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Survivor: Game Changers Tony Vlachos Retrospective


A look back at the previous game of Tony Vlachos, one of the returning castaways on the upcoming Survivor: Game Changers.

Age: 43
Hometown: Jersey City, New Jersey
Previous Season(s): Survivor: Cagayan
Previous Placing: Winner
Days Lasted: 39
Correctly Voted for Boot: 10
Votes Received: 5
Individual Immunity Challenge Wins: 0
Most Memorable Moment: Building spy shack and speaking llama.

What happened in his previous season: Nobody has ever played Survivor with the same manic energy that Tony displayed throughout his time on Survivor: Cagayan. In the first iteration of the Brawn vs. Brains vs. Beauty theme, Tony, a New Jersey Police Officer, was placed on the Brawn (Appari) tribe. Early on he was approached by fellow police officer, and fellow Game Changers cast mate, Sarah Lacina, who straight up asked him if he was a cop. Tony initially lied, telling her that he worked in construction. A little later, Tony decided to come clean to Sarah, admitting he was a cop and forming the “Cops R Us” alliance, swearing loyalty to her on his badge.

The Brawn tribe never lost a pre-swap immunity challenge and didn’t attend tribal council until Day 14. This winning streak allowed plenty of time for Tony to put his plans into place. He built a “spy shack” so that he could secretly listen in on the conversations of his tribemates. He found a hidden immunity idol, and he solidified alliances with Sarah and Trish Hegarty. He also told lots of lies. Tony didn’t like how popular Cliff Robinson was becoming on the tribe, and so he lied to Sarah, telling her that Cliff and Lindsey Ogle were targeting her. Sarah bought the lie and even attempted to throw an immunity challenge so that they could blindside Cliff, but due to the terrible performance of the Brains tribe, the Brawns won again.

On Day 12, the tribes swapped from three to two, sending all the Appari members, except for Sarah, to the new Solana tribe, along with Jefra Bland and LJ McKanas. Tony initially planned to stick with the former Brawns and eliminate LJ, but Trish talked to him about going after their original target, Cliff. When the new Solana lost the immunity challenge, Tony and Trish voted with LJ and Jefra, sending Cliff home and completely blindsiding Lindsey and Woo Hwang. After Cliff’s blindside and a heated argument with Trish, Lindsey decided to quit the game. Having bonded with his new tribe, Tony revealed to them that he was a cop, not a construction worker.

Solana won the next reward challenge and got the chance to raid the Appari camp. The tribe chose to send Tony and Woo to conduct the raid, with the two also receiving a hidden immunity idol clue at the Solana camp. Thinking outside of the box, Tony decided to use the clue to put a target on Appari’s strongest member, Jeremiah Wood. He pretended that he had to give the clue to an Appari tribe member of his choice, and in front of the entire tribe, he singled out Jeremiah. Jeremiah soon realized it was a trick, recognizing that it was the same clue from the original Solana tribe, but it still drew some suspicion his way.

After Solana won the next immunity challenge, it took Tony into the merge where he had committed himself to his new alliance, but they were down in numbers 6-5. He tried to bring his former Cops R Us partner back into the fold, but Sarah was hesitant after hearing Tony yelling “Top 5! Top 5!” with his new tribe at the previous challenge. But after sensing some tension between Kass McQuillen and Sarah, Trish was able to sway Kass over to their side by offering to vote Sarah out. At an insane tribal council, Tony decided to play his idol on LJ, thinking he was being targeted, while LJ returned the favor by playing his idol on Tony. It was all in vain, as the Appari alliance had actually planted their votes on Jefra. It looked like Solana had been outsmarted; however, Kass flipped, sending Sarah to the jury.

Now with the majority, the Solanas voted out Morgan McLeod at the next tribal council, but Tony’s paranoia kicked in when the Apparis decided to aim their votes at him. Tony decided to target his alliance mate LJ, sensing that LJ would soon make a move against him. Tony framed LJ by getting him to reluctantly admit that he wanted to vote Woo out, information that Tony would then relay back to Woo. Tony won the next reward challenge with Jeremiah and Spencer Bledsoe and saw an opportunity to use their alliance’s votes. Without informing the rest of his allies, Tony and Woo voted with the Appari alliance to blindside LJ at the next tribal council.

After the LJ blindside, Jefra began to lose trust in Tony and approached Trish about potentially gunning for him. However, Trish was able to put out the fire, and along with Kass, she brought Jefra back into the alliance. Trish also tasked Tony with talking to Jefra and calming her fears, which he did by swearing on his family. Jeremiah was voted out at the next tribal council. During this time Tony discovered the super idol, which could be played after the votes were read. Then at the Survivor Auction, Tony and Spencer bid the maximum amount for a chance to draw rocks to gain an advantage. Tony won the advantage, which was yet another clue for an idol, which he again found. Tony now had both a regular idol and a super idol in his “bag of tricks.”

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Once again Tony started to become paranoid, this time believing there was an all girls alliance forming. In an effort to squash any chance of the women gaining power, Tony and Woo partnered up with Spencer and Tasha and blindsided Jefra at the next tribal council. Kass had become sick of Tony’s deceptions, and the two found themselves bickering back and forth. Tony revealed that he had found the idol with “special powers,” which led to his tribemates plotting to flush said idol. But Kass later went back on the plan, believing that it would be best for her game to take Tony to the end, so she joined Tony and Trish in voting out Tasha.

The next day, Woo revealed to Tony that he had conspired against him with Kass. While Tony was initially annoyed, he later forgave Kass and told her that he intended to take her to the finals along with Trish. However, Kass doubted Tony’s word and informed Woo about what Tony had said, causing yet another classic Tony vs. Kass argument at camp. Tony couldn’t believe why Kass would ruin a plan that involved her making it to the end, and he even spoke “llama” to her to try and get her to understand. While Kass, Spencer, and Woo considered splitting up Tony and Trish, at tribal council, Tony revealed that he had two idols, and he played the regular one on himself, while joining the rest of the tribe in voting out Trish.

Even though the super idol expired at the final five, Tony bluffed that it could be used up until the final four. After Kass won the next immunity challenge, Spencer tried convincing Tony to vote with him, telling him that he believed it would be a final two and that Woo or Kass would not take him to the end. While Tony listened to the argument, he ultimately voted with Kass and Woo to eliminate “the young lad.” But Spencer was right, it was a final two, and Woo and Kass had agreed to take each other to the end. Woo narrowly beat Kass to win the final immunity challenge, and it seemed like Tony’s game was over. Tony tried to appeal to Woo’s sense of honor, telling him the jury would view him as disloyal if he took Kass to the end over him. At tribal council, Woo shocked both jurors and viewers alike when he voted out Kass, bringing Tony to the final two.

At the final tribal council, the jury admonished Tony for his numerous lies and deceptions. He was scolded for swearing on his badge, his family members, and even his deceased father. Tony argued that it was all part of the game and said he would do it again when put on the spot. Trish especially gave Tony a tough time, furious over how much she helped him only to be betrayed by him towards the end. But it wasn’t all bad, Morgan praised how Tony was able to get people to do things for him “without having boobs,” and Spencer spoke directly to the jury, urging them to vote for Tony who he believed played in a way that honored the game of Survivor. In the end, despite Tony’s backstabbing, Woo was viewed as a lowly lapdog and Tony was awarded the title of Sole Survivor in an 8-1 vote.

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Biggest Strength: Tony has an amazing ability to adapt on the fly. He is able to change course if he thinks the game is getting away from him, creating momentary voting blocs, if you will, to take out those he sees as his biggest threats. He also works non-stop, always thinking, plotting, and searching for idols. There are times when that kind of gameplay can backfire for people, but Tony never took his eyes off the prize or let his guard down.

Biggest Weakness: Tony’s strengths are also his weaknesses. While he works tirelessly within the game, his constant scheming can rub people the wrong way. Sometimes he overthinks situations and lets his paranoia get the best of him. In Cagayan, he was able to pull off this high-wire act gameplay, especially as he had allies like Trish and Woo who remained loyal despite his betrayals. Although, credit to Tony for cultivating such strong allies. Coming into Game Changers, it would be a surprise if this style of play worked again, as people will be aware of Tony’s tricks…unless he has something new up his sleeve.

Tony is one of twenty returning castaways who will compete on Survivor: Game Changers which premieres March 8 on CBS. Stay tuned to Inside Survivor for more cast retrospectives and other pre-season content.


Martin is a 29-year-old writer from England. He’s represented by Berlin Associates for comedy writing, and recaps/reviews TV shows, currently for Yahoo TV and ET Canada. A finalist for the Shortlist Sitcom Search in 2012 for “Siblings,” Martin received his BA in English with Creative Writing from The University of Hull. When not writing Martin can usually be found attending Wrestlemania events.



  • Ishay

    In a season of returning players Tony won’t be able to find such loyal allies like Trish and Woo, and we all know that without them he never would’ve made to the end. If he wants a shot this season, especially with that huge target on his back, he will need to adapt and change completely his gameplay.

  • Joseph Padilla

    The main question: Will Tony go back to his “balls to the walls” approach or will he go for a more toned-down route? We shall see.

    • yeltra

      I don’t think anyone would put up with his shenanigans, now that they have seen his game. If I’m remembering correctly, he would never have made it to the end without Trish, cleaning up his messes along the way.

  • Bennett

    I would be excited to see Tony back, but it is to soon. I get it he loves the game and likes playing it, but he won’t be playing it for long. I think he would fair better in an all winners season or an all-star season. Btw many of these players aren’t all stars, but Tony is and I am sad is legacy will be tainted.

  • hoodieNation

    I’m very curious what Tony’s approach will be this time around. It’s not like he has to worry about hiding the fact that he’s a cop, and everyone knows he won. Maybe he’ll be less paranoid? Lol, probably not

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