We’ve officially made it to the midpoint of the season! And what better way to celebrate than watching a bunch of gym rats who haven’t read a book since God knows when plummet into freezing water because they don’t know how many degrees are in a right angle or who invented the telephone? Okay. Maybe I’m being a little too tough on our players. The questions in this trivia challenge were harder and more esoteric than usual, some of them random factoids about the CIA. At this point, I suspect the Central Intelligence Agency—not Burger King or P3 Protein Packs—is actually sponsoring this season of The Challenge in some kind of recruiting effort for Gen Z, like those new online ads featuring young women of color. Nevertheless, I refuse to be CIA-pilled by TJ Lavin.
This week, the female rookies are in crisis mode after Amber B. betrayed their alliance by voting Amber M. into the last elimination. Kyle, of course, spills this tea to Amber M. because why would he do Amber B. any favors by keeping it a secret like she asked unless they’re sleeping together? Amber M. and Gabby say they can’t trust her anymore, which prompts Amber B. to call them “mean girls” even though they’re all grown women. We’re not sure how Big T feels about this situation, but I’m assuming she just wants things to be “positive.” Meanwhile, Nany and Kam are discussing what to do with Theresa. As someone who’s enjoyed watching Theresa in the past, the unanimous plot against her this season is getting hard to watch. Call me soft, but I don’t like seeing a mom of two leave her kids behind for several months just to be shunned by a bunch of 20-something-year-old strangers!
Speaking of that, we also get a moment with Theresa, who’s telling her new partner Cory about her experience with postpartum depression. This seems to be the first time Cory, a father of two, has heard of such a condition because a lightbulb goes off in his head while Theresa is talking, and he implies that his girlfriend might be suffering from it as well because she always corrects the way he holds their baby. I obviously know nothing about his baby mama’s mental health, but I can definitely picture Cory just not knowing how to hold a baby.
Next, it’s trivia time, brought to us this week by Burger King but really mass surveillance. This mission is actually called “Interrogation” and is apparently tortured-themed?? Typically, trivia challenges don’t require the competitors to do anything but sit or stand above water. But this time, they’re holding on to a bar while standing on a platform that tilts forward every time they get an answer wrong or get “sabotaged” by another player after they get a question right. The physical element makes things a lot more interesting because you can be someone like booksmart Aneesa and immediately go flying into the water because you can’t hold yourself up for more than a minute. (If there’s one thing Aneesa does consistently on this show, it’s relate TO ME.) The only objection I have to this challenge is that all the questions are in true/false format, which means we don’t get amazing, open-ended guesses like when Johnny “Bananas” thought the language of Australians was Dutch or when Georgia thought the musician with the real name Peter Gene Hernandez was T-Pain.
The “interrogation” is split into two heats. Like I said before, Aneesa drops first. To be fair, everyone sabotages her thanks to her brilliant decision to once again pair up with public enemy No. 1 Fessy. (This side of Aneesa that’s desperate for a man’s approval is NOT relatable to me). None of the players are exactly nailing these questions. The speed with which everyone is yelling “true” or “false” tells me that most people are guessing, besides maybe Kam and Devin. But Kaycee comes out looking like the biggest fool because she thinks wolves—yes, wolves—are vegetarians. It ultimately comes down to Darrell and Devin, but Darrell is able to hold on longer. He still has to jump into the water after he wins, which seems unfair. In the next heat, Big T falls first and gets a round of applause just for participating. This round ultimately comes down to Kam, Nam, and Fessy. It would be Kam out of all the female competitors holding her own against two of the strongest men in the house. She outlasts Fessy but illegally grabs the sides of the rail multiple times and gets disqualified. It’s a strong showing for Nam two weeks in a row.
Darrell and Amber B. end up answering the most questions correctly and get their first win. They each receive $5,000 from Burger King and VIP cards worth unlimited Whoppers. I can’t imagine either of them putting a Whopper anywhere near their mouths, and their facial expressions say as much. I think a Chipotle or Subway sponsorship makes more sense going forward. Back at the house, Darrell’s letting Amber handle all the politics regarding the next elimination, considering that it will probably be a girls day. Darrell, didn’t you see what happened to Jay when he let his partner completely take the reins? Fortunately, for him, Amber B. is pretty pragmatic (boring) with power. She’s ready to get her skull if she thinks the elimination is something she can do. If not, she’ll let her Big Brother ally Kaycee get hers. Theresa will most likely be the house vote because Amber M. is rogue.
That’s pretty much the extent of Amber B.’s “plotting” this episode, if you can even really call it that. All of her decisions are reasonable and obvious, and the tension between her and at least Gabby seems to resolve at the club. Gabby does say something interesting to Kyle before they have a talk, which is that no one in the house likes Amber B. I’m curious if she meant her coterie of female rookies or literally everyone. Either way, I need more insight on the relationships between the competitors, and not just on a game level. Also, I think I’m good on club scenes for the rest of the season if we’re solely going to watch people have sober, clear-eyed conversations about the Crater the entire time.
Next, it’s time for deliberation, and everyone is eerily quiet. If Theresa had a little less pride, she would be convincing the house not to vote for her. But instead she decides to jeer at Nany, which only makes it easier for everyone else to throw her in. Leroy is wondering why the women aren’t fighting to get their skulls at the Crater. I feel like Leroy is always scolding everyone at these meetings. Are the producers instructing him to do this? He can’t really care whether or not Gabby wants to get a skull. Lolo gives this weird response about being an athlete and knowing what your strengths and weaknesses are, and that her weakness is talking. Okay, Lolo. But last week, you were acting like the house was conspiring to keep you out of the Crater, when you have the opportunity to advocate for yourself to go in right now! Speaking of Lolo, we see Aneesa vote for her because “she wants to get her skull.” I personally would not be doing favors like this for someone who cussed me out last week, but that’s Aneesa for you. I’m starting to think I only really relate to Aneesa body-wise.
At the Chamber, we find out Theresa and Cory are the nearly unanimous house vote. I can’t listen to Amber B. repeat her strategy anymore in this episode because she’s so goddamn boring. At the Crater, Amber B. and Darrell end up voting in Kaycee because the elimination looks like a purely physical one with nothing in the ring besides some poles in the ground and a pile of rings. It’s a variation of the previously seen Operation Snapping Point. The first one was a basic game of tug-of-war. But this update includes three rings that the players have to place on a series of posts on opposite sides of the pit.
As soon as TJ says go, Kaycee takes off like a footballer, which she is outside of the show. She gets the first ring on one of her posts pretty fast, but the rest of the elimination becomes a lot more grueling. There’s a bunch of slo-mo shots and an acoustic cover of “Take On Me” that I found exasperating. The ’80s pop soundtrack this season is so basic! Theresa is pretty much in the same position the entire time with one ring in her hand, while Kaycee is actually doing the task assigned to them. She ends up winning in what was ultimately a pretty compelling elimination, and the Big Brother alliance has three skulls.
Theresa going home makes me genuinely sad because she’s one of the rare dynamic competitors on this show. But the cards were stacked against her from the beginning. I guess the number one rule of The Challenge is not to leave for 5-plus seasons and come back without any friends. Anyway, Kaycee decides to stick with Leroy because they seem to have one of the few successful partnerships in the house. And Cory gets stuck with Amber M., which makes me think we’ll probably see him in the Crater next week.