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‘The Challenge’ Recap: Don’t Ask Josh to Do Math

In an episode that featured a wildly dangerous challenge and the death of a legend, the most amazing thing was one contestant’s total eruption

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The global pandemic has shut down all modes of normal life. But MTV’s The Challenge stops for nothing. What—you thought they’d take a season off? The NBA returned, the NFL returned, the NHL returned, MLB returned—why wouldn’t America’s fifth sport also find a way to compete? This past September, production plunked down in Reykjavik, Iceland, to begin filming the 36th (!!) installment of The Challenge. They’re in their own bubble—though, it’s worth noting, they are not being held underground like last season—and they’re ready to kill each other for a million dollars. And we’re ready to document every moment: from the feats of strength to the bad decisions, from the bonkers late-night fights to the extraordinarily dope shit TJ Lavin does.


Just Gonna Drop This in Here

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OK, now we can begin.

A Fessy-Related Confession (or: a Confessyon)

The last two weeks I’ve ranked Fessy as the player to beat—his athletic ability combined with the strength of his allies looked insurmountable. But now I’m starting to back off of that bet.

Coming off his failed attempt to send Kyle home, Fessy finds himself on the defensive in this episode—and his deficiencies as a strategist are really exposed. First, he willingly tells everyone the one piece of information that he and Aneesa had that no one else knew: that the secret votes aren’t so secret after all. It’s a weird unforced error—why would you give that up and level the playing field? It also has the effect of sowing distrust among his allies—Cory understandably starts asking questions, wondering why his so-called friend would withhold information.


Then, Fessy starts to criticize Kyle’s gameplay … because Kyle was dishonest? Has Fessy seen this show? Did he forget about all the times he himself chose to lie about the voting setup? “I don’t think anyone in Challenge history has won the money off telling the truth the whole time,” says Kyle, a person who gets how this works. This was just some weak shit from Fessy.

Speaking of weak, Fessy also couldn’t beat CT in this week’s challenge. And while yes, CT is a grizzly bear of a human, Fessy’s supposed to be an overpowering force. Just a disappointing showing for him—both physically and mentally.

Also, he wore a suit vest in a confessional.

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Do better next week, man.

This Contraption From Hell

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There have been some truly wild challenges in the history of this show; Kailah almost got hypothermia last season, and remember when Leroy almost died on Vendettas? But this week might be the craziest thing I’ve ever seen on The Challenge. Teams faced off against each other in a wrestling match … staged atop a semitruck moving at 50 miles per hour … WITHOUT HARNESSES. The only safeguards were two somewhat suspect-looking nets on the sides of the truck. What the fuck?

It was basically a Royal Rumble, but instead of getting thrown out of a wrestling ring, people were getting thrown off of a moving vehicle. “It’s a Challenge first: No one wears a harness,” TJ says, practically beaming. “If you fall off the back, it’s roadkill.”

To be clear: No one died. You probably would’ve heard if someone died in a press release announcing the cancellation of The Challenge. But still, this was nuts. And we’re only in Week 3! I shudder to think what’s coming next.

The Sling Situation in Iceland

Unsurprisingly, the Extremely Dangerous Challenge did result in a couple serious injuries: Nicole dislocated her shoulder (very gnarly stuff) while Liv potentially fractured a bone in her arm. Pretty scary, and also pretty sad: Nicole was ruled unable to compete and had to go home.

But I have a question here: What’s the deal with slings in Iceland?

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These things appear to be made out of gauze. Is that the best we can do? Even when Liv comes back to the house—presumably returning from a legitimate hospital—it looks like her doctor was John McClane from Die Hard:

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But then, to make matters even more confusing, the next time we see her, she’s donning the poshest sling I’ve ever seen! It’s millennial pink!

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So which is it, Iceland: Are your slings from World War II or the year 2047?

British Soundtrack Watch, Week 3

After hearing the Smiths and the Cure in the first couple episodes, I made a note to keep an eye on The Challenge’s British music trend. And well, well, well: On Wednesday night, we had a Billy Idol appearance. (“Rebel Yell,” in case you missed it.)

I don’t really have a theory as to why The Challenge is going U.K. heavy this season. Maybe it’s because Iceland is somewhat close to the United Kingdom on a map? (It’s really not that close, though.)

Whatever. I’m into it. MTV, if you need soundtrack help, may I suggest the Clash? Maybe a little Radiohead? A whiny Coldplay song would be great for a Josh montage.

Josh vs. CT (and Also, I Guess, Big Brother vs. Devin)

Three weeks—that’s how long it took for Josh to lose it.

But let’s rewind. Let me try to walk you through this—it’s actually quite complex (and ridiculous). It all started when CT and Josh’s friend Kaycee get into a (seemingly harmless) argument over … making food, I think? It’s a little unclear, but it seems like Kaycee was using the kitchen to make a French-bread pizza and CT got mad because he wanted to use the kitchen to make an “egg quesadilla.” (I’ve personally never heard of an egg quesadilla; I’m more of a breakfast burrito guy.) That’s it—Kaycee and CT bicker a little bit, but neither of them seem particularly mad.

Josh, though, takes it upon himself to defend Kaycee’s honor … despite the fact that no one asked him to, and ya know, the fact that it was a nonexistent fight. “I really don’t wanna get involved,” Josh says in a confessional, like a liar. He approaches CT and—actually, hang on. Maybe it’s easier to do this in bullet points:

  • Josh confronts CT—who’s minding his own business, smoking a cigarette—and tells him that he made Kaycee cry.
  • CT goes to find Kaycee and apologize for making her cry.
  • Kaycee is like, “Dude, WTF, I was not crying.”
  • CT goes back to Josh like, “Why did you say she was crying?”
  • Josh—who again, is a liar—tells CT that he never said that even though he did, in fact, say that.
  • CT begins to berate Josh and make fun of him. “Why are you being like this?” Josh asks. “Because you’re a bonehead,” CT answers. (“Bonehead” is a top-10 insult.)
  • Josh yells. Like, he really yells.
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  • Nam, an innocent bystander, begins to realize that he has trapped himself inside a house filled with the most emotionally volatile people on the planet.
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But it doesn’t end there. Oh no. As Littlefinger once said, “Chaos is a ladder,” and Devin—surely The Challenge’s Littlefinger—senses an opportunity amid all of this nonsense. “Big Brother sucks!” he shouts, needling an already distraught Josh, who also clearly has an inferiority complex due to coming from Big Brother. He’s just trying to get in Josh’s head—and it works. Devin then yells, “Eat my ass!” At first I thought he said “beat my ass,” but later in the episode he clearly says “eat my ass” to Leroy. So I guess Devin’s thing is just telling people to eat his ass.

Josh is at a breaking point by now. Several security guards are restraining him while a very relaxed Devin, cigarette in hand, keeps yelling “What’s 8 times 9?” at him.

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I have NO IDEA why Devin does this. Is this a joke about how Josh can’t do simple multiplication? Does the number 72 drive Josh insane like the number 23 does to Jim Carrey in that movie The Number 23? Or does it just have zero meaning whatsoever? (If it’s this last thing, Devin is truly an evil genius; having someone shout math problems at you while you’re trying to bite their head off must be the most infuriating thing ever.)

The saga ends not with Josh punching Devin, but punching a wall, while everyone laughs behind his back.

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Now let me remind you that this all started BECAUSE OF AN EGG QUESADILLA.

(“Was everyone hammered?” you ask. I can’t say for sure—the fight doesn’t happen after a trip to the Bubble Bar and it’s not like there are a ton of beer cans around—but considering the circumstances, the level of emotion, and the whole wall-punching thing, I’m going to say ABSOLUTELY.)

Wes Is Washed

From day one on Double Agents, most of the cast has been targeting Wes. It’s not hard to understand why: He’s a strong player, he’s annoying and pompous, and he no longer has a majority in the house. He’s burned too many bridges and snaked too many people for anyone to ever trust him again.

But I never really expected him to go out so sad. After once again getting voted into elimination, he faces off against Devin ... and basically gives up. “I see it in his eyes,” Devin says. “He doesn’t want it as bad as I do.” But if you ask Wes, he was doing Devin a favor: “I’m giving it everything I have, but I see my best friend, and he’s trying, and he’s inching forward, and I want this for him so badly.”

I’m sorry, Wes, but first of all, since when is Devin your best friend? And also, you did not give Devin the win—he was stronger than you and he took it from you. You didn’t do him a solid.

As a final parting shot of this pathetic display, Wes looks up at the rest of the contestants and delivers a hilariously self-righteous monologue: “I’ve won a couple times. And I never once had to lie or vote in my friends. … One day you’re gonna be old like me, and you’re going to want to look back on that win and be proud of yourself and your heart and your decisions.”

This is my reaction to all that:

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I’m sorry, man. But this is The Challenge. A million dollars is on the line. Anything goes. Also, YOUR ENTIRE REPUTATION WAS BUILT ON BEING SNEAKY! You can’t spend years being the best liar on a TV show and then turn around and be like, “Wah! Honesty is the best policy!”

The Double Agents Power Ranking: Week 3

After each episode, we’ll determine the players who are best situated to win it all—and the ones who are hanging on by a thread.

The Top Six

1. Natalie: Natalie’s biggest flaw this season was being attached to Wes. Now Wes is gone. Natalie is now unstoppable.

2. Cory: Devin stealing Tori from Cory (they were calling themselves the “Ories”) means that Cory’s new partner is Natalie. This is a huge break for Cory.

3. Kaycee: Still dominant, and of all the Big Brother alums, she plays the best game.

4. Fessy: My guy needs to get his house in order; he’s slipping. But he’s still a favorite … for now.

5. Kam: Kam’s in a really nice spot right now—her partner is Kyle, her man Leroy is winning challenges, and she’s just sitting back playing Lady MacBeth.

6. Nam: Nam and Lolo Jones proved how much of a force they are this week, and of the two, only Nam isn’t blinded by love. I’m fully in on Nam.

The Bottom Six

26. Josh: [Gestures at literally everything]

25. Liv: Liv was one of weaker players before she broke something in her arm. Maybe next season, bruv.

24. Gabby: Gabby actually showed some life this week! But there’s no way she sees TJ’s final.

23. Nelson: Here is Nelson’s face after saying he wasn’t afraid of Leroy:

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LOL. Nelson remains this show’s greatest source of comedic relief—but he will never win a Challenge.

22. Big T: I love Big T. She is the best. But wow, this week really hammered home just how much smaller she is than everyone else.

21. Devin: It was a triumphant week for Devin; I’m still amazed at the “8 times 9” thing. But practically speaking, Devin put a gigantic target on his back, a target that got even bigger when he won a gold skull. He’ll probably be back in an elimination in no time, and it’ll probably be against an opponent more daunting than Wes.