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.
After TJ Lavin reveals that contestants must win an elimination challenge in order to make the final this season, everyone goes home (to their bunker) and digests that twist … while also digesting a lot of chips.
At one point you can hear someone ask, “Is that salt and vinegar?” CT’s got himself a whole bowl; everyone is just crushing chips.
Reality shows very rarely keep shots of participants eating, but they should do it more! I found watching everybody eat extremely weird and funny. It was also very relatable. Who among us hasn’t come home from a night of drama and just housed a bag of chips?
The Award for Best Cinematography Goes To …
I’ve been saying things like “The Challenge is the most visually stunning show on TV” and while, yeah, those sort of statements are intentionally hyperbolic, I’m starting to think they might actually be kind of true? This drone shot is legitimately great; definitely endorsed by True Detective’s Nic Pizzolatto:
Not Even Close
Deciding when to drop crates of colorful powder from a helicopter? Not Jordan’s forte. After Jordan missed his target by a few hundred meters, Johnny Bananas was like, “What was the strategy behind dropping one of those boxes in Germany?” which made Jordan really mad. It was great. But I also found the quip helpful because I still don’t know where the hell this season is taking place. (Wikipedia says “Prague,” but that has in no way been confirmed by the show itself.) Now I at least know that the show is taking place close to Germany. Or maybe not—maybe they’re really fucking far away from Germany and that was the joke.
Just a Bunch of Reaction Shots
Jenn from The Amazing Race was immediately targeted by the rest of the house for a few reasons: she’s weak; she’s pretty; she has no friends; she was flirting with another girl’s ex-boyfriend. But with absolutely nothing to be done to avoid getting sent into an elimination, Jenn still decided to give a speech to try to save herself. It did not work:
Locker Room Talk
They had a full conversation like this.
The Space Between Heaven and Hell
Before we go, I’d like to briefly think too hard about the fact that the elimination zone in Total Madness is called “Purgatory.” Purgatory is, of course, a concept taken from Catholicism—an afterlife state that is neither heaven nor hell, but a place where some sinners can atone before being sent up or down, so to speak. Weirdly, it is an extremely apt name for The Challenge’s elimination, even more than “gauntlet” or “armageddon” or “presidio.” Contestants on this season go to purgatory, where they are punished, before a ruling is made on whether they can go to a final (heaven) or get sent home (hell). It’s surprisingly in line with the Catholic concept! But delving even deeper, as TJ revealed in the premiere, this season’s contestants must get through an elimination to make the final—translation: people must go through purgatory to go to heaven. That’s quite a take!
The overall theme of this season is clearly “Chernobyl,” but whether intentionally or not, the producers of The Challenge have also made a theme out of heavy-duty theology and the Catholic concept of the afterlife. I did not see that coming!