The most competitive season yet of the wildly popular CBS reality show Survivor has finally crowned a champion. Titled Winners at War, the season celebrated the show’s 20th anniversary and 40th season by bringing back 20 previous victors to compete for a bigger-than-ever prize of 2 million dollars. (Usually, only a single million is awarded.)
Police officer Tony Vlachos was crowned the Sole Survivor, earning 12 out of the 16 available votes cast by previously eliminated contestants. Previously, Vlachos had won the show’s 28th season, Survivor: Cagayan – Brains vs. Brawn vs. Beauty, as well as being eliminated second on Survivor: Game Changers, which was season number 34.
Vlachos beat out fellow finalists Natalie Anderson and Michele Fitzgerald to claim the prize. He was praised for his high-intensity, unpredictable gameplay, which included spying on other players by climbing trees or hiding underneath bushes.
He becomes the show’s second two-time winner, following in the footsteps of Sandra Diaz-Twine, who emerged victorious in Survivor’s seventh and twentieth seasons.
The show’s 40th season featured the return of 20 of the show’s 38 previous winners, including two-time champion Diaz-Twine. Contestants included cancer survivor Ethan Zohn, returning to the game a record 19 years after his win, four-time Survivor contestants Tyson Apostol and Parvati Shallow, and married couple Rob “Boston Rob” Mariano and Amber Brkich Mariano, who met on the show’s eighth season and became engaged at the finale just before Brkich Mariano was declared the winner. (Mariano would return to claim his own victory several years later, during the twenty-second season, Survivor: Redemption Island.)
Host and executive producer Jeff Probst and the Survivor creative team provided a host of twists for the savvy players to overcome. Contestants could earn a new type of currency called “fire tokens,” which could be spent on everything from food to blankets to in-game advantages.
In addition, eliminated contestants could choose to remain on the Edge of Extinction, a sparse, forbidding island with minimal food and shelter, in return for the chance to return to the game. Athlete and former Amazing Race competitor Natalie Anderson, who was eliminated first, remained on the Edge for over a month before winning a grueling physical competition and returning to the game, where she reached the finale and placed second overall.
Although many fans had predicted that Survivor would conclude following this landmark season, Jeff Probst has confirmed that future seasons are in development. However, filming of the show, which occurs on Fiji’s Mamanuca Islands, has been delayed to the global COVID-19 pandemic. It is unknown when filming will resume or when Season 41 will air. In the meanwhile, all previous seasons are available for viewing via CBS’s All Access service.
You can also check out the official finale episode as well as host-narrated recaps, secret scenes and other fun goodies on the CBS Web site.