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The Most Important, Most Artful Shots From Episode 4 of ‘The Challenge: Total Madness’

It’s time to dabble in fire extinguishers and a little hypothermia

Getty Images/MTV/Ringer illustration

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.


Just ... No.

All screenshots via HBO

Did Jordan mishear the rules this season? Does he think they’re giving $1 million to the worst-dressed person on The Challenge? I find this outfit personally offensive—especially because Jordan is in the presence of a genuine sartorial role model:

Total Madness

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but this season is named Total Madness. It turns out that this is a pretty apt descriptor: Aside from some gameplay-related stunners, the first three episodes of the season were fairly straightforward, but the longer the season has gone on, the more the pressure has ratcheted up—and, most importantly, the longer these people have had to live in a bunker with zero windows or fresh air.

We had our first instance of complete, stir-crazy chaos in this week’s episode, which began when Bear—it’s his last name; I’d go by Bear too if it was my last name—walked into a room full of people and started spraying a fire extinguisher:

This happens for reasons that aren’t quite clear; Bear says he did it because he’s obsessed with Kailah and she “likes a bad boy,” but bad boys are usually dudes who wear leather jackets and ride motorcycles—not dudes who experiment with light psychological terrorism.

This, of course, sets off an explosive chain reaction—ironic, seeing as extinguishers are supposed to put out fires. First, a coalition forms against Bear, led by Ashley, who spits “chemicals” in Bear’s face and has to be held back by a security guard.

This is the most Eastern European–looking security guard I have ever seen; The Challenge is admirably devoted to the Chernobyl theme this season.

But after Ashley’s reactionary antics, the feud becomes less Bear vs. The People, and more The People Who Thought the Fire Extinguisher Was Low-key Funny vs. The People Who Definitely Did Not. Mattie and Ashley start to fight, and say all kinds of mean things about each other—references to past unseemly behavior, trips to jail, the works. Keep in mind that just moments earlier, these two were best friends. Nany then gets in Mattie’s face before being restrained by the Eastern European guy. Bear reappears, this time wearing swimming goggles.

This kind of mess—one that rapidly devolves and splinters until you can barely remember how it started—is exactly what happens when you lock a bunch of Crossfit-obsessed reality show contestants in an underground prison.

But my favorite part of the whole thing was easily the quick cut to Big T, a spectator enjoying the show while sprinkling salt on a cucumber:

If this isn’t the most British thing that’s ever happened on The Challenge ...

Basement Life 24/7

To be clear, the cast does get to go outside once in a while. But I’d just like to point out that even when they go to a bar, they’re forced to stay on that bar’s lower level:

That’s a real sadistic twist of the knife by Challenge producers.

The Challenge: Total Hypothermia

In this episode’s group challenge, teams had to plunge into freezing water to retrieve puzzle pieces. There was much hype about how cold this water was, but if I’m being honest, every time a temperature flashed on the screen I was somewhat underwhelmed.

Fifty-nine degrees? That’s all? I’m from Upstate New York—I’m pretty sure that’s the temperature of my mom’s pool in the summer. But, realizing I have zero actual expertise on the dangers of water temperatures, I did some research. And according to this very helpful chart from the Minnesota Sea Grant—it’s Minnesota; they know cold—59 degrees is relatively safe:

One to two hours before exhaustion or unconsciousness! Totally doable! But some of the people from The Challenge have clearly never been ice fishing in Minnesota because, for them, this water is all too much. Team 2 and Team 5 can’t even finish the challenge, and Team 2 ends up looking really worse for wear:

Lo and behold: Kailah is from Florida; Dee is from Australia; and Nelson is from Texas. These people are not built for winter.

You’re in Freezing Water

On the other hand, there’s Wes, a veteran of The Challenge, who quickly realizes there’s an easy way to stay warm: by peeing all over yourself. And I’m not here to make fun of that strategy; I’m just here to praise the way The Challenge subtly added a yellow mist to the shot when Wes did the deed:

Art—this show is fucking art.