Survivor Winners at War: We are watching Tony Vlachos Fan Fiction
On this week of Survivor, Tony Vlachos broke the record for the most confessionals in one episode with 18. Before that, four players had tied for 17 confessionals in a single episode, except all four had come during two-hour finale episodes. Tony dominated the screen-time this week in such a fashion that we were watching Vlachovivor: Winners at War.
After biding his time, Tony is going all out to earn a victory. As good of a game as Tony has played up to this point, being patient does not give you the resume necessary to win, and Tony knows in his heart of hearts that in this end-game, he has to do what he knows best. I wanted to break down every single incredible movement by Tony from the most recent episode, and then also forecast towards the future/reflect a little on his past gameplay:
Finding an Immunity Idol
On Survivor Game Changers, Tony famously started the season by sprinting away from his tribe in an Idol search, that was both a joke and a little bit serious. If Tony’s giant target on his back couldn’t get any bigger, he did so with that move. Entering WAW, Tony’s focus has been on laying low, even when his heart would prefer a big play. When Tyson told Tony to flip because they were the big targets, Tony went with the safe/smart game of voting Tyson out instead, but you know Tony loves the blindside, and he loves flipping the script. Tony not looking for idols or going for big moves sounds fake in itself. It’s like owning a high-speed racing car and using it only to go to the grocery store and drop-off your kids at school.
In the final 9, Tony is going for it all. He’d rather go out the Tony way, then finish 5th from trying to play too safe. As a smart Survivor player, Tony saw Kim’s idol play as his opportunity for a free idol. Tony went searching first thing in the morning, and not only did he find an idol, but he also might have strengthened his bond with Nick (with Nick still not knowing Tony has an idol). Similar to Tony, Nick went after an idol first thing in the morning, except the difference is, Nick tells his allies when he has advantages, and it’s a way to build trust in the relationship. So they can strategize/navigate better through the game. Tony hits the snooze button on Nick by telling him to look near the Water Well, finds his idol, and in the long-run, has the connection with Nick (even though it annoyed him at the moment).
In all honesty, it’s more important that Tony has this idol in his pocket than the potential of someone using it against him.
For starters, Tony wouldn’t even be in contention to pay the 6 Fire Token toll if he had not won the 2 Fire Tokens from winning immunity during the previous challenge. With 3 Fire Tokens, Tony needed to get an additional 3 to be able to play the immunity challenge or get a vote at tribal! Tony smartly went to the people who, even though he had connections with, are somewhat on the fringes. Jeremy, Nick, and Michele are likely to try to give Tony those tokens because they need someone they can trust in the game, and indebting Tony to them instills that trust. Ben gave him a token because even though Ben is playing a good game, I think he has the least understanding of their importance thus far.
Tony is a high-stakes roller who would rather be 20k in the hole with a chance to win big, then have a clean slate and no goal in sight. Going to both sides of an alliance is a bit of a two-faced game; yet, in a game like Winners at War, where the targets vastly differ from episode to episode, Tony is making himself a valued piece by being a vote that people can negotiate for. Overall, I think the extortion was the best thing to happen to Tony because it strengthened his relationships with three people (Nick, Michele, Jeremy) and because not playing the immunity challenge makes people wonder why the people on EOE decided to extort Tony. Since he doesn’t have a vote at tribal either, it would be an easy time to get rid of Tony. Somehow, Tony made himself less of a target, asking half the people in the game if he could borrow a Fire Token this late in the game.
WINNING THE IMMUNITY CHALLENGE
Tony used his last dollar to buy a lotto scratcher and won a hundred dollars. After winning his first-ever individual immunity challenge the previous episode, Tony earned back to back with wins this week. He guaranteed himself a spot in the final 8, can pay back 2 out of the 3 people who lent him Fire Tokens, and has an idol in his pocket! What’s so impressive about when Tony wins individual immunity is he has this incredible look of shock on his face when that makes everyone else happy for him. He’s not quite a huge challenge threat yet, but if almost anyone else won 2 immunity’s like this, they’d be the main target in the game going forward.
Out-Playing your Alliance and your Enemies
Kim and Denise flipping back to Tony and Sarah’s alliance after playing an idol against them the previous week was a super conservative game move, and Tony took advantage of it. Playing the numbers game, Tony realized that he could take the outsiders (Jeremy and Michele), and take Nick to the side, and flip their votes to Sophie, creating a 4–3–2 vote that would knock Sophie out of the game. Tony establishes a core four where these three people are grateful for Tony saving their asses and putting them in a much better game position. Not only that, Tony easily beats any of these three people in a Final Tribal Council as the game currently stands. Then you add in the fact that Sophie was playing a marvelous game socially, politically, was a puzzle-expert in the team challenges, AND had an idol in her pocket.
Tony accidentally getting an idol out of the game, might give him a shot at a second idol in his pocket, which would be wild. Ben and Sarah are going to be mad at Tony, Kim is probably angry at herself because she never trusted Tony, and Denise is upset, but also, is flexible and will continue her double agent game.
Spy Nest and The Future
We’ve all seen the trailer of Tony hiding in a tree and creating a Spy Nest. The Spy Nest is absurd, and it should not work at all as he human in a tree spying on people like a ninja, and every part of me also wants it to work. Tony is on such a hot streak that he’s a basketball player shooting from half-court just to see if their luck is good enough that it will go in with no problem. The evolution of Tony’s spying is hilarious and, at this point, almost unrealistic (yet it is because it’s Tony). If Tony uses his ladder to get up the tree, that would be the most magnificent long-term story-telling in a Survivor season.
It will be fascinating to see how the Cops-R-US relationship plays out from here. The fact the two of them made it to this point when other major duos have gotten split up is crazy. Sarah is probably upset at Tony because this is a replay of Cagayan, and she has egg on her face. Then again, Sarah was playing a better game than Tony up this point. Sarah should gun or should try to mend the relationship, and the same goes the other way too. God, Survivor, at its best, is some of the best television in existence.
We are in many ways watching the Tony show on Season 40 of Survivor. It is a testament to how iconic a player Tony is that in this season with all these stars, he is shining brightest. This season is like a Tony Twitter Stan creating a BranSteele simulation solely to watch Tony do Tony stuff and it is remarkable.