This past June, Fessy a.k.a @fessyfitness, became one of my favorite micro-celebrity Instagram follows when he challenged CT to a boxing match and subsequently deleted the post within an hour. A few weeks later, he posted a video of someone using his abs as a punching bag while he held himself in a pull-up, which I immediately deemed borderline sociopathic behavior but is maybe something intense fitness guys do? These notions are not mutually exclusive. Anyway, while I got a genuine kick out of these foolish displays of hypermasculinity, I could also tell that something had occurred during the filming of this season that truly broke this man. If Fessy’s Joker origin story began with Kaycee’s dislocated knee at the Double Agents final, he was now Joaquin Phoenix dancing down a stairway to Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll Part II.”
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First, let’s go back to the frozen pizza of it all that leads to this fascinating narrative arc. As I stated previously, this fight between Josh and Fessy contains a lot of commotion, security guards doing nothing, and people yelling “STOP!” but not any real violence. The most jarring part of this confrontation involving 12 different people is Esther throwing water on Amber simply for moving her mouth. But now, Fessy has officially crossed the ever-elusive line of physical contact on this show by doing the thing do when you don’t really want to get down and dirty but can’t go out looking like a punk — so he gives Josh a face smush. Josh responds by throwing a drink you just know he grabbed solely for this fight. And the rest is just a bunch of yelling, finger-pointing, apologizing, and more finger-pointing.
Outside, Amber does the Real Housewives thing where she explains to Esther that it was wrong of her to throw a drink on her “as a woman.” And “as a woman,” Esther apologizes. Josh tries to gather some troops at the last minute to nominate Fessy and Esther for the next Lair. So basically, Esther awkwardly made out with him for nothing. He also directs his ire to Kaycee the second she walks onto the patio for being more pro-Fessy, although she is clearly off doing something with Nany during the majority of the fight. And Kaycee accurately responds that she’s not responsible for the decisions of two grown-ass men.
Meanwhile, Amanda is scolding Cory and Tori for egging on the fight and grabbing Josh. Cory accurately responds that there’s something deeper “going on with that man than some pizza,” which is my favorite way someone has summarized Josh’s emotional instability. But that also explains why he shouldn’t have instigated a fight with someone he knows has deep-seated issues in the first place. Also, you can tell it’s been a while since Cory has gotten visibly angry on this show and in his real life because his voice immediately starts cracking at the slightest elevation — a sign of a good dad!
So we finally get the resolution we should’ve seen two episodes ago when Josh breaks down and tells Fessy how hurt he is. There’s nothing revelatory about this scene or hearing Josh make the sounds of a vacuum cleaner. We all know Josh feels more than the average human being. And Fessy knows that a simple apology is all it takes to smooth things over. Unfortunately, the producers can’t just let this conflict end and let us see how their friendship fares throughout the rest of the season, which would be an interesting subplot to follow. Instead, the next morning, TJ arrives at the house where everyone seems prepared for the worst.
I miss when TJ would show up in past seasons, and it seemed like a genuine surprise to the cast. He also visibly did not give a fuck about whatever upsetting news he was delivering and had no problem ripping the Band-Aid right off. This time, the producers have apparently asked him to assume the role of someone’s angry, disappointed dad and add some psychological torture to the mix. This entire scene made me anxious and queasy from when my mom would tell me I was in trouble as a child without telling me what the actual punishment was. Additionally, I didn’t like the rehearsed, calculated manner in which TJ relayed Fessy’s “deactivation.” For one, I can’t take any lecturing about the importance of controlling your anger seriously on a reality program that has historically (and presently!) thrives off of petty, exaggerated conflict. The whole “remember what you’re here for” mantra we hear multiple times throughout this episode reminded me that this show has gotten a little too serious and inspirational for my taste. This isn’t The Amazing Race!
Also, can we stop with all the dramatic pauses and deceiving wordplay TJ has to do this season? Not everything this man says needs to be relayed like Willy Wonka. Josh and Esther staying in the game is already surprising enough, considering how much hinting they were in serious trouble. When TJ tells Fessy he is going home because he “got physical,” I was ready to throw my fancy new MacBook Air across my room.
Can this dude catch a fucking break? Good Lord. TJ and the producers literally bullied Fessy into eating ram testicles last season, knowing they were going to disqualify him and Kaycee, and now he has to leave for violating some arbitrary code of conduct that they make up on the spot every season? I recall Josh pushing Devin onto a couch and needing several security guards AND his castmates to hold him back from fighting him last season. Fessy just happened to make contact with Josh because the security guards were barely doing their jobs. That Devin/Josh fight was played entirely for laughs with special effects and a “So Emotional” needle drop, so why are we rebuking people for keeping the show spicy??
And while I would prefer having a drink thrown at me than having someone smush my face with their germ-y fingers, I don’t think there’s a huge degree of separation between Fessy and Esther’s actions. And there’s a lot to be said for Josh’s provocation. Anyway, this seems to be what has led to the Joker-fication of Fessy on social media, and I couldn’t be more on his side. Fight me!
Anyway, the real meat of the episode is figuring out who is at fault for the confrontation, and therefore, who should be nominated for elimination. This entire method of determining a nominee is stupid because, as upsetting as Fessy leaving might have been for certain people, his exit benefits everyone’s endgame. Likewise, the Chamber becomes an actual confessional chamber, and everyone involved in the fight expresses remorse except Amber. Notably, Tori and Cory own up to their involvement, which isn’t a good look for them, but I think they think they are just making good TV, which is their job. Nany couldn’t give less of a fuck about this conversation. Ultimately, the most obvious choice, particularly for the men, is to send in Esther so that the elimination will automatically be a women’s one.
Afterward, Emy begins plotting to volunteer for the Lair and to nominate herself so she can steal CT from Berna. She says she feels confident going against Esther because Fessy has been carrying her on his back, which hasn’t been true in literally any challenge. And this is why I’m not charmed by this little white girl and her alien syndrome. Meanwhile, Berna wants Amber to be the agency’s vote because of her role in the fight. As much as Amber is annoying, it’s not her fault that a pretty tame argument got hijacked and turned into something else. She’s the one that got a drink thrown in her face, for Christ’s sake! I think Berna’s outsize hatred of Amber is magnified by boredom and being a little too high on her own supply. She certainly has the most to say about her in her confessionals, including calling her “aggressive.”
CT rightly gets the sense that Berna is messy and wants to detach himself from her because his whole deal is staying under the radar. He doesn’t say who he wants instead, but relays this to Tori, who I would assume he would like to match with over Emy. But boy, is he in for a surprise!
So we go to the Lair and see an old-fashioned, barnyard-looking setup for a Hall Brawl instead of the giant plexiglass. I’m grateful that we’re getting back to the basics. But I think, after last night, this elimination needs to be put to rest, at least for a couple of seasons. Also, it’s now called Cage Rage. The rules are the same except now, at the end of the hall, the players have to scale up the cage to ring a bell. Cool!
So Esther goes down to the pit. And editors try their best to build up as much suspense around Kaycee and Emmanuel’s vote, but it’s just Emy. And I’m like, cool! Sorry, Berna. So the women compete for two rounds, both of which Emy wins. I blame this elimination for being as underwhelming as it is, even though Emy and Esther are both putting up a good fight, on the gratuitous editing. There’s a woman’s sexy cooing laid over its beginning and overly stylized shots and filters that take away from the elimination’s inherent brutality. Simply hearing the players’ grunting and heavy breathing with some generic battle-scene music makes these headbangers as riveting as witnessing gladiators fight. (Check out the Hall Brawl between Theresa and Wes and Nia and Leroy on Battle of the Exes II if you haven’t already for reference.)
So Esther says her good-byes and disappears into the darkness, but not before telling Amber she’s coming back for her. Emy gets what she wants and picks CT, who’s being very polite about it. CT can say all the nice things he wants about Emy in his confessionals, but there’s no way he really wants to run a final with her. Berna’s pissed that she’s now partnered with Hughie, and it’s kind of what she deserves for doing the most over Amber. She gives a banal speech about being backstabbed, and I honestly wish there was less talking at these events! Overall, this episode ends on a pretty somber, karmic note. Hopefully, we have some more silly confrontations coming up but without all the excessive guilt and shame.