There is no need to bury the lede here, folks, this week’s episode had a few big happenings, but none bigger than the monumental upset that happened in this week’s elimination.
Down goes CT! Down goes CT!
If you’re new here, here’s a quick introduction to Chris “CT” Tamburello: He has competed in 17 Challenges, appeared in 8 finals and won 3 of them, including last season. He did this to another grown man. He is a beast among men. He is a certifiable Challenge legend, arguably the greatest of all time.
And he lost to a rookie in Purgatory. At the third elimination.
Upsets will happen, but few have resonated as loudly as this one. Jay, a rookie with about as much muscle as CT’s right arm, has now won two eliminations, and earned two red skulls. He is the only male to qualify for the finals so far. Something that host T.J. Lavin, in a very annoyed tone, pointed out to the cast. He is rather unhappy that they chose to vote in someone who has already earned a red skull, rather than someone step up to earn their finals qualification.
CT won this week’s mission (a rather pedestrian event involving some running around a rock quarry and memorizing a code, then racing to blow up a truck… that last part was pretty cool), along with rookie Bayleigh. In a brave move, CT allowed Swaggy C (Bayleigh’s boyfriend) to join the Tribunal. That’s two pretty big wins for the couple right there. It ended up working out for CT, because they allowed him to volunteer himself for Purgatory like he wanted.
A quick aside about ol’ Swag and Bay — this was a huge week for them, even if Swag decided not to enter Purgatory to try and earn a red skull. But aside from Bayleigh’s challenge win, Swaggy was right there in the hunt as well. The couple has potential… but we have to talk about that blanket. If you didn’t watch, the highlight early in the episode was Anesa’s cringing reaction to the couple’s lovey-dovey antics, which included snuggling up underneath a blanket emblazoned with pictures of themselves. It’s something else.
But, back to CT’s foundation-shaking loss. The elimination event had the two competitors build a defense around a jail cell, then swap places and try to break in to one another’s cell and hit a buzzer. There all manners of ropes and chains and heavy shit to use as obstacles. CT spent the majority of his time making knots. Jay did a few knots, but mostly just put a ton of crap in front of the door.
It was spectacular television. CT lets out this laugh in his interview before elimination that just says “this rookie is dead.” There’s a fantastic shot of Old Man CT, complete with eye-glasses, in the rain looking over at Jay, grinning at his prey. He had a plan. He was focused. There was never a doubt about the outcome of this elimination. Jay had no chance.
Until he did. It happened in a flash, but right at the end Jay was able to get through CT’s defenses and beat CT through the door to ring the buzzer. CT may have underestimated him, he may have run out of gas, or maybe Jay is just one of those competitors that finds a way to win. Either way, he pulled it off and now has two red skulls. We’ll see going forward if earning multiple red skulls bears any significance.
Afterwards, CT said he needed to reset and get refocused. This is a man who won last season. It could just be talk, but there’s potential for monster CT to return next season.
This year’s big rivalry?
Before the elimination shock, the episode’s big story was the growing rivalry between Ashley and Bananas. Each season, a rivalry forms that seems to build until it splits the house into factions. Ashley made an early play to vote Bananas into elimination (I don’t think people have quite figured out this year’s format), even building the bones of a team — so far it seems Dee, Cory, Nelson, Fessy (weird, but gotta get in with somebody) and possibly SwagBay have joined the cause. They even made a run at Wes, who had to put serious consideration into blowing up the newly formed Unholy Alliance between he and Bananas. However, it was not to be, as Wes read the room and did not vote for Bananas. It’s early yet, but we’ll see if this is the rivalry that dominates the season, or if Ashley made her move too quickly. Ashley is a former champ, and a good competitor when she maintains focus. However, she can be emotional to her detriment. If she can channel her anger at CT, she’s a problem for everyone else. If not, she’ll be on the way out before the final.
Each week, fellow Takers Blaine and Adam pop in to let us know what they thought of the latest episode.
Fuck. CT’s gone. Having not watched an episode of The Challenge in roughly thirteen years, I partly tuned in to Season 35 because of CT and the legend he’d become in the meantime. But now? I don’t know. It’s almost like when your favorite team doesn’t make the playoffs. Do I continue? I suppose. I’m still a big (big) fan of Melissa. Maybe she’ll win. I used to hate Wes, but maybe he’s grown on me? Hard to say. Bananas is a dick, though he’s been around long enough to be a likable sort of dickhead. Bear annoyed the hell out of me in the first episode, but am I now finding his antics funny? I think so. I also like Cory and Fessy. Basically, CT’s elimination has me questioning everything about the season going forward and looking for a new person whom I will devote my cheers to. As for this particular episode, I was in a glass case of emotion: from literally fist pumping when CT won the mission to having to pick my jaw up off the floor when he lost in Purgatory. I’m also petulant enough to hate on the dude — in this case, Jay — who eliminates my favorite player. Fuck Jay. I hope Rogan gets his shot to send him home.
I cannot believe what I just witnessed. The legend, taken down. Sure, prime era CT would have just ripped that door off its hinges (and maybe decapitated someone with it), but this is still shocking. I thought going into elimination that we had another perfect episode. The daily challenge was serviceable, and Ashley provided some good house drama that Nelson and Kailah were happy to pile onto, but it ended in heartbreak. That said, CT played the game smart. There’s no shame in that. It’s entirely possible that the other guys would have frozen CT out of elimination for an entire season. They have been avoiding him there for years. Also, Jay has proven at this point that he’s a strong competitor. Jordan isn’t as big as the other dudes either, but he’s pound for pound the best in the game, a proven champ, so why not skinny Jay? Never underestimate the climber. He also showed some savvy, riling up Rogan while keeping his cool, and, lest I go too long without mentioning this, HE TOOK OUT CT. And, he also seems like a fan of the show who understood how insane that was. That makes it hard for me to dislike him, as much as I want to for taking out the legend. They have to stop picking on him for a while, right? He has two of their skulls. Unless there is a twist coming and he can give those away if eliminated (Island style), they’re just digging their own graves by giving him an elimination spot. Moving forward, it will be interesting to see who can understand the nuance of this particular format first. Ashley assumed she had power over Bananas by almost getting him thrown in; isn’t that what a smart player (Bananas) would want? To me, that’s next level strategy by him. Ashley has hidden behind friends in the past to be the last woman standing, and she’s a shockingly good physical competitor when she has to be, but she’s never had to deal with a Tori or Jenny head on. Not sure her game will fly this year. Bayleigh and Swaggy showed more poise and strategy in Tribunal than I expected after her behavior the first week. They get it. Rogan, on the other hand, has gotta go. He is the worst, and has done literally nothing to make me think he could survive elimination. The love affair of Wes and Bananas lives on! I love this program.