You can usually gauge my interest in a particular episode of The Challenge by taking a peek at my notes – the more I’ve jotted down the better. The season’s first two episodes had me scribbling down notes like an undergrad trying to keep up with a fast-talking professor. Last night’s show was more like the hungover upperclassman who only showed up because the professor takes attendance.
Fortunately, this week’s elimination was Hall Brawl, an event that’s always good television. We should be eternally thankful, too, because last night’s snoozer of an episode would’ve been one of the boringest in recent memory if not for the elimination and the drama it brought about.
The episode featured waaaayyyy too much Josh and Devin for my liking; and it wasn’t even enjoyable, antagonistic-asshole Devin angering Josh by asking him math problems; it was annoying, antagonistic-asshole Devin doing his best Wes impersonation and trying to pull mythical strings and move imaginary chess pieces. He erased the goodwill he amassed last episode about 7 minutes into this episode.
Most of the pre-daily drama centered around Devin going on a power trip fresh off of his elimination win, which then in turn activated everyone’s favorite lovable idiot, Nelson. Nelson went to defend his partner Amber’s honor, Devin declared war, yadda yadda yadda. The only other thing of note was Liv’s medical DQ, making Mechie a rogue agent.
The daily was pretty damn boring, as well. There are very few non-physical challenges that translate to TV, and this was not one of them. The teams went into a cave, where one partner flew a drone and the other used some type of VR goggle-looking things to navigate their partner to a code, which they were then supposed to memorize to solve the puzzle. One team finished. One. Naturally, it was Devin and Tori. The other teams not only didn’t finish, they didn’t even come close.
If there was a saving grace, it’s that TJ had a ball at their expense, so at least we got to see the TJ laugh we all love. I mean, these people were comically bad at drone-piloting, and the partners with the goggles were no better at giving out directions. Contestants being woefully under skilled for a challenge is really only entertaining when it’s a physical challenge, because at least then we get to see some gnarly slams and such.
Anyway, as said above, Devin and Tori were the winners, being the only team to actually complete the challenge. This gave Devin another taste of victory, furthering his transformation into Wes 2.0. Although they won, this tandem is headed for trouble. Immediately after the win, Tori hugs Devin, and his reply was “Good job, I still don’t like you.”
There wasn’t much drama to the house vote, either. Tori made her case for people to vote in Amber/Nelson, because Tori wanted to get her gold skull against an “easy” opponent (easy in quotations only because we haven’t seen Amber in action; but yeah, Tori would wreck her). Devin isn’t exactly 100% in-line with Tori, but his spat with Amber and Nelson made it easy for him to accept that vote. Both winners did their politicking around the house, building their cases for their own elimination vote. Naturally, when the two talked shop during a visit to the bubble bar, they butted heads. Tori declared that if she saw the setup for Hall Brawl, she was volunteering. Devin said that would not be the case. For a second, I thought we might see the team implode on their very first day together.
Also of note inside the bubble bar: Fessy admitting his attraction to Tori, but saying he wouldn’t make a move because she’s taken (this in itself is a whole ‘nother subplot, with Jordan/Tori announcing their split the day before this season’s premiere, rumors of a Tori/Fessy affair and island vacation all over reddit, and Tori taking to social media to declare there was no affair), and then getting shot down by… Gabby? I can’t remember, but her confessional where she basically says, “Yeah Fessy is attractive until he opens his mouth” was pretty damn funny. After the bar excursion, Josh decides to start shit with Jay for… reasons? His thing for Jay came so far out of left field that his two most trusted housemates, Kaycee and Nany, both are about one step away from “you do you bro, but leave us out of it.”
During the deliberations, Nelson actually brings up a smart point: judging by who’s left the show (both via elimination and injury), the numbers suggest the elimination would be a guy’s event. This does nothing to prevent people voting for him and Amber.
The good drama started when the plotting started. Tori wanted Amber so she could get her gold skull, Josh wanted Jay so he could get his, and Fessy wanted anyone if the game was Hall Brawl.
At elimination, Devin and Tori try to get TJ to tell them if it’s a guys or girls’ night. TJ laughs. Devin then convinces Tori not to volunteer (guessing Devin didn’t fancy his chances against Nelson in Hall Brawl), promising to get her a skull. I’m sure that won’t come up again this season. The two then send in Fessy/Aneesa, much to the chagrin of Josh, and the utter dismay of Nelson and Cory. Naturally, Fessy takes out Nelson. Nelson puts up a good fight, but no one outside of maybe CT or Darrell is beating Fessy in a Hall Brawl.
Fessy might be the most physically gifted guy in the house, but man he continues to make dumb decisions with his political game. Last episode he was an idiot and exposed the secret that winners get to see the voting results. This week he makes a back door deal that manages to screw over both his closest allies and his partner. Sure, he won and got the gold skull, but that is not a guaranteed trip to the final, and it doesn’t bode well for any future seasons.
Afterwards, Fessy ditches Aneesa for Kaycee. Leroy then picks Aneesa as his new partner, leaving Amber to pair with Mechie. This leaves us without a rogue agent for the time being.
At least the lackluster episode had a firecracker ending that gives us some compelling storylines going forward.
I agree with TD. This week was a slow down from the first few episodes, but that’s not always a bad thing. The editors seemed to use the occasion to flex their powers. The flirtatious vibing between Tori and Fessy was shown almost first thing, and the episode’s moment of drama was Tori surprising everyone with her vote. A vote that Fessy wanted. Most of the storylines were tightly constructed like that, and I can respect that kind of work on a slow week. TD and I differ when it comes to the daily challenge. It brought TJ joy, which in turn made it very fun to watch for me. I kind of want to feel bad for Nelson meeting his end in the Hall two seasons in a row, but the Valiant Knight act he pulled over Amber with Devin was a little gross. It’s the other side of the same toxic coin that pushed him to be a total jerk to Aneesa last season. Nelson has his admirable qualities, though, and loyalty has to be near the top of the list. He was genuinely hurt by Fessy and it was rough to watch. It didn’t help that Fessy looked like he was actually trying to physically hurt him, too. A “friend” he has a significant height and weight advantage on. I’ve wondered since last season how Dad Era CT would compete with Fessy, and I’m slowly getting my answers this go. Count me as an unconcerned CT fan. Let us remember that Kyle, patron saint of hungover moxie, beat Fessy in the final last year. Josh remains the worst, and the Big Brother crew playing an insular game inside the show gets old. It’s fine television, I just don’t like them, and until one of them actually wins one of these things, their squabbles are irrelevant. My favorites had very little screen time this week, which is exactly what I’d want as the First Act starts wrapping up.
Shakespeare writes in Richard III, “Since I cannot prove a lover…I am determined to prove a villain,” which sounds a damn lot like Fessy. Our focus is all on him because other than Devin, Josh, and Tori, few garnered screen time. (Poor Liv didn’t even get a goodbye.) Here’s my take on Fessy: I like him and I like this bold move. To explain: he’s quiet, he’s tough, he’s played in Bryant-Denny, and he’s relatable with his lack of game. I thought after watching him make it to the final last season that he might grow on me, and he has. Plus, I respect the move he made when he saw his opening with Hall Brawl being the elimination. And on the same side of that coin, I appreciate the editing team who made the decision not to show Fessy work his way into Tori and Devin’s choice of putting him in; it helped make that more surprising. And like him or not, anything that makes Josh erupt like a petulant child is worth it. I’ll admit that Nelson going home this early feels odd: even though he’s prone to inserting his foot into his mouth too often, his and Cory’s true love for one another can be sweet without being saccharine. But it ups the intrigue when Cory’s number one friend is gone. Y’all think it won’t be entertaining to see Josh, Cory, and Fessy go head to head to head? I am really digging this season.