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The Most Important, Most Artful Shots From Episode 8 of ‘The Challenge: Total Madness’

We need to talk about Nelson

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.

Full Nelson

Screenshots via MTV

Nelson, a man who has never won a Challenge, has been on an emotional roller-coaster this season. Despite the name of the game being politicking and making allies, he has spent most of the season flying off the handle for silly reasons and making enemies. Last episode, he stood in front of the group and apologized to Aneesa for disrespectfully jumping down her throat after she made a mistake during a challenge. But within seconds, that apology morphed into him calling Kailah “the foulest girl in the house” and telling her to “go get fucked in a porta-potty again.” (This apology turned slagging would eventually warrant another apology.)

This week, Nelson just kept digging. First, during a group challenge that required contestants to wade through a room filled with foam in order to see a series of flashing colored lights (I don’t know how they come up with this stuff), Nelson nearly choked on the bubbles.

I’m assuming that The Challenge editors piped in and duplicated some of the noises he was making while submerged in foam, but either way, the repeated shots of a barely visible Nelson combined with the constant sound of him coughing was one of the funniest things to happen this season. The whole fiasco also led to this shot:

Needless to say, Nelson did not win this group challenge. And in the losers’ deliberation—they had to pick two contestants to send into elimination this week—Nelson’s lack of strategic skill was on full display. After Jordan told the group that Nelson had promised not to say his name in a vote, Kyle was like, “Uhh, what? Nelson told me the same thing.” Then one by one, each contestant admitted that Nelson had made them a similar promise. Look—there’s even little flashback shots of him making all the promises:

“When it comes to politics in this game,” Kyle says in his awesome British accent, “it’s just a real weakness for him.”

How does Nelson handle being outed? Does he admit that he was playing a shady game and apologize? Does he take a step back and gain some perspective? Does he attempt to smooth over all of the relationships he just burned, in the hopes that one or two people will stay on his side? Nope! He does none of that!

“Did I say I was gonna save you for the whole final? No, it was for that week,” Nelson says in a confessional, attempting to explain how he wasn’t stupid to make promises to every single person in the game. “It’s like reading a contract—if you don’t read the full contract and you sign the deal, that’s your damn fault.” (This makes no sense because it suggests that Nelson did thoroughly outline the terms of his promises and they were merely ignored by everyone, which is certainly not the case.) Then, he targets Kyle as a snitch—reasoning that if Kyle hadn’t spoken up in the deliberation, no one else would’ve followed (?)—and then does that thing that people on The Challenge do when they want to fight but also know they can’t fight so instead they get very close to the other person’s face in the hopes that the other person will throw a punch:

Obviously, Nelson gets voted into one of the week’s two eliminations—and the tribunal votes to have Bear face off against him. Bear, of course, has been riding high all season after successfully courting Kailah, the woman who came into The Challenge with a serious boyfriend. He specifically doesn’t want to go into elimination because he’s “having too much fun.” And that’s probably why Nelson beats him in Pole Wrestle—because while Bear was thinking about Kailah, Nelson was thinking about breaking him and Kailah up.

But even though Nelson survived this week, this episode—and the season as a whole—is a huge indictment on him as a player. He’s irrational, out of control, and frankly, pretty stupid. And he’s unlikable! Now that he has passage to the final by virtue of taking down Bear, I expect to see Nelson in every single guys elimination from here on out. And when he goes home before the final, it’s gonna be his own fault.

Now, for a palate cleanser, here are a bunch of parting shots of Bear:

This Is the Look of a Woman Who Just Realized That She Ruined a Long-Term Relationship for a Guy Who Just Got Sent Home

Big T (and the “T” Stands for “Toe”)

Big T is one of the sneaky MVPs of Total Madness. She’s quirky, cute, and British. And apparently she’s a riot when she’s drunk. That, unfortunately, has some negative consequences this week, as Big T injures her toe while drunkenly jumping off the top bunk of a bunk bed. I’m not gonna embed the shot of the toe, but you can click here if you wanna see it.

Let’s just say there’s a lot of blood. And that when Big T hears she’s gonna have to go to the hospital, she frightfully wonders:

She got three stitches. Her foot did not fall off.

With or Without You

Jordan Wiseley is the Steph Curry of The Challenge—at least he is to me, a person who does not like Steph Curry. He’s an aggravating, self-aggrandizing jerk; and also, he’s dressed like a farmer this entire season:

But Jordan is also one of the best to ever appear on The Challenge. He’s made four finals and won three of them; he’s won more than $800,000 on the show; he beat Josh in a tug-of-war, despite the fact that Josh outweighs him and the fact that Jordan has only one hand. Even if you dislike him (which I do), even if you’re mad that he shoved a giant stick of salami in your face (which he did to Wes), you can’t deny that he’s a great athlete, and an even greater competitor.

Which is why it was hard to watch him go on Wednesday night. Jordan more or less asked to be put into elimination—though he certainly regretted doing so once he saw that the challenge was Pole Wrestle, a game that definitely favors people who have both hands. Things immediately went south for Jordan, as a much bigger Fessy wrestled him to the ground and landed most of his weight onto Jordan’s shoulder:

Upon getting up, Jordan was obviously injured—he could barely move his right arm. “It’s not dislocated, it’s just separated at the AC,” Jordan authoritatively told the medics. Still, with his shoulder separated, he mustered as much as strength as possible to hold on to the pole once more and finish out the elimination, opting to fight through the pain and lose than simply quit.

Just a genuinely moving performance from him, and a perfect example of what makes him so maddeningly good on The Challenge.

Now, there’s a bit of void in Total Madness. Wes and Bananas are working together, but they no longer have a titan to work against. With Jordan gone, there’s no one left who is as annoying—and as threatening—as he is. I can’t stand the guy, but I already know I’m gonna miss him dearly.