The Challenge: All Stars 2 recap: 2 legends fall before the final begins
If you would have asked me at the start of this season who would be in the final for The Challenge: All Stars 2, I'm not going to lie, I would not have predicted this lineup of players. Because the one team I thought was not only a sure thing for the final but also potentially going to win the whole game was sent home in this week's episode — in the last elimination of the season, no less. Talk about a massive twist! So before we find out who wins this season in next week's final, let's recap the penultimate episode.
After their elimination win in last week's episode, Melinda has now made her first final, Nehemiah has made his second, and Teck knows he'll be in it too if Nehemiah/Melinda or he/Ayanna wins this next daily. But everyone else in the house is totally sick of the Kings Palace (and their annoyingly catchy theme song) so if those teams don't win, expect to see Teck and Ayanna in this last elimination.
And everyone who isn't Nehemiah and Melinda is feeling the pressure to get past this elimination and into the final. But Janelle is also feeling a lot of pain — it turns out she's been dealing with a serious back injury since 2014 and it got aggravated during the last daily during all those high jumps into the cenote. She can't even sleep because she's in so much pain, and she admits if this was an individual game, she would have already quit. So far she's been keeping it a secret from everyone, including her own partner Darrell, but it might be time to come clean. We've all seen how a player keeping a medical issue secret from their partner has already screwed over their partner this season. And I don't want to see Darrell go the way of Cohutta — I'm still not over his exit. Don't even get me started.
The Challenge: Make the Connection
For the last daily of the season, TJ makes a big announcement: For the first time in Challenge history, we're using three semi-trucks ... I guess that's a big deal! Okay! Sure! Three trucks, cool!
Teams start on the truck in the middle and when the horn blows, they jump to the smaller trucks driving past on the side (one player goes to the right, the other player goes to the left) where they each have to untie knots on four boxes to retrieve four keys that unlock a bigger box that holds their final key. Both players must then jump back onto the moving middle truck with those two keys, climb up the ladder, unlock the final box, retrieve the idol inside, and place that on the podium. It sounds complicated but it's mostly just running back and forth on moving trucks and untying knots and unlocking a lot of locks. The real issue is time because the smaller trucks will drive off after three minutes. And if a player becomes stranded or if they don't finish the entire relay in time, they're DQed. The fastest team goes straight to the final and the slowest team goes straight to the arena. Since this daily relies on both players to get the job done, everyone has to do their part, so I like that this is the last challenge of the season.
Darrell and Janelle go first — and she still hasn't told her partner about her injury. But she pushes through her pain and even finishes before Darrell! He ends up struggling with his final lock and can't open it before the three minutes are up, so he jumps back to the middle truck knowing that he just DQed their team. I'm really proud of Janelle for not only giving it her best but also showing up Darrell, all while in pain.
Nehemiah and Melinda are next, and Melinda struggles with her knots while Nehemiah flies through. But they both grab their keys and their idol, and place it on the podium just in time. Everyone thinks they just won, and Nehemiah and Melinda are celebrating, but there are still three more teams to go. It's not a done deal.
Team "Brodi" is next and Brad and Jodi both can't figure out the knots. Jodi freaks out and Brad hulks out, ripping the top of the boxes clean off rather than untying them. I guess that's one way to do it but this has got to be an automatic DQ right there. And Jodi only gets three of the four locks undone, so either way, they're tied with Darrell/Janelle for the bottom right now. Nehemiah calls it out perfectly: Jodi and Brad are a peak physical team with lots of muscles and athleticism, but their weakness? Anything requiring just a little bit of thinking. Yikes.
Jonna and MJ go next, and they keep their cool from the start, ripping through the knots and unlocking the keys like it's nothing. Jonna finishes first when MJ is only on his third key. He finally opens his big box but he's just a few seconds too late, and he is yanked off the truck. They were so close!
The last team to go is Teck and Ayanna, and while he jokes they're like a married couple, Ayanna says they might "make a baby" today. So … that's where this team is at! Ayanna calls on her grandfather, "the king of all things that had to do with keys," for help with her locks and I guess it works because she finishes and returns to the middle truck on time. But unfortunately, Teck does not, and he DQs their team. So I guess Nehemiah and Melinda's premature celebration was earned.
After the daily ends, TJ congratulates all the women for smashing this challenge because they all did better than their male partners. You absolutely love to see it! Nehemiah and Melinda are the clear winners as they were the only team to finish. As for the losing team, "hulk smashing the equipment does not get you the win," so Brad and Jodi are going straight into the last elimination before the final — a place that Brad knows well by now (I think this is his third). And with Nehemiah and Melinda in power and in control of the final Life Shield, that means Teck/Ayanna are safe and Jodi and Brad will have to go against their own alliance with either Darrell/Janelle or MJ/Jonna as their elimination opponents. This is a huge win for the Kings Palace at the most crucial moment of the season.
This also means Nehemiah and Melinda have nothing to do since the only two teams left (after they use the Life Shield on Teck and Ayanna) to put on the board are Darrell/Janelle and MJ/Jonna. Easy enough. Now the drama comes from who is going to politic the hardest for Teck and Ayanna's vote, so Jonna immediately goes to work trying to convince Ayanna to vote for Darrell/Janelle.
Meanwhile, Janelle finally tells Darrell about her injury and he gets extremely frustrated. She says she can't jeopardize her career outside of the game and mess up her back even more — and she admits she's not in any position to run a final right now. But Darrell points out they don't know how the final will even work — it might be run individually! — and if she quits now she's ruining his chances of continuing. This is the most upset I've seen Darrell in … quite a long time. And I feel for him too because this is the worst news to receive from your partner when you've come this far. The final is almost here, you can't quit now!
For this deliberation, only Teck and Ayanna get a vote. But if they can't agree and it's a tie between Darrell/Janelle and MJ/Jonna, then Nehemiah and Melinda will break the tie — and with the number of times we hear that rule explained, you know it's coming down to a tie.
Janelle decides not to be "selfish" and doesn't say anything about quitting or her back injury during the deliberation, so it's all up to Ayanna and Teck now. Ayanna says she's basing her vote on who she thinks "wants it just as bad as Brad and Jodi" and "who can match what they have," so she votes Darrell/Janelle. But Teck votes for MJ/Jonna solely to keep his hands clean and put the power back in Nehemiah/Melinda's hands. Boring! Nehemiah and Melinda vote for Darrell/Janelle because they know Darrell is the best player here, and putting him against other strong players boosts the odds of him losing. It's absolutely the smart play, even if I am sad to see one of these top-tier teams go home before the final. I'd rather see all the best players duke it out in the final rather than one or two solid teams going against a bunch of people who are unprepared and will gas out. That doesn't make good TV.
But here we are! This means MJ and Jonna join Nehemiah, Melinda, Teck, and Ayanna in the final, and Brad/Jodi and Darrell/Janelle are going to battle it out for the last remaining spot. Jonna tearfully thanks Nehemiah for saving her, but he only did it because Darrell/Janelle pose the bigger threat in the final. Despite his reasons, Jonna has now made her second final in a row without having to see an elimination which says a lot about her impressive social and political game.
Meanwhile, Janelle tells Darrell she's going to stick this out until the bitter end and will give it her all in this elimination, which he's relieved to hear so they hug it out. And Darrell reads letters from his wife and kids that he was saving for the day before the final and he breaks down in tears over seeing a photo of him and grandma. He decides to take the photo with him to the elimination for luck.
Elimination challenge: Smash House. Walking into the arena, it's immediately clear that this is the elimination from Battle of the Bloodlines where teams have to smash furniture and fit it all into a tiny slot (shout out to Abe and his rage nosebleed!). But there's a small variation this time that makes it easier on the women since the men smash the furniture and fit it all through a six-inch hole, and then the women smash that rubble into smaller pieces in the next room over to fit into a three-inch hole. At the end of 10 minutes, the team who got more through the second, smaller hole into a bucket wins (measured by weight). This is all physical which is great news for Brad and Jodi — and bad news for Janelle's back, but at least her job in this one is less strenuous. No matter what happens, we're going to get a great show!
When the horn blows, Brad goes straight for the cinder blocks, smashing them in front of the hole to get the heaviest weight first and in a strategic spot. He even drops some cinder blocks on Jodi's face by accident in the heat of the moment. Meanwhile, Darrell just starts smashing the cinder blocks where they stand and there's debris flying everything. Janelle doesn't even bother smashing what Darrell gives her since the pieces are already small enough to fit through, so she just keeps it moving.
Up on the sidelines, all the teams are split on who they want to win because no matter what the outcome is, they know these are two solid teams who are each as likely to beat them all in a final (they don't know about Janelle's injury yet). Pretty soon Darrell starts to feel tired but Brad doesn't look like he's breaking a sweat. But Jodi doesn't hear anyone cheering for her, only for Janelle, which rattles her, and she has to break down what Brad gives her which takes more energy than what Janelle's doing. Both teams seem to be neck and neck, so it's going to be a close race.
In the final minute, both teams pick up the pace, throwing cinder blocks everywhere. Janelle is in pain, and some of her blocks don't make it into her bucket which could cost her and Darrell. When the horn blows, the teams leave their boxes to await their fate. After both buckets are weighed twice, TJ announces they were only separated by 2 lbs which means if Darrell/Janelle lose, it's because of those few pieces that bounced out. But it doesn't matter because Darrell and Janelle actually beat Brad and Jodi!
I'm absolutely gutted at this outcome. As much as I want to see Darrell finally receive his long-awaited fifth win, Brad and Jodi were actually the bigger threat in the final due to Janelle's injury. With these two strong physical players out of the game, that actually evens up the playing field for everyone else. Darrell can only do so much if he's held back by an injured player for all the running we know is coming. It's also brutal to see Brad and Jodi go home after winning the majority of the dailies this season. There's always a lot of talk about who "deserves" to be in the final, and if there was any team who actually deserved the win this season it's Jodi and Brad. This is a heartbreaking loss. But I guess the final is going to be a lot more of a battle now so maybe that's a good thing? I don't know, I keep going back and forth!
While everyone else is ready to celebrate making the final, TJ smashes all their assumptions by revealing the final starts … right now. No time to sleep, no rest for Darrell and Janelle, no break from the drama. It's time to head to the beach to get started! Does this mean the final begins with an overnight challenge?
Challenger of the week: Janelle for pushing through the pain and not quitting, because I would not have survived watching Darrell be forced to leave the game. Not that way. Not again.
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