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Johnny Bananas Reveals Why He Took the Money on ‘The Challenge’


On Wednesday night’s Challenge: Rivals III finale, Johnny Bananas took advantage of a special wrinkle in the show and stabbed his partner, Sarah, in the back. At stake? $275,000. Rather than split the money with Sarah, he took the pot for himself. On the latest episode of The Bill Simmons Podcast, Bananas explained his reasoning for what he did, going all the way back to his history with Sarah on Battle of the Exes II.

Check out the full podcast here. This transcript has been edited and condensed.

Bill Simmons: So to recap: Challenge — there’s some wrinkle at the end, and the final challenge, we’re keeping track of the checkpoints, and whoever’s ahead can just keep all the money. So $275,000 at stake. You have Sarah, you have a history with Sarah, Sarah stabbed you in the back [in 2015]. It was one of the only times the Bananas didn’t see it coming.

Johnny Bananas: I did not see it coming, man.

The cardinal rule in The Challenge and in game shows in general is to not let your personal feelings and reality mix with the game that you’re playing. And that’s what I did.

It took me a while to come to terms with it. But in my defense, there are people that I do the show with and Sarah’s one of the few girls that I’ve had an ongoing alliance with. But like with Kenny and Evan and Leroy and Mark and going back to when I used to work with Derrick — there are certain people [for whom] your friendship transcends the show [and] what happens on the show tends to spill into your real life. And I really did consider Sarah before Exes a really close friend of mine. Now, we didn’t talk all the time and I didn’t call her on her birthday. But I hung out with her outside of the show, which is very rare for me, so when that happened … I didn’t see it coming. It was a total blindside.

Like, if a CT or a Wes screws me over … more power to you, man, because I knew it was coming. I know what side you’re on and you know what side I’m on — it’s never a surprise. With her — and what she had preached for so many years about how she plays [the game] straight-up — for that to happen with her the way that it did, I had to take my own medicine, and I’m like … she rewrote the rules of the game and rules of engagement.

After Exes, she was like “I’m done. I’m getting married having babies I’m getting a real job.” Which I thought was kind of like a backhanded slap at people who were still doing the show.

She got married, and then she ends up coming back. I knew what the format was before we came on the show, but I had figured since she made this grand exit — and she was like “I’m done doing Challenges” — there’s no way she’ll be my partner. I found out the day before we left for Mexico that she was going to be my partner. And I was pretty sick about it — and I had said this in the past — if she’s ever back on another Challenge, all bets are off. She’s going to be the first one that I’m setting my [sights] on. Then when I find out we’re going to be partners, now not only am I not going to be able to touch her but then there’s a possibility that I’m gonna win her money at the end. It just didn’t sit right with me.

I really didn’t have that much animosity still. I really didn’t. I had kind of gotten over a lot of it. I’m like, “You know what, whatever. We’re here, we’re going to compete, we’re going to do well.” But for the sake of the show, I’m like, “How great would this story arc be if we start off as mortal enemies?” We can’t get our shit together. Halfway through the show, we start working well together. We kind of have this coming to Jesus moment, and then we just murder the show and ride off into the sunset. And that is pretty much exactly how it went.

We didn’t know about [the wrinkle with the chance to keep the money]. Everyone’s like, “Oh, you didn’t mean anything you said to her throughout the show.” Well, I didn’t know about this wrinkle. I didn’t know about this curveball. This was something that they dropped on us at the last minute, which might [be] the most diabolical plot twist ever on a Challenge or any other show.

Everybody knew who was going to win out of us teams. I knew we were going to get first, but nobody knew who was going to come out with [the] most points, and nobody knew what the respective person was going to do.

When we got to the final and when [TJ Lavin] dropped this bomb on us — it’s so funny, the other two teams when they find out they’re kind of like, “Oh wow, that’s crazy.” Me and Sarah are both staring at the ground. And I think the reason why is because the same thing was going through both of our heads: I’m going to take the money from this person.

And it’s so easy for her fans and for her to say, “No, I wouldn’t have.” But you have already. You’ve done it in the past. We already have a fractured relationship. People want to make it out like, “Oh, but you guys became such good friends.” That was television. And what you see on TV and these relationships that develop, nine times out of 10 don’t transfer through into real life.