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The Most Important, Most Artful Shots From Episode 6 of ‘The Challenge: Total Madness’

Apparently ‘The Challenge’ is doing advertising for the ‘Fast & Furious’ franchise now?

MTV/Universal Pictures/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.

Previously, on The Challenge

Screenshots via MTV

Despite sounding like a deer that’s just been hit by a car, Jay did not die when Rogan body-slammed him into the ground at the end of last week’s episode. (The shot of TJ Lavin standing over Jay’s brittle body, air horn and blow torch in hand, unsure of what he should do, is perfect.)

He’s just had the wind knocked out of him, a group of Czech medics assure everyone. So Jay continues on with the elimination, except—remembering the world of punishment he was just in—instead of driving to the basket, he chooses to chuck a couple of fireball jump shots over Rogan. (Neither goes in.) Then when it’s time for him to defend the basket, he starts asking a producer what the rules of the game are. The producer is all, “Weren’t you just playing the game?” Then Jay says he remembers only two of his three offensive attempts, which makes everyone think that maybe the medics didn’t do the most thorough job on their first checkup. A different medic checks on Jay a second time, and gives her expert opinion that Jay is concussed and absolutely should not partake in a physical competition against a rugby player who is three times his size.

And that’s the end of Jay’s time on The Challenge. You gotta feel for him—he was really screwed by this season’s rules … and the fact that every other guy weighed at least 50 pounds more than him.

Back in the Dungeon/Skype Room

A weirdly large part of the episode is devoted to Jenna first trying to call her boyfriend Zach and then finally reaching him. He’s all mad because he hacked her Instagram (?) and looked at her DMs (??) and got upset about her flirting with other guys during a time when they weren’t dating (???). Sounds like a healthy relationship.

Overall it’s a pretty weak story line, and I’m annoyed that it usurped this episode. But it’s also just really funny to think about trying to have a serious life conversation with a person who’s trapped in a dramatically lit mock nuclear dungeon.

The Property Bozos

Clearly bored out of their minds, Wes and Johnny Bananas decide to remodel Bear’s room (or at least the small corner of a room in which he sleeps) to help in his ongoing quest for Kailah. For like five very strange minutes, The Challenge becomes an HGTV show.

What is this?

What are we doing?

Is this riffing on something specific? Or does The Challenge think Fixer Upper has all these weird Snapchat filter graphics? I am pretty uncomfortable.

Anyway, this whole charade, of course, causes more bad than good, as Wes’s final touch on the remodel is taping pictures of Kailah and her current boyfriend to the ceiling above the bed. That’s a pretty messed up thing to do—although, it should be noted that it is NOT as messed up as cheating on your longtime boyfriend with a chavvy dude on a reality show. Either way, the best part of this was Bear’s reaction. He doesn’t clock the ceiling photos at first and doesn’t realize why Kailah’s so upset; then when she storms out of the room, he finally sees why:

The Challenge: Sponcon Edition

The only actual game action we got this episode was the group challenge. While that’s disappointing, at least that challenge was good. And you knew it was gonna be good the second this title card popped up onscreen:

Just as a thousand questions started racing through my head—Is this a copyright issue? Did MTV have to get the rights to use this as a title? Does Universal own Viacom now? Is Vin Diesel going to sue TJ Lavin? Why is this happening?—TJ answered them. “It is inspired by a movie franchise that has brought you some of the greatest stunts in the history of cinema,” he says. So there ya go: This group challenge is straight up sponsored content. (I’m not complaining, to be clear.) Throughout the segment, the words “Fast & Furious,” “F9,” and “Ride or Die,” Fast’s slogan, are uttered a combined 15 times.

“Why?” you may be asking yourself. Well, in a better world not halted by a pandemic, Fast 9 would be released on May 22, 2020. Universal was, it thought, getting in some late-game advertising. Not that The Challenge could’ve predicted this, but this episode is a sharp reminder of how profoundly the movie industry has been transformed. Didn’t see that one coming!

The challenge—in which contestants had to collect magnetic puzzle pieces from the side of a double-decker semi-trailer truck—is directly connected to the movie, according to TJ. “In the stunt sequences in F9, magnets play a huge role,” he says. I had no idea what this meant, but then I rewatched F9’s incredible trailer and remembered the scene in which Charlize Theron flies over a car and picks it up with a magnet and Ludacris says, “Damn, they got a magnet plane?”—so TJ’s statement checks out. Now sure, this …

… looks nothing like this:

But close enough. Really, the best way The Challenge honored the Fast franchise was by doing elaborate stunts on a ridiculously long runway. Such a cool homage to the climax of Fast & Furious 6.

On The Challenge, each pair was given seven minutes to collect all of the puzzle pieces and assemble the puzzle, and the semi remained in motion the entire time. The truck didn’t seem to be going that fast, but even assuming it was going only 20 mph, that means it traveled more than two miles over the course of each round; bump the speed up to 30 mph and it traveled three and a half miles. That’s a pretty long runway! Where in the Czech Republic do they have such an absurdly long stretch of pavement? Are there parts of the country built specifically for reality competition television? The whole thing doesn’t make a ton of sense—which is why it was the perfect challenge to be Fast & Furious sponcon.