How to build the perfect season of The Challenge
We wouldn’t throw these twists into an elimination.
The Challenge pulled the rug out from under the players competing on Total Madness in the best way.
The latest season of the long-running competition reality series introduced the "red skull," a twist that forced the players to rethink how they play the game. To qualify for the season’s final, they must obtain a red skull, which can only be done by winning an elimination. No more coasting to the final or fighting to stay out of an elimination. They cannot play scared or play it safe.
With the red skulls, The Challenge has given the franchise its latest twist. Over the seasons, there have been awful twists (hello, The Island) and others, like the red skull, that shifted the game in a thrilling way.
Here’s all the other twists that we love as much as our new friend, the red skull. All of them made their seasons better, so a combination of them would result in the best Challenge – the perfect season, if you will.
Some recent seasons of The Challenge partnered contestants based on feuds or past relationships, but the show found success splitting them up into larger groups in the past. The challengers on Infernos 2 and 3 were split into Teams Good Guys and Bad Asses, while Teams Champions and Challengers competed against one another on The Ruins.
Betting on exes, rivals, and vendettas to create drama is a safe bet, but bigger groups can be just as exciting. Whether it’s Wes fighting with the entire Champions team or "The Mean Girls" of The Inferno II, an assortment of these reality stars can deliver romantic drama, rivalries, and much more. Better yet, the combo offers action viewers don’t expect because the conflict isn’t built-in.
In the present, a Bad Asses team could include Challenge "villains" Paulie, Johnny Bananas, Amanda, and Jemmye. Now that’d be an explosive mess.
Secret Ballot Voting
Voting is a constant source of drama on The Challenge, but votes cast in secret bring a different brand of excitement. During Final Reckoning, the pairs voted secretly, providing something new to the long-running series. Most seasons, contestants, usually a veteran, throw out the first vote, and people hop on the bandwagon unless they have a brewing rivalry with someone or the person getting the votes is a known ally. Or someone casts a burn vote knowing the person won’t have enough votes to go into elimination, unless your name is Britni and you mess that up.
Voting in secret gives everyone a chance to vote how they actually want. Plan with your alliance or do your own thing, the choice is up to them without intimidation or pressure, and that’s refreshing. Also, without a public vote casting burn votes gets complicated, challenging, and has resulted in mistakes on several occasions. A prime example: Kam’s elaborate mastermind plan, Sylvia’s tears and all.
With long-held alliances and rookies always being thrown into eliminations, some players can skate by on The Challenge, but purge challenges are an equalizer. It's simple: if you're one of the losers, you go home. No politics or maneuvering a "weaker" player into an elimination against you.
Everyone must depend on their own ability during a purge if they want to stay in the game, or stay out of a redemption house. It’s a simple way to shake things up in a competition where some rely too heavily on their social game.
A Sole Winner
When Cara Maria was the sole winner of Vendettas, she felt the accomplishment of crossing that finish line on her own steam. When teams or a pair win there's often talk about who carried the team or the person who was dead weight, often from the people who did not win or make it to the final. Having one winner raising the stakes for the season and gives one player the ability to confidently say they were the reasons for their prize.
Dirty 30 introduced the double-cross and made eliminations more thrilling. When a challenger pulled the double-cross, not only were they safe from the elimination, but they got to send a fellow losing player in against whoever the winners threw in. Unlike the skull pulling off Rivals III, the double-cross allowed for the shocking moments and ruthless moves to continue through to the end of the episode.
Earning a Ticket to The Oasis
The challengers of Invasion of the Champions were happy to not see the faces of Challenge mainstays like Johnny Bananas until they learned they’d have to earn their way into their luxury accommodations. With each challenge or elimination win, they would earn a ticket to "The Oasis" and keep themselves in the game.
Like the red skull twist, this twist forced players to try to win a challenge and even go into an elimination to move forward. Some players don’t like to draw attention to themselves by winning or making big moves early on.
Adding an early stage twist starts the season with electric energy and doesn’t have to build as the season goes along.
Kam’s elaborate Final Reckoning plan being messed up by mercenaries is a prime example of what makes this twist a keeper. Known as both the heavy hitters and mercenaries twists, strong players return to face players in the elimination, most of the time to just compete and, on a few occasions, take their place. Plus, it's a nice way for players you hadn't been seen in a while to make an appearance.
Having ruthless, elimination-winning challengers pop in and shakes things up, potentially send more people home than anyone anticipated, and there’s a chance for epic elimination battles. Case in point: The epic showdown between challenger Joss and mercenary Derrick.
On both seasons of The Duel, the players going into an elimination were chosen gym-class style. One man and one woman were left and they could choose to go against anyone, except the winners of the main challenge.
The last player on the field can pick whoever they want, someone they think they can beat or a huge competitor in an effort to shake up the game. Other formats narrow down the options to a select few, allowing well-allied players to keep themselves safe. But with this feature of the game, you have to win to ensure your own safety.
Winner Takes All
Johnny Bananas shook the world of The Challenge when he took the money from his partner Sarah on Rivals III, giving the season one last-minute shocking dramatic twist. Ashley did the same because of her toxic Final Reckoning partnership with Hunter. The twist delivers some dramatic moments and makes for a deliciously awkward reunion. Through alliances, eliminations rounds, and ruined friendships, the challengers make cutthroat movies to get to the final. Why make the very end of the seasons any different?
The Challenge airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on MTV.