I’m just going to jump right into this week’s poorly designed mission that involves our agents jumping out of a plane literally just because. There’s so much boring fluff in the first ten minutes of this episode. We have Cory celebrating his long-awaited gold skull (and thanking Aneesa for sending him into the Crater), Big T practicing a Hall Brawl with CT for when she inevitably goes down to the Crater this week, Kyle talking about getting rid of Aneesa and Fessy manifesting some unnecessary tension with CT that I’m sure we would have more context for if the producers filmed more of the mundane interactions in the house and not just game talk. I’m deeply confused and uninterested!
This week, our competitors are playing Spy Dive. The reason I call this mission poorly designed is because the stunt aspect doesn’t lend itself to the competition aspect in a substantial way, like much of the challenges over the past two seasons that have prioritized pyrotechnics and moving trucks over gameplay. The teams have to jump out of a plane 15,000 feet in the air and memorize a giant puzzle on the grass as they’re parachuting to the ground that they then have to race to complete on land. Jumping out of the plane is presumably supposed to make memorizing the puzzle more difficult — even though once your parachute opens you’re pretty much in a stasis — but we can’t visualize how hard it is. Most of the entertainment value of this challenge rests in watching Leroy and Big T almost shit their pants learning they’re about to jump out of plane. But it’s not that funny because this is an extremely ordinary reaction to being forced to jump out of a plane. It’s not like watching people on Montel confront their fear of olives or mushrooms.
But that’s enough complaining for now. There are parts of this challenge I enjoyed. What happens on the ground instantly proves to be more fruitful than any aerial footage or closeups of people’s mouths and cheeks being pulled back by the wind. Aneesa & Kyle and Leroy & Kaycee compete against each other in the first heat. Once they reach the ground, they have to run a half a mile to get their puzzle. For some reason, Aneesa decided to come on The Challenge without having the ability to run a half a mile. Not a full mile. Half a mile. It just doesn’t make sense because I’ve seen some much interstitial footage of this woman jogging on a treadmill. It also seems like you’d want to enter the competition with an improved level of endurance if everyone last season was claiming you don’t have any. But Aneesa states later on in the episode that she doesn’t have to prove herself to anyone, to which I responded to out loud, “Uh, yeah, you do!” Kyle could care less about Aneesa’s performance because he’s been devising her exit at the next Crater. Leroy & Kaycee win this round. And at this point, whenever Leroy looks in Kaycee’s eyes, he just sees a $1 million check.
Next up are the remaining teams, Big T & CT, Nany & Kyle, and Cory & Kam. Big T is unfortunately seated next to the open window of the plane, which makes their ascent into the air especially torturous for her. But nevertheless, she jumps out. Once everyone is on the ground, Cory & Kam take off. I’ve hardly seen the two of them interact this entire season or on a Challenge period, so I was curious what their core dynamic would be like. But if Cory has done anything this season, it’s prove that he’s one of the most patient and encouraging people to work with, no matter who he’s partnered with. Not that Kam needs encouragement to perform her best. On the other hand, the anti-Cory (Fessy) completely abandons Nany, who’s still running, just not at his pace. Kam, our audience surrogate, points out that Fessy is just trying to beat Cory, even though he can’t start the puzzle until his partner gets there, and says she can’t stand “these guys and their egos.” The same rotten display of male ego happens when Big T starts walking and makes her and CT lose. CT starts chastising Big T like I imagine he does to his son at home, saying this is why he’s worried about running a final with her. He definitely could’ve picked Amber B., who’s been a more promising competitor this past season, over Big T at the last Crater. But CT seemingly likes this twisted power dynamic he has with Big T more than winning money!
The teams with the fastest times are Kam & Cory and Leroy & Kaycee, the latter of whom nab their fourth win. Kam’s obviously safe, but she says the competitive side of her still longs for power. Even when Kam has the opportunity to be a backpack, she’ll never be a backpack! Back at the house, Aneesa is weighing the likelihood that she’ll be thrown into the Crater, and it’s looking pretty likely since Amber B. is a rogue agent. Apparently, everyone would’ve thrown her in next. Aneesa says in her confessional that “now it comes down to friends.” Only Aneesa doesn’t have any friends, which is why her partner and CT, the person she’s known the longest, both laugh in her face about her performance in the mission and the prospect of her going into the elimination. Aneesa is defending herself to Kyle by saying she only stopped running because he stopped.
Next, the producers try to spice up the obligatory club scene, or “the cocktail party” as Bill Simmons puts it, by having the cast dress up in ’80s costumes, which, of course, are just those inauthentic (and ugly) neon ensembles people under the age of 25 associate with that era. Somehow the producers of this show (and the screenwriters of Wonder Woman 1984) didn’t get the memo that we as a culture moved on from ’80s nostalgia a while ago. Everyone’s wearing Sublime T-shirts. White women are feathering their hair again. Everyone’s scared about low-rise jeans coming back. We’re done missing this particular period! Anyway, this is where things between Fessy and CT finally blow up. Fessy walks up to CT and tells him that he’s not the young buck he once was, which, duh. But CT has won two of his three total Challenge wins in the last four years, which is more than anything Fessy has done in the two seconds he’s been on the franchise. Nothing about this interaction is particularly entertaining except that they’re both wearing ridiculous costumes and Fessy puts on that creepy blaccent he had when he was arguing with Devin. There’s definitely cultural offense to be taken, but the fact that Fessy’s Black voice sounds like it’s coming from a completely different human being fascinates me.
Next, it’s time for deliberation. Big T asks to be the house vote, which is already granted to her considering she’s the only person without a skull. Aneesa acknowledges that she’ll most likely be the double-agent vote because Kam and Nany are Leroy’s No. 1 and No. 2. This is when things take a mean turn. Fessy, being a dickhead, asks Kyle where his head is at, knowing that he doesn’t care about Aneesa’s fate and is, in fact, relishing in the prospect of her leaving the game. Kyle tries to give a polite answer, but Fessy, with a big smile on his face, rats out Kyle for just wanting to dump Aneesa. CT joins in, and now Aneesa is crying and talking about how she deserves more respect considering her legacy on the show. I wish this defensive side of Aneesa came out earlier. I think this is the first time during this season, in which she’s been treated like a leper by literally everyone, that she’s realizing her veteran status means nothing to these younger people and even some of her peers. This interaction on Fessy and CT’s part was unnecessarily rude. But I also don’t think Aneesa can expect her history on this show to mean anything to her fellow competitors when what’s most crucial to them is whether or not she can help them win them $1 million right now. There’s no universe in which Fessy or CT give a damn that she “paved the way for women” on this show. But she’s right, and she should say it!
At the Chamber, we find out that Big T and CT are the house vote. It’s obvious that Leroy is not going to send in his girlfriend or his reality TV wife (Nany), but him and Kaycee have to pretend like they’re still weighing their options. Producer, please let this segment go!
I’ve honestly been dreading writing about this elimination because I’m so mad about literally everything that occurs. As much as I don’t like admitting this to myself or on a public platform, it’s obvious that these eliminations are rigged to favor whatever story line or character arc the producers want to continue on the show. This became most obvious to me on Free Agents when Jordan, who has one hand, volunteered for elimination against his former rival Johnny “Bananas,” and the elimination required them to punch and grip. I know I said before that Aneesa’s elimination against Tori earlier this season wasn’t rigged, even when she got that over-the-top villain edit, but I was lying to myself! Anyway, this week, they brought back the only thing Big T could beat Aneesa in, and that’s Fire Escape. Being light is an obvious advantage when you have to lift and pull your body weight down a ramp. And Aneesa is, well, not light. If this woman hadn’t already been made the laughingstock of the entire season, the producers clearly want fatphobic viewers to mock her even more.
The thing that’s most embarrassing about this elimination, besides the fact that Aneesa can’t make it over the first hump, is that you just know Big T is going at a snail’s pace. Aneesa does that thing challengers do when they accept defeat, which is snap at the people encouraging them from the sidelines. The fact that Aneesa doesn’t sound the least bit out of breath as she’s casually saying “I’m trying, guys,” lets me know she’s not giving it her all. She’s also not showing a bit of emotion in her confessional as she’s recounting this, despite claiming all season that she’s “traumatized” by losing. I think I’ve officially seen enough.
Aneesa inevitably loses, and TJ gives her the coldest send-off. Big T decides to keep CT as her partner, and Amber B. automatically goes to Kyle. Now that everyone has skulls, we’re all waiting for TJ to announce that the final has either started or is about to start. Instead, he tells the agents that “they’re far from done,” confirming that this skill component is poorly developed and executed, as I’ve been saying all along!