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‘The Challenge’ Recap: In Praise of CT and Big T’s Buddy Cop Comedy

Beyond the twists and turns, the most compelling story line of ‘Double Agents’ has been the budding friendship between a Boston bro and a very British woman

Getty Images/MTV/Ringer illustration

The global pandemic has shut down all modes of normal life. But MTV’s The Challenge stops for nothing. What—you thought they’d take a season off? The NBA returned, the NFL returned, the NHL returned, MLB returned—why wouldn’t America’s fifth sport also find a way to compete? This past September, production plunked down in Reykjavik, Iceland, to begin filming the 36th (!!) installment of The Challenge. They’re in their own bubble—though, it’s worth noting, they are not being held underground like last season—and they’re ready to kill each other for a million dollars. And we’re ready to document every moment: from the feats of strength to the bad decisions, from the bonkers late-night fights to the extraordinarily dope shit TJ Lavin does.


The Challenge Broke Lolo Jones

“Lolo couldn’t hang when she was on Champs vs. Pros—I don’t see her faring better in a full-blown season, surrounded by even more bonkers reality-TV personalities.” Like I wrote last week, I’m not right very often, so I have to celebrate when I actually am.

To be fair, though, The Challenge destroying Lolo Jones’s psyche wasn’t too hard to see coming. This is just not a competition designed for people who are used to actual competitions. The personalities are too off the wall; the rules are too malleable; pure athleticism can get you only so far; and oh yeah, there are camera crews following you around, waiting to capture your most vulnerable moments. “The Challenge is not the Olympics, and Lolo tends to compare them a lot,” Darrell wisely notes. “It’s not apples and oranges. It’s like a peach and a damn asparagus.” (I don’t love the analogy but you get the point.) After losing for a full season and going through a breakup-that-wasn’t-even-really-a-breakup with Nam in the past couple of episodes, it’s no surprise that Wednesday night’s episode found Lolo Jones at rock bottom.

Screenshots via MTV

It’s never a good sign when you’re saying “My head is held up” while your head is very noticeably down.

“I’m not gonna waste my time here to sit on an elimination stage, when I could go home and train for the Olympics,” Lolo says, which is both a logical statement and a flex. She just didn’t have the political game to make it on The Challenge. It doesn’t matter if you’re the best athlete in this game—it’s actually kind of a disadvantage, because as we saw with Lolo, everyone else will just team up against a good athlete to keep them out of a final. After losing one more daily challenge, Lolo Jones packs her bags and goes home.

“I’m gonna do what all of my training has taught me over the years,” she says, which sounds like she’s saying that she’s been thoroughly trained to be a quitter, but what I think she means is that she will stop trying to win a reality show and start focusing on more traditional sports. Probably a good call—just earlier this month, she won a world championship in bobsledding, and is now part of a Team USA that’s the odds-on favorite to win gold in 2022.

I’m gonna go ahead and say that she should probably stick to that.

This Is Just a Great Photo

Relationship Goals

There’ve been zero compelling romances this season, but there has been something even better: the buddy comedy of CT and Big T. It’s been a beautiful thing to watch: the erstwhile bully with a Boston accent, CT, softening into a supportive father figure for a very funny British woman. This could be an NBC sitcom yesterday. All season the two have had incredible banter as a girl who feels like she’s letting her partner down and as a guy who just wants his partner to believe in herself. And we hit the peak of their story line this week.

First, CT strapped a bunch of wires on Big T in the name of making “her muscles grow faster.”

“It’s a biohack,” says CT, though I’m not sure he knows what that word means, or that he’s biohacking quite the right way. But everyone’s having a good time, and then he and Big T adorably fail to execute a proper high five:

All the biohacking must’ve paid off, though, because CT and Big T actually win the daily challenge on the back of a shocking Big T performance. The main draw here is the before and after. The before, because these two held hands during the entire challenge:

And the after because CT turned into an absolute melt (Big T will understand this slang; everyone should watch Love Island). “You been hiding that the whole time?!” he yells in a state of euphoria, to which she meekly responds, “I have my uses here and there.”

It’s an amazing moment of character development for both of them. After multiple seasons of being a pushover, Big T is starting to show off some ability. (She’s won twice as many daily challenges as Lolo Jones, for example.) And after years and years of being a legitimate villain, CT is displaying a remarkable amount of calm, maturity, and empathy. Neither of those two have been favorites this season, but they’ve easily been the most compelling part of it.

Of course, the dramatic irony that hangs over all of this is a clip that MTV included in their midseason trailer. In it, Big T and CT are sitting outside the house. “You’re a liar!” Big T yells, as CT responds, “I didn’t lie—I broke a promise.”

Enjoy the good times—and emotionally prepare for this devastating split—while you can. I’m gonna be absolutely heartbroken when this happens.

JOSHHHHHHH AHHAHAAHHAHA

What a week for “the goof.” (That’s CT’s nickname for him, apparently. I can’t believe it took this long for it to come out.) First, he gets savagely friendzoned by Nany. She uses the word “creepy” several times and says, “I AM YOUR SISTER!” Tough beat there.

Then, after telling anyone who’ll listen that he’s “probably the best swimmer on the show,” he completely botches the daily challenge and doesn’t even make it to the swimming portion. It’s better to just replay it; I don’t have the words to express this level of clumsiness:

Is this worse than when he couldn’t throw a ball through a hole? Is it worse than when he flipped out because someone asked him what eight times nine is? Is it worse than later in the episode, when he cries because he finally has friends on The Challenge? The answer: They’re all equally embarrassing moments that make up an astonishingly embarrassing mosaic.

Yeah, man. You super did.

The Double Agents Power Ranking: Week 11

After each episode, we’ll determine the players who are best situated to win it all—and the ones who are hanging on by a thread.

The Top Six

1. Leroy
2. Kaycee
3. Kam
4. Kyle: Was Kyle doing a Jim Carrey thing in his interviews this week?
5. Amber B.
6. CT: Unfortunately, everything at the top here remains the same after Darrell opted to side with the Big Brother alliance, which keeps Josh safe (for now) and keeps their numbers up. However, CT is about to go down to the Crater and, based on the fact that that breakup with Big T hasn’t happened yet, will return from it with a gold skull. I have no idea what the “security breach” that ended the episode will mean—the last time we had one, Ashley Mitchell returned after having been eliminated. Maybe someone else comes back? Wes? I don’t know, but I do think MTV’s pulling this trigger now because the game has tilted too far in Big Brother’s favor.

The Bottom Six

16. Josh: LOL, see everything above.
15. Devin: Going into an elimination against CT (provided the security breach doesn’t change anything)? I don’t like his chances.
14. Gabby
13. Big T: Perhaps Big T’s greatest episode ever. But looking ahead, the CT drama seems bad, and it still might take a miracle for her to acquire a gold skull.
12. Aneesa: Sure, she’s got a skull. But you saw the way she couldn’t hold on to that rope this week—there’s no way she’s making it in a final.
11. Darrell: I’m just very mad at Darrell for siding with Big Brother. It’s almost like all these years on The Challenge have meant nothing to him. This hurts, man.