Who would have thought going into “Survivor: Winners at War” that Tony Vlachos would be a frontrunner to take home another victory? His chaotic gameplay in “Survivor: Cagayan” was a perfect confluence of events that led to a (somewhat) unexpected win and it seemed unlikely he would ever be able to replicate such success in future seasons. That much was clear when he returned for “Survivor: Game Changers,” where he immediately became a target after running around the jungle doing all of his classic Tony antics and was voted out in the season premiere. Now, the 46-year-old police officer has switched up his game a bit and found himself a real contender to actually win this current all-winners season. Let’s look at four reasons why Tony deserves to win “Survivor: Winners at War.”
1. He’s a lion who has survived the slaughter of fellow lions
A big narrative this season has been lions vs. hyenas — lions being those big marquee name threats like Rob Mariano and Sandra Diaz-Twine and hyenas being some of the newer winners like Michele Fitzgerald and Nick Wilson who didn’t have that level of reputation. Almost all of the “lions” have been rightly voted out early because of their respective threat levels and few super big names remain in the game at this point. For an iconic player like Tony to have survived this long and not even have a single vote cast against him is a real achievement. How have these former winners not recognized Tony’s threat level yet?
2. He adapted his game
While “Survivor” winners have typically won because of their adaptability, we haven’t actually seen much adapting in “Winners at War.” Many of this season’s players utilized their old tricks only to find themselves voted out, like Boston Rob and his buddy system, Yul Kwon‘s cerebral approach and Adam Klein‘s erratic maneuvering. We have seen very few players mention anything about intentionally changing their strategy in this season, while Tony has executed his plan to lay low and form relationships rather than run around the jungle like a madman.
3. He’s surrounded himself with the right people
Part of Tony’s winning strategy in “Cagayan” was surrounding himself with the right people to move forward to the end of the game, so much so that Woo Hwang passed up an easy win to take him to the final two out of pure loyalty. He was not able to repeat this strategy in “Game Changers,” quickly going from ally to enemy with Sandra. This time around, he’s hooked back up with his old “Cagayan” pal Sarah Lacina and other “lions” to keep the big threats in the game while targeting the “hyenas.” This changed last week when he targeted Jeremy Collins, but the strategy has kept him protected so far. This could very well be the start of what Tony promised at the beginning of the season, which was to have everyone’s guards down before he turns on the gas at the end.
4. If he actually got to the end, how could you resist voting for him?
The best is yet to come for Tony as far as strategic maneuvering, but for the time being, his journey has been fascinating to watch. This is a castaway who played so aggressively in his first two seasons that he seemed unable to play any other way. While he has not changed completely (he’s still prone to erratic moments, like going missing during a key strategy session in Episode 6), it’s clear that his early exit from “Game Changers” humbled him. If Tony really does accelerate from here on out and actually find himself in the final three, it would be very tempting to vote for him to win. It’s easy to imagine this group of former champs coming together on a historic season like this and rewarding one of the modern legends of the game. There is often a discussion among jurors about rewarding the player who best represents their season and Tony feels like the kind of player to which this group of winners wouldn’t mind losing.
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