MTV
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TV Show
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Reality
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December 30, 2017 at 11:00 AM EST

After 29 seasons, the Dirty 30 go-round of MTV’s The Challenge introduced a slew of new elements and a massive winners’ take that more than doubled the highest before it. Instead of a grand prize now nearing $250K, one male and one female winner each took home $450K. Only, the 30 players that headed to Colombia for the big battle had no idea they were playing for such a massive purse until the masses dwindled and many an all-star player had been sent packing. Here, EW learns what kind of toll that took on the man keeping that secret — host TJ Lavin — and how he felt about making that epic revelation.

Click here for more Best of 2017 (Behind the Scenes) stories.

The dust may have settled on The Challenge: XXX — and we may have already sat through three hours of reunion and aftershow — but fans still have a few pressing questions about what all went down on the milestone outing. And those questions double when it comes to Dirty 30 host TJ Lavin, who taunted the audience maniacally throughout the season about the fact that the players had no idea they were really playing for a piece of a $1 million pie.

Before the year could come to a close, we got the quitter-hating host on the horn to clear up a few of those lingering head-scratchers.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I confess, not seeing you live in person at the finish line for this Challenge was really unusual. Why weren’t you there for the final?
TJ LAVIN: I was actually a firefighter in Las Vegas. I was trying to get on the fire department for four years and I finally got on it. [The final] was at the exact same time as the boot camp for the fire department, so I had to do it. It was all agreed to before I went and then, all of a sudden, plans changed when we were [in Colombia] and the show got longer… I was like, “Dude, I have to go.” So they were like, “Okay, cool. Go do the fire department thing real quick and see how it works out.” So I did and it turns out I’m a better TV host.

Oh no! I’m sorry to hear that.
It’s something that I thought I wanted to do. I’m very glad that I did what I did but it was super militaristic and I’m not that guy. I didn’t know what to expect. I felt very bad for being there, but I tried my hardest…. It was a good experience and I’m very glad that I did it, but now, I’m very glad to be back where I’m at with the show. So it’s all good.

Talk to me about keeping the million-dollar secret. Was that always the prize, or was that part of the plans that changed?
I kinda knew all along [the season] was pretty heavy. I know they knew, but they didn’t tell me until about halfway through maybe. I’m glad they didn’t tell me, because that was a very hard thing to just keep under wraps. I mean, I would’ve done it easy, but you never know if you slip something out, if you’re just like, “’cause this is for a million bucks, bro!” I don’t think I would’ve done that, but you never know. I don’t want to have that kind of stress.

Thankfully, there weren’t any quitters this season, except for maybe Ashley Mitchell in the beginning.
She had some personal stuff she had to take care of I guess, so I didn’t give her a hard time.

But I imagine the quitter lectures would’ve been especially rough if it had been on a million dollars.
Dude, if you walk out on a hundred bucks, I’m mad. But if you walk out on a million bucks, I’ll just think you’re stupid.

Did you enjoy shooting those scripted “I have a secret” moments?
I kinda did like that! It was pretty fun, I can’t lie. My friend Danny, he’s the guy that did the story and he’s the guy that came up with that and so it was pretty fun. His name is Danny Wascou — he’s the story guy for Bunim-Murray. He was super into it and that got me into it.

Why do you love the trivia challenge so much?
I’ve gotta be honest, this season, I didn’t love the trivia challenge that much [on Dirty 30] because I couldn’t see the fall [from where I was] and that’s everything. If you see the fall, that makes the trivia challenge awesome, because if somebody hits the water a little bit funny, they get punched in the face by Mike Tyson, that’s hilarious to me. Because they’re not really hurt, they’re just buzzing and they recover quick.

If you were to pick any challenge that was good and that was funny to me, it’s when either somebody’s really, really mad, but it keeps happening to them – that’s hilarious. They have a temper tantrum, like Camila kept getting whacked into the pole last season by her team. That to me was hilarious. She kept telling them to stop doing it and they just kept doing it and she would get so mad and scream her head off and cuss and everything – that to me is super funny. So I loved it. And then the only thing funnier than that is when somebody crashes into the water however they fall in and are just like buzzin’ when they got out.

Have you ever thought about hosting a game show?
I have. I’m totally interested in doing something like that, sure. But The Challenge is where I belong, for sure. That’s where I need to be. I have a lot of fun when we’re doing a studio game shows. You’ll see this season there’s one and it’s pretty funny.

Is that why you’re wearing a suit in the promo? Is that the trivia challenge?
Yep, that’s it.

Was it weird to be wearing a suit on The Challenge?
Yes, very weird. I don’t really wear suits too often, so it’s pretty funny.

What do you think when people get the answer wrong and it’s physically right in front of them – like the flag?
It’s crazy, but I really understand it. I get it. When there’s pressure, it adds a whole new element, and their pressure is them crashing into the water from 35 feet up, and it’s high. When somebody says they jumped off a 35-foot cliff, it’s usually about 5 feet and they think it’s 35. But if you legitimately jumped off a 35-foot cliff, you’d probably say that it was 50.

Has there been any questions you thought were too hard or mean? Have you ever passed on a question out of sympathy?
I don’t think so. I might’ve substituted a question in there, like snuck in a UFC question or something and then everybody was like, what’s that? Or maybe a BMX question once or twice.

Do you ever try out any of the challenges?
I did back in the day, but they now say that I can’t. Sometimes there’s a thing that you really physically cannot get hurt at, so I’ll try that out.

What was one of your favorite elimination challenges in Dirty 30?
I liked when they had to smash up through the walls and had chains on their ankles and they had to climb up and smash going up. But the Bananas versus Derrick one with the hamster wheel was awesome too.

Are there any former players who haven’t been on a Challenge in several years that you really miss?
I really would love to see Mark Long on another Challenge. I think he definitely deserves to be back. He’s awesome and he’s a fun guy. And I really do miss Diem. She was just such a good, bright spot in these Challenges. And to say I don’t miss Knight, that would be lying. He was such a good time as well. His personality, so happy-go-lucky, he was such a cool guy.

The Challenge: Vendettas premieres Tuesday, Jan. 2, at 9 p.m. on MTV.

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seasons
27
Genre
Reality
Status
In Season
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