We’ve officially reached the point in the season when there are no more fights, flings, or frivolous celebrations to be had — not that we’ve had many. The vibe of the house is a lot quieter. Amanda isn’t sneering at anyone from across the kitchen counter. Everyone seems at peace with their teams, including Nelson, who doesn’t take Logan’s bait to rag on the Ruby Cell for the 800th time. (When even Nelson is rejecting camera time, you know it’s time these guys are ready to go home!).
With no more game drama, the producers have subjected us once again to another “heart-warming” FaceTime call, this time between CT; his wife, Lili; and his son, CJ. CJ is absolutely adorable and much bigger than I expected. But as with Cory, the delightful shock of “CT the Dad” has fully worn off at this point. He’s just a dude who loves his family, and there’s nothing exceptionally touching about that. I’d be much more intrigued to watch a video call between CT and his agent, considering all the Deadline articles I’ve seen lately about his upcoming movie projects. I’m specifically picturing something like a scene from Friends between Joey Tribbiani (CT has big Joey vibes now that he’s not as tense) and his agent Estelle who’s basically just a talking cigarette with a giant wig.
Another person with a family who wants to win for said family is Emmanuel. I’m going to need some trust fund kids or people who’ve cut off all their relatives to compete on this program, so we can stop hearing this same monologue set to a sad piano and a grainy childhood photo! Tori, who’s lying next to Emmanuel as he explains this, finally mentions her breakup with Jordan (without much detail, to my disappointment). I’m surprised it took us so long to officially put a pin in this storyline, considering that Tori and Jordan were a legit Challenge power couple and Tori began her time on the franchise cheating on a boyfriend with Jordan. We’ve obviously seen that Tori has moved on, but it’s weird that the producers didn’t get more out of her about the breakup before we see her frolicking in the shower with Emmanuel. I’m guessing it’s because she and Jordan have both discussed it on social media, but we still need these moments addressed on the show!
After some more watercooler talk about “the game,” we go to this week’s challenge called “Dead Drop,” which might be the best of the season? I know I’ve complained about the lack of collective teamwork required in some of the challenges since the whole cell twist. But watching everyone have to individually showcase their level of agility by traveling across a beam and avoiding swinging bean bags actually made for an amusing challenge that cemented what we’ve already known about this group of competitors in the most hilarious fashion.
One thing that’s certain but can never be demonstrated enough is that CT, at 41 years old, can still whoop the asses of all these children, some of whom he’s literally old enough to father. After seeing that Kyle and Emy are incapable of transferring capsules across this beam, he effortlessly picks up the slack for both of them and just runs back and forth without getting hit and, according to him, without any sort of strategy. By his fourth go, I’m not even sure he’s looking at the bags being swung at him by the rest of the competitors. All in all, he transfers seven, and TJ looks like he has the biggest hard-on watching from the beach.
Next, it’s Ruby’s turn. With Big T gone, you can literally smell the hubris emitting from Tori, Nelson, and Logan (mostly from Tori) in their pre-challenge interview. But none of them are exceptional athletes on the level of CT or Kaycee. And we see that play out as Tori and Nelson, the competitors with more experience doing these above-water sports, fail to transfer a single capsule. They definitely should’ve made Logan, who transfers two, do most of the work a la the Sapphire Cell with CT, but these two have such delusion about their abilities (including thinking and strategizing) that they let their precious capsules drown in the sea.
Finally, we have Team Emerald, which is basically just Kaycee and Devin (and Emmanuel, but he falls off twice, so I’m not willing to give him that much credit) during this challenge. I knew that Devin was a lot stronger and faster than in previous seasons, but I didn’t expect him to exhibit CT’s level of quickness and ease as he runs across the beam. Kaycee has a rougher time making it across the beam (I feel like she walked away from this challenge very bruised). Nevertheless, she transfers those capsules like a clumsy ninja while Nany and Amanda drown below her. While I enjoy watching Kaycee perform like a beast, I don’t know that I love the optics of her being the only woman this season seemingly capable of doing anything physical. Let’s pick up the phone and give Cara Maria that long-awaited call, guys!
So the Emerald Team gets seven capsules, tying them with Sapphire. But CT, who never fell into the water, was obviously quicker, so he earns his team the W. What I love about CT is that he’s so self-assured in his abilities that he seems genuinely weirded out when he receives too much praise, especially from Emy who I legitimately think wants CT to adopt her at this point. This win feels really crucial — and not just because the Emerald Cell got another break from winning. It’s a guy’s elimination day. And if Sapphire had lost, I’m hundred percent sure Kyle, after all his snakery and terrible performances throughout this season, would’ve gone back into the Lair. And I can’t bear to watch this man, who I’ve never been emotionally invested in — and the viewers online don’t seem to be either — take up the last 20 minutes of an episode once again.
However, I was expecting a spicier deliberation. All the guys, aside from Devin, are responding to the possibility of getting thrown down into the Lair with a shrug, particularly Logan, who knows he’s nobody’s number one and has gone down, like, five times already. CT, who’s used to people being more tapped in at these meetings, is upset that no one’s telling him what to do or offering any deals. CT knows that he can beat all these guys in his sleep, so I think he’s more focused on sending home the person who can do the least amount of favors in the long run as opposed to the most intimidating guy, which is none of them. So the Sapphire Cell picks Logan once again, and he doesn’t even blink.
Since the competition is winding down, the cast goes to a fancy outdoor restaurant instead of their normal club setting. Emmanuel is getting hints that he’s probably not safe. Blah, blah, blah. No one’s getting drunk or having any last-minute meltdowns. I feel like Logan or Emmanuel should be flipping tables or something, but everyone on this show is just okay with everything. Back at the house, Nelson asks Logan not to call him down to the Lair, and Tori asks him to come back to Ruby if he wins because they make a “kick-ass” team. Um, where??
So now we’re off to the Lair where Logan calls down Emmanuel. This is Emmanuel’s first elimination. And while I don’t think he’s a bad competitor, I do think he’s been riding Kaycee and, later, Team Emerald’s coattails. So I’m eager to watch him truly earn his spot. However, I’m more excited to watch my charming Spanish prince absolutely destroy him. But we can’t always get what we want!
This elimination is practically made to benefit Emmanuel, who we’ve mostly seen prance around the house and breakdance at the club, and disadvantage Logan, who still has an injured knee and is at least 50 pounds heavier than his opponent. For “Rocket Run,” they each have 15 seconds to race from a start podium to another podium with a lever that they have to pull and back. There’s a model rocket that they have to jump over between the podiums, which doesn’t look that high but probably feels six feet tall after doing it over and over. They do this until someone doesn’t make it back to the start podium in time. But as we see — and Devin states — 15 seconds is a good chunk of time for the amount of distance they have to travel, which isn’t that long.
This elimination aspect made it interesting to watch Logan and Emmanuel’s respective strategies, if they were intentional. Emmanuel, who’s naturally a lot faster and lighter on his feet, seemed to run and jump as quickly as possible, which seems like it would tire him out quicker but also gave him more time to recover. On the other hand, Logan took his time, leaving only a few seconds to catch his breath before TJ started the clock again.
When TJ reduces the time to ten seconds, we know this will be a struggle for Logan, who looks like someone’s grandpa compared to Emmanuel. (By the way, Logan is only 29. He just has the spirit of a 43-year-old, which might be a European thing, but I don’t know!). And just like a senior citizen pushing their body past its limits, Logan falls and can’t get up, allowing Emmanuel to take the W.
Tripping has the saddest way you can go out on The Challenge. I’m sure TJ would disagree with me and say it’s quitting, but at least that’s intentional and not a dumb mistake or nature telling you’re getting up there. I feel bad for Logan, seeing that he’s given his all this season and was one of the last hot men standing. But I’m sure we’ll see him again, as TJ states in his signature farewell.
One thing we’re not sure of, though — because every elimination right before the final has to end with some jaw-dropping twist now — is which remaining players will even make it to the final. Right before these hopeful contestants can let out their self-congratulatory shrieks for making it to the end, TJ announces “The Night of Eliminations.” Dun, dun, dun!
Any event that includes “night” outside of the context of clubbing or playing board games sounds extremely scary and ominous to me. Basically, two other players will be exiting the game along with Logan, which mostly makes me excited that he won’t be lonely on his economy flight home. I’m very curious to see if Emmanuel is exempt from this night of terror because it would be truly soul-crushing to win an elimination and get sent home an hour later. But it would also be deeply compelling for us viewers. So I can’t wait to see how this shakes out!