JERSEY CITY, NJ – Greek-American Tony Vlachos was declared the winner of the 40th season of Survivor, titled Winners at War, on CBS on May 13, receiving $2 million, a record amount for reality show winnings, Entertainment Tonight (ET) reported.
The New Jersey police officer with roots in Thermo, Aitoloakarnanias, told ET that the coronavirus pandemic will affect the way he spends the winnings, “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. 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.”
Vlachos and his wife plan to discuss what they will do with the winnings, ET reported, adding that Vlachos’ “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,” Vlachos told ET, adding that “me and my wife, we're good,” when asked about purchasing matching cars.
“We're just going to relax and watch our kids live their life to the fullest,” he told ET.
Vlachos was emotional in the finale episode, crying after “beating his Cops R Us ally, Sarah Lacina in the fire-making competition to make the final three,” ET reported.
Vlachos noted that watching the episode brought back those emotions, and he said, “I was bawling. It brought me right back to that moment and I was devastated. Sarah is the most powerful person I've ever met… So I give her credit, she's a brave, brave human being,” ET reported.
Vlachos won the season in a 12-4 vote over Natalie and due to the coronavirus pandemic, the show’s host Jeff Probst revealed the results via Zoom instead of an in-studio live finale and reunion show Survivor would usually have broadcast.
“With all this going on, I did think it was going to be postponed,” Vlachos told ET, adding that “the anticipation of the game itself is worse than playing.”
“Nearly a year after Winners at War finished filming, Jeff [Probst] promised to mail Tony his $2 million check,” ET reported, adding that “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. I would definitely trade that live reunion to be with my family,” Vlachos told ET.
Vlachos appeared to be the favorite throughout the season, and said “I absolutely did deserve [my win], as far as I'm concerned,” ET reported, adding that he is disappointed “that so many of his fellow castaways had doubts about the value of their own wins.”
He told ET, “If you win, you win. That's it!”
“I'm the Survivor king of season 40. 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,” Vlachos said, adding that “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 is the greatest of the greatest,” ET reported after noting that Vlachos joins Sandra in the two-time winner group on the reality series.
Winners at War included many Survivor greats, including Sandra and "Boston" Rob Mariano, and Vlachos who has participated three times in the reality series and would possibly return for another season, ET reported.
“The only way I'd do it if it's a seniors edition,” he joked, ET reported, adding “Season 50? Yeah, I'll do it again. Why not?"