Tony Vlachos: Future Legend

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It’s feature Monday time which means it’s time to start your week off with an article to get you thinking on this Monday! Following on from his article last week about the legacy of Cagayan, Ozlet Colin Hilding this week explains why he feels Tony’s recent win in Cagayan could see him go on to be a legend of Survivor. Need convincing? Click below to read on!

Last week I went over my thoughts on why I believe Cagayan’s popularity will stand the test of time. This week I want to cover Tony Vlachos’ win, specifically whether or not his reputation and popularity can increase with time.

So much of Cagayan’s success as a season has to be attributed to Tony as a character and a winner, yet since the finale aired, he hasn’t received nearly as much credit as I believe he deserves. This should come as no surprise, as winners often receive a mixed response upon completion of a season. The first time a viewer watches a season they view it more along the lines of a sporting event. You analyse the moves made along the way, you pick your favourite and you make predictions on how it will all play out. It’s only on a second view that a Survivor season can be enjoyed solely as entertainment, and this is where I believe Tony’s reputation will improve in years to come.

The day the finale aired and I saw some of the negative reactions to Tony’s win. As a supporter of Tony I was surprised, but at the same time I firmly believed that it was a knee-jerk reaction to the amount of screen time he had received, and not due to the game he played. Whether opinions have changed yet or not, I think the reaction to Tony is bound to change for the better years down the road.

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It is surprising that fans responded to Tony in the way they did while the show was airing. A lot of people felt he was over-exposed on the air. So many past seasons have done this with characters such as Colton, Russell Hantz, Boston Rob, Coach and Phillip Shepherd. I always found these comparisons confusing, as there is a huge difference between what we saw of Tony compared to these other characters. Tony may have had a huge amount of confessionals. He may have been the focus of the editing in almost every episode. He may have been given more focus than he deserved as a character, but the difference between Tony and those other “big characters” is that the rest of the Cagayan cast never suffered as a result of his screen time.

Time and time again fans, commentators, etc have all commented on how well developed the Cagayan cast was. Tony may have dominated screen time, but if you take Tony out of this show, people would have complained that Kass received too much screen time, or Spencer. The fact is that Cagayan had a great cast, and everyone had a chance to shine. Was Cagayan filled with Tony overkill, or was he simply the biggest among a cast of memorable characters? I always saw Cagayan closer to a season like Borneo, where Richard did dominate the season both as a player and a character, but at the same time so did Sue, Kelly and Rudy. Without going into all of the details, I will mention the confessional count, which I detailed last week in my article on Cagayan. Tony received 88 confessionals, yet both Spencer and Kass received over 60 each. The only other time this happened was all the way back in Borneo and Australian Outback. Like I said last week though, confessionals don’t determine the dominance of a character, but it is a decent gauge of how screen time is distributed.

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I will repeat this a few more times throughout this article, but it is repeat viewings where real opinions will form. There is no doubt that the single most lopsided season in terms of screen time is Samoa. It was the Russell show from start to finish, with nobody else receiving nearly as much screen time. I completely share this opinion/complaint, yet I have to admit that the first time I re-watched Samoa I was surprised that I was able to enjoy the other “smaller” characters such as Shambo, Dave, Laura and Russell Swan.

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If I can find enjoyment outside of the Hantz overkill, I have to assume many others can as well. How much more-so will people enjoy Cagayan’s cast outside of Tony. Cagayan had a very good balance in screen time, and surely the argument of Tony Over-kill will diminish over time. Once that negative reaction to Tony has started to disappear, I predict his game will experience a big surge in popularity.

Several winners in the past have received this surge in appreciation for their games. The wins of Danni Boatwright, Chris Daugherty, Brian Heidik, and even Richard Hatch were once viewed in a more negative light. In these cases much credit can be given to supporters who have spent endless hours sharing their opinions on their wins, as well as recent interviews with the winners where further clarity has been given on the games they played. The most interesting case of the changing reputation of winners has to be the original winner of Survivor, Richard Hatch. Look back on the reunion show that aired directly following the finale. The results of several poll questions were revealed on air. These are the questions that were asked, as well as the results.

Did The Right Person Win?

YES: 31%

NO: 68%

Who Would You Have Voted For?

RUDY: 45%

KELLY: 42%

RICHARD: 11%

SUSAN: 2%

Did Richard Play Fair?

YES: 61%

NO: 38%

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This is that knee jerk reaction I mentioned earlier. The only poll where Richard scored positively was in the category of fair play, and even there nearly 40% thought his game was unfair. I find it very hard to believe that if the same polls were held today that the results would be anywhere near how they came out during the finale. Obviously one can say that a lot has changed since the inaugural season, especially in terms of how the game is played, and that is 100% true. In the years since the game has changed dramatically, as have the opinions of fans. This will continue to happen for more years to come, which is why Tony’s reputation is all but guaranteed to improve.

What about Tony’s game itself? There is a lot to appreciate and admire in his strategy, but that’s not what I’m writing about here. I’m more interested in how Tony and his win have been perceived, and will be perceived in the future. In my opinion, it was how Tony was presented on screen that makes him so interesting as a winner. Tony commented in his Survivor Oz interview that it was clever editing that showed both his flaws as well as his strengths in the game. They built Tony as a type of Survivor character who was a big personality and had serious flaws in paranoia. The obvious comparisons in editing and depiction would be Russell Hantz or Coach Wade. As viewers we get used to seeing a type of character and assume that the results will be the same. Tony’s win changed this.

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Many have already called Tony a game-changer. Ultimately I think the classification of game-changer comes down to one thing alone. Tony succeeded where others similar to him have failed in the past. Whether it was through the tricks of editing, fooling the audience into thinking Tony was a Hantz type character, destined to make it to the end and then fail, or whether it was Tony himself being skilled enough to get past a potentially bitter jury, Tony defied the odds of what we know of Survivor winners. I think it was 50/50. Tony had a game worth appreciating, but the show itself changed its formula to keep the game unpredictable. Either way Tony’s win makes Cagayan a season that will hold up well on repeat viewings.

Will Tony Vlachos become one of those winners whose game receives more credit each year that passes, or will his support disappear like others? In this year’s Ozcar results, Tony placed #9 on the all-time best winners poll. A top 10 position is without a doubt impressive, but when you compare it to other polls where Cagayan dominated, as some claim due to recency bias, it is almost surprising that Tony didn’t rank even higher. Some may think that Tony’s win will appear less impressive come next year. I personally think that the full appreciation for his game has yet to peak. I look forward to seeing how Tony Vlachos is perceived regardless.

Do you agree or disagree with Colin? Do you think Tony will go on to become a legend of Survivor? Comment below to let us know!

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2 Comments on Tony Vlachos: Future Legend

  1. It feels funny to say, but I can’t wait until another All-Stars season with so many amazing new players to bring back. Hopefully these next couple seasons can just add to the list.

  2. I wasn’t a huge fan of how Tony played the game: too bombastic, making a spectacle of himself at every turn. It makes for a unique winner, but one I ultimately feel shows how lost the true spirit of Survivor is. Back when it was what it was originally conceived as, a social experiment, Tony would never have won. To me, he was a male Twila in some ways: swearing on close family, going back on it, then deflecting criticism at FTC. Who wins? Tony! Who loses? Twila. I do feel he was overexposed. CBS has made it fairly obvious who the winner will be for numerous seasons running now starting with Redemption Island. I miss the surprises: people who win without you seeing it coming but ultimately earned it: Tina, Vecepia, Jenna, Dannii, Earl, etc.

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