The Challenge: All Stars 2 recap: The saga of the stolen Greek salad
One of the (many!) reasons why The Challenge: All Stars has been so hilarious to watch over the course of two seasons is how it proves that age ain't nothing but a number, and despite how much older and more mature these old school Challenge OGs have gotten since we last saw them on TV, they're still just as wildly petty and immature as ever when the cameras turn back on. And in this week's episode of All Stars 2, the biggest drama started over... a Greek salad. Let's recap, shall we?
Back at the house post-non-elimination, the Kings Palace alliance is up to their old tricks, singing their theme song, toasting with some champagne over not having to compete in an elimination, and generally excluding everyone else from their celebrating and alliance — Nehemiah literally tells Jonna to leave the room because she voted him in. It's like they've learned nothing, even after producers gave them a miracle save last week! Jonna is done taking things personally, but everyone who is not in the Kings Palace — a.k.a. the entire other half of the house — knows where the line has been drawn. And it's all-out war now. The deciding factor on which side will win is whoever wins this next daily and has the power to put the other side into elimination against each other. And despite the producers clearly favoring the Kings Palace, this is anyone's game right now. The stakes have never been higher!
But all is not copacetic in the Kings Palace, because Teck knows he has a big challenge ahead of him in keeping his partner Ayanna cool. That's no easy task based on how Ayanna's acted so far in the house and during challenges this season. She's a clear elimination threat on her own, but can she be a strong team player with him? Is she going to be the vulnerable spot in the Kings Palace's defenses?
Meanwhile on the other side, Jonna and MJ are feeling closer than ever as partners and they're feeling confident as a team. Jonna thinks she can even beat Jodi in a final, so she's not even considering trying to take out someone from their own side. They're fully focused on getting their people to the end, and that means someone on their side has to win this daily to ensure their own safety.
The Challenge: Dive and Conquer
It's time to see if everyone's confidence is well-earned, because this week's challenge is a mini-final! I love these kinds of challenges because it absolutely makes it clear who is ready and capable of running a final and who is just talk. A lot of these so-called "All Stars" have never even seen what a final looks like these days on The Challenge — some of them have never even made a final before at all! — so a lot of them are in for a rude awakening.
For this mini-final, teams must run half a mile to a cenote (i.e. a giant open cave filled with water), jump in the water, and swim to an answer key. After memorizing the answer key, they will then swim and run back to solve the puzzle at the starting line. And since TJ says he'll be shocked if any teams solve it on the first try, they're allowed to run back and forth as many times as they need to memorize all the pieces and solve it correctly — but it's a mile run round trip and they're trying to solve it the fastest because the team with the best time wins. And the team that finishes slowest goes straight into elimination, no matter who it is because thankfully there's no Life Shield this week due to the canceled elimination last week.
The horn blows and all the pairs race off on the narrow dirt path, tethered together by a small piece of braided rope. Jodi is the first to trip and fall on the rough terrain, but she's okay so she gets right back up and continues on with Brad. And of course, as one of the biggest threats to win, they're the first team to arrive at the cenote. Tensions are high because everyone knows how crucial it is to not only avoid last place but also to secure the only safe spot by coming in first. But everyone is shocked at how detailed this puzzle of colorful cow skulls is, and they quickly realize they're going to have to take multiple trips just like TJ warned.
Laterrian and Jasmine are the last to the cenote, and Jasmine immediately freaks out about the jump into the water. This is a shorter jump than the last cenote water challenge, come on Jasmine! He tries to support her while also trying to push her in, and she finally jumps in and they swim on. MJ and Jonna figure out a strategy to only memorize where certain colors are rather than all the various colors of each individual skull, and we'll see if that pays off.
Everyone except for Laterrian and Jasmine gets out of the cenote to run back to attempt to solve their puzzles. Brad and Jodi make it back first, with MJ and Jonna second, Nehemiah and Melinda third, and Darrell and Janelle in fourth. Ayanna and Teck arrive in fifth, and she's freaking out about having to use her memory since it's not a skill of hers. And as Laterrian and Jasmine finally arrive back at the puzzle, Brad and Jodi race off for their second trip with Nehemiah and Melinda right on their heels.
At the puzzles, Ayanna gets mad at Laterrian for walking behind her station, accusing him of cheating even though he didn't even glance at her. They keep yelling back and forth and even Teck gets annoyed because hello, Laterrian is in their own alliance! It doesn't matter if he cheats off them because if he wins, they all win. But trying to calm Ayanna down when she throws one of her fits is impossible.
Eventually, everyone else leaves the puzzle stations to run back to the cenote and the mini-final continues. Jasmine is the next to trip and fall on the run, and while she gets up and continues, she feels a lot of pain in her ankle. At the cenote, Laterrian tries to help her tie her shoe tighter to give her more support but he's clearly getting frustrated. As much as I love Jasmine as an entertaining character on The Challenge, it's tough seeing her continue to get paired with strong teammates because she's never been good at the actual physical challenge part of the game. In the past, it's cost Theresa and Tyler their seasons. Will she be Laterrian's downfall now?
MJ and Jonna continue to employ their strategy of focusing on single colors while Ayanna uses a pneumonic device to try and memorize the order. Every team keeps going back and forth to the cenote and the puzzles, and it gets difficult to tell who is in the lead. Darrell starts to get frustrated with Janelle, who is cheating off MJ and Jonna's board, because as Darrell points out, they don't know if the other teams have it right — they could be cheating with the wrong answer and making their own puzzle worse.
Back at the cenote, Jodi and Brad's stomachs drop when they realize the skulls have different colors in the horns as well and they haven't been paying attention to that, which means their entire board could be wrong and they have to start over. That's a huge mistake to realize this far into the challenge! Jodi starts to freak out but Brad, to his credit, does his best to keep a level head to figure out how to fix their mistake. At the puzzles, meanwhile, MJ and Jonna only have four pieces left to finish, so they make what they hope is their final run to the cenote. Nehemiah and Melinda are the first to call for a check, but their results are incorrect — and Melinda doesn't even know where to begin in looking for their mistake. Jasmine starts moving around pieces they already laid down, so Laterrian starts to freak out, and Ayanna is slowly losing her mind under the pressure as she and Teck continue to argue.
Finally MJ and Jonna call for a check — and their puzzle is completely right. That means MJ and Jonna win! Sorry to the Kings Palace, as their alliance is going yet another week without a daily win and without having any power in the game. Now all that matters is figuring out the loser.
Darrell and Janelle are the next to call for a check and they're right, leaving only the Kings Palace teams and one non-Kings Palace team left: Brad and Jodi. Nehemiah and Melinda finish next, and Laterrian/Jasmine and Brad/Jodi both call for a check but neither are correct. While Laterrian and Jasmine argue about how they're going to proceed, Brad and Jodi calmly keep their heads down, make the run again, come back, fix their mistakes, and finally finish. Then Ayanna and Teck finish as well, which puts Laterrian and Jasmine straight into elimination.
Back at the house, Jonna and MJ are very deservedly feeling great over their major victory at a crucial point in the season, while Jasmine is in tears over her performance, not only from this challenge but all season long. She's questioning her All Star title, knowing she's not the best at the physical, social, or political game. She says she always has heart, but doesn't know if that's enough anymore. This is just heartbreaking because, like I said earlier, I've always loved seeing Jasmine on the show because she's hilarious and makes life in the house interesting, but she's never been known for more than that. To see her acknowledging that, even if is self-aware (and players who are self-aware are always my favorite no matter where their skills lay!), is a brutal moment and I really feel for her.
At the winners meeting, Jonna is questioning whether or not to make the bold, vindictive move of targeting their own alliance members Brad/Jodi and Darrell/Janelle, despite how they've been carried all season by them. And MJ is feeling offended by how cocky Brad is about how he thinks he's going to win the final. While MJ jokes about putting one of those teams on the board (and with the way he deadpanned while saying it, I actually believed him!), they know their best option is sticking with their alliance because they don't know if there will be another elimination and they can't risk putting the target on their own backs this late in the game. So of course, they put the rest of the Kinds Palace on the board: Nehemiah/Melinda and Teck/Ayanna.
That night, everyone parties and has a great time out by the pool. After everyone calls it a night, Ayanna gets mad at how much trash was left outside, and she starts to clean up. But she keeps yelling out things like, "Privileged babies!" while doing it, so it's less a selfless act and more of a martyr situation. And it sounds like she threw out Jodi's Greek salad, and when Jodi asked where it went, Ayanna called Jodi "privileged" too — just because she was trying to find her dinner? Jodi relays what happened to her room upstairs, and Jasmine goes on a rant about how they're all sick and tired of Ayanna's behavior in the house. So Jasmine goes downstairs to try and calmly talk to Ayanna, and Ayanna won't even let her get a word in.
Props to Jasmine for trying to address the situation in a mature manner, but Ayanna keeps throwing her tantrum so Jasmine is forced to escalate. I'd be frustrated too if someone refused to speak like an adult! Ayanna, meanwhile, thinks Jasmine is showing her "insecurity" and this means she's "scared" of Ayanna. Uh, sure? Not sure how that relates! At this point, everyone is laughing at Ayanna and even her own partner Teck is fed up with how she's acting. His two cents? If she ruins his chance at winning $500,000, then: "F--- you!"
After MJ points out how this decision was a "no brainer" because of the alliances, Melinda argues that she's a positive energy in the house and has never called out anyone out for being "privileged," so she shouldn't be voted in. And then hilariously, while Teck grins beside Ayanna, she says, in a very rehearsed way, "Because I have an agreement with Teck, I am not going to say anything. I will pass the microphone to Teck." Clearly he had to sit her down and give her a lecture about what's best for their game after the previous night's shenanigans! But is it too late?
It actually doesn't even matter, because Jodi votes for Nehemiah and Melinda since they're her biggest competition! And while Brad votes for Ayanna and Teck due to his promise with Nehemiah, Janelle and Darrell vote for Nehemiah and Melinda, making it official. Teck and Ayanna avoid another elimination, and it's going to be Nehemiah/Melinda vs. Laterrian/Jasmine. I'm impressed with everyone who made the smart decision rather than the emotional one, because Nehemiah and Melinda are absolutely a bigger threat in this game than Teck and Ayanna.
But before everyone leaves, Ayanna makes an announcement: She ate Jodi's Greek salad. And she knew it was Jodi's. And she didn't care. She stares into Jodi's eyes and says as seriously and dramatically as she's ever said anything in her life, "Opened it up. I didn't use a fork. Ate it." This is … unhinged. Everyone starts laughing and Jodi, to her credit, just says, "Well, I paid for that so I hope you enjoyed it." And Ayanna keeps going, saying she's petty but she's "not going to Tonya Harding you." Everyone keeps laughing but Jodi thinks it's weird and creepy. Jodi tells Ayanna instead of calling her privileged she can just own up to eating someone else's food, and Ayanna keeps saying some weird stuff about how "it was about me last night." Teck doesn't even know what to do right now. He's ready to throw his own partner into elimination at this point. You can't deny how entertaining this has been but wow, there is something truly off with Ayanna. I cannot imagine living in a house with her.
Elimination challenge: Like Clockwork. One player is locked inside a glass case and will communicate different gear combinations painted on the floor of the case to the their partner who must rebuild the one correct gear formation on a table outside. Meanwhile, sand will be pouring down into the case, covering up the painted answer key, making it more difficult for the player to decipher. The first team to get the right gear formation built wins. This one is going to take a lot of patience under pressure and good communication, and it's nothing physical, so this is an even playing field for both teams.
And twist: TJ announces whoever wins this elimination will get the last Life Shield, meaning there is only one more elimination left after this. The final is almost here, and whoever wins this elimination is going straight into the final! No matter who goes home, this is a huge win for the Kings Palace because one of their teams is guaranteed a spot in the final.
As the elimination begins, both Nehemiah and Laterrian are inside the case and Melinda and Jasmine are outside. It's hard to figure out who is doing better at the start, as both teams seem to communicate well and this is going to take a lot of trial and error.
But soon it becomes clear that Laterrian is getting frustrated with the lack of physical skills needed for this, and with the sand getting in his eyes, and how he can't hear Jasmine, so she recalibrates her approach by using her "mom" voice and shows a lot of patience with him. Meanwhile, Nehemiah and Melinda keep a clear head and line of communication the whole time, and it pays off. Eventually they get the right combination and win, celebrating in a big way when they realize they're going straight to the final now. Laterrian and Jasmine are sent home with nothing but sand in their eyes and frowns on their faces.
Challenger of the week: This one goes out to MJ and Jonna for the upset of the season, winning what is perhaps the most important daily and using their power to set themselves up nicely for the last elimination before the final.
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