Takin' On 'The Challenge: All Stars': "The Queen's Gambit"

The titular queen of the episode is Kam, and she's moving all the pieces around this week. 

After an odd boat excursion for the cast which did nothing to progress any plot development and only employed handheld cameras, the evening found Laurel sharing her feels about Nicole to Cara Maria. The moment incites almost everything to come. And it all comes quickly. It's of no small note that Laurel literally cries on Cara Maria's shoulder in this scene, yet minutes later takes up for Nicole when Cara disparages Nicole over leading Laurel on. And hindsight is twenty-twenty, but it turns out that Cara made the right call here: since this season was filmed a while ago, Nicole does end cheating on Laurel and doing her wrong. [Insert shrug emoji]

We get a moment with Kam, Leroy, and lil' Kingston. It's a nice moment, too, which enforces how mentally difficult it has to be for both Kam and Leroy to be on the show to make money while being away from their baby so young. The scene sets up the rest of the focal point for "The Queen's Gambit": Kam wants her star, and she's planning on that in this week's elimination. 

The daily challenge lets T.J. dole out the directions of how for the game, "Balls Out," every player has five balls in a net along with other players' differently colored balls and a set of black ones which are meaningless and distracting. The camera cuts to Kam and Laurel, both of whom are eager to work together in order not to steal Cara Maria's star but to eliminate her altogether. And if that doesn't work, the goal is not to let her win, which would allow her to keep her star no matter what. She needs to lose or she needs to be in the voting. And if she's in the middle, voting group, she needs to be severely outnumbered. And that's how it goes down. 

It's a nice challenge in that it's different, but it isn't as entertaining as it sounds on paper. The players are more or less randomly using their sticks to poke any balls out of the net evidence by Steve and Ace, who both admit to as much. 

And the dominoes fall. But not without Cara Maria trying to rally anyone at the end not to go with the plan. Ace feels sorry for her, but Cara needs more than just Ace. With everyone's help, it's obvious that Cara Maria won't have a say in the weekly votes. It's going to be Kam in elimination to play for a star and she wants Tina. That's that. Though it does result in some strange behavior from Laurel: she screams at Cara Maria's face during deliberations in what felt very unjustified. Watch it again. Cara Maria can be antagonistic at times, but she's never cruel or hateful. Here, she's not even hostile in the least. She tries to make a case, it's revoked, Laurel loses her shit, and Cara takes it like a champ. 

It's here that the cast should get some shame fom Kam all the way down to Averey. 

Kam, Laurel, Nicole, and practically everyone else belittles Cara, and for what? Trying to hold on her to star? Isn't that what she should do? Cara won her star early, so that's the point of her game play now. Who can blame her? It feels like everyone is afraid of saying that they want Cara out because Cara is the strongest. I'll Kam the benefit of the doubt here -- I don't believe she fears too many people on or off the show -- but the rest of them want her gone because she's bound to win. 

Now here's where Averey should feel some guilt. The elimination amounts to little more than using a trampoline to jump higher than a wall blocking the view to a pattern. The players have to replicate said pattern on a board behind them. 

Averey! This is your chance! Averey -- as the preordained winner and therefore pawn in the entire process -- had the opportunity but not the chutzpah to do one of two huge things, making a bit of Challenge history in the process: she could've foiled the entirety of Kam's plan by telling Kam that she wants to play instead of Kam. That would've been a [chef's kiss emoji] perfect fuck you to everyone. Or she could've taken Tina's place and likely have beaten Kam. That last one is more of a toss up, of course. Kam did well in the elimination, but Averey seems small enough and build athletically enough to best Kam here. 

But we'll never know. 

You don't sit on your hands and make big swings at the same time. 

And for us, the viewers, we pay the price. 

I can't blame Averey, I suppose. No one wants the wrath of Kam (and Leroy). Still, the TV moment was there. Now it's gone, and I'm betting dollars to donuts Averey doesn't get a star before the final. 


  • At this point, it’s starting to look concerning that the producers put Laurel and Nicole together for drama. I don't see Laurel getting out of this season without some mental health scars. 
  • Give Cara the line of the week where she insults Nicole for needing subtitles. The woman speaks with marbles in her mouth, I swear!
  • Will Killa Kam continue to scare everyone or will it turn into Karma Kam where she has to pay for some of her schemes this week? 
  • The trailer for next week looks like more of the same. It's time to turn the heat up with the daily challenges and the eliminations. Make 'em work at this point!

Blaine Duncan
Blaine Duncan
Editor-In-Chief, Host of Taking It Down