Back in June last year, while the Survivor: Game Changers cast were battling it out on an island in Fiji, I reached out to a selection of former players to get their thoughts and predictions on the returning castaways. Over the next couple of weeks, I will be posting those interviews here on Inside Survivor, one every weekday.
Spencer Bledsoe, the runner-up of Survivor: Cambodia, has participated in two seasons of Survivor, the first of which he played alongside Survivor: Game Changers cast member, Tony Vlachos. The relationship between the two men was up and down throughout Survivor: Cagayan, at times going to battle over idols and advantages, other times working together to blindside unsuspecting tribemates. No matter what Spencer did, the “young lad” always seemed one step behind the self-proclaimed “King of the Jungle.” Through all their back and forth gameplay, Spencer grew to respect Tony and at the Final Tribal Council, not only did Spencer give Tony his vote, but he vouched for his victory in front of the entire jury.
Inside Survivor reached out to Spencer to get his thoughts on Tony’s return to Survivor: Game Changers.
Disclaimer: This interview was conducted in June 2016 while Survivor: Game Changers was still filming in Fiji.
1) Hey Spencer, thanks for doing this. In Survivor: Cagayan, in your jury speech, you said that Tony played in a way that honored the game. What was it about Tony’s game that you respected so much?
It’s hard to put coach-talk into explicit and supportable words, but what I respected so much was that Tony went into the game with a strong sense of self and a purpose, and followed through on that purpose more than any player I’ve witnessed. The term “give 100%” is thrown around pretty loosely in culture, but Tony damn near did it. He literally looked hours and hours for idols, and when he realized he’d come under suspicion for that, he crafted crab traps for the sole purpose of pretending to check the traps and buying five minutes here or there to look for idols. He combed through the entire beach. He didn’t sleep. He had a grind and a will in playing hard and maximizing his chances that I don’t think has ever been replicated.
2) On TV, we saw Tony searching for idols, building spy-shacks, and all of this other manic behavior. Can you describe a little what it was actually like living with Tony day to day? Was he on the move 24/7, or was there another side to Tony that we perhaps didn’t see as much?
This answer is definitive – he was always on the move and buzzing. I think Tony is literally incapable of sitting still and not meddling, which is incredibly fun to watch. I was walking down a trail with him one day when he jumped, startled and freaked out. He informed me that he thought he saw a monkey chasing us, but it was just his mind playing tricks on him after not sleeping. Maybe the joke was on me, and this was his elaborate way of getting people to underestimate him, but it’ll be fun to watch regardless.
3) Many people give Trish credit for Tony’s success. She was a loyal ally that helped ground him and put out fires that he caused. Is that accurate? And if so, do you think without that person to anchor him, he could go off the rails this season?
It is true that Trish put out a ton of fires for Tony, most crucially with Jefra. Is it true that she deserves credit for his win? Not in my book. Every winner has his strokes of luck, and allies as good as Trish and Woo were Tony’s. I do hope he’s reflected on that and is prepared not to have them, though. I imagine after winning it’s easy to be content playing the same game and not reflecting on how one could improve.
4) He is obviously coming into this season with a huge target on his back. How do you think he will change his game? How would you play it in his position?
I think with a new group of people, Tony does have an opportunity to fight the target on his back by playing up everything that makes him seem non-strategic. On merge night in Cagayan, I mentally wrote Tony off as a Jersey Shore alternate when he (literally) shouted into the night, as we slept, “Yeah, that’s right we f****** canned Lindsay, that dumb ******, that’s what happens! Pop!! Bang bang!”
Sure, these returnees have seen that Tony was perceived that way and won anyway, but they might come to trust their in-person read of Tony against their better judgment. I wouldn’t underestimate the ability of returnees with egos to underestimate people.
5) What is Tony’s main positive attribute? And, what is his main negative attribute?
Positive – Tony has more of what you call “street smarts” than anyone I’ve ever met. By the end of the season, people will be afraid to even try lying to him.
Negative – He will likely be a strategic force that people want to blindside as the game goes on, and as the immunities get more puzzle-dependent, he may not win it when the whack is coming.
6) There is another former Cagayan castaway on this season, Tony’s old Cops R Us partner, Sarah Lacina. How do you think their relationship will be out on the island? Is there still bad blood there?
I don’t know what they’ve discussed, but I’m sure they’ve talked pregame on some level. I do think Tony’s made a big effort to make amends, and that there’s not too much bitterness leftover from last time.
7) Who on this cast do you see as Tony’s biggest competition?
Ciera Eastin. Playing with Second Chancers definitely changed some of my opinions, and no one’s stock went up more in my mind than hers. She can lie as well as Tony can, and is likable and authentic. Amazing player.
8) On the flip-side, who here is good for Tony’s game? Who do you think he should align with?
Aubry Bracco. I think Aubry is Tony’s perfect complement and would bring long-term thinking and cerebral strategy to a partnership.
9) Given that Tony is going to be back on our screens soon, does this mean we will see a return of your Fireside Chats on Twitter?
10) Putting you on the spot here, how far do you think Tony will make it (or feel free to give a percentage)? And secondly, who is your pick to win it all?
I already kinda gave away my faith in Ciera, but to throw out another name for a winner pick, I can definitely see Malcolm Freberg winning.
As for Tony, I think he’s either winning or a pre-merge boot.
11) Before we let you go, what is new in the world of Spencer? How has life been since we last saw you in Survivor: Cambodia?
Life’s genuinely awesome. My days consist of trading, exercising, eating really well and meditating, and things are as good as ever. It doesn’t hurt that it’s been a blast watching Survivor lately, as it’s continued a hot streak since arguably Season 25. I have faith Tony will be a big part of that hot streak reaching ten seasons.
Added 02/04/17: I’m also working on a podcast I just started called “Redeeming Disorder.” The goal is to bring on subjects who’ve struggled with mental disorders and break down the stigma by talking through their personal stories. While it’s different than Survivor, of course, it reminds me of Survivor’s ability to really let us into someone’s world because what we’re viewing is authentic. I’m so excited to do that with mental illness – an issue close to my heart. After one season my co-host, Laura, and I are thrilled with what we’re making, and I’m extremely passionate about continuing both the journey with the podcast and in the mental health space in general.
Thanks again to Spencer for taking part. For more on Tony, you can check out his cast retrospective and official cast bio. Stay tuned to Inside Survivor for more Playing With Game Changers interviews. Survivor: Game Changers premieres March 8, 2017, on CBS.