The Challenge: All Stars 3 recap: 2 players fall behind in the first half of the final
Warning: This article contains spoilers for episode 9 of The Challenge: All Stars 3.
I'm still more than a little annoyed after last week's cliffhanger on The Challenge: All Stars 3 because setting up two massive Pole Wrestle face-offs only to end before the eliminations began is just cruel. Thankfully seven days have finally passed (although did it feel like time moved slower than normal for everyone else?) and it's time to see the outcome of Derrick vs. Nehemiah and KellyAnne vs. Kailah before the final begins.
Thankfully we don't waste any time in getting back to the brutal dog fight between Nehemiah and Derrick, and it looks like Derrick might be gassing out which is shocking after Derrick's infamous 90-minute battle with Joss as a Mercenary on Vendettas. Nehemiah finally wrestles the pole away from Derrick, lights the fire, and wins (because remember, this Pole Wrestle is a one-and-done round).
I'm shocked at this outcome. I wonder how long this actually went for because Derrick looks totally exhausted by the end. He famously went for an hour and a half not that long ago, and now he's gassed after one round? I bet this lasted for a while. He's also clearly disappointed at his own performance as he rips off his jersey during his exit interview.
But now it's time for the women! KellyAnne and Kailah's rivalry has been building all season so this is going to be a good fight ... but TJ stops it before it even begins. "We already lost Veronica — " he starts to say, and Kailah just screams, "No!" Since Veronica was out on a medical DQ, they can't lose another woman, so this elimination is cancelled. And both women are absolutely pissed. They start screaming about how much they wanted to do this, KellyAnne throws the pole on the ground, Kailah walks out of the circle, and I'm right there with them. This matchup was perfect! Let them play it out before announcing they both are safe! We've seen that before, so why not let it happen now?! UGH. What a letdown.
Then TJ fakes everyone out by making them think they're in the final, only to throw them for a loop by revealing they've just made "the next challenge ... which starts right now." Mark and Jonna have to change out of their street clothes and into their uniforms, and then the game begins in the arena.
The Challenge: Wall of Fame
It's a nighttime challenge, y'all! TJ reveals that the wall of nostalgic photos that's been hanging in the house all season is actually super important, because for this challenge, there's a list of questions (one for each photo) and each player must answer them all. He doesn't reveal what happens for the players who get it right first — he just says you don't want to be last. Does that mean this is a purge challenge? We're right before the final so that could make sense!
The challenge begins, and some players struggle right out of the gate because they never actually looked at the wall. And since the questions are all really specific (which player is drinking, which player is sitting in a boat, etc.) and can't be easily guessed, it's going to come down to whoever looked at the photos in the house (like Jonna) vs. who didn't (sorry, Kailah).
Wes calls for a check first, and got every answer right. Nehemiah finishes next and he hugs it out with Wes in celebration. That leaves Brad and Mark for the men, and all the women still left. Jonna calls for a check next but isn't correct, and same with Mark. Pretty soon everyone keeps calling for a check but no one is right, and it's clear that they're all just guessing now.
Finally Mark gets his right, putting Brad in last place. Since he was eliminated right before the final last season, he's sweating thinking that he just got purged. And then Jonna calls for another check and is finally right, solidifying her first place finish for the women. The other three ladies start to feel the pressure, and Nia notices that Kailah's been peaking at her board, which becomes more frustrating when Kailah finishes next. Nia says that she cheated, to which Kailah argues that she can't cheat off Nia if Nia wasn't finished.
Finally KellyAnne finishes, leaving Nia in last place, adding fuel to her fire in thinking that Kailah just cheated. She goes off on how "disgusted" she is that Kailah would do something like that. But TJ says that Nia and Brad are down but not out, so there's still hope for them both — because all eight players are officially in the final! This nighttime challenge is simply what determined the order in which they're going to start the final, because it's a staggered start. That means Brad and Nia will have a lot of ground to make up when the final begins if they want to have a shot at finishing first.
Back at the house, everyone is thrilled to be in the final but Kailah and Nia immediately sit down to hash things out. Kailah says her eyes "drifted" to Nia's board but her only explanation is: "I was in a panic." Kailah then responds, "I did not get any answers from your board and even if I did, it wouldn't have mattered because I wouldn't know if yours were right or not." Then Kailah tries to appeal to Nia's emotions by saying she really values their friendship, to which Nia hilariously quips, "I just met you four weeks ago. We're not friends." The conversation ends there as Nia goes upstairs to vent to Jonna and she gets some good advice on using this moment to fuel her fire instead of letting it ruin her game like it did on Battle of the Exes 2 (when she assaulted Jordan and was kicked off the show).
Meanwhile, downstairs, Mark gets a deep tissue massage from KellyAnne where he makes a lot of interesting noises while Brad and Nehemiah watch from the kitchen (while eating popcorn ... I think literally). What an incredible, if totally unnecessary, scene to include. I loved every second of it.
The next morning, Wes and KellyAnne have a chat about how grateful Wes has been to have this experience with her even though he calls her "annoying at times." Okay! It is wild to see them back on a season together after their romance over a decade ago. This is why I love All Stars. We also get a montage of everyone talking about their past histories of finals, why they deserve to be here, why they're going to win, etc. You know the drill. The pre-final reminiscing is always the same.
That night, the four women finalists have a moment to cheers with each other where Nia is just staring daggers at Kailah, and then Wes walks in wearing nothing but tight white boxer briefs to eat a bunch of carbs. He laughs as he watches everyone drink and party all night right before a final when he plans on drinking a bunch of water, carbo loading, and getting a good night's sleep. He's not wrong on which strategy is better, but at least all four women are skinny dipping together so they'll all be struggling the same when the final begins!
The next morning, everyone suits up and flies out to San Jose Island (and Jonna goes to the bathroom in a paper bag behind the last row of seats). But they arrive to the starting line in one piece where TJ reminds them they're competing for half a million dollars. And this is a classic final structured as one long race with checkpoints along the way. Each leg of the way they'll be paired up with a member of the opposite gender for the run, but each checkpoint is played individually in a head-to-head matchup against a member of the same gender. Each run is worth points, and each checkpoint is worth points. The players with the most points win.
Now as for those stars ... it's time to finally learn what they mean! Turns out, the stars only count for the man and woman with the most, so Nehemiah and Jonna each start the final with five points each. Everyone else gets nothing. That's huge! That can potentially be the difference between winning this whole season and coming in second place. Wow. That's great for Nehemiah and Jonna, and brutal for everyone else. Plus, Jonna is starting off in first place in the race due to her win the night before, so she's really in a good spot!
Jonna and Wes take off first, then Kailah and Nehemiah, then KellyAnne and Mark, and then Nia and Brad take off last. In each pair, the men all make sure to keep a pace their partner can keep up with, but the heat starts to get to everyone pretty quickly. Wes keeps motivating Jonna to keep running, while Mark ends up slowing KellyAnne down.
Wes and Jonna make to the first checkpoint, with Nehemiah and Kailah coming in second. Now here's the downside to finishing the race part first: Jonna and Wes have to wait for whoever arrives to pick their checkpoint opponent. If Kailah and Nehemiah pick them, that's their matchup. But Kailah and Nehemiah choose to wait for other opponents, so when Mark and KellyAnne arrive in third, Mark picks Nehemiah and KellyAnne picks Kailah. That means Brad is against Wes when he arrives last, and Nia is against Jonna.
The checkpoint requires each player to unlock planks, build a raft using those planks (and the planks must be assembled in the right order, so it's a mini puzzle), paddle out and around a buoy and back to shore. The first player in each heat wins five points, and the loser gets nothing. Everyone plays at the same time, and they begin immediately. Wes is the first to assemble his raft and he gets a head start in the water, but Brad is right behind him. Jonna is the first woman in the water, but Nia is right behind her too. KellyAnne is the last to get into the water. Meanwhile Brad and Wes are locked head to head at their buoy, and Nia passes Jonna.
Nehemiah is using his one-sided oar like it's got a paddle on each side, and it's somehow working because he's the first to get back to the beach, meaning he gets five points and Mark gets nothing. Then Wes beats Brad, Nia beats Jonna, Kailah beats KellyAnne (and she stops rowing once she loses, so a boat needs to come rescue her).
After this checkpoint, Jonna and Nehemiah are still in first place thanks to their stars, but Kailah and Wes are not that far behind them in second, with Nia and Mark in third, and KellyAnne and Brad in last. And the order they finished the checkpoint determines the pairings for the next run, so the new pairs are: Nehemiah and Nia; Kailah and Wes; Mark and Jonna; and KellyAnne and Brad.
The pairs take off running at the same time, and KellyAnne and Brad arrive first to get on tandem bikes but Kailah and Wes manage to get on the bikes first to take first place. Brad ends up laying on the ground while KellyAnne gives him a quick muscle massage to help his "burning" quads, and it's not a good sign that he's gassing out this early. They eventually get on the bike in second place, with Nia and Nehemiah in third and Mark and Jonna in last. The tandem bike gives Nia and Nehemiah trouble so Mark and Jonna overtake them for third place. But pretty soon each pair struggles with the bike, and Mark and Jonna's chain ends up breaking. His bike broke the first All Stars final too so he starts to panic. Their only option is just to push it the rest of the way, and they end up in last place again.
Wes and Kailah arrive to the checkpoint first, and when KellyAnne and Brad arrive next, they choose to wait for new opponents rather than go against Wes and Kailah again. Nia and Nehemiah arrive next and Nia picks KellyAnne while Nehemiah picks Brad. Jonna and Mark arrive last, and they're automatically forced to go against Kailah and Wes.
The second checkpoint is a memory puzzle where players must race back and forth to figure out which multi-colored star in each of the four rows on their answer key is incorrect. Each incorrect star corresponds to a number which they'll then use to unlock a box. Whoever unlocks the box first in each matchup wins five points, loser gets nothing.
The checkpoint begins and Mark quickly falls behind as his leg muscles start to cramp. A lot of the puzzle/memory-challenged players begin to stress but Nia realizes she only needs to remember the bottom point of each star rather than the entire thing. Wes is, of course, the first to get his four digit code and finishes first, meaning Mark gets zero points. Nia gets her code next, which means KellyAnne lost another checkpoint.
Nehemiah and Brad both get their codes wrong and have to begin again, while Jonna gets hers right and Kailah gets zero points. Finally Brad gets his code and leaves Nehemiah with zero points. After this checkpoint, Jonna is still in first for the women but Nia is now in second, with Kailah in third, and KellyAnne in last. For the men, Wes has now passed Nehemiah for first place, with Brad in third and Mark in last.
The new pairs for the next run are Nehemiah and Kailah, Brad and Jonna, Mark and KellyAnne, and Nia and Wes. They must run to tandem kayaks, which TJ points out is where many finals are won and lost because people don't know how to correctly paddle. During the run, Brad gets a little bit of a lead but he has to wait for Jonna who's losing steam. Everyone gets their paddles and walks into the water towards their kayaks ... and the episode ends. We'll find out how the rest of the final goes next week in part two!
As of now, the point totals are widening, and I'd be shocked if either Mark or KellyAnne are able to make up enough points to win. The race for first is firmly between Jonna, Nia, and Kailah for the women and Wes, Nehemiah, and Brad for the men. But hey, I could be wrong! Crazier things have happened before during Challenge finals — we've seen people get injured or purged that were on track to win the whole thing. You can never predict the outcome of these things ... which is why we all love it so much.
Challenger of the week: I've got to give it to Wes and Jonna this week for consistently crushing it not only in the first half of this final but also all season long. Let's see if they can keep it up next week!
The Challenge: All Stars 3 releases new episodes Wednesdays on Paramount+.
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