Tony Vlachos is one of the 20 returning winners of Survivor all vying for their second (or in one case, third) time to be crowned Sole Survivor. Season 40 is a season made up of all people who have previously won the game.
Vlachos has returned to the game for the third time. He previously appeared on season 28, Survivor: Cagayan, “Brains vs. Brawn vs. Beauty,” which he won, and season 34, “Game Changers,” where he was the second person voted out.
Read on for the rundown on Vlachos in our 5 Fast Facts below.
UPDATE: Since being crowned the second two-time winner in Survivor history and taking home the unprecedented $2 million prize, Vlachos has been laying low, mostly due to the COVID-19 pandemic quarantine. After he won, he told Entertainment Tonight that the precarious economic situation happening during the pandemic caused him to rethink what he was going to do with his prize money.
“It opened up my eyes to see how [important] financial security it is,” said Vlachos. “Anything can happen. Right now we’re going through people losing their jobs. 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.”
The rest of the original post continues below.
1. Tony Is Proud of His Greek Heritage
Tony Vlachos is the son of Greek immigrants, something he is very proud of. He writes on his website, “Many ask where my accent is from. I’m not too sure what kind of accent I have, but I can tell you that I’m 100 percent Greek! (Both of my parents are 100 percent Greek and were born and raised in Greece.
He also said in his pre-“Brains vs. Brawn vs. Beauty” profile that his dad is his inspiration in life for being “a great role model,” something Tony aspires to be for his children. And when he won the million dollars, he told Passport Health that one of his main goals for his winnings was to take his family to Greece.
“After setting up a college fund for my daughter and my new baby boy that is expected any day now, I would like to take my family and travel to Greece, which is where I am from,” said Vlachos.
2. He Was a New Jersey Police Officer
According to his website, Vlachos graduated high school in 1992 and then found himself “jumping from job to job” and making just enough money to support himself “through [his] partying years.” But after that grew tiresome, he became a police officer, something he had always aspired to do.
“Since I was a child, I always looked up to and respected law enforcement officers. I would always see the men and women in blue, patrolling my neighborhood. I would fantasize of what it would be like to be as brave and heroic as they were,” writes Vlachos. “In the year 2000, my fantasy became reality. I became one of them … a brave and heroic figure, courageously putting my safety in harm’s way to help and protect others, without hesitation.”
He adds, “Since the year 2000, while at work, I literally risk my life every day to protect the safety of others. Literally risking my life on the streets to protect others, IS my way of honoring my badge which is far beyond words! It’s the best career I could ever ask for and I enjoy every minute of it.”
However, since his second time playing Survivor, Vlachos has also started a little side hustle. He tells Xfinity that he went into real estate and started flipping houses. He is also currently “building a nice big house for [his] family.”
3. Tony is Married with Two Children
Vlachos met his wife, Marissa, in 2007 while on the job because she was a fellow police officer. They became engaged in July 2010 when he proposed while on a picnic at the beach, then they were married in June 2012 and honeymooned in Bermuda.
They found out they were expecting a baby just two months after the wedding and in February 2013, their daughter Anastasia Marie was born. Vlachos then left to film Survivor when Anastasia was just five months old. Upon returning from the show, Marissa got pregnant just two months later and baby boy, Constantine, was born in June 2014.
At the time, he told People, “I’m truly speechless and can’t find the words to express my feelings right now. I’m truly blessed … just when I thought life couldn’t get any better for us, BANG BANG! My baby boy Constantine Anthony was born!”
4. Tony Was a Divisive Survivor Contestant
The season that he won, Vlachos basically flew by the seat of his pants. Even host Jeff Probst called him “incredibly reckless” and compared him to a “Tasmanian Devil” when he named his Top 10 winners for Parade in 2015. But Probst also said he’s never seen anything like it.
“He was so gifted that he could make a mistake and recover because he was lapping you, so that he was able to actually catch back up and fix his mistake. It’s almost like he had his own time machine. I’ve never seen anyone play with that much energy and juggle that many balls at once, and pull it all off,” said the longtime Survivor host.
During his winning season, Vlachos rankled a few contestants and viewers by swearing on his dead father’s grave, which he told Parade wasn’t his strategy going in, it just kind of happened.
“When I was making those promises, when I was swearing on my kid and everything else, my heart was in the right place at that time. It really was. It wasn’t my strategy to come in there and swear on my family and swear on everything I love. It wasn’t my strategy. My heart was in the right place at that moment,” says Vlachos.
That reckless strategy came back to bite him when he played a second time. He butted heads with Sandra Diaz-Twine and she promptly turned the entire tribe against him, sending him home second.
5. Tony Says He’s Going to Play a Quieter Game This Time
In a pre-“Winners at War’ interview with Xfinity, Tony says he’s “going to be quiet” this time around because “there are enough personalities out here that [he] can just sit back and watch them.”
He also explains why he came out with guns blazing in his second stint on the show and what he learned from that experience.
“I was overcompensating for my fear of failure. I didn’t want to lose. I won one [season] and didn’t want to come in and lose. So, I overcompensated by being a jack*ss and doing stupid (expletive deleted). And it didn’t work out,” says Vlachos.
He adds, “This time around, I’m doing the same thing I did when I won. I’m going to go into the game and handle everything situationally. That’s what’s hopefully going to work out for me this time. I’m going to play the player instead of playing the game.”
Survivor: Winners at War airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.
READ NEXT: Meet the ‘Survivor: Winners at War’ Cast