'Survivor: Cagayan' winner Tony Vlachos on the haters: 'Nobody roots for the aggressor'

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tony-vlachos-survivor-cagayan-winner.jpgTony Vlachos was crowned the winner of "Survivor: Cagayan" Wednesday (May 21), besting Yung "Woo" Hwang" in a nearly unanimous vote to win the million dollars. He tells Zap2it that he doesn't blame people for hating on his game and that he played as hard as he could.

Zap2it: Obviously "Survivor" turned out well for you, congratulations.

Tony Vlachos: Thank you so much, I appreciate it.

You were a very polarizing figure this season. How do you respond to the haters who didn't want to see you succeed?
I guess the haters, I don't think they're bad people for hating on my game. But I think it's a natural instinct, nobody roots for the aggressor -- not in life, not in the game. When you're watching the Discovery Channel and you see a lion pouncing on a gazelle, you root for the gazelle to get away, you're not rooting for the lion to destroy the gazelle. But at the end of the day, you gotta respect the nature of the beast, and I hope the haters out there do respect the nature of the game, which was exactly how I played it -- the aggressor was victorious in the end, which was a blessing for me.

Jeff Probst really nailed it last night in the live finale when he called you an "Idol hog." Do you think people were mad because you just kept finding Idols?
I don't think they were mad, I think they respected that. Spencer made a clear case about that. Everybody looked for the Idol, but they only looked for it for a day or two or maybe three days. I looked for 39 days. Even the last day, you saw me pawing in that basket looking for a clue. I never stoped playing the game, I was always looking for an edge, I was always looking for an angle and people respected that.

Speaking of Spencer, he made quite a case for you at the final Tribal Council.
Spencer's a brilliant guy. Luckily for me he's a super fan of the show and he respected everything I was doing out there. He knew everything I was doing was based strictly on strategy. It had nothing to do with emotional decisions, it had nothing to do with personal vendettas. Spencer definitely respected my game, he knew I wasn't a malicious person. He knew I took no pleasure in blindsiding people. Spencer really went to bat for me and I definitely appreciated that.

How seriously did you consider taking Spencer and cutting Woo at Final 4?
Zero point zero chance of me accepting Spencer's plea to me [ laughs]. You've seen me play the game -- I was very self-aware, I was very socially aware of what was going on and I knew I had no chance against Spencer. I would like to think that I played a much stronger game, much more aggressive game than Spencer, but at the same time, I knew what I was facing and I was aware enough to know that no matter who Spencer goes to the end with, he's winning the game.

Were you surprised that Woo took you to the finals? That surprised us.
I was definitely surprised. It was a combination of luck, of Woo being the person he is in real life, and it was a combination of me pointing some things out to him. Throughout the game and at Tribals, Spencer kept saying how Woo was my follower, Woo was my goat, and I made a point to Woo -- I said listen, Woo, the jury is not going to respect you if you think it's going to be this easy for you to be a goat the whole entire game and you take somebody like Kass, thinking you're going to get an easy victory. They're going to vote against you spitefully. So it was the combination of that, luck and who Woo is as a person. He wanted to keep the game as loyal, as honorable as possible. ... He was really stuck in a hard place, with the totality of the circumstances.

Another thing that surprised us was the jury saying if Woo had taken Kass, they all would have voted for him to win. Did that surprise you, that Kass was so strongly disliked on the jury?
You know what it is? Kass was trying to play the game, she was trying to make moves, but the moves she was making were solely to hurt other people and she took pleasure in that. As opposed to me, everybody knew the moves I was making were very strategic moves and I took no pleasure in hurting somebody. When the stakes are so high, you have to get your hands dirty in the game but not necessarily bloody. Kass wanted to get her hands bloody, and that was the difference where people loved me and hated Kass -- or I should say, people liked me and disliked Kass.

Would you go back on "Survivor" if asked?
Absolutely, but it's going to be much much tougher for me because I can't swear at anybody anymore, I can't have my bag of tricks anymore, I can't build spy shacks anymore. [ laughs] It's going to be a totally different game and a much harder game, but I'm ready, I'm willing and I'm looking forward to it.

"Survivor" Season 29 returns with "Blood vs. Water 2" in the fall on CBS.
Photo/Video credit: CBS