If you consume your Challenge content in anything close to a timely fashion, boy did you have a 24 hours this week. While the young folks and CT ran the first part of a final in Iceland, Paramount+ hosted the continuing adventures of the olds in Argentina. The start of a Challenge season always feels a bit like a deck of cards being thrown in the air. Sure, they are related, they have history, but how will they land this time? What story lines will coalesce, what heroes emerge, what drama unfold? Things started to come into focus this week.
First, it is impossible not to compare the two shows, especially while they are airing essentially back to back. This is the first week I’d have to tip the scales towards Double Agents. It had a slow run up to the Final (for me), but the drama was high as leg 1 kicked off; and returning to Argentina was an interesting comedown.
A lot of that comedown has to do with the daily and the fact that it, again, didn’t seem to go as planned. Instead of getting the ice to melt in a some sort of sexual fashion as days of yore would’ve presented with hot bodies being rubbed repeatedly over the cold blocks, TJ had to call an audible and toss each team a hammer. Their goal was to get the massive ice chunks down to be able to fish out the shields, which were labeled with the season names of The Challenge. Each team was then to put the season in the correct chronological order. Nehemiah’s team lost, putting him instantly into the elimination. Darrell and Kenal’s team won, making Darrell free of any elimination talk and Kenal take hold of the weekly lifesaver. Really there’s little else to say about the daily challenge unless one would want to mention Arissa’s summoning of the sun gods or whatever the hell that was. (The trailer for next week promises more on that front.)
Thus far, the politics of this season are barely at a simmer. Teck votes himself into elimination, and though Jemmye annoys any common-sense viewer, she made a good point that it’s boring for the players to volunteer for elimination. In fact, all of the deliberations in All Stars have been too cut and dry. Where’s the arguing, bickering, yelling, and stomping? The true drama only came with Kendal’s indecision on if and how to use that lifesaver. It looked for a moment that she was talked into saving Teck and throwing in Big Easy (if getting to pick who goes in is even an option). In the arena when the time came, though, she chose not to do anything after TJ wouldn’t clarify the rules behind the lifesaver. Kudos to TJ and the producers for hanging on to some mystery on how it will be utilized — if anyone has the guts to rescue a player, that is.
Big Easy did seem to be sweating it, though; ironic, as Teck and Nehemiah really did some literal sweating: it was one of those excellent TJ Lavin-esque twists to have the Teck and Nehemiah have to eat two of the hottest peppers in the world before having to run, smash colored plates, and then make it back to their circle before their opponent. Truly a highlight of this week to see someone have to endure some awful food-associated pain before competing in a physical elimination. If spectators thought the digestion issues were over after watching Double Agents this week, well, guess again. TJ even had to don gloves to serve these peppers! He’s a maniac!
After all the gagging and climbling, it was a close win for Nehemiah — Teck dove into his circle only a few seconds after Nehemiah arrived in his standing up. Ruthie hints that she’ll be affected by Teck’s absence, and with her and Aneesa’s beef firing up anew, maybe she will. Maybe some more antics will ensue because right now, these contestants need more than peppers to fire up their games.
In the end, it was good that Nehemiah got the win. His backstory is as good as anyone’s from The Challenge and Real World history, and he seems to be as nice of a guy on this set of level-headed, much calmer heads from years past. Nehemiah, Alton, Mark, Yes, Derrick, and Darrell all appear able to win this thing and Syrus and Laterrian aren’ slouches. All Stars still has a lot left to offer for competition. As for the ladies, it’s a toss up there as well: Aneesa, Katie, Kendal, KellyAnne, and Ruthie all look competitive and like possible champs.
It’s to be expected this early in the season, but all those cards are still in the air. Time to add some flames.
Co-authored by Adam Morrow