1. Tony Vlachos
Among the Winners at War‘s talented cast, there were a few colorful characters returning to our screens. In his first two seasons, Tony Vlachos showcased one of the most dynamic personalities in Survivor‘s history. Due to his energetic pace and over the top antics, many thought that we already saw the best of Tony Vlachos.
It was clear that Tony took his disappointing performance in Game Changers to heart and adapted his gameplay. Throughout the pre-merge phase, Tony put himself in “house arrest”, not looking for idols or going off trying to make something happen. His calm and passive approach allowed him to get further in the game.
His tribe members didn’t see him as a strategic mastermind with his bag of tricks ready to be used. Instead, he gave off the vibe that he wanted to spend more time building rickety ladders as opposed to talking strategy. It worked, as the only time his name was seriously considered was when Sandra gave Denise her idol. It was Tony’s trusting attitude that moved Denise to write down Sandra’s name instead.
He was able to keep that charade up well into the merge, aligning himself with Sarah, Sophie, Nick, and Ben. As the game went on, he began to notice the power Sophie was yielding, both on the game as a whole and on Lacina, his number one ally. Tony took advantage of the security from his second straight immunity win to blindside Sophie before she could gather all of the “hyenas” together.
That set off a string of well-executed blindsides. It was amazing how Tony was able to vote out Sophie, Kim and Jeremy without using any idols or advantages. It was strictly strategic and social prowess that allowed him to convince players like Ben, Nick and Jeremy to vote with him. The way he revealed the plan just before Tribal Council, or even at tribal prevented the word from getting out.
When Natalie returned, it was crunch time. Despite her direct attempt to get everyone to turn on Tony, it didn’t work. The bonds he built with Sarah, Ben and even Denise were unshakable. He was able to use the one Hidden Immunity Idol he did find as protection at the Final Six. At the Final Five, his clutch challenge win guaranteed Tony at least the opportunity to make Day 39.
He successfully constructed a fire that put him in the Final Three without having one single vote cast against him. The fact that such a dramatic personality and established threat could pull that off is unbelievable. The way Tony controlled the game socially as opposed to a reliance on idols or advantages gave Survivor fans a dominant performance that we were all waiting for. He received 12 jury votes, becoming only the second two-time winner, and making a convincing case for being called the greatest of all time.
– Playing a dominant game with the most talented group of castaways
– Developing an impenetrable alliance with Sarah and Ben
– Creating a spy nest that actually brought results
– Winning four Individual Immunity Necklaces
– Staying under the radar until it was time to strike with blindsiding Sophie
– Pulled off a series of incredible blindsides without the need of idols or advantages
– Prevented others from figuring out the powerful alliance he built with Sarah and Ben
– Finding a way to pay off the extortion disadvantage
– Not allowing Natalie’s stories from the Edge of Extinction to influence his alliance
– Winning a tight fire-making challenge to secure his spot in the Final Three
– Building the most unsafe ladder in the show’s history
– Being forced to eliminate his Cops-R-Us partner in the Final Four fire-making challenge
Survivor: Winners at War delivered the most skilled group of castaways the game has seen. Given the intense level of competition, many of these winners did end up making key mistakes. However, almost all of them had their moments and fans can walk away from this landmark season with several strong performances that we will continue to admire as time goes by.