Who won this season The Challenge may not have been entirely surprising, but the twist the powerhouse partners faced once their individual points were tallied absolutely changed their game, their relationship, and even their futures.
Spoiler warning: For those who haven’t seen Wednesday’s finale of The Challenge: Rivals III, this season’s final results will be revealed below.
After weeks of competition, the three remaining pairs of rivals were met with a mercenary choice: Whichever partner earned more points over a series of pairs challenges could opt to split the winnings with his or her partner — or take it all and face viewers’ (and castmates’ wrath).
The second and third place finishers (Bloodlines competitors Vince Gliatta and Jenna Compono, and Are You the One? alums Cheyenne Floyd and Devin Walker, respectively) chose to divide the money equally. But when it came to first-place finishers and frenemies John “Johnny Bananas” Devenanzio and Sarah Rice, the choice wasn’t so simple.
Though the partners had seemingly made up this season after Rice effectively severed her longtime friendship with Devenanzio late in the Exes 2 season by throwing him into an elimination that ended his game, Devenanzio decided to reinstate the rift. He took the $275,000 prize solely for himself, literally forcing Rice to her knees under the weight of the realization that all her work this season — both physical and emotional — had been for nothing.
Though Rice was unable to speak with PEOPLE, Devenanzio explained what is easily the most cutthroat decision he’s ever made on reality TV.
PEOPLE: First off, congratulations! This is your sixth win — a new personal best and Challenge record.
DEVENANZIO: Yeah, the elusive sixth ring. Me and Michael Jordan are tied now.
With all these winnings, you’re close to becoming a Challenge millionaire.
I know, right? Well I live in California, and we all know how taxes are out here, so it looks a lot better on paper than when it actually comes home.
Over the course of Rivals III, you and Sarah seemed to have made peace with how your personal relationship was affected by what she did in Exes 2. Now the tables have turned. Are you worried about getting flack for it?
I know I’m going to; it’s obviously going to happen. And cast members obviously all agree. But I think everyone’s going to have their own reasons why they do.
If you look at the situation on its face, what she did and what I did back, a lot of people look at it and go, “All right, its tit for tat.” But when you put me into the equation and what I’ve accomplished in the past and how successful I’ve been at the game, then it kind of adds a whole different dimension. I think the reason people are going to have a negative reaction isn’t necessarily because of what I did, but because it’s me that did it.
I maintained from the beginning when I made my decision that it wasn’t about being vengeful, and it wasn’t about spite. It was about me looking at the amount of money that was on the line and looking at what I would be able to do with it. And then when I factored in the relationship Sarah and I had, or lack thereof, it wasn’t that difficult of a decision for me. And then on top of that, obviously what she had done to me in the past, which was pretty similar.
Had what happened on Exes never taken place, my decision quite possibly could’ve been different. But then again, had she not done that, we wouldn’t have been rivals in the first place so we wouldn’t have been paired up on this show. So the way that I saw it is, it’s a game, and when she made that decision on Exes 2, from then I basically was playing by those rules that she set.
The slight difference is that she put you in a position from which you still could have come back, whereas you were judge, jury, and executioner in this twist.
Like I said, when I weighed it, I had to look at, How is this going to affect me outside of the show? And how is this going to affect this friendship? And when I thought about, there wasn’t really a friendship there. Am I going to get vilified for it? Absolutely. Was it a bold move? Yes it was.
Let me put it this way: Throughout the final, I knew going in at the end I did not want to be behind in points. I really did not know what her decision was going to be. I did not know if she was going to keep the money or if she was going to split it with me. And I obviously had reason to be skeptical based on what she had done in the past.
Coming into Rivals, me and Sarah hadn’t spoken in two years. And even though we had kind of rekindled our friendship on television, I didn’t see that really transferring through back into the real world. So the way I saw it was, “Am I going to give up [$137,500] for a friendship that in my opinion doesn’t exist outside of the show and in reality?” No.
That said, it was a tough decision at times. It really was. The night when we had to do the up-all-night challenge and we had to stay awake, it really weighed on my mind. And a lot of things factored in to my decision, but ultimately when all the cards fell where they did, my decision was actually very simple. I don’t care about what people are going to think of it.
Do you feel like, in the karmic balance of things, you’re even now?
Yeah, I think in the karmic balance, if we’re really want to count dollars and cents, if you look at the Exes final, each person got $150,000. So I figure hey, what I took for her was only around $135,000. So if we tally it up, I think she still owes me $15,000.
Has there been any point since the show when you’ve had doubts about the decision you made?
Never. Not for a second, no. Not even.
You implied while making your decision that you might not do another Challenge. Are you sticking to that?
I don’t know if I could pick a better way to go out on top. You kind of want to go out as a winner, but a lot of people say things that they don’t necessarily really mean after the stress of a Challenge. But I also don’t want to be that guy in sports that hangs on too long. So I don’t know, I haven’t necessarily made up my mind as far as if I’m going to take one off or if I’m going to go back into the next one. I’m anxious to see where all the cards fall after this one. After the fallout from what happens on this one, I might not be invited back.
I’m pretty sure you’ll always be invited; whether people want to play alongside you is the question.
There you go! I don’t even know if it’s worth showing up. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if cast members or production conspire against me to have me taken out. They’ll have to hire a hit man or something — that’s the only way they’ll get rid of me.
If you do go back on the show, and they had some sort of heroes-versus-villains setup, where does Johnny Bananas fall?
[Laughs.] You know, when they talk about villains on TV shows, I’m the worst one. So I think that pretty much answers itself there. I don’t feel like I am.
I’m going to get so much s— for the end of the show, but I didn’t make this plot twist up. I had nothing to do with this. Anyone that takes umbrage at what happened, this is within the boundaries of the game. The Challenge is not meant to be played nice. Once the numbers dwindle down and once the game gets into it, there’s no nice way to play it. I feel like The Challenge is like a real-life version of Monopoly: The whole point is to put your opponent out of business, to take all their money and have to sell their properties and basically make them bankrupt. That’s exactly what The Challenge is; we’re real-life pieces, like, I’m a little hat freaking hopping around this board, and I’m just trying to roll the dice and make it enough times that I’ll hopefully get out of jail and pass Go enough times that I can make the most money and walk away from my friends.