no way they're going to think that I eavesdropped and heard that. So I would be using that intel against them.
Did you have a plan in place if you got caught?
Tony: I had got caught in the spy bunker, it is what it is. "Alright, guys, you caught me. Let's work together. I'll tell you what I've heard." I wouldn't have made up a lie. Let's say if Troyzan caught me. I would have said, "Listen, Troyzan. This is my spy bunker. I built it. Just keep it a secret between us, but I'm going to tell you, I heard A and B throwing your name out there." I would have just made something up and I would have tried to work with the person that caught me.
Would you play Survivor again if given the chance?
Tony: Right now, if they asked me to, I'd probably say no. but maybe two, three months later, I'll be begging them to play again. ... It was a short-lived experience, and it was an adventure of a lifetime once again. I think I was a one-hit wonder in my first season and I should have just left it at that. I got my butt kicked.
Of the remaining players, who do you view as the biggest threat out there?
Tony: I would say Sandra. I got stung by the Queen Bee and she's got a lot more stinging to do. She's such a big threat that people would want to carry her, would want to hide behind her. And that's what I thought would have been the case with me. But I guess when there's so many threats in the game, you don't need all of them to stick around.
*some responses have been edited for length
Survivor airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on CBS.
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