This week, the force field that’s been protecting Leroy this entire game has finally been penetrated. For now, of course. It’s not that I necessarily want Leroy to fail, although I’m admittedly not #LeroyHive like a lot of Challenge heads. (He doesn’t have a television personality, in my opinion!) I just don’t think it’s interesting to watch someone dominate for an entire season without feeling a little shaken up at some point. Even the most routinely powerful man in Challenge history, Johnny “Bananas,” inevitably gets the rug pulled out from under him every season before it’s neatly placed back by whatever group of impressionable women he’s manipulating.
Before all of that, though, Aneesa is recuperating from the events of the Crater that left her looking like that disoriented SpongeBob meme. Fessy gives her a “love you” and a half-hearted hug in his typical fuccboi fashion. Her and Kyle have a team meeting where she tells him that she knows he’s not an “awful” competitor, as if she’s the one who needs to be assured of his capabilities and not vice versa. I honestly don’t understand why people don’t have more faith in Kyle performance-wise. He’s made it two out of six finals, which is a better stat than a lot of competitors have, including Aneesa. And he’s never not giving his all during the weekly challenges. For God’s sake, don’t make me defend this white man with hair plugs and veneers the size of the Mask’s anymore!
Outside at the gym, Cory walks up to Leroy and Darrell like a homeless kitten that wants to be let inside from the rain and asks them to make him the house vote. They both say he shouldn’t be asking for things until he wins something, which … ouch. Cory is at such a low point that he has to rely on Aneesa, who I believe has less power than him, to nominate him if she wins the next challenge. But he also wants to go against Kyle, which means that Aneesa would have to go down the Crater and risk being put in elimination again for this to happen. Strategy is not Cory’s friend.
Now, we’re on to the weekly mission. And man, is it a good one. Seeing people try and fail to swim is one of the joys of watching The Challenge and why every season should be shot in a warm, tropical location and not someplace where I worry the cast will get hypothermia while TJ is giving them instructions. I don’t know why the producers think we want to watch these attractive 20- and 30-somethings in giant puffer jackets the whole time! Anyway, the mission is called “Undercover.” Whoever’s in charge of naming these has clearly given up. The teams have to dive underwater between two tectonic plates to a certain point, grab six rings, and swim back. There’s this long confessional bit where everyone tries to describe what a tectonic plate is that is deeply unfunny. The competitors have a line of rope that they can use to pull themselves through the water and these mini oxygen tanks that look like asthma inhalers. Once they swim back to the rings, they have to complete a puzzle using the rings on land.
Since Leroy and Kaycee were the last double agents, they get to pick the order of the teams. This moment really highlights how much Leroy needs Kam in order to make rational decisions. Him and Kaycee decide to put Aneesa and Kyle first to trip them up, which seems like a good idea if you only give it one second of thought. Aneesa famously has not performed well this season, so you don’t need to put her first in a challenge to hinder her from winning. Kam also told Leroy at the beginning of the episode that Kyle and Aneesa becoming the next double agents would be the “worst case scenario” for them. Yet Leroy goes out of his way to needlessly piss them off. Kyle’s also hurt because he thought Leroy was his friend. The term “friend” has a million definitions in this game, so I’m not completely sold on this claim. Nevertheless, Kyle’s hurt!
There’s honestly so much focus on Aneesa and Kyle ahead of this mission that I knew they were going to perform well. Aneessa and Kyle dive into the water with so much ease and are able to control their breathing the entire time. Once they come back to land for the puzzle, it seems like they’re struggling. But we all know Aneesa is puzzle genius and what feels like five minutes for her to complete the puzzle was probably one minute. The next team to go is Cory and Big T. Big T is somehow able to swim all the way to rings without holding onto the rope until she floats back up. Cory immediately disqualifies them because he can’t dive due to PTSD from his childhood friend trying to drown him. This anecdote definitely put his toxic friendship with Fessy into perspective for me.
Next, Amber B. gets her and Darrell disqualified when she struggles to breathe. Even watching this woman nearly die is a snooze! Then it’s time for Nany and Fessy to prove there as big and bad of a team as they position themselves to be. Of course, Nany can’t have a victory at the Crater and a victory in the weekly mission right after. She’s just not the type of competitor to have a winning streak. When Fessy dives in the water, he kicks her in the face and knocks the oxygen canister out of her mouth. Mind you, this is before Nany actually goes underwater. She still has the opportunity to adjust the canister before she dives. But she doesn’t and ends up disqualifying them by returning to the surface. Nany looks pissed in her post interview, and we just know she’ll blame Fessy later on in the episode. Kam and CT, who have absolutely no chemistry when they’re on camera together, struggle at first during the puzzle portion because they’re both alphas. But they end up completing it. And Leroy and Kaycee do as well as they’ve been doing this entire season. It’s not much of a shocker, though, when we find out that Aneesa and Kyle completed in the fastest time, because foreshadowing.
Back at the house, literally everyone is nervous but especially Leroy. Kam gives Leroy some sound advice before they go outside to the club, which is basically to grovel. They also want Darrell to be the house vote instead of Cory because Kam thinks Cory will ask for Leroy if he’s the house vote. At the club, Fessy is hyping up Nany for truly no reason. She hasn’t performed better than Aneesa this season, but Fessy is adamant that they can win a final together. Leroy tries to explain that he wasn’t trying to eliminate Kyle and that he just didn’t want him to win the challenge. Kyle tells Leroy that he’ll save him if he puts him above Darrell, making him his number one, and Leroy obliges. For now. Also, Kam and Leroy have apparently already secured the house votes for Darrell, and Leroy gives him a little heads up. At one point in conversation, Darrell says that if he wins an elimination he’s not “staying with [his] girl,” which is so funny because Amber B. has been talking about Darrell like he’s her husband this whole time.
Back at the house, Nany is telling CT that she regrets picking Fessy as her partner. She says she can tell he’s the kind of guy “who needs his ego stroked.” I’m sure that’s true to an extent, but I also just think he wants his partner to perform well? And you’re not doing that. CT is talking about how he misses Big T, and I would rather not rehash this plot again! Then, we have another pointless deliberation. This segment is so redundant right after the club scene, which is almost always the competitors deliberating on who they’re going to vote for. There’s no need for a quasi-Socrates circle where nothing really happens, unless Lolo is there to give cringe-worthy speech.
Everyone votes for Darrell and Amber B. except for Cory and Big T. who vote themselves and, of course, Darrell and Amber B., who vote for Leroy and Kaycee. I got a little sad seeing Fessy’s face up there when they showed who voted for Darrell and Amber B. I really want Cory to exit this alleged friendship. The disrespect has gone on for too long. Kyle and Fessy weigh their options in the Crater. I know Aneesa likes Cory more than she hates Fessy and Nany for betraying her, so we all know she’s going to do him the solid of nominating him. Kyle is still a bit of wildcard.
At the Crater, Kyle and Aneesa both vote in Cory and Big T. Cory doesn’t even seem nervous at the possibility that he could be going home or that he’s going against a four-time champion. They’re playing Snapping Point for the third time. TJ says he’s “doubled the size” of the course and “tripled the resistance” of the rope. None of this matters because Cory is able to race through the poles and back to the buzzer before Darrell can even get to a place where it would come down to a tug of war. Cory is just approaching 3o, and Darrell was born in the ’70s. Of course Cory has more speed, which Darrell pokes fun at by telling him to “slow down” after the first round. God, I love Darrell. Why did they have to pit two fine, charming Black men against one another? Darrell is able to speed up a little bit in the second round, but Cory still makes it to the buzzer first and wins.
Amber B. is crying because she doesn’t want a new partner this late in the game, but really because she’s in love with Darrell and will sincerely miss him. How could you not be? TJ’s sendoff to Darrell is surprisingly unwarm. There’s no “I’m sure we’ll see you again.” Just “you had a hell of a season. Take care of yourself.” TJ’s clearly ready for Darrell to retire, but I’m not! Next, it’s time for Cory to decide whether he’ll keep Big T or choose a new partner, and he smartly decides to pick Kam. Everyone makes the joke about Cory being bad luck for his partners, but the man truly just had sucky partners, so I think Kam will be fine. CT decides to take back Big T. As I said before, I was happy when the Big CT storyline ended, and I don’t want to deal with it anymore. Amber B. is a rogue, and I honestly can’t say I have any feelings about this cardboard cutout’s fate!