The Challenge, Episode 14: Seeing Red

We've arrived. No, not at the final, but at the part of the Challenge season where every single thing matters. After the smoke cleared this week, every single competitor had a red skull, meaning they are all eligible for the final. T.J. Lavin noted this, then the producers made some excellent decisions and showed a whole lotta people getting a little too excited and hopeful that T.J. might say welcome to the final (looking right at you, Nelson), only for the host with the most to peace out and leave 'em hanging. Wonderful, hilarious television.

Let's recap this week's action, before we take a deeper look at everyone left. The weekly challenge was an individual event, and it was a night mission! They really are the best, it's fun to see the cast members get thrown out of their comfort zone. This one involved a long run across a dark field just to collect heavy debris, only to run back across the field and dumb the debris in an opponent's barrel of their choosing. Nelson, Kyle and Aneesa all failed to get to stage two -- not that it mattered for Kyle, because his barrel was overflowing.

Anyway, Fessy and Jenny won, and picked Josh to join the tribunal (more on this in a bit). The house nominated Kyle and Bayleigh (who both volunteered as they were the only eligible people without red skulls). Josh chose to face Kyle, and lost badly (and then T.J. threw some shade at him after he left!). Aneesa got screwed, yet again, and was thrown into purgatory, where she lost an absolutely phenomenal elimination to Bayleigh. I feel bad for Aneesa, the reasoning behind the house's turn was that she would weigh someone down in a final -- quick note, this is an individual season. She's one of the best elimination competitors in Challenge history, and has gone home right before the finals numerous times.

So we said goodbye to Josh (thank god) and Aneesa, and from the tease for next week it seems like we're not done narrowing the field. But that wasn't the big news from the tease. No, that would be the reveal that Hall Brawl is going to be the purgatory event next week. If you aren't familiar with Hall Brawl, you're gonna love it.

The Alabama Take Challenge Championship Rankings

11. Dee** – I've only moved her to this spot on the list because I'm not even sure I saw her face this week, and because I'm reading in-between the lines a bit. The editors have managed to make you forget she's even on the show, and that seems like a tell that she won't win the final. You gotta figure she'd get a bit more screen time if she were to have a big impact on the outcome of the season. Anyway, she's essentially gone from our lives.

10. Melissa* –  Melissa is quite the spitfire, ain't she? The question now is if that's enough to win. Melissa is also a strong runner, something that would certainly help her in a final. She's definitely a longshot, but I wouldn't count her out as a possible darkhorse winner.

9. Bayleigh* – Great win for Bayleigh this week, outworking Aneesa in purgatory to earn a red skull and stay in the game. She surprised me a bit, I thought she might fold without Swaggy. But she's got fight, and is pretty damn athletic. And, maybe most advantageous for her, she's still an unknown when it comes to the final.

8. Kyle* – Finally, finally, Kyle gets a big win. I feel like he's made a big mark since joining the Challenge cast, but only in terms of personality. He's never quite put it together in competition until now. Maybe this is his turning point, and we'll see a stronger Kyle in the future.

7. Nelson* – I cannot stress enough how hilarious I thought T.J.'s tease and split was, particularly when it was shown directly after Nelson's confessional where he got his little hopes up so, so high. I feel like we've got one more stupid move in him this season.

6. Cory* – Cory, bro, really? What was with your hissy-fit after you weren't picked for the tribunal? You didn't need the safety, you didn't need the power, and nothing came of it. So now you're gonna possibly make an enemy out of Fessy? The guy who's threatening to become the next CT? Don't mess up what's been a solid season, man.

5. Kaycee* – The quiet assassin. If Kaycee gets into the final, she's gonna be a problem. I don't know if there's ever been a stronger competitor with a quieter impact on the show. And in her case, that's something she can use to her advantage.

4. Rogan*, 3. Fessy*, 2. Jenny*, 1. Bananas* – These are your favorites, no questions asked. Rogan, Fessy and Jenny are all physical specimens, and on sheer talent alone are just plain better than the rest of the field. Rogan got a taste of victory last season, and that provides a big mental advantage. Fessy, as has been noted, is having the strongest rookie season ever and looks like a future Challenge legend. Jenny is far and away the best female, and only a slip-up or a double cross can stop her, it seems. That leaves the Man, Johnny Bananas. He's a little long in the tooth to go toe-to-toe with either Rogan or Fessy, but his experience and brains give him a big advantage. If I were on this show, I'd be desperately searching for a way to eliminate him before the final.

Notes: italics denotes a former Challenge winner; each * represents a red skull



"You took out a guy that cries a lot." Damn, TJ. That's an all timer, from a man who has a proud list of them. There are layers to this. Is he insulting Josh? No, no he's not. TJ (probably) isn't cruel in that way. Feel your feelings, Josh. Express them. Is he insulting Kyle? Probable, because TJ is absolutely cruel in that way. This elimination worked out perfectly for my rooting interests. Aneesa getting sent home by Bailey, not so much. I was pulling for Aneesa. It was nice to see Nelson give her the heads up. How he treated her earlier in the game was real gross, but that was a kind moment from him. There's reasons to not be crazy about Nelson, but I'm here for this one act of kindness, him letting his hair fly, and how much he seems to love the Challenge itself. The respect for the vets, the looks of total glee followed by heartbreak when TJ teased them with a location change. Excellent. I'm still amazed at how this season has played out. An utter contrast to how petty and spiteful last season got. We've got a fairly harmonious bunker. So much so that they had to play up Cory and Fessy's minor beef this week. Maybe Dee would've been deep in her villain arc right now? Who cares. Everyone even has their skull, and I've gotta say I'm disappointed that twist didn't bite anyone in the ass. I wanted some folks frozen out and left behind. BUT, we're getting a Hall Brawl soon, so all is well. And it's pretty much guaranteed to be a good one, based on the competitors that are left. The fat has been trimmed. Outside of potentially Bayleigh, no layups this year. The Final is close! CAKE made the soundtrack!


Let's talk about Fessy. I just don't see how he doesn't win, despite Bananas being a seasoned mind. Not only does Fessy seem like the most stand-up guy on the show (his Muslim background made his story complex and fascinating), but also he's such a dominant player that he was able to dictate who does what and when in this week's challenge. Cory checks with him before dropping his can! Granted, it was a guaranteed win for Fessy, but all the men sure were acting like it was. And as TD mentioned above, you have to love those sirens going off at bedtime for the crew. More night challenges, I say! Speaking of the actual challenge, a quick shout to Kaycee's chuckle whilst dropping a heavy brick in Bayleigh's can. Too bad that didn't play out as Bayleigh still managed to enter and win Purgatory this week. The next week (or two? or three?) will be entertaining to understate it. Now we're to the point where no one wants to be in Purgatory, which changes the dynamic and politics, both, on a dime. I hope we have a few more weeks of that before the final, which if you may remember, looks to involve a snowy mountainside. I'm betting on Fessy, but Rogan's shirt in this week's tribunal gets the win for this week. 

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