‘Survivor 40: Winners at War’: Last Night’s Episode Revealed Why Tony Won and Russell Never Will

Season 40 of CBS’s hit reality TV show, Survivor, is proving to be even more compelling than expected. With an array of the fan-favorites back, it’s no surprise that we are falling in love with them all over again.

However, many fans still want to know why Russell Hantz never won Survivor. It would be nice to see him back, but he’s not a previous winner, so he isn’t on this season. The latest episode reminded everyone why Tony Vlachos earned the title of sole Survivor, but Russell hasn’t and probably never will. 

[Warning: Survivor 40: Winners at War spoilers ahead]

Tony Vlachos | Timothy Kuratek/CBS via Getty Images

Fans went wild chattering about Tony’s latest antics

This week on Survivor: Winners at War, Tony decided he would make an enormously long ladder out of bamboo and twine. Then he had the whole tribe help him carry it over to a tree. While fans cringed at home, afraid he would fall, the man climbed right up it — even after the first rung broke when he stood on it.

“I love how Tony this season is somehow both the anti-Tony and yet extremely on-brand Tony,” wrote one Reddit user. “He knows he can’t be doing anything obviously strategic, so he’s trying to lay low, but he has to release that energy, so we get him doing all this crazy stuff (the ladder, getting the tribe to taunt Sele during the challenge, catching a shark next episode).”

After he climbed up the ladder, he was able to grab several coconuts as his tribemates looked on in dismay and shock. They laughed about it later, but a few people looked genuinely worried while it was happening.

“Him running around doing random crazy shit is actually pretty smart,” added another Redditor. “It draws attention away from him being a legit threat in the game.”

Many fans believe the cop is doing these things on purpose so that the other contestants do not worry that he is searching for idols. However, at the same time, he is having fun with his tribemates.

Why do viewers believe Tony’s ‘Survivor’ game will always be better than Russell’s?

“I LOVE that Tony is turning his chaotic energy all towards his social game,” pointed out another fan. “It’s a move that Russell could NEVER pull off and just goes to show why Tony won, and Russell never will.”

Instead of doing conniving things — like Russell — for instance, emptying tribemates canteens, Tony is trying to be helpful around camp in a very silly way. Survivor is a social game, and it looks like he knows how to play it to keep everyone laughing.

“Tony is one of the most entertaining people in the history of Survivor, and he is so entertaining because… that’s Tony,” wrote Survivor expert Dalton Ross from Entertainment Weekly. “Unlike a lot of other big characters, he’s not trying to ham it up and be ‘crazy’ to score camera time. This is who he is. And I can’t get enough of it.”

He has the amped-up energy that Russell always had as well as the drive to win. However, the two guys use that energy in very different ways. Russell played the game four times but never won. The one time Tony won, he also was the entertainer we see this season. 

“It’s kind of like playing a game with a kid where you just imagine it’s all make-believe,” Sophie Clarke pointed out after the ladder scene. “And then you realize at some point, for them, it is not make-believe.” 

Is Tony intentionally acting like a kid around camp on ‘Survivor 40’?

“This time, I’m just going to go there, I’m going to kick back,” Tony said during a pre-interview with Ross from EW. “I know it’s going to be boring, but that’s what I have to do.” 

Well, he doesn’t seem to be relaxing, but maybe this is relaxing for Tony? He’s not talking strategy or searching for idols. Instead, he’s running around having fun.

“My biggest weakness is my personality, my character,” Tony told Ross. “Because I’m a clown. I go out there running around. I can’t stop myself from doing silly things. I hope I don’t rub these people the wrong way. These guys might not have the tolerance for that.”

From his pre-interview, we can tell that it’s his personality to act like a kid, but Probst thinks it is all very intentional.

“I think we all suspect that every single move he makes is driven by a game point of view,” Probst told EW. “Tony is never doing something just for fun. I think it is always driven by one single purpose — getting himself closer to the end.”

Now that Probst is in the 40th season of Survivor, we know that he is the real expert on what people do on the island. We are interested to see how it all plays out for Tony. Catch new episodes of Survivor 40: Winners at War Wednesdays at 8 pm ET on CBS.

Read more: ‘Survivor’: Why Isn’t Russell Hantz on ‘Survivor Winners at War?’