The Challenge: All Stars
So we start this episode with an obligatory, pretend-somber meeting about Arissa’s profanity-fueled exit. I’m sure these grown-ups just want to go to bed after a long day of filming, but we have to get a moment of everyone pretending like this is the wildest thing they’ve ever witnessed on the show. The competitors basically express the same sentiment, that being blindsided is a regular occurrence on The Challenge and that Arissa shouldn’t have taken it personally. Beth, the least threatening woman in the world, asserts that she really wasn’t trying to intimidate her at the Arena, which no one ever believed in the first place. TJ just had to say that to make Arissa look bad. But thanks for the clarification, Beth.
We also get a sequence of Syrus at the top — so we know that he’s definitely competing in the next elimination — talking about his embarrassing elimination loss on his last season, The Ruins. I’ve decided that the most horrifying way to go out on this show is hung upside down or uncontrollably bouncing on a bungee cord as Cory did on Rivals III or Aneesa on Double Agents. So I immediately understand why this one particular moment has haunted him for 11 years. He also wants to win for his fiancée. At this point, the whole “I have people that are related to me,” motivation for competing is getting a little old and has lost all of its sentimentality. I’d much rather hear these folks talk about paying off their Mastercard bill or buying a Jet Ski.
The next day, the men are so bored that they decide to try to scale one of the columns at the front of the house. Derrick, who’s dressed like one of the members of LMFAO, fails miserably. But Alton, The Challenge’s Wonderboy, can somehow do this with slacks and leather boots on. This is, of course, more obvious foreshadowing for this week’s men’s elimination and not just, like, a dumb moment for the sake it. I get we’re telling a story here, but I kind of wish the episode’s tragic figures were more of a mystery.
Next, it’s time for our daily challenge, which is a mini final. You typically can never go wrong with this type of challenge because someone is guaranteed to faint or gas out in the most dramatic way or get stuck on a ridiculously easy math problem, my favorite kind of entertainment on this show. TJ also reveals to the cast that the Life Saver is canceled, which feels like the on-the-spot intervention/messy changing of rules that have become painfully obvious on the regular season of The Challenge. But I think the producers know that the competitors, who’ve only used it one in four times, were definitely going to avoid using it again after finding out what it entails. We can’t waste any more plot on people simply flirting with using the Life Saver, which isn’t interesting to watch, so I get it.
So everyone’s split into teams again. We have the Copper Team (Big Easy, Katie, Ruthie, Aneesa, and Mark), the Gold Team (Kendal, Laterrian, Derrick, Jisela, Kellyanne, Nehemiah) and the Silver Team, (Syrus, Yes, Jemmye, Jonna, Beth Alton). The competitors will ultimately finish the challenge as individuals. Syrus mentions that he tripped and hurt his ankle walking out of the house the other day. I can’t tell if disclosing that you have an injury that won’t threaten your time on the show is a good tactic or not, but this is definitely something I think I would lie about to make it seem like I really pushed myself and tried my best for the team to gain props and avoid elimination.
The first checkpoint actually looked very fun and made me want a puzzle-book version of it. The teams have to decode a phrase solving basic or long math problems with each answer coinciding with a letter. After that, the teams have to walk or run to their next checkpoint carrying a giant, heavy log that they can’t put down. As happens on this show, we find out the person we thought was the most fit (Alton) has really bad endurance. Or does he? Syrus thinks that Alton is feigning exhaustion to sabotage him so he comes in last and is automatically sent into the Arena. This literally doesn’t make sense considering that it’s a guys’ elimination day, and Alton would be risking coming in last place, too. Beth is just upset that Alton is leaning on her. It also has to be said that with some of these teams, certain competitors (*coughs* Aneesa) have their hands wrapped around the log and aren’t actually holding it up, which would drive me crazy if I was on their team and spotted that.
The next checkpoint is a final puzzle/memory game. The competitors, who have now broken down into pairs, have to recreate a mosaic of tiny squares with The Challenge logo on them. The squares and the font of the logo are all different colors to make it more confusing. Completing this entire puzzle incorrectly and having to figure out with squares are in the wrong place would make me want to blow my brains out. After that, the competitors have to race to the finish line as individuals holding a smaller log. Kendall and Laterrian end up finishing their puzzle first and subsequently make it to the finish line first. Watching everyone burst with pride as soon as they finished and high-five-ing their fellow cast members for completing the challenge warmed my heart. Beth and Syrus end up timing out at the puzzle portion and come in last. I would be furious if I had a physical injury, but the thing that made me come in last place was my brain.
Likewise, Syrus takes his anger out on Alton for slowing them down during the log-carrying portion. Alton needing to take a break didn’t seem to affect any of his other teammates (or Alton!) negatively, but Syrus is convincing himself that the Alton gassing out somehow made him and Beth suck at the puzzle. So he decides that he wants to go against Alton at the Arena, even though there are several men he has a better chance of beating. He still has a busted ankle, by the way. Later on, he tells Mark that he’s the type of guy that would go against the six-foot-nine guy in basketball because “what is there to lose?” Uh, the game??
The Alton of it all makes this deliberation slightly more interesting than the last two, namely because Alton isn’t volunteering to go in. No one is really buying Syrus’ claim that Alton single-handedly caused his demise. But Yes points out that Syrus did an amazing job in the team portions and deserves to go against whoever he wants even if it doesn’t make sense. Alton, who is still undoubtedly a threat, is also just an easy person for the men to vote for unless they’re close friends with him. Likewise, Alton gets the most votes. Everyone defends themselves by saying that they’ve known Syrus for a hundred years.
When they get back to the house, Alton relays the news to Syrus, who then tries to shake Alton’s hand but is ignored. Everyone’s gone into these past eliminations in too polite a fashion for my taste, so I’m glad Alton is displaying some animosity. We get an unusually boring club scene, mostly to set up Jisela and Alton hooking up. They have an awkward chemistry that doesn’t really pop onscreen, I’m happy for them both.
Finally, we make it to the elimination, which has the weight of a Mayweather versus McGregor fight. I’m realizing how much more nerve-wracking these eliminations are compared to the ones on the recent Challenge seasons that entail skulls and the option to switch partners. It turns out that if you simply have elimination challenges that are innovative, well designed, and unpredictable in order, it’s a much bigger spectacle. That being said, I thought the revision to the elimination we didn’t get to see last week was excellent. First off, we find out that, going forward, there will be double eliminations. There are way too many people left considering that there’s only four more weeks remaining in the competition, so this makes sense. TJ phrases it like the double eliminations will start next week, but he calls down Beth, who was the daily’s female loser, and everyone is shook to their core. Alton gets to decide which woman, besides Kendal, who’s safe, he wants to compete with and chooses Aneesa, who seems more flattered that someone finally believes in her than scared by the prospect of going home. I’m happy for Aneesa in this moment as well, especially when Kellyanne seemed like the obvious choice.
The alteration to this elimination is that one teammate has to climb over the walls while the other teammate punches through the door and passes through. I’m sure some viewers will think the producers set up Syrus to lose with this one, with the assumption that he’ll have to do the climbing over Beth. But I don’t think there was any premeditated sabotage here, considering that this aspect of the game looks like it would be a challenge for anyone. Unless you’re Alton, of course, who’s incredibly agile and limber and basically Spider-Man. Aneesa is doing extremely well punching these walls, and so is Beth honestly. But Syrus can’t scale the walls as fast as Alton. He’s also worsening his ankle by jumping off the walls instead of sliding down them to reduce the impact on his ankle. Beth doesn’t know how to help Syrus but also won’t try to climb the walls herself.
Alton and Aneesa inevitably come out victorious. Admittedly, Alton did way more physical labor than Aneesa in this elimination, but Aneesa gets a nice acknowledgement that I’m sure boosted her confidence. Beth seems very excited to go home, and Syrus can only think about exacting his revenge whenever he gets invited back to the second season of this.