So far, having the competitors work in teams has yet to result in any particularly explosive moments, bold power moves, or new dynamics among the cast. In this episode, I see two primary issues: (1) The dominant vets are too unified, and (2) the pecking order seems impenetrable.
In the golden age of The Challenge, you would have top dogs like Bananas, CT, Wes, Jordan, Laurel, and Cara Maria all coming for each other’s throats, either out in the open or covertly, while ducking bullets from rookies. For the past two seasons, the vets have all seemed a little too in sync for my taste or willing to fall in line with the established hierarchy. Last season’s Double Agents particularly sucked because no one, besides Wes and Theresa, was bold enough to challenge the reign of KamRoy. And none of the players seemed to have even a remote understanding of the language they spoke as cutthroat competitors. To fulfill the sole sniper role, we had to depend on someone like Fessy, who otherwise would have faded into the background.
I’ve noticed something else about this particular group of vets — and why I don’t think they can produce enough drama to keep the show entertaining — is that everybody seems to get along outside the game. It’s also why the reunions have become useless, because no one really hates each other. Obviously, you have Amanda, who’s willing to light some matches on Twitter, but even her performed villainy has become predictable and stale. Amanda also just isn’t the freckled, foul-mouthed Tasmanian devil she used to be, as we see in this episode. She’s simply an assertive woman who isn’t going to be disrespected by a bunch of boys, which has actually made her a hero in my heart.
Likewise, this episode starts with Kyle, Logan, Cory, and Nelson shitting on Amanda, who just joined the Ruby Cell. The guys aren’t even trying to reverse-psychology her into being a better competitor, which wouldn’t work on someone like Amanda anyway, as we’ll see during the challenge. They’re just compulsively throwing digs and snickering by the kitchen like some gossipy aunts. Amanda, a pro at being despised at this point, doesn’t even internalize these remarks and simply decides not to try during challenges until she gets treated with some respect. It’s funny because the Ruby Cell has been doing this whole “we’re all in this together,” #positivevibes shtick. And as soon as they have someone to blame all their failures on, all of that Mighty Ducks shit goes straight out the window!
Also in this episode, Josh tries to convince us that he has yet another best friend in Logan. I don’t think there’s anyone who Josh wouldn’t consider a “brother” after two water-cooler conversations, so this claim is par for the course. Notably, though, the two have an entire conversation in Spanish. I’m sure the two of them speak Spanish regularly in the house, but the whole scene felt like the producers showing us that they’re not afraid to hire a translator or use subtitles in this new ethnically and linguistically diverse age they’re embarking on. The thing I loved most about their convo, though, is that Logan admits that he has no crucial plans with the prize money and that he just wants to buy a surfboard. This is what I need more of out of these competitors. I don’t care about your mom’s leaky roof that needs fixing. Tell me what’s on your Amazon Wishlist!
Before moving on to the challenge, I should quickly mention that Tori and Emmanuel hook up in a bathroom. And the producers make it seem like it’s the first time they’ve ever hooked up since Emmanuel’s former flame Michele left. Okay, next segment!
This week’s challenge is an upgrade from the past two weeks because those games’ “teamwork” element was slightly fragmented. But “Sunken Intelligence” is literally an all-hands-on-deck mission that requires the teams to untangle 150 feet of heavy rope attached to a sunken boat together and retrieve a chest at the end containing one of those big plastic gems they keep using that looks like a Ring Pop. I appreciate that this challenge is difficult but not in a way that the players can immediately fail or forfeit, like the previous challenge where only three people could make it across those platforms. We get to watch (almost) every single person struggle and look cold and regret all the cigarettes they ever smoked.
The Ruby Cell’s dysfunction is on full display once again, allegedly because of Amanda, who apparently just does what her male teammates ask her to do, which is nothing. Nelson claims that Amanda said she “hated water” before the challenge started, which is why they told her to sit back. Nelson has been on this show long enough to know that no one who competes on The Challenge repeatedly “hates water” and is flat-out incapable of swimming or at the very least holding their breath underwater. He clearly saw this as an opportunity to make Amanda the scapegoat before they had the chance to fail, which is why I can’t take him and Cory’s overly serious “meeting” with Amanda about her performance later on in the ep seriously.
Amanda asks her team if they want her help anyway, which they ignore. And she still contributes toward the end. I am honestly 100 percent Team Amanda in this segment. My only disappointment in her is when she decides to do the most hack, uncomical shit you can do while standing on a boat, which is mimic the scene from Titanic.
Team Emerald and Team Ruby end up having very close times, but the Emerald Cell pulls it off again. So we know the following half-hour of politicking will be boring as hell. The obvious choice is Cory, since he’s been sent down before. Devin finally says he’s willing to vote for CT, but no one else is brave enough to make the obvious power move because they fear his retaliation. I’m having a hard time digesting his whole “I don’t want CT to come back and gun for me” excuse everyone is using. This risk applies to every person the Emerald Team chooses to throw in the Lair, so I’m not sure why we’re acting like CT is the only person capable of winning a weekly challenge and exacting revenge.
So nominations go like this: Nelson gives his 100th apology in the last three seasons over his angry outbursts at Amanda, and all the men say they don’t want to go into the Lair. The Emerald Cell whispers a bunch before casting their votes because this scene desperately needs some suspense. But it ends up being Cory, which we all guessed as soon as they won. This could’ve been an email!
After a very uneventful argument between Cory, Devin, and Josh, we head to the Lair where Cory picks Logan to compete against. I would’ve gone for Kyle, who’s ultimately a bigger threat to Cory’s game and doesn’t seem as agile as Logan. But Cory’s not great on the strategic front. They play a game we’ve seen previously with Josh and Jordan (Josh mentions that he has PTSD from losing this to Jordan) called “Rope Burn.” Only this time, they’ve added strategically placed fire to the middle of the rope, as if this increases the stakes. The players each have to stand on giant spheres while holding the ends of the rope and attempt to pull each other off the platform.
I don’t find men waving a rope around that compelling on its own, but I was riveted watching Logan’s brain compete with Cory’s arms. This is the same thing that happened with Josh and Jordan. Logan looks focused on his balance and finding the right opportunity to yank the rope, but Cory seems solely dependent on his strength to knock Logan off the sphere. Logan ends up beating Cory 2-0, which is sad to me. I figured Cory would at least manage to win one. But I’m glad we don’t have to watch him complain about being on the chopping block anymore or his bromance with Nelson. At this point, Cory either has to sharpen some of his Challenge skills or stop competing.
Logan decides to go to the Sapphire Cell, taking Kyle’s place. It feels like we’re revving up for a Sapphire takeover. If not, I need the producers to rig the next challenge because Team Emerald is gutless.