Tony Vlachos is certainly not winning any friends on Survivor: Cagayan. Now that we've gotten to the portion of the game where people voted off become members of the jury, two out of three jurors heading into next week are victims of blindsides at least partially engineered by the New Jersey cop.
The latest castoff, L.J. McKanas, became the victim of an eyebrow-raising betrayal by Tony on Wednesday's episode, getting blindsided just a few episodes after he gave Tony his immunity idol at Tribal Council.
"I was completely shocked," McKanas tells TVGuide.com about his ouster. "I mean, when I replayed it in my mind, I thought, there's no circumstance where that makes any sense."
But will all these big moves cost Tony a chance at victory in the long run? McKanas thinks so. "In my personal opinion, I don't think he has a shot to win," he says. "But there's a lot of game to be played."
Read our full interview with L.J. to find out why he stood Tasha up on Wednesday's episode when she wanted to talk and which player he thinks poses the biggest threat going forward.
So, was this vote a true blindside?
It was 100 percent a blindside. I had zero idea that [Tony] was turning and plotting and thinking the way he was to get me out this soon.
I realize it's a game, and you can't take things personally. But it had to have been a little hurtful that Tony betrayed you, especially after you gave him your idol a few weeks ago.
I was completely shocked. When I replayed it in my mind, I thought, there's no circumstance where that makes any sense. And I know that he is a person who is playing the game, and in my opinion at the time, I thought he was really the only one playing the game.
Explain the full reasoning behind giving him your idol at that Tribal Council a few weeks ago.
I know he had some alliances that were formed a little sooner than we had formed ours, so I had made that decision partly to basically purchase some of his loyalty towards the game. Because it's one thing when you say something, and then it's another when you do something. So when he played his idol, it made sense [to give him mine]. ... I figured, well, maybe I can purchase some of his loyalty and he'll understand the plan that we had made, that I'm solidifying this and we're going to stick to this. I'm on board. There's nothing more I could have done to try to ensure [he knows] I'm loyal.
Now that you're watching the episodes, are you surprised at how ruthless Tony is?
I'm not surprised, because he was always playing. He wouldn't sleep. He's always thinking. He's always paranoid. Whether that is going to benefit him in the long run, I'm not sure. ... A lot of things that he does, I can't validate from my own perspective, but for him and the way that he's playing, I have to respect his game, because he's still playing after all of the stunts that he's pulled.
As a member of the jury, do you think Tony has a shot of winning the game? Or has he just pissed too many people off?
In my personal opinion, I don't think he has a shot to win. Because not only did we have a bond and an alliance and a plan and [he] blindsided me to remove me from the game, but [he] also blindsided three others of your strong alliance. He blindsided Trish, Jefra and Kass. So, I don't think he has a shot to win the game, in the event that he makes it to the finals. I don't personally think he can make it to the finals, just based upon what he's done thus far. But there's a lot of game to be played, and how ... the next couple days are going to be basically a deciding factor on his fate.
Why do you think there have been so many blindsides this season?
I have to commend the casting [department], because the group of players that they have put together is a wonderful collaboration of people that understand the game and respect the game and play the game, and are willing to shift their game play on a daily basis based upon what's happening that day. Incidentally, it's making great television, because one person has a little gossip, and now it's, 'Well, OK, we've got to do something here.' There's people that, not only do they understand the game, but they understand what holds weight in the game, and some of that is big moves. ... People get it. The cast is unbelievable, and you never know what's going to happen in this game. Especially when you have a character like Tony, who you never can understand and you can never plan for.
Why did you ignore Tasha's invitation to chat on Wednesday's episode?
At the time when I was sitting there with her, Tony was at his peak in paranoia. I ran through circumstances in my head and said, what could she possibly offer me that she couldn't say to me right then that's going to make it worth me putting a target on my back? And I didn't think that there was anything that she could have said that would have been worth taking that risk. Even if I'm just simply standing there with her, Tony is somebody that's going to be like, 'Oh, he has a reason.' ... He's going to make people think that there is a concern, even though I feel like I bought his loyalty enough. I just decided that there were too many people around. And I had a conversation with Kass and Jefra to let them know. 'She wants to talk to me. Before I go anywhere or I make a decision to go speak with her, I want you guys to know that this is preemptive.' ... [But] then I just made the decision that it's not going to be worth it for me to go.
Do you have any regrets about the game you played?
To be honest with you, I can't go back and think of anything that I would have played differently, because you can't account for somebody that has played and made the decisions that [Tony] did. Now, it sounds silly for me to say that, because then that means I would have left the game. If I was to go back, I would have maybe not played my idol. But, I might have just gone home with the idol based upon the circumstances at hand.
How did you think Wednesday's Tribal Council was going to play out?
We were going to split the vote. ... [Tony] was so concerned that Woo had an idol, and I was concerned that Woo had an idol too. ... So the idea was, just split the votes, let Woo be concerned and play his idol if he had one. And we didn't actually have to vote for him, but at least maybe have him expose his idol. But I guess he just didn't have one.
Who do you think is the biggest threat going forward?
I think Tasha's the biggest threat. She's an immunity challenge threat. She hasn't really hurt anybody's feelings. She now has an alliance member who has an idol. They have a couple numbers. And now, you know, Tony really stirred the pot within the group. So I think she may have the best chance of going forward and winning the whole thing.
Survivor airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on CBS. What do you think of Tony's playing style? Were you surprised to see L.J. voted off?
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