Double Agents - All-in

After finishing this week's episode, I found myself asking the same question I've asked a hundred times before over the 36 seasons of watching The Challenge: Do these people even watch the show they're on? Do they pay attention at all?

Theresa, a veteran, makes a power play that pays immediate dividends: after winning the daily - which was a mid-term of sorts: a grueling, 5-mile cross country run with puzzles and heavy shit to carry through cold-as-fuck water - she convinces the house to vote in Ashley/Cory. She then nominates Kam/Kyle as a means to ridding the house of a strong female competitor. She succeeds when Kam beats Ashley in the elimination, earning a gold skull. This does indeed have an instant payoff.

HOWEVER, in the process of pulling this scheme off, she and partner Jay alienated damn near every other team. Jay told Cory he was safe. Theresa threw Kam in despite an agreement between the two that Kam would only go in if she wanted. This pissed off her partner Kyle, and her life partner Leroy, along with his partner Kaycee. It pisses off all of their respective allies. We also need to mention long-time nemesis Nany, whose rivalry with Theresa was featured to open the episode.

It's yet another example of doing too damn much. It's a short-sighted, power-hungry misstep that cripples her game going forward. Jay even admitted regret for just going along with Theresa's plan. He may have a way back out. He can put it all on Theresa.

Perhaps worst of all is this: it doesn't even earn Theresa a gold skull. Instead, she gives Kam a gift-wrapped gold skull. And if it wasn't Kam, it was Ashley coming back with one. Yes, she got a strong female eliminated - which, damn, did Ashley ever have a target on her back this season - but she also gave a gold skull to another strong female (one that has strong political ties, at that). And the skulls are finite. Now there are only three female skulls left, with Kam and Aneesa holding two.

Two strong, attached female competitors who also happen to be elimination specialists. Aneesa has 10 career elimination wins, Kam has eight. Now, Theresa might be vying to go up against a rookie to earn her skull. She just didn't have to piss off people to get there. The move wasn't bad in theory, it was just the sloppy plan with too many moving parts. There's a way to achieve the goal without throwing future obstacles in your path.

Of course, we wouldn't even be talking about this if Cory and Ashley didn't go the wrong way after finishing a puzzle during the daily. They were the first to solve the puzzle, then Cory led them the wrong way, allowing Theresa and Jay to gain a lead they would hold until race's end. Only on The Challenge.

Other observations

We said goodbye to Lio Rush this week, which is a shame. He didn't get much screen time, but had potential given his professional wrestling background. They did an impromptu PSA on mental health, which threw me off a bit. The scene before is Lio talking about missing his family, but it the way it was presented came off of as the standard "I really miss my family" moment. One second he's talking to a housemate, then the next he's packing his bags and saying goodbye to partner Gabby. Maybe I just missed a line or something. Either way, best wishes and good vibes to Lio Rush, hope to see him again on The Challenge, if not in a wrestling ring.

Gabby was placed with rogue agent Devin before the daily. That team is really just another place-holder for Devin on his path towards the final. He has his skull, and he is completely willing to sacrifice a partner.

A major aspect of the race was the big ass, heavy tube the teams had to carry the entire way. I feel like one of the biggest factors in races like this are height differences between team members. Too much time wasted adjusting.

Lolo and Nam didn't have a height problem, they had a communication problem. Lolo is one of those loud competitors, Nam is not. Both are a little sensitive. But damn, Lolo has got to curb these emotional moments of recklessness. She tells Nam she had doubts about their partnership now, sowing an unnecessary seed of distrust in him. All because he didn't run across the finish line.

Cory ends the episode as the rogue agent, which means we might get a third straight female elimination next week. As mentioned, Aneesa and Kam hold two of the five female gold skulls. Kyle, Fessy and Devin hold three of the male skulls.


Adam spoke to me before the season of Lolo as lacking some chill; she proved it this week: poor Nam is just a quiet guy and he gets berated by Lolo (in tears, no less) for not communicating. This is good. They could be too strong physically, so they need an obstacle. Speaking of obstacles, I could not stop thinking "Five miles!?!" while they were competing in the challenge with a heavy tube to carry. I was exhausted for them. Which brings me to ask: why do we hardly ever see anyone complaining about being sore or banged up as a reason not to go into an elimination? How much time is in between most challenges and elimination? To shift gears, I became a big Theresa fan this week. And while it was a sagacious deliberation move by Ashley M. to attempt to sway the vote of the men by pointing out that she could be a future partner for them, I'm thrilled she's gone again. Each time she's on screen for a confessional, I damn near scream at the TV for her to shut up. Lastly, it was an editing error for the show not to display exactly why Kam was so upset at being thrown into elimination. Both she and LeRoy seemed okay with the deal Theresa laid out while in the confines of the house, but then they're both extremely pissed off at the crater? Doesn't any of these competitors know that they have to get into elimination in order to earn a skull? TJ ain't handing these out over dinner, folks. It seems as though some of these people just want to be a baby about it - everyone who's been put in elimination so far has been a petulant child. CT summed it up well at the end. "Welcome to my world!" Exactly. Suck it up, and try to get your skull. It's quite arguable that Ashley missed her second chance this season at a skull because of her whining and lack of focus. It's no skin off my back. Adios. I think Jay and Theresa have to win next week's challenge, and I'm pulling for them heavily. (And seriously: five miles!?!)


Nany waited so patiently to find her Theresa moment. These girls must have had a simmering angst for weeks in the house. The last time they were near each other, they wrestled over an X shaped piece of metal in a Norwegian field, and Theresa got the better of Nany in a brutal elimination. That feels like decades ago in Challenge time, but Exes II only came out in 2015! Who can't hang on to deep resentment for 5 years? So Nany says Theresa is a snake, and that doubt creeps through the house and shades everything she does for the next 90 minutes. Her and Jay win one of my favorite types of daily challenges, the mini-final (NEVER BET AGAINST KYLE IN A SUFFER FEST; THE HANGOVER PRINCIPLE), and she makes her move. But the move ends up making very little sense, and costing her and Jay nearly every ally. Maybe she can talk her way out of it with Kam next week? Kam does have her skull now, after all. There is the possibility of finessing your way out of this, if you're Theresa. Her and Leroy have history. They've made money together. But I am worried. Around the league: there seems to be growing trepidation on CT's part about the future of his partnership with Big T. This is fair. You can tell he feels bad about it. Editing seemed to be setting us up for future drama there. Devin remains one of the only ones playing the game with a complete picture. Partners are temporary. Stepping stones. He has his skull. The rest of the cast lack what made last season interesting: they don't want to go in! But they have to! They are banking on stealing skulls at the end. It's a bold strategy, let's see how it pays off. Amber M seems to quietly hold quite a bit of power right now. Her brief screen time made her look very assured. And Darrell has barely been on my television at all. I hope this is setting up a run to the finals for one of the GOATs, or he's going to beat Josh's ass a la Brad in a few episodes.

Blaine Duncan
Blaine Duncan
Editor-In-Chief, Host of Taking It Down
TD Wood
TD Wood
Editor and host of Takin' On Sports
Adam Morrow
Adam Morrow