'Survivor: Winners at War': Tony Vlachos Says Coronavirus Will Affect Plans for $2 Million Prize (Exclusive)
By Jennifer Drysdale
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Survivoralready had a queen with two-time winner Sandra Diaz-Twine... and Tony Vlachos just made his case to be our Survivor king.
The police officer became the second-ever two-time winner of the CBS reality competition on Wednesday night's season finale of Survivor: Winners at War, beating out Natalie Anderson and Michele Fitzgerald. Along with his new title, Tony won the grand prize of $2 million -- the biggest in reality show history.
So, what's he going to do with it? Well, the coronavirus pandemic has put a few things in perspective, he told ET's Leanne Aguilera just minutes after Wednesday's finale.
"It opened up my eyes to see how [important] financial security it is. Anything can happen. Right now we're going through people losing their jobs," Tony shared. "The first million that I won with Survivor, I invested in a lot of properties… the best thing to do is to pay off those mortgages and be secure."
Tony and his wife have plans to sit down and talk through their exact plans for his prize money. So far, his only splurge item belongs to his kids. "I promised my kids if I won I would get them go-karts, little ones with gas in them. …They're so excited about that. One pink one, one blue one," he revealed.
"Me and my wife, we're good," Tony laughed when asked if he and his wife will get matching vehicles. "We're just going to relax and watch our kids live their life to the fullest."
Tony went through every emotion on Wednesday's finale. His elation over winning came after viewers saw him break down sobbing after beating his "Cops R Us" ally, Sarah Lacina in the fire-making competition to make the final three.
All those emotions came flooding back while watching the episode, Tony confessed. "I was bawling. It brought me right back to that moment and I was devastated," he expressed. "Sarah is the most powerful person I've ever met. … So I give her credit, she's a brave, brave human being."
Tony ended up winning this season by a 12-4 vote over Natalie. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, host Jeff Probst read the results over Zoom instead of the usual in-studio reveal.
"With all this going on, I did think it was going to be postponed," Tony told ET, adding that "the anticipation of the game itself is worse than playing."
Nearly a year after Winners at War finished filming, Jeff promised to mail Tony his $2 million check. Besides the waiting, Tony couldn't be happier with how the finale played out -- and being able to have his family by his side in his living room. "It's priceless," he said. "I would definitely trade that live reunion to be with my family."
Tony seemed like a favorite to win this season, and admitted to having a little "inkling" that he'd come out on top. "I absolutely did deserve [my win], as far as I'm concerned," he said, expressing his disappointment that so many of his fellow castaways had doubts about the value of their own wins. "If you win, you win. That's it!"
Still, Tony remains humble about joining Sandra in the prestigious group of two-time Survivor winners.
"I'm the Survivor king of season 40," he shared. "It's very hard to say who is the greatest of the greatest… but the one thing I can say is in this season, I think I'm the greatest."
"To me, that's how it is. I would love to sit here and brag, 'Yes, I'm the best. Give me my crown!'…I'm grounded. In this kind of game, you can't say this person in the greatest of the greatest," Tony conceded.
Winners at War saw the retirement of many Survivor greats, including Sandra and "Boston" Rob Mariano. As for whether Tony -- now a three-time player -- could come back for another round in the game, he said it's a possibility.
"The only way I'd do it if it's a seniors edition," he joked. "Season 50? Yeah, I'll do it again. Why not?"