The Challenge has always been a heavily edited show—the main thing that keeps it from feeling like an actual sport is the fact that every elimination challenge comes with about 600 camera cuts—but we can’t remember it ever being this boosted in post-production. Total Madness is flying through camera filters and low-grade graphics; it’s taking HUGE swings from the editing room. It’s, quite simply, astonishing. So, every week, we’ll collect the best moments of each episode in screenshots, sometimes adding context, sometimes letting the image itself speak a thousand words.
The Face Blanket
Allow me to explain what you’re looking at: This is Bayleigh and her boyfriend, Christopher “Swaggy C” Williams, kissing while underneath a blanket covered in pictures of themselves; unbelievably gross, creepy stuff; almost certainly sexual in ways I don’t even want to consider. This is how you can tell Challenge people apart from non-Challenge people: Challenge people are rage-aholics who exert their energy in simple, traditional ways like fighting and drunkenly making out with each other, while Bayleigh and Swaggy—two Big Brother alums—are softie weirdos who log on to the internet and pay someone to make a blanket out of their pictures.
This is the sort of thing that would lead to getting beaten up at summer camp.
The Confusion Overlay
This week, Johnny Bananas became the second contestant (after Tori) to be bestowed with the Confusion Overlay, which is when a bunch of random numbers and symbols circle the contestant’s head to show that they are very, very confused.
CT is a monster; he’s the only human I’ve ever seen turn another human into a backpack. And in this episode, CT had another superhero moment—the challenge wasn’t just to solve a puzzle, but to then run across a field and trigger a detonator that blows up a truck. If you’re wondering: Yes, the second part was completely unnecessary, aside from being an excuse for a gigantic explosion.
The SFX budget on this season is apparently through the roof. But also extremely worth it, because the explosion gave us this image:
[Wipes a single tear from cheek] It’s … it’s so beautiful.
Boar (Bananas) on the Floor
Johnny Bananas is one of the oldest, most celebrated players in Challenge history. He’s won six finals and earned $684,720 across 19 seasons, and over time, he’s used his reputation to bully everyone else into compliance. But the numbers are starting to tip against him—he’s made more enemies than friends over the years, and some of those enemies are whipping up the courage to take him on. Take Ashley, for example—Ashley’s won two seasons, and, by prize-money metrics, is actually the winningest player in Challenge history after she kept the million-dollar prize to herself on Final Reckoning.
But stats aren’t the same as power and respect, which Ashley found out when she tried to orchestrate a coup against Bananas during the group vote. The second Bananas realized what was happening, he began leaning on people, maniacally prompting them to speak up, daring them to vote against him.
He actually starts clapping at one point!
At this point in the vote, the scene started to feel very familiar to me. And then I realized: This is Kendall trying to oust his dad from Waystar Royco in Season 1 of Succession. (Spoiler alert for that show, by the way.) It’s uncanny:
The two scenes run identical to each other, as allies that Ashley was confident that she had secured begin to sway—or essentially abstain (as Stewy and Lawrence do in Succession). Johnny’s mere presence—and the fear of publicly coming out against him—is enough to get the numbers back on his side. And just as the scenes start the same, they end the same, with the king winning.
“I love it,” Bananas says. “It’s really easy for people to have fucking balls, running around the house, making ideas. But then when you sit here—on this couch—everyone’s balls fucking shrivel up.”
He was talking about The Challenge, but he might as well have been talking about the first season of Succession.
I’m glad we got that superhero shot of CT because, unfortunately, Jay from Survivor pulled off an all-time upset and beat him in the elimination challenge. I don’t really wanna talk about it; I’m too upset. I just want to embed this final image further proving CT’s icon status—his response to Jay when Jay says that facing him in an elimination was “one of his dreams.”
Love you, CT. I’ll miss you.