Tony Vlachos came into Survivor: Game Changers clawing for immunity. Literally.
Within minutes of landing on the island during the Wednesday, March 8, premiere, the season 28 Survivor: Cagayan winner sprinted off into the jungle looking for the hidden idol.
“I wasn’t going to try and act like someone I’m not,” the police officer tells Us Weekly. “I made it a joke, but behind every joke lies the truth. So as I was joking around, I really was looking for the idol. My strategy was don’t try and hide. Be who you are because that’s what they are expecting to see. And if I showed it to them right in their face, they might accept it.”
Instead, the Mana tribe rejected him. During the two-hour, double-elimination episode, the New Jersey native was the second player sent packing.
Vlachos talks gameplay and his “devastating, demoralizing” loss with Us.
Us Weekly: Were you hesitant to sign on for a second season?
Tony Vlachos: No, as soon as I got the call from CBS, I was like, “Please let this be an invite for me to play!” There was no hesitation whatsoever. It’s funny because when I finished Cagayan the first thing I said to Jeff [Prosbt] was, “Please never call me. I’ll never do this game again.” He said, “You’ll change your mind,” and he was right. Survivor is literally the adventure of a lifetime and to play two adventures in one lifetime, it’s that much more pleasant! And winning another million dollars is the cherry on top.
Us: What was your strategy going into Game Changers?
TV: Before going into the game, you don’t know who you’re playing with. Just that they’re all returning players. I rewatched my season and paid close attention to everything I did and everything I said because that’s exactly what those other players are going to do. Everything on Cagayan was about strategy and deception. I was like, “OK, I’m going to go into the game with this fresh in my memory. I just have to keep doing what I was doing in Cagayan.”
Us: Was that strategy detrimental to your game?
TV: Everything is on the fly. Every minute that you play, the game changes. My strategy this minute might work now but then the next minute it won’t. So you have to re-strategize and do something different. We moved our campsite closer to the water well, which destroyed my game because I was planning on building a spy bunker there. That’s where everyone congregates. Normally, the water well is pretty far away from the campsite. This time, we were literally 50 feet away from the well. Being that the campsite was there, it was so much harder for me to be doing that. At the snap of a finger, my whole game was thrown off.
Us: What’re the pros and cons of your spy bunker?
TV: The spy bunker would have been awesome! Everybody congregates at the water well. People say, “Hey, do you want to go get water with me?” and that’s code for “Let’s talk strategy.” I would have sat right there, laying in the spy bunker and I would have heard everything that they were saying. Then obviously I would have used it against them. I know for a fact it would have worked. I just didn’t get a chance to use it.
Us: Why was there a target on your back so early?
TV: I watched myself play Cagayan and if I put myself in someone else’s shoes, I’d be like, “Wow, you just can’t trust this guy. He’ll burn any bridge he has to. He’ll stab any ally in the back.” I knew going into the game people would be like, “We have to get this guy out first if we can.”
Us: What did you learn from this that you would take with you if you were to play a third time?
TV: I know what I would have to do but I couldn’t do it and that’s just try and sit down, be quiet and let everyone else run the show. But there’s no way I would be able to do that!
Us: Who is the biggest threat in the game?
TV: Sandra [Diaz-Twine, two-time winner]. For sure. She’s clever. She doesn’t come at you in a threatening way. Those little, subtle movements that she makes are enough for people to gravitate toward her. I had the strong guys on my side and then at the snap of a finger, they were with her.
Survivor airs on CBS Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET.
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