For much of this season, I have chronicled how Tony is one of the worst all time competitors in the show’s history. Him making it this far in the game has been largely due to luck and the factor that Nelson/Hunter/Cory made themselves bigger targets for a good duration of the season, and he rides the waves of the veterans hoping for their scraps. The first moment those people couldn’t be thrown into elimination, we saw Dario and Tony, the two low men on the totem pole get thrown in.
In many ways, Tony is both perfect and the worst for these shows. He is terrible at the physical challenges themselves. It is evident that he is an incredibly clumsy individual from almost every heights challenge he has participated in. Tony’s spleen erupted after his plummet during the third mission on Battle of the Bloodlines, and most recently he fell on the second beam and first real jump on the platform challenge this season. No brain, no foot work, and no balance will lead to terrible outcomes. His bad performances become increasingly frustrating as Tony “looks” the picture. Before Invasion, there were still high hopes for Tony becoming the next possible CT. A gigantic dude who has a voracious hunger for woman, makes bad decisions constantly, and is belligerent when drunk. Except he’s more than that, he is good looking, and has moments of sincerity and honesty, but often is deeply flawed and continues to choose the wrong decision each time due to possible addictions. Being good-looking also endeared him to a ton of fans early on. People root for Tony to finally not be an idiot and become somewhat like CT has today. Invasion Tony had people eating him up because he was learning how to be a better person.
What is very clear is that Tony is not CT. Even with his 6'3 and 215 lb frame, Tony continually finds himself at the bottom of the barrel of most challenges. During Invasion, his loss to a much smaller Shane was embarrassing because he picked Shane with the thought that Shane was the weakest competitor in the house. Shane absolutely demolished Tony, leaving him in tears after being so confident. At the end of the day, Shane might have been the best competitor out of anyone on Invasion, so it’s not that disappointing. His loss to Ammo — that’s different. Ammo proved to be a far better competitor than expected, yet he is at best at on the lower end of the spectrum as a competitor. After four seasons, Tony had never won an individual daily mission, lost two eliminations where he was favored to win, and only good moment was beating Bruno in a size based elimination (where he had at least 35 lbs on him).
Instead of CT, Tony quickly was looking like the newest Danny Jamieson.
Then Redemption happened. Die-hard fans of Darrell are still cursing somewhere about how Tony got lucky and Darrell was robbed. Except there was something in that moment where Tony began turning a corner. After getting eliminated by Ammo, he had this really sad and sincere confessional about how these challenges might not be meant for him. It was a sad and sober moment. Tony’s full on goal since entering this franchise has to become the new face of the show, and here he is four challenges in, figuring out that he might be terrible at what he thought is going to be his career. Brutal realization for anyone.
After that, he got his chance to enter back into the game with Redemption. In the week upcoming, everyone expected Darrell returning into the house as a lock. When we saw the Redemption would be something physical, fans had already mentally gotten rid of Tony from the game. It’s not Big Brother, but sometimes you have to expect the unexpected.
In his 1 v 1 with Darrell, he was on the ropes, literally a few inches from plummeting to the water for another early end of season for Tony again. Right as Darrell was looking to finally make the ultimate push of Tony off the ledge, he uses his one foot remaining on the platform to give himself a point of leverage to swing all the weight of Darrell over his head. Some may call it luck, except Devin tried executing the same strategy, and he straight up wasn’t strong enough. Tony could. It’s easy to make fun of Tony and his spaghetti strap tank tops, yet it’s hard to deny that he has not put real work into his body.
Tony two years ago would never have been able to last twelve seconds with Darrell, let alone literally swing him over his head when twenty feet over water.
Following the Redemption, Tony picked up his first ever daily challenge win as an individual, surprisingly in trivia. He then went on to make some bad choices with Camila living off of the high of winning and alcohol. Tony has obvious issues with commitment, alcohol, and fidelity. It seemed as if he was completely falling off the rails after achieving the most “success” in his career. However, he has rallied a bit since.
Tony found himself on the bottom of the totem pole this past week, and that was the best thing to happen to him. He won his elimination, and was able to walk back in the house with most of his social relationships intact. He did not go off on Bananas or anyone that he viewed as friends, and attributed his performance as the reason why he was going in. The difference now is that Tony is aware he is at the bottom, and might be ready to make a big move or turn on his friends to win the game.
Following his elimination win, Tony tells Hunter that he’s on the outside, and from here out he won’t say Hunter’s name if he doesn’t say his. Hunter jumps on this because the house is against him 6–1, so might as well make it 5–2. For Tony, once Hunter is gone, it becomes Tony against the house 5–1. Better to let the majority think he is still with them.
This move has already given Tony some of the most power in the house, almost accidentally. By being part of the winning team in this past week’s daily mission, the group of Tony, Jordan, Kailah, Veronica, and Britni get to automatically vote out one guy and girl, as well as nominate who goes into the Presidio. They can automatically get CT and Cara Maria out of the game, which is massive. CT has been dominating this season, and Cara Maria has been the best girl who also anti-Tony. From there, Tony holds the votes to flip the switch and turn on his boy, Johnny Bananas.
By not voting in Hunter, he shows loyalty to Hunter, and then Bananas is in elimination with a Double Cross consisting of Derrick/LeRoy, two of the greatest elimination Challengers ever, and a little monster (Hunter). And here’s the thing, Tony actually has the numbers to pull this move. Kailah and Jordan want to keep strong competitors, but Veronica and Britni care more about loyalty and Hunter has shown them that. Tony is the ultimate swing vote.
Somehow in some way, Tony can potentially rock this game and be part of sending two of greatest players in Challenge history straight to the Redemption. Tony still probably ends up being the worst player out the final group, the difference between him and the final gets exponentially closer with him finally making a big move for himself.