Survivor Winners at War: Tony Vlachos is episode 11’s MVP

Photo: Screen Grab/CBS Entertainment ©2020 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Photo: Screen Grab/CBS Entertainment ©2020 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved /

Tony has done a great job of holding back his energetic self in Survivor: Winners at War, but everyone knew he wouldn’t be able to hold it in forever.

Over the past couple of months that Survivor: Winners at War has been on the air, there have been several episodes that didn’t have a clear-cut MVP. Yesterday’s episode left zero doubt in our minds. Tony Vlachos channeled his old Cagayan self and pulled off an unforgettable performance. This is the masterful and eccentric gameplay we have been craving to see this entire season! Here are a few reasons why Tony excelled in this episode.

Exceptional awareness

It’s amazing how much Tony learned from his Game Changers expedition. His level of awareness is so much higher this season, knowing when to keep still and when to make something happen. He understood that after a long and dramatic Tribal Council, the cast just wanted to rest. Exploiting the situation, Tony went off idol hunting in the middle of the night.

It becomes clear that although Tony hasn’t been actively looking for an idol, he’s still surveying the area for spots he should check out when he gets the chance. Even Nick Wilson wasn’t going to stop Tony’s adventures, as he came up with a convincing plan for him to search through an area where he has already looked. It worked like a charm, and this scene also showed a glimpse into an important relationship that the edit hasn’t shed any light on. Tony’s bond with Nick would come in handy. Soon after, Tony finds a much-needed idol, especially if he plans on making a big move.

Adapting to twists with a strong social game

One of the biggest problems fans have with the Edge of Extinction twist is the fact that players who were rightfully voted out could still have an impact on a vote. That was the case with last night’s episode as Natalie and Parvati had the power to potentially prevent someone from participating in the next challenge and from even voting at Tribal Council.

Must Read. Survivor: 7 reasons why Edge of Extinction twist is an institutional failure. light

Being at such a crucial part of the season, this twist could have ruined this spectacular episode and alter the natural dynamics of the game. But Tony wouldn’t let that happen. He worked with the hand he was dealt with by relying on the social relationships he built. He really worked on Jeremy that episode, spending quality time with him and Michele. He was able to thoroughly convince Jeremy that he was on their side. As a result, Jeremy had no problem giving him a token.

Michele Tony Survivor Winners at War episode 11
Photo: Screen Grab/CBS Entertainment ©2020 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved /

Going idol hunting with someone can be a bonding experience, and it felt like that moment helped Nick to put full trust in Tony. So when Tony asked Nick for a token, it was no problem at all. As for borrowing a token from Ben, it was Tony’s loyalty to their alliance that likely played a role in Ben being willing to help out an ally.

In three completely different ways, Tony used his social capital to prevent disaster. They could have thought that Tony is a huge threat and this would be the perfect time to get him out. Instead, Jeremy, Ben and Nick viewed Tony as essential to their alliance instead of being expendable. The fact he was able to get people to think that way about him this deep into the season is quite amazing! He put those tokens to good use, as he narrowly beat out Jeremy to win Individual Immunity.

Making low risk, but high reward moves

Despite being part of a majority alliance, Tony realized that it wouldn’t be long before some of the “lower-profile” players go after him. However, Tony didn’t act immediately. He found an idol, won immunity, and established trust with both the majority and minority alliances. That gave Tony the protection and the ammo to pull off a big move.

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As sweet as a blindside can be, it’s an easy way to make someone a target. With an idol in his pocket and allies he could rely on, Tony set himself up with the possibility of progressing deeper into the game, even after his big move. Not only was his own personal risk low for a blindside, but eliminating Sophie helps his game.

Throughout this entire game, Sophie’s mission has been the complete opposite of Tony’s goal, by getting rid of the big names. From Boston Rob to Wendell, to Tyson twice, Sophie was maybe one move away from locking down the big guns. She was using Tony as a number in her alliance to get out the few remaining targets and would have probably flipped on Tony once he was the last big name remaining. He picked up on her plan and wanted to stop the situation before it was too late.

Knowing the gameplan for Tribal Council enabled Tony to handpick an effective new voting bloc. With Nick, Jeremy and Michele on his side, he put himself with three people who he knew wouldn’t leak out his secret plan. Waiting right up until sundown to share his plan was genius as it reduced the margin of error. It’s much easier to conceal a secret for an hour or two compared to an entire day.

That gave Tony the majority and an impressive 4-3-2 vote, saving Jeremy in the process. With Sophie out of the picture, Tony created a power shift by shattering the threat-hungry majority. Could this blindside hurt him because he betrayed Sarah? Maybe, but if he allowed Sophie to continue to gain control over the game, Tony would have been forced to keep winning immunity to stay alive. With Jeremy still there, Tony now has a trusted ally who also acts as a shield for him.

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Regardless of how far Tony gets into the season, this was a truly legendary performance. He didn’t even need an idol or an advantage to make something happen. Tony used his social and strategic skills to pull off a successful blindside that improved his position in Survivor: Winners at War.