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The Most Important, Most Artful Shots From Episode 9 of ‘The Challenge: Total Madness’

Big T has a problem with her Big Toe Injury, the rookies make their move, and the whole cast gets to go to a new bar … which is also underground

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.

RIP Big T (the “T” Still Stands for “Toe”)

Last week on The Challenge, Big T got super drunk, jumped off the top bunk of a bunk bed, landed weirdly on a chair, and split her toe open. The injury required extra cotton pads—[extreme British accent] “extra cotton pads?!”—and multiple stitches. But don’t worry, she’s not getting special treatment—people are literally yelling at her to go faster as she crutches her way down stairs:

Screenshots via MTV

The injury also means that Big T is medically barred from competing, and therefore automatically eliminated. It’s a shame to see her go; she was probably the brightest personality this season had, and I was rooting for her to pull off a stunning upset. Alas, she now joins the infamous company of people like Dustin (Battle of the Exes) and Sylvia (Vendettas) who got sent home for non-Challenge-related ailments.

At least her walk-off was funny.

A Three-Act Play

Is there anything better than watching TJ Lavin laugh at a person who is deathly afraid for their life?

A New Bar!

This season of Total Madness has forced The Challenge contestants into an underground bunker, with varying results. On the one hand, this setting has added an extra level of mental pressure to the competition, and those without the proper fortitude have either cracked in violent, detrimental ways or have hastily thrown themselves into elimination regardless of strategy (because at least if they lose they’ll be able to see the sun again). On the other hand, you can certainly feel the absence of the sort of revelry and nonsense (and OK, I’ll say it: sexual activity) that would have unfurled if producers had thrown the contestants into a mansion with a sweet pool. I can only imagine how much more ridiculous Bear and Kailah’s tryst would’ve been had there been a functional hot tub in the house.

But it’s still quite funny that MTV is forcing the contestants to live like mole people. And it’s even funnier that the one non-bunker place they’ve been allowed to go to is Hangar, a bar that is literally underground.

Until this week! Everyone got to go to a new bar! It’s called Nebe and it’s on the outside and it looks so nice and certainly it must feel so refreshing to be in a new place that has windows and—oh what’s that? Nebe is also an underground bar that looks like a dingy tunnel?

Just incredible stuff. I really do wonder if this was intentional. Because if I were to guess, I’d say there’s a pretty good chance that the only Czech bars willing to let MTV film on their premises were the ones with enough space (i.e., in their basements) to hide an entire cast of an American reality TV show—but I’d rather imagine that this was an extra little twist of the knife by producers. You think you’re going to be able to breathe fresh air and be relieved of constant claustrophobia? NEVERRRRRRR!!!

Still, it’s Nebe over Hangar any day. Much nicer decor; big booths; and when people stand on the bar the Nebe employees ask them to stop by just politely raising their hands:

The customer is always right, even when the customer is a juiced-up dude from Big Brother.

The New School

We need to address the elephant in the room: The Challenge is in an era of transition. Much as the dynamic changed once the cast of Are You the One? was let in, the same is happening as the roster is filled with alums of British reality shows and other shows like American Ninja Warrior, Big Brother, and Survivor. Vets always have a leg up on the new blood, but that hasn’t exactly been the case for Total Madness. Wes is working with rookies like Swaggy C and Bayleigh and in eliminations, and rookies are now 3-2 against vets after Kaycee took out Kailah on Wednesday; two of the game’s legends, CT and Jordan, have been taken down by rookies. Moreover, with guys like CT and Jordan out, this season has been owned by competitors like Rogan, Dee, and Jenny, who all have three or fewer seasons under their belts. The last two seasons have seen new-blood winners, and this season, a final exclusively featuring contestants who’ve made their debuts in the past five seasons is totally in the cards.

The changing of the guard of course happens in all sports, and once-dominant players like CT (39 years old) and Johnny Bananas (37 years old) aren’t getting any younger. But the transition has also been precipitated by MTV casting truly athletic, threatening newbies who … the veterans think they can beat anyway. It happened with Jay; and it happened this week when Kailah asked to go into elimination versus Kaycee.

“Why Kaycee and not Aneesa?” Bayleigh asked.

“I’ve beaten Aneesa before,” Kailah began to explain. “I feel like all of you and everyone else in the house doesn’t think that I’m a strong player, so if I’m gonna go into elimination I wanna beat someone I’ve never beaten before. And I want it to be a badass bitch.”

It’s a strong statement that makes absolutely no sense from a strategic standpoint—but I guess that’s Kailah’s whole vibe. It also speaks to a level of confidence the vets have, and their sense of privilege, as if their seasons of experience alone will propel them to victory. As we saw in the elimination … that is not the case:

To be clear, the goal was to get all the balls out of the barrel. Kailah was barely halfway done by the time Kaycee finished.

This is officially a new era of The Challenge. We better get used to it.