So far, the producers have done a generally terrible job of introducing us to this season’s fresh meat. But thanks to Tori being the queen of condescension this episode, the rookies get some time to shine and prove that they are, in fact, not weak because numbers are more than just physical size in this game. Pay attention, Fessy! Last night, we got a classic Talls vs. Smalls scenario (see: Real Housewives of Atlanta season five). And for anyone who’s read one of Aesop’s fables or literally any story in the Bible, the outcome was not surprising.
I have to say, I expected the aftermath of Fessy’s triple backstabbing at the Crater to be a lot more intense. In past seasons, Cory would’ve body-slammed Fessy the way he did Tony for throwing out his pasta that one time. But our matured papa bear simply tells Fessy back at the house that he’s selfish, which Fessy doesn’t deny. Of course, Josh being Josh isn’t as subtle with his grievances. But for once in his time on this show, he’s right. He did tell Fessy he wanted to get his gold skull, and there’s video evidence. But Fessy starts gaslighting him, as well as Tori, who tells Josh she thought she was doing him a favor by not sending him down. Technically, she was doing him a favor because Nelson would’ve literally run through Josh like a scene from Looney Tunes if they competed in a Hall Brawl. But no one can say that Josh didn’t want to go in!
Meanwhile, the female rookies and their captain Big T are planning to get Aneesa and/or Tori out of the game. Apparently, word got back to all of them that Tori’s been calling them weak. And Gabby says that Tori and Aneesa pretty much roll their eyes every time she opens her mouth, which I 100 percent believe because Tori has been incredibly smug this season. And Aneesa seems to follow whoever she believes is her friend. Speaking of that … ugh. Tori tells Aneesa in the other room that she had no idea Fessy was going to ditch her, and Aneesa, like, totally buys this?? Aneesa goes on in her confessional to talk about how much she loves Tori (again), and how she’s her rock and her home, and blah, blah, blah. Am I ageist for thinking a 40-year-old woman shouldn’t be talking about a woman in her 20s like this? I forgot how much the idea of companionship consumes Aneesa in these games. She’s historically always done favors for Johnny “Bananas” that are never returned. Last season, she claimed her and Nany were best friends even though she wasn’t included in her alliance. Everyone thinks Aneesa’s body is her weakness, but it’s her desperate need to be loved!
Next, we go to this week’s mission, which may be the most exciting one we’ve had so far. But first, TJ has some “intel” for everyone, which is that he has to “deactivate” one of the agents. It turns out that Natalie has to go back home to take care of a personal matter, and I’m sad because she seems like a badass competitor. But I’m certain we’ll see her again. All of sudden, TJ announces that he’s “triggering a security breach.” TJ has to feel silly saying these lines. Basically, because the women are all dropping like flies, the producers had to bring in a good old surprise replacement. And the replacement is … not Cara Maria, not Laurel, not any woman who would shake up the competition in a substantial way. It’s Ashley. The fact that all of the competitors seem perfectly fine with her coming back says everything. Ashley isn’t a threat to anyone, despite her two wins, because she literally has no one on her side. Her presence doesn’t mean anything to anyone, except for Cory, who’s now her partner. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he jumped that ship as soon as possible.
But onto our mission! For “Agent Down,” the female agents are hanging off of a ledge with their feet on a platform, which TJ will remove from under them after a certain amount of time. Meanwhile, the men have to pull a 200-meter rope out of a hole in the ledge then run and grab their female partners’ hands before TJ removes the platform. Whichever team holds on the longest out of the two heats wins. If the male agents don’t pull all of the rope before TJ removes the platform, their teammate basically gets a free bungee-jumping experience in Iceland!
Several moments in this challenge made me scream. First of all, Darrell is talking about getting something called “height shock,” which he says you can Google because it’s real. But all the links that pop up are for some type of sports equipment? He’s such an uncle. Meanwhile, Kaycee somehow forgets to use her thumbs to hold onto Fessy even though thumbs are famously attached to your hands so you can grip things. As she starts to slip, she goes, “Wait, what?” like her thumbs are pieces of a puzzle she just noticed weren’t inserted correctly. God, help these Big Brother people. Devin is pretending to suck at pulling the rope because he knows that Tori is public enemy No. 1 and doesn’t want to help her. And Lolo compares her inability to hold onto Nam to her inability to hold onto a relationship. I swear this is the third time this season Lolo has volunteered information about her seemingly dreadful love life.
Big T and CT end up winning with the longest time, and everyone cheers for Big T like she’s a baby who just learned how to walk. Back at the house, Big T does this bit where she acts like a princess and starts giving people orders. And I just don’t find any of this funny. At the club, Tori does the dumbest thing she could do in the moment, which is tell Big T that she wants to go in an elimination against someone she knows she could beat. Big T automatically knows she’s talking about her or one of her friends, because Tori hasn’t exactly been subtle in her belittling of the rookies. In fact, right after she’s done talking to Big T, Tori goes up to Aneesa and starts calling her weak. Even Aneesa looks uncomfortable at this point. Yes, Tori is allowed to think that she’s stronger than certain competitors. But the word “weak” is so obviously rude and unnecessary when you can just say “inexperienced.” Also, if you’re going to call someone weak multiple times behind they’re back, you better be able to say it to their face, which she doesn’t do when Amber M. pulls her to the side about it. Instead, Tori backpedals and says she just doesn’t know what Amber M. is capable of. Um, no, Tori. You’ve made it very clear in front of multiple cameras that you think she’s capable of being beat. Whew. The villain edit just keeps getting worse.
The next day, Tori and Aneesa are rallying their three allies to vote for anyone but them, but they pretty much know their fate. Lolo is considering volunteering herself for elimination. The image of Lolo whooping Tori’s ass in an Hall Brawl feels like a shot of serotonin at this point. At the house deliberation, Gabby calls out Tori for the way she’s been talking about the female rookies just because they’re small. The idea of short oppression (short as in five-foot-three) makes me laugh, but I’m really feeling angry for the Smalls in this moment. Tori starts backpedaling again and says the rookies are more of a question mark to her than weak. Lies! She also says she can’t “put respect on [their] name[s]” until she sees what they’re made of. Bullshit! First of all, white people still referencing the Birdman Breakfast Club interview in 2021 feels violent at this point. Second, you can definitely have borderline respect for someone and not constantly disparage them without them proving themselves to you first. Also, when did Tori become the arbiter of The Challenge? I don’t know what having Jordan as a fiancé has done to this woman’s sense of self, but a onetime third-place win on this show is not the accomplishment she thinks it is.
We find out in the chamber that the majority of the house votes for Aneesa and Leroy, including Leroy. Big T and CT pretty much have no more work left to do. If Lolo tells them she wants to go into the elimination, they’ll throw her in. If not, their vote is Tori. At the Crater, they end up throwing in Tori, and no one could be happier than Devin, who calls this an act of karma in his confessional. Tori and Aneesa are playing “Asset Destruction,” which requires a combination of strength, speed, endurance, and strategy. First, they each have to pull a crate filled with heavy balls across the sand until it hits a stop that will make the crate tip over and spill out the balls. Then they have to use their balls to break 13 windows on a giant panel. Whoever breaks all the windows first wins. Aneesa says in her interview that she feels “sick” going against someone who she loves and trusts, and that people in the house are jealous they don’t have what she and Tori have. I’m personally confused about what the two of them “have.” But Tori basically says she has no problem sending Aneesa home, so it doesn’t seem like much!
I was really expecting a tortoise-and-the-hare situation, in which Tori has a huge lead, and Aneesa beats her out of nowhere. But it takes Tori a shocking amount of time to knock her crate over, and Aneesa is able to tip hers on the first try. Tori doesn’t understand that the crate needs to hit the stop in order to flip over, so she’s wasting all of her energy trying to tip it just by pulling the rope. By the time she gets it to tip, Aneesa has already broken 10 out of 13 windows, and there’s no possibility that Tori can recover from this. Everyone seems electrified when TJ announces that Aneesa won. She’s called the elimination queen for a reason, which isn’t the best honorific to have on this show. But it’s still something!
Tori looks like the biggest fool because this is exactly how she went out last season, wrongly assuming people were weak. Fessy says in his confessional that he and Tori have a “connection” and can read each other’s minds, which is, like, not okay to say on national television about someone who’s engaged??? But that’s how self-involved Fessy is. Speaking of Fessy, Aneesa decides to take him back as her partner, for reasons that make no sense other than her need for approval and acceptance. Aneesa, please want people who want you! Kaycee goes back to Leroy, which she seems very happy about. And the female rookies’ Reign of Terror has officially begun.