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The Most Important, Most Artful Shots From Episode 5 of ‘The Challenge: Total Madness’

A Jay-Rogan faceoff; a Bear-Kailah makeout; a ton of pyrotechnics … but most of all we just wanna know: What was up with that giant stick of salami?

MTV/Getty Images/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.

This Skype Setup

The Challenge couldn’t get these people a better setup? This is their only opportunity to connect with the outside world and they have to sit in a room lit by creepy red Chernobyl lighting? I bet Zach is really glad he sat this one out.

Bear Gets It

The love story of this season is between Bear and Kailah—and when I say “love story,” I mean “story about two people ruining the committed relationships they were in.” Through the first four episodes, Bear has borderline stalked Kailah, told her he loves her, and shot a fire extinguisher in her direction—while she’s mostly called him “a psychopath.” But we know she’s actually interested for a couple of reasons: (a) anyone who’s seen The Challenge knows Kailah likes attention, and (b) this shot was in the Total Madness trailer.

It’s never really been a question of “if,” but “when.”

The time finally came in Episode 5. “Trust me, when the Bear’s after something, he gets it,” Bear says at the beginning of the episode while clawing at the camera.

Later in the episode, as the flirting is becoming much more mutual, Bear says, “She has fallen for the Bear’s charm—she is in STAGE FIVE of the Bear Trap,” while making a clamping motion at the camera.

So is Bear the bear or is Bear the trap on which another bear (Kailah) gets caught? No matter: “He’s wearing me down, and here I am falling for it,” Kailah says, sounding very much like a person who doesn’t have a serious boyfriend. Anyway, you know where this is going—after brushing their teeth together (a very intimate act), Bear and Kailah start making out in the bathroom:

The most interesting part of this is somehow not the fact that MTV chose to score this scene with the Offspring’s “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy).” You’ll notice that this makeout in no way resembles the one from the trailer, which means this is not a one-time thing, which means Kailah is taking the double jeopardy approach to cheating—you can’t get convicted for the same crime twice, so after the first time you might as well do it however many more times you want. Seems like a good decision, especially since the guy she’s cheating with is the sort of dude who will go on reality TV and do a one-person show pretending to be on the phone telling your boyfriend about how he hooked up with you.

Get Off My Turf

Jordan—a man who, as a reminder, currently looks like an L.A. hipster crossed with a Mennonite—apparently has very high standards for the cleanliness of the Challenge workout area. So when the gym’s turf gets messed up by Wes and a few others, he’s all like, “Hey, fix that turf immediately!” This is how badly the turf is messed up, by the way:

Absolutely appalling.

Bristling at Jordan’s bossiness over a small ruffle in a piece of carpet, Wes steps to Jordan.

My first thought when this happened was, “Thank God, someone is finally telling Jordan to stop being so annoying.” But my second thought was, “Wait a minute—is that a gigantic stick of salami?” And just when I started to get disappointed that the massive tube of meat would never be addressed, it became a key part of the fight.

“Don’t do it!” Tori can be heard screaming in the distance. “That’s the good salami!”

So, yeah ... I’ve got some questions here:

  • Why on earth is this bunker stocked with a stick of salami that is at least three feet long?
  • How are they eating this salami?
  • Is there an industrial meat slicer in the bunker?
  • Are they just chopping off hunks of it until it’s gone?
  • Shouldn’t the salami be in the refrigerator?
  • If there’s a “good salami,” what does the bad salami look like?
  • Are there other cold cuts in the form of a massive tube in the bunker?
  • Soppressata? Bologna? Capicola? Bresaola?
  • How many tubes of meat does a Challenge cast go through in a given season?
  • Does anyone ever pretend that one of these giant tubes of cured meat is a penis?

OK, I’ve got an answer to that last one:

I hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen of the giant salami.

All Jay Every Jay

You gotta feel for Jay. Not only is he a rookie and one of the smallest competitors on the show—two factors that make him ripe to be voted into elimination—but the way Total Madness is specifically set up, he’s basically guaranteed to be the house vote every week. Because you must win an elimination to make it to the final—“my final,” as TJ Lavin has insisted on calling it this season—every muscle-bound dude in the house is itching to go against the much-smaller Jay. And because it’s politically sounder to keep voting for the same person week in and week out—lest you make more enemies—Jay has a weekly target on his back. And finally, because Jay’s past elimination wins—even the massive upset against CT—don’t give him any sort of immunity, he has no way to remove that target other than winning the group challenges. His two red skulls mean he’s doubly qualified for the final, but there’s no rule that says he can’t be sent into elimination after elimination. The guy’s got no chance. (Also, apparently Jay’s ex-girlfriend cheated on him with Johnny Bananas and then started dating Johnny Bananas? And now Jay has to live in a bunker with the guy? That’s brutal.)

Jay’s underdog magic seemed to run out on Wednesday night, as the elimination challenge was purely physical and the tribunal voted Rogan, a beast of a man, to be Jay’s opponent. Based on the setup of the arena, it looked like Jay and Rogan would be playing Balls In, a classic Challenge game in which one competitor tries to get a ball in a basket while another defends the basket. But there was a twist this time—the ball was gonna be fucking lit on fire.

For some reason, everything must include fire this season.

But beyond the stress of having to dress for this competition the way I now do when I go to the grocery store …

… Jay was faced with the larger concern of having to get around Rogan. Rogan’s shoulders are bigger than Jay’s entire body; and with Jay in a literal firesuit, any speed advantage he might’ve had was blunted. Unsurprisingly, this is how Jay’s first attempt ended up:

The man is full-on wheezing; he’s not getting up; some people think Rogan broke his arm. And … that’s how the episode ends!

This isn’t so much a cliff-hanger about who will win the elimination—it’s a cliff-hanger about whether Jay is alive or not. I can’t believe we have to wait until next week to find out.