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 One When Everyone Pukes
Here’s my recap of this week’s group challenge:
The theme was, in a word, torture: Each pair was locked in a cage, handcuffed to each other, and forced to endure harsh noises and situations. But ultimately, it all boiled down to the part where they had to eat ram testicles and fermented shark.
And then! They had to wash it all down with a liquid that everyone simply kept referring to as “cheese drink.” I can only imagine what this stuff tastes like, but safe to say that drinking liquified cheese—or whatever it is, no one ever confirms the substance—probably isn’t like taking a bite of Parmigiano-Reggiano. I’ve never seen so much puking—it was an across-the-board vomit fest that only begat more vomit. Aside from two teams, everyone pretty much took a few bites of ram balls, puked their brains out, and then said, “All right I’m good, someone else can win this week.” (My one criticism here is that they didn’t do this challenge until after Josh was eliminated. I would’ve loved to have seen this absolutely break him.) The funniest part is that Big T, who was rogue and therefore not eligible to compete, had to stand on the sideline in this presumably very bad-smelling warehouse watching everyone throw up their organs. It’s actually pretty surprising that she didn’t end up puking too.
This was some disgusting shit, and I’m sorry, but if I had to see this close-up then you do too:
A Rough Ep for Fess
Is Fessy getting the worst edit of this season, or is he just an unlikable dude? Throughout Double Agents he’s been a bother, alternately cocky and complaining, while also dressing like that photo of Dwayne Johnson in a fanny pack.
But this episode was just a gauntlet of bad PR for Fessy. It starts with him throwing the puke challenge because he wants to get rid of Aneesa as a partner—and while he thinks he’s doing a great job acting, uh, he 100 percent is not. Then, he and Gabby continue to get closer—and while it’s hard to watch any man flirt on national television, it’s extra grating watching Fessy do it. But to make things even worse, about five minutes after making out with Gabby, Fessy is chatting with Cory about how attracted he is to Tori—who, it’s worth noting, was still engaged at the time of the conversation.
“Fessy has always wanted Tori, is the bottom line,” Cory says. “Fessy has always been attracted to Tori. He doesn’t care if she’s engaged—he wants her.”
So, to recap, Fessy is:
- A shitty teammate
- Bad at flirting
- Already thinking about hooking up with a different girl than the one he’s currently hooking up with
- Absolutely interested in breaking up a marriage
What a guy!
The Best Elimination of the Season
This season’s eliminations have been defined more by players’ ineptitude than their skill. Think about Joseph getting manhandled by Kyle; or Tori being unable to knock over a basket of medicine balls; or Amber M. running in the wrong direction during a hall brawl; or Josh being unable to throw medicine balls; or Josh not understanding how momentum works; or Josh doing anything.
Even the better eliminations haven’t been particularly close: Wes was checked out when Devin beat him, and Leroy’s win was notable only for how dominant he was.
But with Nany and Gabby going into the Crater, we finally had a compelling elimination.
It was an incredibly evenly matched contest, with Gabby proving her strength and fitness before Nany ultimately grinded out a victory. I was rooting for Gabby—it would’ve been a great Cinderella story, and Nany’s pretty much been coasting this whole season—and even though she lost, it was a wildly entertaining bout. Both women scratched and clawed and fought to the bitter end—Nany legit dropped a kneecap on Gabby’s head! And it was all scored to Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer”:
This is the best action sequence of 2021.
The Double Agents Power Ranking: Week 13
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 Four
2. Kaycee: Every week, Leroy and Kaycee add separation between them and the rest of the field. They’re the easy favorites; it’s actually hard to picture them not winning at this point.
3. Fessy: Sure, he’s a shitty person. But swapping Nany for Aneesa as a partner means he’s once again a threat—to win The Challenge, and to steal your fiancée.
The Bottom Four
12. Big T: Poor Big T, surrounded by vomit, shut out of the elimination, and now paired up with the cursed Cory.
11. Cory: This man has now had six partners get sent home. Most people this season haven’t even had more than two partners! This is a statistical marvel.
9. Kyle: Has it been confirmed that everyone will have to run the final with their regular-season partners? Every competitor is basically talking that way, but I don’t think TJ has said anything, and it’s his final after all; I also feel like I remember him emphasizing at the onset that Double Agents is a solo game. People like Fessy might be overstating the importance of having a fitter teammate going into the final. But if partners really are tethered to each other until the end, Kyle—who just went from Kam to Nany to Aneesa as his partner—will find himself at a massive disadvantage. He has only a couple more episodes to put himself in a better position.