If you were to grab someone off the street who’s never seen The Challenge, make them watch this week’s episode and have them write a list of guesses as to who the reigning female champion is, Amber simply would not make the list.
I give that hypothetical to say that Amber’s lack of champ behavior so far has been deeply disappointing and cringeworthy to watch. It’s not that I expected this woman, whom I’ve referred to as a slab of wood several times, to swagger around headquarters with her chest puffed out, threatening people into making deals. But at the start of this episode, she’s crying to Josh about being betrayed by an imaginary alliance she talked herself into with a man who visibly hates her, and I can’t think of a bigger fall from grace! It’s clear that Fessy and Kaycee’s resistance to Amber, other than the fact that they just seem cliquey, has something to do with the fact that someone they mindlessly scorned turned around and beat them in the final. But she still hasn’t found a way to leverage this accomplishment against them or even possess enough self-esteem from her win not to care if two people she beat — yes, Kaycee was medically disqualified, but she still beat them fair and square — like her.
Meanwhile, Gabo and Emy are worried about everyone gunning for them as the only rookie-rookie pair, and I couldn’t care less about two people’s very reasonable concerns. We also get a scene of Logan and Big T play-fighting and rolling around in the grass and Anessa looking on, saying how she wants someone to be coupled with. I couldn’t tell if Anessa was hinting at having a crush on Logan at this moment, but the way she talks about him later on in the episode definitely makes it seem that way. And honestly, who can blame her?
Now onto this week’s challenge called Mindfield that lost out to my iPhone at several points in a bid for my attention. It’s not that a muddy obstacle course does not enthrall me. But the way the course is arranged, having the partners complete the obstacles in opposite directions and meet back in the middle with their puzzle pieces, made it difficult to keep track of everyone’s placements. This challenge was also just extremely repetitive, which made it easy for my eyes to drift. But I appreciated watching everyone be forced to do real, exhausting work in the sweltering heat like some extreme version of The Biggest Loser. Ultimately, the most frustrating part of this was watching a third of the cast struggle to divide by two and apply PEMDAS during a math portion towards the end. I get that nobody here is practicing algebra all day just for fun, but do these people not use basic math in their everyday lives? Do they not make budgets, cook, do percentages in their head during a shoe sale, count things???
Aneesa also falls three feet from the wall and dislocates her shoulder. I can barely muster the strength to finish this paragraph because watching Aneesa take another L is like watching grass grow. The drama and suspense are entirely gone. If it wasn’t an injury, it would have been her losing an elimination three weeks before the final. I did laugh later on at the medics wrapping her arm in what looked like a giant paper towel.
Unsurprisingly, CT and Berna come out victorious. CT is the king of puzzles, and Berna, a career circus performer, seems to be one of the fastest, most agile women in the game. At the house, Aneesa returns in the most melodramatic fashion after finding out she is medically disqualified. You can tell everyone is so annoyed they have to be a part of this scene, especially CT, who just shrugs in the corner. Aneesa’s sobbing like Viola Davis in literally any movie and apologizing to Logan for “letting him down,” as if his success on the show depends on her. I know they killed the first challenge together, but I think the man will be fine, in addition to physically being fine, which is what I think this display of emotion is really about. She also expressed this sentiment during Mindfield before she fell, saying she wanted to win for Logan and show him that he’s a valued partner. I’m not saying there’s some divine correlation between Aneesa’s injury and her dumb method of motivating herself to win when she should be the primary person she wants to win for after 50 seasons of abject failure, but I’m not saying there isn’t!
So Aneesa leaves with her roll of Charmin, and everyone parties like usual at the club. This week’s club montage is set to “Dance Monkey,” so I guess they’re trying to get more 12-year-olds and soccer moms to watch the show. No offense to either group! Gabo tells Nany that he wants to throw himself into the Lair to be partnered with her again, even though his inability to do math was why he and Emy lost today. Logan also wants to go in to pick a new partner instead of having one handed to him. The rookies obviously want the security of being paired with a vet, but the pick-your-partner option at the eliminations has made it a lot more tricky to hold on to the person you want and has resulted in two rookies being forcibly paired together every time. I really hope the rest of the season isn’t just rookie team after rookie team volunteering for elimination, which is basically the same effect of that godforsaken skull twist but without the skulls. The vets are obviously relishing this because the all-out bloodbath we thought was going to occur between them has been delayed.
Before deliberation, Kaycee and Josh have a few words. Kaycee wants nothing to do with Josh after his outbursts at the last Lair. I get that that incident was a lot and probably slightly embarrassing for her, but this is also who Josh has been for the past two seasons she’s known him. Josh is also the most innocuous, non-threatening version of a hothead. And everyone’s aware of this, so I’m not really sure what the consequences of being aligned with him are. The most shocking thing about this interaction is that Josh is dry-eyed the entire time, although I’m sure he broke down in a bathroom.
This week, we get another funny deliberation where Amber tries to rehash the Big Brother Betrayal again, and Hughie stands on a chair for no reason. The best part of this whole thing was watching Nany try not to flash her veneers as two male competitors fight over her for the first time in Challenge history, at least in a non-romantic way. This dispute between Gabo and Hughie, but mostly Hughie, isn’t even insane because of Hughie’s histrionics and overreaction to being “called a bad person” but because it’s over someone with one of the worst final and elimination records. After a lot of shouting, we find out the house voted for Logan. I’m still not sure why these votes are confidential, and I’m really hoping a producer realizes how pointless it is and removes this element midway through the season.
Next, we go to the Lair, where CT and Berna vote in Gabo like they promised. TJ makes it seem like the women will have to compete, too, even though Aneesa’s departure left an uneven number of players and then does the “just kidding” thing. TJ has done this so often over the past two seasons that it’s totally lost all its suspense and certainly did not warrant a commercial break. Anyway, the game is Higher Assets, which we’ve seen teams do an iteration of in the past. Basically, the players must complete a puzzle on the ground and pull themselves up a rope to see an answer key. This is clearly one of those challenges that they would only let the men do, assuming that they have more arm strength, like that one elimination on Total Madness where Jay and Asaf had to kick a glass window between them while holding themselves up on a rope.
Logan wins even after needing a break that was edited to look like a couple of seconds, but you just know it lasted ten minutes because Gabo is that bad at processing visual information. Everyone seems to pick their new partners based on whoever was chosen previously instead of who competes the best and gives them the best chance of winning a challenge, so Logan picks Nany. Hughie and Emy are automatically paired, which you know will be a disaster. Next week, we get what I’m already dubbing the greatest episode of all time when Esther throws a drink at Amber. See you then!