He has been the sneakiest sneak of the Survivor season so far. Some of his moves — like putting a target on Cliff with a phantom lie to Sarah and putting a target on Jeremiah with a phantom hidden immunity idol clue — have been ingenious. Others — like yelling out “Top five, baby!” at the top of his lungs after winning a challenge — maybe not so much. And now Jersey City cop Tony Vlachos will have to come face to face with those people not part of his top five when the Survivor: Cagayan tribes merge on Wednesday night’s episode. We have two exclusive merge images (one above and one below) of the big gathering as well as an exclusive midseason Q&A with the guy Survivor fans either love…or love to hate.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Tony, you have been playing SUPER aggressive so far. As you look back on what’s happened so far, was some of it too aggressive?
TONY VLACHOS: Honestly, (can I even use that word while talking about Survivor?) I really had no idea how aggressive I was playing the game while I was out there. I felt that the speed and aggression in which I was playing the game, was just right for me. I feel that if I played the game any slower or softer than I was, I would get bored, which wouldn’t be good for business. Once you get bored, you get laxed. Once you get laxed, you drop your guards. Once you drop your guards, it’s game over!
EW: What moves are you proudest of to this point and what are your biggest regrets so far in terms of your gameplay?
TONY: The moves I’m most proud of up to this point were:
A) Looking for Hidden Immunity Idols and clues without anyone knowing.
B) Building my spyshack.
C) The timing of my lies and my truth. The first lie I told Sarah about not being a cop, I really had no choice in that lie, because prior to being confronted by Sarah, I had already told the rest of my tribemates that I was into construction. The lie I told Sarah about Cliff and Lindsey being out to get her, I felt was perfect timing. In the event that we would lose an Immunity challenge or get shuffled up, I wanted to have the plan to oust them already in motion. There would be no way that I could tell that lie after we lost a challenge, because it would look like a desperate plea from me trying to save myself, and it wouldn’t be believable.
D) The timing of me telling the truth to my new “Solana” alliance about me being a police officer and what I did to Jeremiah with the hidden clue, I believe was also great timing. I knew that we would be coming up to a merge where it would be best for me to step up and come clean rather than my alliance being told by the opposing alliances that I was a police officer (if Sarah had told them) and obviously giving Jeremiah a clue, was no secret, so I was expecting that move to be exposed. If there was a possibility of the truth being exposed from the opposing side, I wanted to make sure that I revealed the truth first in order to gain their trust.
E) Voting off Cliff. Cliff and I formed an alliance with Woo in the first FIVE MINUTES of the game. By the fourth day, I was aware enough to recognize that Cliff betrayed me and had traded me for Lindsey in the alliance. Cliff was very influential and had his own agenda that I wasn’t a part of, so it was in my best interest to vote him out. Yes, he was a number, but a number against me, so he had to go.
In terms of my gameplay thus far, I really don’t have any regrets. I believe I played the best game I knew how to up to this point.
EW: Every Survivor fan who gets on the show wants to at least get to the merge. Once you found out the merge was coming, what did you feel: Relief? Excitement? Anxiety?
TONY: Oh, man, once I found out the merge was coming, I was overwhelmed with all sorts of positive emotions. I was very excited and anxious. I was like wow, now I really get to play Survivor. At that point, my adrenaline kicked in and I couldn’t wait to go and play.
EW: I’m sure a lot of your fellow players have been surprised by what they’ve seen you doing behind their backs as they watch it all play out on TV. What has surprised you the most so far as you’ve watched everything?
TONY: I was surprised to see how much Sarah believed in me after I told her I was a cop. I was surprised that Sarah was trying to throw a challenge. I was surprised that Alexis was voted off instead of Jeremiah with all the attention I put on him. I was surprised how much fun the new Aparri team made of me regarding the “TOP FIVE” comment, which had me laughing.
EW: You’ve now watched yourself in this game. Would you trust you?
TONY: HELL NO!! [laughs]