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September 18, 2019 at 10:30 PM EDT
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Say what you will about Wes and his sneaky, manipulative ways of playing the game, but Team U.S. lost one of its best players last week on The Challenge: War of the Worlds 2 when they turned against one of their own. It’s a brave, new, Wes-less world, and we’re all just living in it. But just because Wes is gone doesn’t mean the Challengers are done dismantling the game he worked so hard to set up even before the cameras started rolling, as Kyle immediately takes Laurel aside when they return to the house after Wes’ lost Proving Ground elimination to point out every Team U.S. member who was aligned with Wes.

According to Kyle, they all need to go next, and Laurel is determined to systematically take out every single person who was in an alliance with Wes. In her own words: “I’m going to pick every single last one of them off.” Shouldn’t she first focus on taking out Team U.K.?! Kyle even says that he’s just telling Laurel anything he can think of that she’ll believe, because he, along with every other Team U.K. person, knows that Laurel has no qualms about destroying her team by eliminating strong players. She’s doing Team U.K.’s dirty work for them and it’s not going to work out well for her or anyone else on Team U.S. It also made everyone else on Team U.S. not want to put Laurel (or Josh) in the Tribunal anymore, meaning she won’t be safe from elimination moving forward. Again, not smart!

And not to pile on Laurel, but the episode immediately transitions to a slow-mo montage of Bear talking about all the girls he’s got feelings for, and surprise surprise, the list doesn’t just include Laurel. It also includes Georgia, Kayleigh, and Ashley. As incredible of a competitor Laurel is, I’m already seeing the future for her this season and it’s not great, both emotionally and physically. Her crush is macking on other girls and her teammates don’t trust her at all. Meanwhile, Josh is complaining about Georgia still being hung up on Bear, which she confirms in her talking head interviews. Does she not remember the whole “cousin” issue from last season?! What is the appeal of Bear? I just do not see it.

But enough talk about relationships, it’s time for some action! As the Challengers walk up to their next challenge, The Allman Brothers’ “Ramblin’ Man” plays and I once again notice how much the music has leveled up this season. Whoever is doing the music cues deserves a raise.

The Challenge: Relic Runner

Played in two heats, giant, heavy relics must be transferred from the bottom of the hill to the very top by one team, while the other team is situated at the top with giant balls, a slingshot, water canon, and human hamster wheels to bomb the team that’s running the relics up. Each player is responsible for two relics, and you can only carry one at a time, guaranteeing two trips up the hill for everyone. And to make matters worse, if you drop your relic, you have to start from the very beginning. Whoever finishes faster wins. Team U.K. is in the relic runner position first, and this is a female elimination challenge. So Laurel, watch your back.

Degree of physical difficulty: Extreme. Those relics may not be too heavy, but they’re large and weirdly shaped, and the hill is steep. This is pure strength, speed, and endurance. Plus, you have to be agile to dodge whatever the other team bombs you with. The strongest players are going to come out on top.

Degree of mental difficulty: N/A. This is all physical.

Potential for drama: High. There’s an extreme likelihood that vendettas are going to be formed during this Challenge (especially with previews for this week’s episode showing Team U.S. melting down and fighting with each other during this one).

Winner: Team U.K., but not because they actually won the challenge. Things start off innocently enough, with Team U.K. playing fairly. CT comes in with the strategy for the girls to stay behind the guys, letting the stronger players take most of the heat from the bombs, which is smart. They also avoid the side with the water canon. Bananas fires the first ball at Team U.K. but it just tumbles down the hill, doing absolutely nothing, which prompts Jordan to shout, “Idiot!” Esther immediately lags behind, and Joss and a few others are tasked with helping her out. Josh mows down Nicole in the human hamster wheel, and she’s forced to start over again with her second relic. But otherwise, the bombs from Team U.S. were inconsequential.

Before Team U.S. starts, however, Leroy drops a real bomb during his talking head interview: Bananas is going to throw the challenge to take back control of the game and get numbers on his side, so he can get enough votes to send someone home on their team. I … don’t understand how that’s going to work?! Stop sending home your own team members and win the challenge to send in two Team U.K. players! It’s not that difficult! I know math is hard (I’m literally the worst at it) but even I know those numbers. Meanwhile, Team U.K.’s bomb strategy is to save all their ammo for the second run up the hill and target the weak players which they won’t even have to do since Team U.S. is doing their work for them. Team U.S.’ run begins, and immediately things are fishy. Laurel keeps walking slowly in front of Cara Maria, and no matter what Cara does she can’t get around her. That’s because of course, Laurel is once again sabotaging her own team but this time blatantly in the challenge, not just in votes. But the first run goes smoothly.

It’s the second run that’s all-out chaos. Kyle in the hamster ball immediately takes out Ninja, and Bananas intentionally trips and throws his own relic to the ground. Laurel blocks Ashley and Bananas uses his own relic to take her out. And of course, Ashley being Ashley, she throws a tantrum instead of continuing the challenge. This time, she’s got a reason to be upset, but the challenge is still going! You have to finish, then you can throw your tantrum! The entire team starts fighting and it just devolves into half the team gaslighting the other half, which is incredibly frustrating to watch. Ashley just straight up quits, TJ blows the horn, and Paulie throws his helmet in anger. I’ve honestly never been more disappointed in most of these vets. Do whatever you want to strategize, politic, and manipulate, but do not throw challenges or quit! For some reason, the fight on Team U.S. becomes Paulie vs. Nany, even though neither of them had anything to do with the challenge being thrown. I think Paulie even body checks Nany at one point, and security rushes in to keep them apart. It’s just a mess and I hate it. It is week four. This should not be happening on a team that was set to dominate the entire season. But then Ashley and Bananas start fighting and, of course, Ashley starts going off about how she doesn’t care if she’s sent home because she’s already won a million dollars and I just… UGH.

Tribunal: A bunch of people try to nominate themselves as speaker, including Georgia, and Bear immediately tries to railroad her, resulting in Team U.K. devolving into a mess of yelling people (seems like a theme for this week). Kyle votes for himself because he wants to continue his revenge tour and vote Cara in “no matter what,” and honestly, I’m so tired of the Kyle vs. Cara and Paulie schtick. The votes start coming down to Dee or Kyle, and CT votes for himself to stay neutral which immediately sets off Cara and Jordan and Team U.S. who want him to take some kind of stand. TJ makes CT choose between Kyle or Dee though to break the tie, and he ends up choosing Dee, making her the speaker. She chooses Georgia and Idris for the Tribunal since they were the first two in eliminations and deserve to be safe for once. It’s actually a really fair choice, so nice job, Dee.

Heading into nominations, Nany says it best: “This is not a team.” After last week’s shocking elimination, there’s truly no predicting what “Team” U.S. is going to do here because ultimately Team U.K. has the power to throw in whoever they want. Laurel is making notes in a notebook trying to decide who to throw in, but if I was her, I’d be terrified. She’s one of the strongest if not the strongest female on Team US, so if Team UK is smart they’ll throw her in. And if someone like Bear can send home Wes in an elimination, no amount of experience can keep you safe if you’re thrown in! Laurel tries to manipulate Ashley into voting with her alliance by promising to “save” her, and Ashley takes the bait to vote in Ninja instead. Ashley’s proven in no uncertain terms that she’ll do whatever it takes for her own game (including stealing a million dollars from her partner), so it’s an extremely smart move on Laurel’s part.

When nominations begin, Ashley kicks it off by apologizing for quitting but no one apologizes for sabotaging their own team so Cara calls out Laurel for doing exactly that, especially after Cara’s been trying so hard to leave all her history at the door and play for Team U.S. Laurel then makes the declaration that Cara’s whole alliance with Wes, including Paulie, Ninja, Kam, and Ashley, are all working against the team, and that just sets everyone off. Bananas keeps his talking point going about how the divide is “clear as day,” and the conversation gets cut short by people suddenly throwing in votes for Ninja. When Ashley votes for Ninja, and it becomes clear she’s going in, she starts crying and Bananas laughs in her face, shouting, “Welcome to The Challenge!” It’s so disappointing to see this happening so early in the season, but you have to admit, it’s great TV. I just worry that if Team U.S. keeps picking off great players, we’re going to be left with a bunch of rookies on Team U.K. which won’t be great TV. And as much as Laurel keeps saying that Wes is finally gone so everyone can play a real game, she’s just taken his place as the person controlling the game with an iron fist. That’s also not great TV.

As Team U.S. leaves Ninja to talk with the Tribunal, Ninja’s BFF Dee tries to promise that they’ll throw in whoever Ninja wants to go against but Georgia is quick to say they’ll just take her choice into consideration. Remember as much as Team U.S. seems to have forgotten this, it’s still Team U.S. vs. Team U.K.! Ninja wants to stay true to who she is, so even though she should pick a weak player to go against at the Proving Ground (which she says is Nany), she knows she needs to pick Laurel, a.k.a. the person who has been tearing Team U.S. apart. And throwing in Laurel, one of the strongest Challenge players ever, would be the smart move for Team U.K. but for some reason, Georgia’s “heart” is stopping her from throwing in someone who has a “good kind soul” like Laurel. Um, what?! I have no words for that.

Back in the house, Laurel is shouting about people who made pre-show deals and Kam walks in and faces her head-on. Kam stays calm but Laurel gets more and more immature, shouting, rolling her eyes, giving Kam a pretend “shovel” to “keep digging” her hole — it’s wild to watch. As strong and strategic of a player Laurel is, her actions in this fight are just ugly and low. Kam’s comments about Laurel trying to intimidate her way through this game are spot-on and Laurel refuses to admit it (or even see it). Meanwhile, Cara is crying on the couch and Paulie tries to calm her down by laying out how the game is going to go: they’re going to save their strength for eliminations, knowing they’re going to be thrown in. He knows that their own team won’t be playing the challenges to the best of their abilities and they’re going to need to take out their enemies in eliminations. It’s going to be a tough season, but that’s their only path forward. The game could have been easy for them but Team U.S. is truly now its own worst enemy. Without the numbers, they’re going to have to play dirty. Cara’s proven herself time and time again in eliminations and so has Kam, but some of their other alliance members aren’t as experienced. It’s going to be a tooth-and-nail kind of fight to the end.

But it’s not time for the Proving Ground yet — we’ve got a night out first, where alcohol is only going to pour gasoline on the sparks of conflict already brewing on Team U.S. Josh and Georgia are flirting but she immediately goes to flirt with Bear (ugh). Meanwhile Bananas is putting in work trying to convince Georgia that voting in Laurel would be a “death wish,” and that Cara is actually the most dangerous girl on their team. She has to see through that though, right? But her intellect gets called into question later when everyone gets back to the house and she makes Bear some drunk food and he woos her right into the pool for a late-night make-out session, which Laurel immediately sees. They then take their two-person party right into Bear’s bed. Not a great backslide. The morning after, Georgia breaks the news of her make-out to Josh while Bear denies that he’s “back on the Georgia train” to CT and Theo. Can I unsubscribe from this relationship drama?

The Proving Ground elimination

Georgia does her best to spread Bananas’ gospel about throwing Cara in, but her teammates know that Laurel is the biggest threat (as well as Tori, because she’s an underrated champ). The Tribunal is clearly not on the same page, and it’s all because of Georgia. Will she make the move that’s right for her team or for Team U.S.? She’s the first vote at the Proving Ground, and she votes Cara. But Idris and Dee vote for Laurel, so it’s. About. To go. Down!

Elimination challenge: Branched out. Players must use all 21 branches to scale a tree and ring the bell at the top. Whoever rings the bell first wins. This one is practically made for American Ninja Warrior Natalie who climbs every surface she comes across.

Degree of physical difficulty: High. This one is all physical, but there is some strategy that comes into play. Ninja has the skill set, but Laurel has the experience.

Degree of mental difficulty: Low to moderate. Should a player grab as many branches as possible at once and try to climb immediately or place them methodically? Every branch needs to be put into a hole, and if you miss one, that could lose you the game. I’ve never seen this elimination before so I honestly don’t know what the better strategy would be. There’s no denying it though, the strength and stamina needed to win is high.

Potential for drama: High. Whoever wins this will absolutely change the game not only for Team U.S. but for Team U.K. as well.

Winner: Shockingly Laurel! It should have been Ninja, but she couldn’t find the final hole to put her last branch in, so despite having the lead and being tailor-made for this elimination, Laurel pulls it off. And you can bet that Laurel celebrates in an obnoxious way too. In her talking head interview she complains about Ninja’s gloating but like, pot kettle, baby. Laurel talking down about Ninja having bad sportsmanship for being excited about a climbing elimination before it begins is completely hypocritical when you look at how Laurel loudly throws her win in Ninja’s face.

But wait … hold on. Something’s wrong. While Laurel continues to celebrate, Ninja climbs back up her tree, finds the hole she missed, and puts her final branch in. Ninja points out how Laurel just stabbed her last branch into the trunk at the top and missed the same hole Ninja did! Ninja climbs back up her tree while Laurel just shouts about how Ninja messed up and she needs to stop complaining, but it’s too late. No matter how much Laurel refuses to accept it, Ninja wins, fair and square. And more importantly, Ninja doesn’t rub it in Laurel’s face the way that Laurel rubbed it in hers. She just continues to calmly point out the hole Laurel missed and says they “play fair.” TJ explains he blew the horn when Laurel finished but after checking the tapes, it was clear she did not put every single branch where it belonged. He declares Ninja the winner, and Laurel gets sent home!

Wow. You guys. I am in shock. Karma truly did win out. Laurel’s refusal to accept what she deems “a really bad call” just further shines a light on her bad sportsmanship. I can’t deny she’s a great player — she’s consistently one of my favorite Challengers to compete season after season. But the way she acted this season was not only ugly; it just simply wasn’t fun to watch. The way she’s handling her loss just proves it. And no surprise here but Ninja sticks with Team U.S. (although I did for a second wonder if she would swap after the way Team U.S. threw a challenge and with Dee being on Team U.K.).

Challenger of the week: Ninja, for staying calm in the face of some really intimidating tactics and exposing Laurel’s attempts to cheat her way to an elimination in a fair, objective way without rubbing Laurel’s face in it. Now that’s impressive.

The Challenge: War of the Worlds 2 airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on MTV.

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