Trying to get through the latter half of this season reminds me of those miserable childhood days of trying to finish a giant pot of chili or spaghetti that my mom would make for my siblings and me to live off of for a week because she didn’t feel like coming up with new meals or because she ran out of money. Just like I knew what my taste buds were in for every night, I know that, when I start an episode of this show, I’ll get ten straight minutes of cast members hanging out in the kitchen feigning shock about what went down at the Lair and the Ruby Cell reminding us how much they suck again. Not that I expect the players to break out into a musical number when they return from elimination, but can we see something — anything! — else?? Can we maybe start the episode the next morning so I can see everyone’s breakfast choices or Nany’s skin-care routine?? That’s ten times more interesting than watching Tori put on a red bandana and cape for one of her little costume bits and giving her new team their 500th pep talk.
I honestly think this show would benefit from more natural, surveillance-style footage in the style of Real World or my latest obsession Summer House as opposed to setting up conversations between players that are solely about the competition. We’re already familiar with how most of these vets play the game. It’s about time we see what these guys do when they’re not working out or discussing strategy (or doing an occasional funny bit for the camera). Just some food for thought for whichever person at MTV happens to read these recaps! But let’s get into the meat of this week’s episode, shall we?
This week’s drama centers primarily around two “betrayals.” Tori, aware that she’s on a garbage team, makes a deal with CT, who only has two teammates on Sapphire, to work together at the next challenge. I use quotation marks because I really don’t think Tori made this alliance to sabotage Emerald as much as to protect her team from losing another guy at the upcoming elimination. I could be giving her too much credit, but she seems like a very simpleminded strategist. Regardless, Devin, a master manipulator, expects Tori to still do work for her old teammates, mainly him, at her own expense.
This misunderstanding comes to a head during Boom Raiders, a familiar Hall Brawl-like challenge where the teams have to run through aisles that meet at the center, stealing sticks of dynamite from each other’s stations and placing them on their own. To add to the chaos, you have Kyle making yet another crucial “mistake” during this challenge that makes us all wonder whether he’s the least discreet snake in Challenge history or whether he truly just doesn’t understand simple ass instructions.
I really don’t know if adrenaline does something to Kyle’s eyesight or if he still has water lodged in his ears from one of the earlier challenges. But this man literally ruins the Ruby–Sapphire alliance in a matter of seconds by stealing a stick of dynamite from Sapphire’s station instead of Emerald’s, who they were both originally targeting. I would personally never appear on television again if I had to hear from Nelson, out of all people, how stupid I am. Side note, I did appreciate Nelson finally yelling at Kyle for his lack of contribution to the Ruby Cell. It’s been easy for the guys to lay all the blame on Big T or Amanda. But Kyle has thoroughly sucked for the past four weeks and is overdue for a public lashing.
There’s also some back-and-forth between Tori and Devin from the sidelines. Their whole conflict in this episode is predicated on the fact that they’re “best friends.” This show truly makes me feel crazy regarding everyone’s relationships and the word friend. I get that relationships become very intense within the microcosm of this show, but Tori and Devin’s whole thing last season was that they hated each other. Like, can we roll back the tapes, please? Going from enemies to best friends in less than a year is just not a jump I’m willing to buy, even on this program.
Devin also keeps asserting that he’s been looking out for Tori this entire game as if everyone wasn’t a part of a huge vet alliance for half of the season that was also carrying him. Tori’s also had immunity for the past month when she was on the Emerald Cell, so why are we acting like they don’t have a symbiotic relationship?
This all comes down to Devin’s inability to fathom anyone else, especially a woman, using their brain on this show. You truly have to be an awful person if I’m defending Tori from your wrath. But Devin legitimately thinks he’s the only person allowed to think, and I hate watching women be told they can’t think!
Likewise, after Team Sapphire wins the challenge, Devin ends up guilting Tori for, I don’t know, trying to save her already crappy team? Tori’s defense is that she’s on a sinking ship and can’t afford to lose any more guys. There’s also no way she will end up on the Emerald Cell again unless by a miracle, so she has to look out for herself. These are all perfectly reasonable answers that she should stand by, but she lets Devin do that whole “you’re selfish” bullshit that truly would not even register in my ears. But Tori, who’s a weaker woman than I, starts feeling genuinely bad and begins to cry.
Not to victim blame — and I do really think Tori is a victim in this situation — but this is why Tori will never be one of the greats. How can you let Devin, out of all people, assume the moral high ground on literally anything? This is why unapologetic women like Amanda and Ashley, despite how exhausting she is in other areas, are so important to have on the show. Stop letting these men, who would instantly fade into the background if Bananas, Wes, Zach, or any other male champ was on the show, tell you how to play the game!
Anyway, this week’s deliberation is pretty ho-hum. After an argument with CT (where Kyle’s tone is noticeably more subdued than when he’s fighting with the other men in the house), Kyle knows he’s going into the Lair. Josh very stupidly tells the house that he would rather be called down by the nominated competitor instead of being the agency vote because he’ll be more angry and able to compete better. Um, okay? I’m not sure why being called down by Kyle is more of an insult than being voted in by three people, including one of whom Josh claims is his “brother.” But you got to give it to Josh for consistently worsening his own situation.
Likewise, Kyle is the agency vote and decides to go against Josh at the Lair. It was kind of surreal watching Josh, who we’ve seen in the best position of his Challenge career for most of the season, go down to the sand. Usually, Josh experiences this fate early on, but this was the first time I think I’ve ever assumed Josh would make it to a final.
Anyway, they play a game called Burning Bridges, where they have to climb up a structure and build a bridge across a runway. Several planks are on the ground, so they have to jump off the bridge and hit a bell in order to retrieve them. If they miss the bell, they can’t grab any planks and have to jump again.
This was one of those eliminations where it doesn’t seem like there’s any reason in particular why Josh should lose except that he’s Josh and inevitably loses these things. No one seems to struggle to create the bridge, only jumping off the structure and hitting the bell. Kyle and Josh struggle at different times. But Kyle remains one plank ahead of Josh throughout the elimination, and Josh just can’t pick up enough speed to at least tie with him.
When Kyle wins, it’s disappointing because he’s one of those players who’s so messy and all over the place that his game is incomprehensible, and he’s not fun to root for. He’s also one of those competitors who you know is never going to win a challenge. Obviously, I can say the same about Josh. But I enjoy watching his combined earnestness and delusion.
To conclude, Kyle decides to go to Sapphire, which is a move I don’t even care to understand at this point, taking Logan’s place. Next week, we get Tori demanding an apology from Devin, and Devin laughing in her face. So that will be fun. See you then!