God bless Tony Vlachos. No player in Survivor history mixes crazy and crazy good like Tony. He dominated one of the best seasons in the show’s history when he won Survivor: Cagayan, yet did it while hiding out in his “Spy Shack” and busting out llama impersonations.
Now Tony is back for Survivor: Game Changers (premiering March 8 on CBS) and has brought a brand new bag of tricks with him. “This time I have a bag of tricks that’s on steroids,” Tony told me out location in Fiji before the game began. “I fully loaded it up. I have at least four new tricks. I’m taking my spying underground this time. You’re going to see a Survivor first with clones. There’s going to be clones on this season. And you’re going to see someone get idol’d out without an idol ever being played.”
I’m sorry, did you say clones? That’s what Tony told me on camera (see the video above). But then, unable to contain his excitement, he came up to me later by the beach to spill more beans about what the hell he was talking about. Apparently, Tony is planning on building an underground Spy Shack bunker this time to listen in on conversations at the tribe water well. He’s also planning to frame someone by finding an idol, planting it in someone else’s bag, telling the tribe that person has an idol so they go through the framed player’s stuff and find it, and then taking his idol back when nobody is looking. (There are even more intricate steps to that plan, but you get the basic gist.)
And then there are the “clones.” No, he is not enlisting Sarah, Alison, Cosima, and Helena from Orphan Black. Rather, Tony plans to carry little stones around in his pocket to represent his family and then give them to people on his tribe as a symbol of ultimate trust. Just one little thing: Tony will not limit this to one set of stones. That means when all is said and done, several different people could be carrying around Tony’s symbolic family, with none of those little rocks meaning a damn thing. It is such a brilliantly absurd plan that I have never in my entire life wished more for something to come true.
We all need a little more Tony Vlachos in our lives, so enjoy the video above and the Q&A below to get exactly that. (Also make sure to follow @thedaltonross on Instagram to see exclusive on-location photos, including one of Tony casting his pre-game vote for whom he’d like to vote off first.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Where are you hiding the Spy Shack this time?
TONY VLACHOS: I’m not going to go into details but there will be spying and I’m taking it underground. [ED NOTE: He then later went into an absurd amount of detail.]
Why come back after winning it all?
A lot of people ask me, “Tony, you’ve won Survivor. Why would you come back?” And I tell them the only reason I’m coming back is because I won. Once I lose this game, I’ll never come back again. So if this is the time I lose this game, you’ll never see me again. So I’m going to continue on playing this game until I lose, because as long as I have that drive, that motivation, that hunger, that passion to win, I’m gonna win. And when I lose, that means I don’t have it no longer and I no longer need to play this game again.
So, no concern about tarnishing your legacy?
I have absolutely no concerns about tarnishing my legacy. I know I left my legacy behind. I know some fans call me a legend of the game, and I’m a Game Changer so obviously I’m here because of that, but I have no stress that I’m going to ruin what I originally started. I think it’s going to be a continuation of the first one. I’m going to play this game fast, I’m going to play it furious. If I crash, I’ll burn. But if I don’t, I’m going to laugh my way to the bank just like I did the first time.
What do you make of the newbies who are playing back-to-back seasons?
There are two people from season 33 — Michaela and Zeke — that none of us know anything about. So, to me, I know I’m a winner. I know Sandra’s a winner. I know J.T.’s a winner. So I know that we should be the first threats to go, but you have two people that nobody knows nothing about. And they’re back on a season, 34, that is a Game Changers season, and they just finished 33. That speaks volumes of how good a player they were. So I would definitely try to pitch the idea that they should go before any of us go.
How do you think other players see Tony Vlachos?
I’m sure these people are looking at me and saying “Tony’s a liar, you can’t trust him, he’s not loyal, he’s this, he’s that.” And they’re right! So they better listen to those little voices in their head — “Get rid of Tony. He’s gonna backstab you. He’s gonna betray you. He’s gonna lie to you.” They better listen to those voices if they know what’s good for them.
So if they do not trust you, how do you get them to trust you?
Knowing coming into this game that I’m not going to be trusted, nobody’s going to believe me, nobody’s going to think I’m going to be loyal to them — and they have a reason to believe that because they saw what I did on Cagayan — but the same thing that I say once, I’ll say it twice, I’ll say it all the way through: You have to adapt. You have to be able to read these people. If I can’t lie to you, I’m going to lie about you. It’s that simple.
Where is your relationship with Sarah?
I see Sarah as part of the cast here, and we had bad blood back on Cagayan, but the girl put my name down to win a million dollars. So from that moment on, I know there’s no more bad blood. Everybody — I backstabbed Jeffra, I backstabbed L.J. — and everybody voted for me to win a million dollars, with the exception of Tasha. I don’t know what I did to Tasha, but that’s on her. So I’m pretty sure that there’s no bad blood between Sarah and I, and being that we did play on the same season, I’m sure that we’re going to gravitate to one another, and I’m sure that everyone that played on their seasons are going to gravitate to one another, and that’s what’s dangerous out here because you have four from one season alone. You have Aubry and you have Tai and you have Caleb and you have Debbie. That’s somebody that’s also going to be threatening and that’s something I can use to get the target off my back. I can just point at them and say, “Listen, you can get rid of me now but you’ve got four strong there.”
Finally, will we hear the phrase “young lad” at some point this season?
Here we are, season 34. I played with some of the best players in season 28, especially the young lad, Spencer Bledsoe. The young lad, he played a great game in Second Chance. I don’t know what the jurors didn’t see in him that I saw while watching him. I really think the young lad should have gotten a lot more votes than he did, which was zero. And I wasn’t too happy about that, so I guess I’m here to avenge him this time around. Young lad, this is for you!
For more Survivor scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.