When we left off, TJ had announced the night of eliminations, where two more people would be eliminated before the start of the final. To my disappointment, these eliminations are not done purge style, where everyone has to compete and the bottom two are automatically sent home. Instead, the competitors have to vote for a nominee, which kind of ruins the suspense of this twist because we already know what the pecking order is among the cast and who everyone’s afraid to go up against. So there’s no way CT or Kaycee are getting sent down. So, of course, we get Emmanuel again when it’s time to vote for the guys and Amanda for the women.
However, the two of them make slightly interesting choices for their opponents. Amanda, who has made a very boring enemy out of Tori this season for reasons I still don’t understand, chooses pride over making the safest decision (which is to call down Nany) by picking Tori. She also claims that Nany is her “friend,” which we haven’t seen evidence of.
This is why I appreciate The Challenge: All Stars so much: We have footage of everyone’s histories and a clear-cut understanding of their relationships. Most crucially, the competitors don’t identify as friends with just anybody, even if they’ve known them for decades. On The Challenge, we’re in this weirdly mellow era, where everyone seems to be on good terms with everyone and hangs out outside of the show regardless of how many disagreements they have on it. Fessy, for example, has fucked over God knows how many people and is still in good standing with everyone on social media. Not to mention, the term best friend is thrown around recklessly and by people who previously hated each other seconds ago, such as Devin and Tori.
Anyway, I wouldn’t be surprised if Tori, who has been harassed by Amanda this entire season, claims they are best friends next season. Fake-friendship rant aside, the game they’re playing is one we’ve seen a million times: A ball falls from a drone in the center of a pit, and the players have to grab the ball and place it in their respective bins. This is an obvious W for Tori, who has really bulked up this season. And it shows: She wrestles and even carries Amanda like a baby during the elimination. The producers try to squeeze as much suspense as possible from this with some slo-mo editing. But everyone knows it took all of 30 seconds each round for Tori to win.
Next up is Emmanuel, who calls down Devin assuming that he’ll also have a physical elimination. However, we find out it’s a series of puzzles, which sends everyone, knowing this is Devin’s area of expertise, into giggles. I love that the contestants on this show have put completing a tangram on the same level as doing a Rubik’s Cube or having an actual superpower. I just feel like more than four people every season should have confidence doing puzzles! Anyway, they begin with some sort of sudoku that involves colors, which looks very difficult. Emmanuel finishes fairly fast but gets stuck on an actual sudoku puzzle that Tori, out of all people, thinks she can do in her head for him.
Nelson and CT also notice that Tori is helping Emmanuel instead of Devin. At this point, I can’t genuinely tell who she cares about more because the relationships on this show are so flimsy. But she does put on quite the melodramatic show when Devin gets called down, so it’s strange that she would so unabashedly make herself look two-faced. On the other hand, Tori famously doesn’t think about things. Anyway, Nelson, who loves being mad about what doesn’t affect him, is so disturbed by this betrayal that he calls Tori out, and they start to go back and forth.
Meanwhile, Devin eventually catches up to Emmanuel and beats him in the math puzzle. After Tori gives Emmanuel the answer, he catches up to Devin on the last puzzle, but Devin wins.
I have no problem watching Emmanuel experience the humilation of winning and losing an elimination back-to-back right before a final. And it doesn’t seem like TJ does either, giving him a very stoic send-off that doesn’t include, “I’m sure we’ll see you in the future.” Emmanuel didn’t have to prove himself as an individual competitor this entire season and managed to criticize everyone else’s performance in his confessionals. He also doesn’t seem to have much personality. See ya!
So it’s finally time. TJ announces that everyone standing on the stairs has made it to the final. I miss when TJ would hold off on announcing the final and just tell the players they were going to a different location, and they would turn into a bunch of giddy college kids studying abroad for the first time. There’s a general lack of suspense or nervousness among the players, at least in the first part of this final, which I appreciate in certain respects because sometimes this show can overhype what’s in store for them. But it also feels a lot less grand than in previous seasons.
So everyone heads home to rehash the elimination. And yes, Nelson, who apparently wrote the book on friendship, is still unreasonably bothered by Tori’s supporting her “cuddle buddy” over Devin. We also get some standard pre-final scenes of everyone discussing their excitement and disbelief that the final is here. Yawn! Nany also says that she actually wants to win a final this year, which … okay.
So we head to some dry, rocky terrain where TJ introduces the final in a very hurried manner. This man clearly wants to go home to his dirt bikes and/or film The Challenge: All Stars, which he obviously likes doing a lot better. For the first part, they have to race up a mountain to a puzzle that’s just a map of the world and place some flag magnets on top of the correct countries. CT, who has probably visited 80 percent of the countries on earth, finishes and makes it back down the mountain first. Tori finishes second. She says in her confessional that how you perform at the beginning “sets the pace for the rest of the final,” which lets me know this woman has never paid attention to a final and will never win one. From there, the order is Nelson, Devin, Kaycee, Kyle, Emy, and Nany in an embarrassing last-place finish after everyone left their puzzles up for her to cheat from.
Next, everyone is split into pairs based on the order in which they finished the puzzle, and they get into helicopters that they will have to jump out of into a body of water. They then have to swim to a checkpoint, where they will get one of those fancy water-jet thingies and travel to shore. Once they arrive on land, they must run up another rocky mountain, which makes me nervous that someone will slip and dislocate their knee as Kaycee did last season. Additionally, everyone claims that the heat is brutal, which makes me wonder how many severe sunburns white competitors get from these warm-weather finals and whether they’re allowed to re-up on sunscreen. CT’s arm already looks extremely red. (Side note: Everyone should wear sunscreen no matter your hue!)
On top of the mountain is another puzzle, which Devin completes first. At the next checkpoint, we see some familiar platforms previously used during the initial forming of the cells. This time, there are just two, purple and orange, a horrible color combo. This cell format had a terrible payoff, but I’m hoping its use in the final will be a lot more interesting.
Anyhow, CT, Devin, Tori, and Emy compose the purple cell. I’m shocked that they allowed Emy and didn’t wait for Tori, but I guess once someone stands on the platform, you can’t push them off. The last half of the bunch is forced together, and I can already tell Kaycee is disappointed she’s going to have to work with her out-of-shape boo.
So we’re left on the cliffhanger of TJ saying, “You don’t want to be on the last-place cell,” which makes me think everyone from the losing cell will be automatically eliminated. The orange cell seems like they already know their fate by their frowns and refusal to give one another eye contact. But anything is possible when everyone’s dehydrated and their flesh is burning off in the sun. See you next week!