The Challenge: All Stars premiere recap: Welcome (back) to The Challenge
It's been over 20 years since some of these players competed on The Challenge, but whose return was cut short in the first elimination in "Legends Never Die?"
It's been (multiple!) decades since most of these Real World/Road Rules Challenge and The Challenge players have last graced our screens (Ace! Alton! Beth! Katie! Kendal! Laterrian! Ruthie! Yes!). And it's been almost a year since veteran Mark Long began his "We Want OGs" campaign. So to say that expectations are high for the inaugural season of The Challenge: All Stars would be a massive understatement. And that means it's likely to be a letdown after all this hype and anticipation, right?
Thankfully, fellow Challenge fans, I am beyond thrilled to inform you all that The Challenge: All Stars is everything we wanted — and more. At least, based on the season premiere alone. It's nostalgic. It's entertaining for new and old fans alike. It's got all the production value of new seasons of The Challenge mixed with the legendary faces that started this franchise. And what's most shocking is that it's downright hilarious. Producers didn't just throw these aged-up reality TV vets into crazy challenges and a Real World-style, hard-partying setting and let the cameras roll. They also went in and edited the s--- out of it to play up the comedy of seeing these aged-up reality TV vets trying to accomplish what their bodies used to be able to do in a game that's evolved past their wildest dreams (er, make that nightmares). And despite some of these players being eligible for their AARP membership, they're all here to party like it's 1999.
And just like in regular seasons of The Challenge (including the currently still airing Double Agents), I'm here to recap it all for you. Whether you want a deeper analysis of what you just watched or you don't have a Paramount+ streaming account, check back here each week for my rundown on all the action, fights, best/worst moments, eliminations, and more. And don't miss my weekly exit interviews with the unlucky souls who get booted! The next nine weeks are going to be full of blasts from the past.
The premiere opens with some badass intros for some of the most impressive (and controversial) players, laying out their stats, giving Mark a chance to flex, and then a record scratch, fall-out-of-the-bus moment from Jisela changes up the tone entirely, showing that this season is bringing enough laughs to match the testosterone-fueled rivalries. It's like the best of both worlds with the new school level of competition mixed with the old school fun they used to have on this show.
But having a great, funny personality isn't going to secure the top prize, because as TJ welcomes all these OGs back to The Challenge, he also reveals that only one person is going to win half a million dollars. And this season is an individual game, so it's time to see who really is the best of the best (or at least the best of the favorite OGs). Most of these players haven't competed for this kind of prize — they're from the days when prizes were a T Mobile Sidekick or car speakers. I'm psyched to see what a sum this large does to these already cutthroat players. Ace puts it best: "Back in my day, the stakes weren't this high. These people before would kill each other for a scooter. I don't know what they're going to do for half a million dollars."
When the cast arrives at their decked-out Argentinian mansion, Beth does what she does best and plays up some of her old connections, calling Nehemiah "Tenderoni" and wanting to be his cuddle buddy... even though it's been 13 years since they last were on a show together. She knows exactly why she's here — to live up to her quote that's literally plastered on the wall behind her: "I don't kiss ass, I kick ass, and if you don't watch it, I'll kick your ass." God, I really missed Beth.
Seeing all these players back together again under one roof, drinking and goofing around, made me so happy. Nostalgia may be a cheap crowdpleaser but damn does it work!
The Challenge: Deep Blue Dive
The premiere just gets better and better with each passing minute. You thought the intros and first night were fun? Just wait until you see them finally compete in the challenge! The OGs are thrown into the deep end quite literally for their first daily and it more than delivered.
Played in randomly selected teams (11 vs. 11), players must solve math equations and swim to retrieve the corresponding answers on block puzzle pieces chained underwater in a gorgeous lake. The bigger the number, the further out and deeper it'll be chained underwater. Everyone must go out to retrieve a piece at least once, and if someone can't successfully bring it in, they can tag someone else in — for a five-minute time penalty. The first team to successfully solve the final equation using all the puzzle pieces in the least amount of time, wins. Sounds simple enough, right? Add in the fact that the water is freezing cold, the dives are deeper, and the puzzle pieces are heavier, and you've got the makings for an incredible first daily. These vets don't know what they're in for.
And there's a twist: each team selects a male and female captain, and the captains of the winning team will have some kind of power in the game. The captains of the losing team… will get some kind of punishment. Laterrian and KellyAnne step up for the Copper Team, and Jisela and Teck step up for the Silver Team.
As the challenge begins, the Copper Team takes the lead with Alton going into the water first while the Silver Team struggles with the first math equation. Beth kills it on the math but comes back immediately on the swim, earning a time penalty for her team. And then Darrell accidentally brings in the other team's puzzle piece, earning another time penalty for the Silver Team. And then Trishelle doesn't even try to swim, getting yet another five minutes for the Silver Team. Meanwhile, the Copper Team is looking for the wrong number, giving Silver the chance to get their first puzzle piece (nice job, Jisela!). Kellyanne finally comes in with the Copper Team's first time penalty.
Arissa gets a cramp and is helped back to shore with another time penalty for Silver. Copper gets another penalty when Jonna requests the safety team to bring her back to shore. Teck doesn't even try to dive down, earning Silver another five minutes. Even Ruthie gets a time penalty! At this point all my hopes for some of these former badasses are flying out the window faster than you can say "another five minute time penalty." In a normal season, I'd be getting frustrated watching all of these players fail. But on All Stars, it's hysterical. Because they're all leaning into the old grandma/grandpa stereotypes, making fun of themselves before anyone else can!
Meanwhile, Kendal gets a penalty, and then Yes finally gets Silver team's second puzzle piece with a ferocious fist in the air. Big Easy actually gets his piece, subverting everyone's expectations of him! … and then a few seconds later, he requests the safety team to tow him back to shore. This effin' guy. Syrus gets a time penalty. Jemmye actually gets a Silver piece! She even says that while she used to treat The Challenge like a big party, she came here this season to win, and she's already showing her dedication to the cause. Mark gets a piece, but is also ridiculously out of breath and is shocked at how heavy the pieces are. Laterrian, Copper Team captain, almost drowns ("I look like a f---in' punk") and gets a time penalty. Darrell gets the right piece this time, Katie gets a penalty, and at this point, I've completely lost all sense of which team is getting each time penalty. This is actually going to come down to who got the least penalties, huh? Jisela, Yes, Nehemiah, and Darrell continue to get more pieces for Silver, while Copper falls apart. And thanks to Yes' math skills, the Silver Team finishes their final equation and wins, putting everyone out of their misery. I think the medical team got more of a workout during this challenge than the actual players did.
After the daily, TJ announces this is a male elimination week, so that means Teck (male captain of the winning team) is the only guy safe. And Jisela (female captain of the winning team) receives… the Life Saver. That's right — the Life Saver is back! (For newer fans, the Life Saver is a relic from many seasons ago and gives the holder the power to save someone from elimination, a.k.a. a chance to change up the entire game.) As for the losing team captains, Laterrian will automatically be going into elimination, and everyone else will vote to nominate his opponent from either team.
Back at the house, Laterrian isn't sweating going into elimination because he's confident that he won't be the first sent home. No matter who he goes up against, I'd put money on Laterrian coming back, even after all these years. He wants Ace as his opponent, on the sole basis that he doesn't have a relationship with him, not because it'll be an easy win. Interesting strategy, let's see if it pays off!
Syrus kicks things off by announcing Laterrian's wishes, and Ace is immediately pissed off. Is it just me or is hearing all the players drop uncensored F-bombs such an amazing twist for this spinoff? It kind of feels like how this show should have always been. Regardless, no one else wants to rock the boat, so it looks like Ace's fate is sealed. And he's furious, calling them all evil and monsters. He also brings the laughs, telling everyone he signed up for The Real World originally because he had a "huge crush" on Beth. When everyone returns to the house, Ace doesn't even use the door — he hops through the window to his room and immediately goes to bed.
But enough drama — it's time for an appropriately-themed '90s party! And we're talking authentic '90s, because these OGs were literally '90s reality TV stars and know this decade better than anyone. Well, except for Ace, who comes dressed in his 1890's finest. The next morning, Jisela discovers that while the '90s party was fun, the 2021 hangover? Not so much! Girl, I can relate.
Heading into the first elimination, there's a lot more than half a million dollars on the line. Both Laterrian and Ace haven't competed in 18 years, and their pride would take quite the hit on being the first sent home from The Challenge: All Stars. They're both actual Challenge legends and I didn't expect this first matchup to be so big! We're really hitting the ground running and I'm sad that one of them will be sent home so soon.
The All Stars enter the elimination — named The Arena this season — for the first time, and the setting is both nostalgic and modern at the same time and badass on all accounts. It's deep in the jungle with two constructed waterfalls framing the pit. It's the perfect setting for some sure-to-be iconic headbangers.
Jisela holds the Life Saver, and in deciding whether or not to save Ace, she remembers watching Ace talk about her on a past Challenge when he said, "She's dead weight, cut it, let her go," so his past is coming back to haunt him in a big way. These players know how to hold a grudge!
Elimination challenge: Pole wrestle. That's right, the producers are pulling out all the headbanger classics for All Stars! First to win two out of three rounds, wins. "Tonight is Pole Wrestle … f--- you guys," Ace says with a laugh. Meanwhile, Laterrian cracks a smile for the first time all episode when he realizes how physical this elimination is. I think we all know where this is going.
The first round begins with an actual bang, as the two massive guys hit the ground and wrestle with gusto. It's fierce, and Laterrian literally picks up Ace and slams him to the ground on his back, getting the pole away for the first point. In the second round, Ace goes to the ground again, but Laterrian stays on his feet and continuously picks him up and slams him on the ground on his back, over and over and over again. Ace hangs on for a while in an impressive showing of pain endurance, but ultimately Laterrian gets the second point, winning the elimination and sending Ace home first.
Ace walks out of The Arena as the rest of the cast chants his name and TJ thanks him for showing up, giving him props for being a true OG legend. He may be the first one eliminated this season but he's more than earned the title of All Star, both in the past and his short run this season. I still can't believe we just saw Ace compete on The Challenge in 2021. And if All Stars continues at this rate, we're in for a wild ride over the next two months.
All Star of the week: Jisela for shocking everyone and kicking ass in the first challenge when all of the more in-shape, "physical beast" contestants couldn't hack it in the cold water.