Last week, when TJ locked our competitors in cages and told them they would have to survive a night of “tortuous conditions,” like if Gina Haspel started her own escape-room business, I was ready for tears, freakouts, threats to quit the show, threats to never appear on television again. It turns out “Mission: Survive the Night” is more like “Mission: Survive Four Hours.” I believe I’ve worked retail shifts around Christmas that were more agonizing than this challenge. Yes, one of the stages includes eating ram testicles. But the competitors can seemingly opt out of this, whereas I could not opt out of bending over for eight hours straight and refolding T-shirts just for them to be destroyed by suburban moms and their handsy toddlers.
This challenge ultimately falls on its face because there isn’t much of an incentive for all the teams to win. The producers end up wasting an extravagant mission on a week with hardly any stakes! Everyone assumes that the next elimination will be a women’s day, and the only women without skulls are Nany, Gabby, and Big T. Big T is ineligible for elimination because she’s rogue. So the most logical and harmless move is to send Nany and Gabby into the Crater against each other, which is what they both want. We’ve also reached a point in the game, now that Devin’s gone, where everyone is attached to the Big Brother crew or Kam and Leroy’s alliance, and no one is truly vulnerable. Likewise, the only pairs who try to complete the mission are Kaycee and Leroy (on Nany’s behalf) and Cory and Gabby.
During the first task that has the teams holding a heavy ball for over an hour, Aneesa notices that Fessy isn’t holding his share of the weight. Of course he’s not! Fessy has literally done everything but scream from the Icelandic mountaintops that he doesn’t want to run a final with Aneesa. And he confirms in his confessional that he’s throwing the challenge so he can be stolen by whichever woman wins the next elimination. Meanwhile, CT is disappointed in his new partner Kam, who starts slacking once Leroy gains the lead. CT doesn’t understand that Kam’s real partner in this game is Leroy and that, from now on, he’ll simply be attached to whatever they both decide to do. Kyle understood this role very well.
For the next phase, the competitors have to eat fermented shark and ram balls with some sort of cheese-flavored water as a chaser. Kaycee makes an obligatory lesbian joke about never having balls in her mouth before. Everyone is vomiting and struggling to down a relatively small portion of disgusting food compared to challenges past. After Leroy and Kaycee make it past this phase, everyone besides Cory and Gabby pretty much calls it quits. Leroy and Kaycee move on to a math equation, then a pair of cinder blocks that they have to break apart with tiny hammers. The final stage is finding the tools to scratch a chalkboard that reveals a code to unlock the cage. The two most unexciting people in the game to have in power win yet again.
Before the agents go home, TJ has to scold the teams who quit, per his contract. You honestly can’t expect these competitors to eagerly consume actual genitals if they’re sitting comfortably in the game, so I’m not even mad that they made this challenge flop. Back at the house, Gabby and Fessy are caught on camera having a G-rated rendezvous. In past seasons, it takes one drunken night for two people who are attracted to each other to hook up and keep doing it throughout the season, but on this unbearably sober season on The Challenge, after 13 episodes, Gabby and Fessy have apparently only made it to the cuddling stage.
I’m fine with this because a juicier moment regarding that relationship occurs the next day when Cory asks Fessy who he would choose between Gabby and Tori if Tori was still in the house. Cory is very adamant in his confessionals that Fessy wants Tori, an engaged woman at the time. I honestly think he’s trying to get back at Fessy for betraying him earlier in the season by rehashing this on camera and essentially trying to get Fessy jumped when he returns to America. Whatever the reason, I’m grateful because it means we get another unbelievable moment of Fessy breaking guy code. You really have to be a cartoonishly awful person to make me care about guy code, a set of rules that primarily allow men to cover up their bad behavior and treat women like garbage. But Fessy lacks that much awareness of other people’s feelings. First, in his confessional, he clarifies that nothing happened between him and Tori. But then when he’s talking to Cory, he says that he can’t help but feel a connection, implying that he will most likely try to make something happen once he’s back home. He also says that, when he returns home, he has a choice to make between Gabby and Tori. Do you, Fessy? One of them has kept you at a distance for most of your time together despite your best attempts to bed her, and the other is probably picking out flower girl dresses as you’re having this conversation. Cory stirs the pot even more by saying that he thinks Tori and Jordan, her fiance, will split and that Fessy and Tori will date for a year before “escap[ing] to Mexico.” I have a million questions about the specificity of this forecast. But the fact that Fessy doesn’t at least laugh this comment off says a lot.
At the club, Nany is telling Kam that she’s ready to get her skull. As much I appreciate the presence of vets on this show that’s becoming more and more composed of non-MTV personalities, I really don’t find anything about Nany’s arc this season that riveting. Same with Aneesa. I can only hear these two women talk about how bad they want to win without actually winning for so many seasons. And it’s been so many seasons. Likewise, after the deliberation where everyone pretty much agrees that Gabby will be the house vote and Nany will be the double agent vote, Aneesa starts crying to Nany about the inevitably of losing Fessy as a partner. She says, after 14 seasons, it’s “traumatizing” to come close to a final and getting screwed over “by people who say they care about you.” I wouldn’t be surprised if Fessy, an unabashed fuccboi, did tell Aneesa that he cared about her. But there’s no reason for her to believe this when he rejected her the first chance he had. She tells Nany that she knows he’s going to take him from her if she wins the elimination. Nany doesn’t respond because she is planning on taking Fessy, which means we will probably get another scene of Aneesa crying about her “friends”screwing her over on the next episode.
At the Crater, Gabby and Cory and Nany and Kyle get called down to the sand. TJ does that thing he does every elimination where he makes it seem like it’s actually going to be a guys day instead of girls day but then says “just kidding.” The women are playing Ring of Spies again, which is a perfect competition for Nany and Gabby considering how evenly matched they are in the weight and strength departments. The scrappiness of this particular elimination makes up for the amazingly dull Hall Brawl from a couple of weeks ago between the Ambers. Gabby takes the first round, but Nany makes a comeback, scoring the last two points and winning. Nany begins to cry because she hasn’t won an elimination in a long time. I can’t say I feel much watching her sob because this is such a low bar for someone who’s been on this show for 10 years. TJ tells Gabby that he’s sure he’ll see her again, which means she’ll definitely be invited back for next season.
Now it’s time for Fessy to break free from the shackles of Aneesa as he’s been dying to do. Nany steals him without any hesitation or, “I’m sorry, Aneesa but…”. I don’t know why people can’t preface these things politely! Aneesa looks like that disoriented Spongebob meme, and I genuinely think she’s about to burst into tears. Nany says she doesn’t care how Aneesa is feeling because she’s doing whatever it takes to win, which is fair, honestly. And maybe Aneesa should adopt that attitude. This moment becomes even more awkward for Aneesa when she picks Kyle as her new partner knowing he would rather cut off his arm then work with her. She does this self-deprecating bit as she walks down to the sand to stand next to him. TJ can’t control his laughter. It’s excruciating to watch. Finally, Big T is handed off to Cory. At this point, Cory has gone through so many partners without a skull to his name that I hardly have anything left to make about his prospects in the game. Considering he’s the only guy left without a ticket to the final, he’ll probably see an elimination next week. If not, it’s whatever.