‘Survivor: Cagayan’ Winner Tony – ‘Hey Russell, This Is How You Win the Game’


'Survivor: Cagayan' (CBS)

NOTE: XFINITY TV is the place to be for all sorts of “Survivor: Cagayan” back-stabbin’, torch-snuffin’ fun. Keep checking back for the rest of my exit interviews with the final four. And, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for immediate updates.

Gordon Holmes: Here is your winner…and NEW ‘Survivor’ champion…
Tony Vlachos: (Laughs) (Makes excited llama noises)
Holmes: (Laughs) Congratulations, buddy.
Vlachos: Thank you, I appreciate it.
Holmes: What’d I say? I said I didn’t want to talk to you until after the finale.
Vlachos: And here I am!
Holmes: Here you are a million dollars…heavier? That doesn’t sound right…
Vlachos: Ah…it sounds good. (Laughs)

Holmes: Last night when Woo made the…big decision…do you think he knew he giving you the win or did he think the loyalty play would be able to sway the jury?
Vlachos: You know what, Gordon…I was out there with the guy for 39 days, and there were times where his real life came out and dropped in there. And lucky for me that was one of those moments. He couldn’t distinguish his real life from the game. And, honesty and integrity is what Woo is all about. He didn’t realize that it was just a game and he shouldn’t have stuck to that. It was just luck. I just got really lucky.

Holmes: Kass had done such a job of poisoning the jury. He had to have known that taking her would have been a slam dunk for him. Was he saying that it was worth it to keep the million to keep his honor?
Vlachos: I don’t think he looked at it that way. I’m sure any reasonable person wouldn’t have made the move if they’d looked at it that way. We heard that people like Spencer thought Woo was following Tony. So, I rode that a little bit. I told him the jurors don’t respect him because he hadn’t made any power moves. This is your last chance. I explained something to him that could have been feasible to someone like Woo. I think I pushed the right buttons at the right time.

Holmes: I thought you had it in the bag as soon as he chose you, but the jury was giving me some serious second thoughts. What’s going through your mind when it seems like you’re staring down the barrel of a bitter jury.
Vlachos: I said, “Ohhhh snap.” (Laughs) I can’t argue with these people. I’ve gotta sit here and put my sourpuss face on. I’ve got to look sad. I’ve got to be apologetic. I just sat there and took it. But that’s what I pitched to Woo, I told him there were a lot of bitter jurors out there. So he thought, “Maybe this is the right move to take Tony.”
Holmes: I’m not sure what the rules are with the winnings and all, but are you allowed to buy Spencer a drink? Because I think you owe him one.
Vlachos: I think I owe him a lot more than that.

Watch Every Episode of ‘Survivor: Cagayan’ Online

Holmes: Trish had a very emotional moment when she asked if it was worth it to swear on your father’s grave. You said it was.
Vlachos: You know what, Gordon? Going into the game that wasn’t my strategy. When I swore to Trish about my family, and my kids, and especially my deceased dad, my heart was in the right place. It really was. That’s what I was telling Jeff. My emotions were running high out there. That’s why it’s so believable. Not because they’re gullible, but because I was genuine when I made those promises. Now what happened at the end of the night was, I can not keep that promise. And you saw with LJ where I had to come up with some scheme where he had to break the promises first. That’s why I lied about Woo having the idol. Once LJ told me he was a threat, I made it sound like he wanted to turn on the alliance first.

Holmes: I can’t imagine what it must be like going from the filming of “Survivor” to nine months after and not knowing if you’re going to win the million. Was that driving you insane?
Vlachos:  You know me, I’m a patient kind of guy. (Laughs)
Holmes: (Laughs)
Vlachos: You can only imagine. Every time I watched the show, especially toward the end. Every time I mentioned the construction worker thing they’d show the jury. And I’m thinking, “Oh my goodness. I think I’m done.” It was nerve wracking. It was tough, but it was all worth it.

Holmes: I’m going to give Rob Cesternino credit for this, because I think that’s where I heard it first; odd numbers are where you should make big moves because you need less votes. Were you thinking that way? Because the odd votes were LJ, then Jefra, then Trish…
Vlachos: It just happened to be like that. There’s nothing textbook about “Survivor.”  You go in there with a paper strategy, you’re going to lose the game. Everything has to be situational. I was making the moves I had to make at the time I had to make them.

Holmes: The social media aspect is very new to “Survivor” and nobody has really owned it the way you have. You have the #teamtv and the comic illustrations. What’s it been like being such a big presence online?
Vlachos: Everything I do, I try to go big with it. I was trying to have fun. I get a lot of backlash. Listen, don’t sit there and knock my game. You don’t know what it’s like to play a game with such high stakes. Anything goes. You’re not trying to play the most honest game, because that doesn’t work on “Survivor.” So, a lot of people tell me I’m a bad cop because of the Sarah thing, and people can have their opinions. It’s a natural instinct for people to not root for the aggressors. You’re not going to root for a lion hunting down a gazelle.
Holmes: Well put.

Holmes: You were compared to Russell Hantz on a few occasions. I’ve disagreed with this because while you’re both very aggressive, Russell didn’t have a problem kicking people when they’re down, while you seem more personable. What’s your take on that comparison?
Vlachos: I love the way Russell played the game. He played an aggressive game. His mind was always in the game. That’s the game I wanted to play. The difference is how we are as people. Russell had a social game, but he’s not a personable person. He’d say, “I’m gonna crack you and I’m going to send you home.” I’m not like that. Look at the end result. I won over a likable person like Woo. There’s no way you’re going to give me a million dollars after I’ve backstabbed you if you didn’t like me and respect me as a person. That’s the difference between Russell and I.
Holmes: Also, one of you is running around with a million-dollar check.
Vlachos: Oh man. (Laughs) That’s the truth.  Russell takes his cheap shots at me. I say “Hey Russell, you know so much about playing the game, so how come you never won it?” I guess now I can say, “Hey Russell, this is how you win the game. You’ve got to be a good person. And you’re not a good person so you’re never going to win.”

Holmes: Word association time. Let’s start with Woo.
Vlachos: Honorable.
Holmes: Trish?
Vlachos: Sweetheart.
Holmes: LJ?
Vlachos: Threat.
Holmes: Jefra?
Vlachos: Sweetie.
Holmes: Latasha?
Vlachos: Beast.
Holmes: Cliff?
Vlachos: A man of stature.
Holmes: That is accurate. Spencer?
Vlachos: Brilliant.
Holmes: Let’s finish with Kass.
Vlachos: Llama.
Holmes: I’m going to be speaking to Kass in a little bit. Do you have any tips for me?
Vlachos: (Laughs) She’s delusional. Whatever she tells you, just humor her.

Holmes: You’ve been through a lot, you’re richer, you’re famous, you saved a life. Most important question though; where’s the Tyler Perry idol?
Vlachos: It’s right next to my baby’s crib. I’m waiting for Tyler Perry to call me so he can sign it.


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