The Challenge: All Stars
“This isn’t the damn Brady Bunch. This is the Challenge.” — Darrell
This week, we have another well-rounded, mostly entertaining episode that doesn’t really center on one person or conflict. Even when there’s not a huge fight to be had or a particularly compelling story line to drive the episode, this show proves that, with a bunch of fun, magnetic personalities, group chemistry, and a well-designed challenge, there’s no shortage of memorable one-liners and hilarious moments to be had. The cast and crew of original Challenge could really learn a thing or two from watching these old folks (yes, some of them are in their 30s) get down and simply be themselves on camera.
I’m going to start off going over this week’s challenge, called On the Ropes, since there’s not much happening at the beginning of this episode besides Arissa being distant, Beth missing her kids, and Katie still being scared of heights over water. This is one of the more basic but reliably amusing challenges that I miss seeing on the regular show, in which the cast has to race across ropes or some kind of obstacle above water. This is an ideal challenge in my opinion, because the strong competitors get to display their athleticism, and the weaker players fall in awkward ways that make us laugh, or surprise us by doing really well — or, in the case of Katie, completely punk out and decide that competing in an elimination is better than possibly busting her face again. For some reason, Katie decides to forfeit by jumping into the water, which is the thing she’s afraid of. I get she can control how she falls, but I’m pretty sure she could’ve just stayed on the platform?
Anyway, the best aspect of this challenge is that once the competitors make it across the ropes twice, they can unleash a rope on the opposing team’s side and allow them to fall unless they can manage to hold on to the other three ropes. The team that makes it back to the ramp the fastest can continue doing this to the other team until all their ropes are gone. Honestly, everyone besides Katie exceeded my expectations, considering how much balance and upper body strength this requires, and also the amount of pain they had to be experiencing from those rope burns. At one point, Jonna starts rapidly scooting across the bottom rope on her butt, and I felt like I was watching a Saw movie.
Some other notable moments during this challenge is that Jisela remarks in her confessional that she finds Alton’s leadership skills very attractive. This is the second time someone’s called Alton hot during a challenge, so I have to assume that this is leading to him getting some ass from someone. Kendal does the best job out of all the women, even though Jisela and the rest of their team didn’t trust her to be captain considering that one time she forfeited. Everyone’s trying to make it seem like they have an issue with Kendal, aside from the fact that she’s really good and will most likely whip all their butts in a final.
The Gold Team (Mark, Ruthie, Derrick, Aneesa, and Yes) ends up winning because they released the most ropes the fastest, which is a weird way to decide a winner for this particular challenge. I assumed the primary goal was to get as many teammates across the rope without falling, but go figure. As team captains, Mark holds the Life Saver, and Ruthie is safe from elimination. The Silver Team are our losers, so Beth, as the female team captain, is automatically going to the Arena.
The rest of the episode mostly revolves around the mystery of the Lifesaver, and Mark, being “the godfather,” makes it clear that he’s not like the rest of these scared players and plans on using it. But before we get into the politics of that, we have another boring deliberation where someone volunteers for the Arena instead of letting everyone say a name and reveal where their alliances lie. Katie, of course, quit the challenge knowing she was going into the Arena, so she nominates herself. Everyone is needlessly applauding her. I guess I should appreciate how uncharacteristically nice this group of challengers are to one another. But I like an air of hostility in my deliberations. Laterrian thanks Katie for acting like a “grown-up woman,” which made me say ew. Um, she’s not acting like a woman. She is one!
In the next scene at the club, I’m a little annoyed by the reaction to Mark having the LifeSaver and trying to rattle the women, as opposed to when Kendal did the exact same thing last week and everyone was calling her messy and telling her she was on a power trip. In all fairness, Jemmye calls out the ridiculous way Mark is making the women plead for their safety to him. But for the most part, everyone seems very entertained by or at least okay with Mark wearing a giant paper crown with “godfather” written on it, and Derrick using a giant scepter that I assume Mark brought from home to usher people into his makeshift throne. Also, are you the “godfather,” or are you royalty? Let’s pick a theme moving forward.
Another problem here is that Mark is operating under the assumption that he’ll be able to choose which woman goes into the Arena after he uses the Lifesaver. He’s basing this off of precedent, but there are so many other ways this could obviously go, like having the remaining competitor choose who they want to compete against, making the other woman from the losing team go in, or having an on-the-spot deliberation. We find out it’s the latter after Mark uses the Lifesaver on Katie, which is the best and most destabilizing option for the rest of the players. This actually turns out to be a good thing for Mark, because now he can pretend that he was never going to throw in Arissa and let everyone else do his dirty work. Arissa should’ve seen the majority of the house voting her way, considering that she seems to wander from every group setting to light some sage and do weird quasi-yoga stretches as opposed to making friends and recruiting allies.
Truly, the most ridiculous thing happens after Arissa is called down, which is that she starts pacing around the Arena and asks TJ if she and Beth can box. See, this is why I don’t trust people whose entire personality is that they’re positive and zen. You need to have an equal balance of positivity and negativity in your life so you don’t have childish outbursts like this. Anyway, TJ explains the rules of the elimination for nothing, as we’ll see in a bit. The look in Arissa’s eyes tells me that she’s not retaining any of this information. It actually looks pretty interesting though, and I hope we’ll see it again. It’s called Wall Ball, which is an awful name, but what else would you call it, honestly? The competitors have to pull a part of a series of walls using a rope. Then they have to grab a ball, throw it over a wall, punch through the wall and repeat the same process with each wall until they get to the end.
Before TJ can blow his horn, Arissa dramatically takes off her helmet, which I found kind of iconic, and goes into a tirade so profane and laden with “motherfuckers” that it would make an Italian mobster in Scorcese film grab their pearls. She says there’s no way she can return to a house full of snakes and gives a bunch of middle fingers. Now I see why it’s crucial that this show has a TV-MA rating, but it also would’ve been funny to hear that amount of bleeps during this monologue, which just would’ve sounded like a horn. The thing is, Arissa, who’s strikingly thin, knew she didn’t have a chance against Beth, who is bulkier and probably has more upper body strength. So she decides that feigning anger and pride would be a better look than not being able to punch through one, single wall. And I agree with that choice.
TJ, once again, has to pretend like he gives a shit about these people quitting. All he says to Arissa is “see you never!” What a burn! Anyway, Beth is safe. TJ reminds the cast that “anything can happen.” Considering how much outrageous behavior we’ve seen over the span of four episodes, I think he’s right.