The Challenge: Double Agents recap: An early exit shakes up the competition
Which strong player had to leave the game early in "Skyfall?"
Fessy showed his true colors on the last episode of The Challenge: Double Agents, making it clear that while he's certainly got the physical stature of a power player, he doesn't have the mental game or even pure physical strength to walk away with this win. That opens the door for some new power players to emerge now that Fessy is pretty much enemy No. 1 in the house. And in this week's episode, another strong player leaves the game, but not because of an elimination. So what happened?
Everyone's watching to see what Cory will do now that they're all back in the house after Fessy's win against Nelson, and he confronts Fessy in the open-air weight room in the middle of the courtyard, conveniently giving everyone a front-row seat to the fireworks. Fessy sticks to his whole, "I didn't say Nelson's name!" and "I was saving a friend!" argument while Cory points out that regardless of the technicalities, he still betrayed his alliance and lost friends as a result. And then Josh joins the fight (the first time he gets in the middle of a fight that he's actually involved in! Congratulations, Josh!) to confirm he was ready to go into elimination and Fessy knowingly stole the opportunity from him. Then Tori joins in to try and smooth things over with Josh, also leaning into this whole "I thought I was doing you a favor!" explanation. No one's buying it, sister. Keep digging that hole, though.
Meanwhile, Amber M. gathered Big T, Amber B., and Gabby for a meeting of all the so-called "weakest girls in the house" to get all of them to team up and take back the power from the "strong" vet girls. Say hello to the Itty Bitty Small Committee! It's been a longstanding tradition for the vets to target rookies in this game, and only a small handful of times have the rookies banded together and actually managed to take control of things. If one of these four can actually win the daily challenge, they might have a chance at flipping the house dynamics. Can they pull it off?
Big T has a team meeting with her partner CT (who looks the most cozy wrapped in a fuzzy blanket), and he's delighted at her idea of pitting Tori vs. Aneesa in an elimination. If it was just the Itty Bitty Small Committee working on this plan, it would be an uphill battle for sure. But with CT's endorsement and help, it might actually work. And Tori's own partner Devin couldn't care less about doing anything to save her since he's already got his gold skull, so it's clear that we're gearing up for a great female elimination battle already. But little did we know we were about to lose the strongest female player in the game, and not in an elimination. Prepare for total devastation.
The Challenge: Agent Down
When TJ calls this "one of the scariest f---ing challenges you guys have ever seen in your life," you know this daily is going to be good! BUT FIRST! Before we even get into the challenge details, TJ announces one of the most legitimately shocking twists ever: Natalie is no longer cleared to continue this season. Um, excuse me?!
"I have a personal matter that requires me to leave the game," she says cryptically in her talking head interview. "I have to deal with something and it sucks that I have to step out because all I want to do is compete." That's the only explanation given in the episode as to why the strongest female competitor (and tbh, the strongest competitor overall this season) is no longer in the game. (To hear Natalie's story about what happened to make her leave early, check out EW's full exit interview with her here.)
TJ also says he's "positive" we will see her in the future, which, hopefully, duh. She's made for this game, both mentally and physically, and she had a solid chance at winning this season, so losing her is downright heartbreaking. But that also means that now all five skulls are still up for grabs for the women, and nobody has to face Natalie to get one. Tori, with her whole "I don't want to go against strong players" strategy, is really psyched about that.
But wait, there's more! The shocking announcements just don't stop coming. Since three agents have been "deactivated" outside of the Crater, TJ decides to trigger a "security breach" and "reactivates" the agent that Natalie sent home. Yup, that means Ashley "Millionaire" Mitchell is officially back, y'all! And she's taking Natalie's place as Cory's partner, so it's Rivals 3 all over again.
Now, finally, onto the actual challenge (which, it turns out, is named very appropriately). Played in two heats, one teammate will balance on a ledge that will drop at any moment. Meanwhile, the other partner will pull up 200 meters of rope before they can hold their partner's hands. If the ledge drops before all the rope is pulled up, the person hanging can try to hold on until their partner finishes pulling the rope and runs over to hold them up. The agents who hold on the longest out of both heats wins.
Challenge analysis: This is where the small/"weak" rookie girls actually have an advantage because it will take less strength for their partners to hold them up. However, most of this challenge actually rests on the shoulders (er, arms) of the males, so brute strength and endurance are key.
Challenge winners: CT and Big T!
In the first heat, Darrell espouses the dangers of "height shock" while Nam is psyched and impresses a lot of people with his rope pulling speed. Devin, however, doesn't really care about winning because he doesn't want to help Tori in any way. Jay is the first guy to finish his rope pull and get to Theresa. Leroy is next to get to Aneesa, and Nam is next to get to Lolo. Then TJ releases the ledge, and Tori and Aneesa fall immediately. After the ledge has already fallen down, Lio gets to Gabby, and Darrell finishes the rope pull and runs to Amber B. just a second too late as she drops. When only three teams remain, Gabby and Lio end up letting go, resulting in a showdown between Jay and Theresa and Lolo and Nam. Jay is just chilling the whole time, feeling calm and great while Theresa freaks out, and Lolo keeps yelling at Nam to change his position even though he keeps saying he's fine the way he is. Nam ends up letting Lolo fall and Jay and Theresa win the first heat, but Jay knows to keep holding on as long as he can to try and beat whoever wins the next heat as well.
In the second heat, Big T is adorably freaking out about the heights while CT adorably tries to hype her up. Her attempt at a grimace is the cutest thing. Have I mentioned how adorable they are? Kyle is the first to finish the rope pull and get to Kam, with Fessy the next to get to Kaycee. CT finishes third, with Josh fourth and Mechie fifth. Cory couldn't finish the rope pull in time and Ashley falls immediately when TJ drops the ledge. Not the best showing out the gate for Ashley's return! Fessy is the first to drop Kaycee and Kam throws the best shade on him for clearly not being as strong as he says/thinks he is. Mechie drops Amber M. next, and Kyle is mindblown at how CT isn't even tired at this point. Kyle drops Kam next, and Josh tries to convince CT to drop Big T and let him win. CT, of course, refuses. Did Josh really think that was going to work?! Josh immediately drops Nany next, and CT is happily yelling at Big T about how they're going to keep going all day. She's smiling at him and he's saying how proud he is of her and this really is the purest partnership ever! CT finally drops Big T and claps for her as she swings down. It all came down to five seconds difference in times, with CT and Big T beating Jay and Theresa's time from the first heat.
Back at the house, Big T is already letting the power of her first win go to her head, but it couldn't be more different from Devin's power trip. She's hilariously ordering people to serve her dinner, gloating about how no one is safe tonight, making her own VIP sign for her table at Club COVID, and she even gets Lolo and Leroy to present her with bottle service. People are literally kissing her ring and everyone's loving it! Big T is ready to put Tori vs. Aneesa in elimination to break up their alliance, with Aneesa as the house vote and Tori as a blindside. Since CT was pretty much unanimously voted against in the first week, he decides to let Big T take the reins on their political game moving forward. His only mission is simple: protect the queen. So it's time for her to get to work.
And even after Big T's win, Tori still doubles down on calling her a weak player, saying the win was all because of CT. She also doubles down on her strategy of only wanting to go against who she sees as "weak" in an elimination, and has no idea Big T is cooking up a plan to blindside her because of her attitude. But the next morning, she admits that she's playing "such a messy game" and there's potential for her and Aneesa to be pitted against each other. At least she can laugh about it! She and Aneesa work hard to politic against Amber M., but the groundwork has already been laid.
Meanwhile, CT starts working on some side politics of his own to gain some "clout" with strong competitors like Lolo and Nam, who he knows both have a future in this game and could help him out down the line. So if Lolo sees the elimination setup and opponent and decides she wants it, CT will give it to her if she gives him the nod. "Fatherly Figure" CT's still got it when it comes to politics!
Gabby kicks things off by confronting this whole "size equals strength" mentality that has always dominated The Challenge, arguing that the rookie girls are constantly being underestimated. But like... she's seen this show before, right? She knows the history and reasoning behind rookies needing to earn their stripes. Aneesa counters that by saying it's just experienced vs. less experienced. Tori backs her up, saying that until you've proven yourself, you're considered weak. But the more Tori talks, the hole she's in just keeps getting deeper.
During voting, a lot of players "burn" their votes so it's kind of all over the place. Big T and CT eventually learn Big T's plan worked and Aneesa and Leroy are the compromised agents, voted for by Kam, Kyle, Amber M., Mechie, Nany, Ashley, Devin, Leroy, Amber B., Darrell, Kaycee, Nam, Lolo, Lio, and Gabby. They're both shocked at how many people they were able to sway to vote their way, and they agree on sending Lolo in against Aneesa if Lolo wants it, but if she doesn't, they'll throw in Tori.
At the Crater, TJ confirms that Natalie's gold skull is back up for grabs for the girls, and reveals Aneesa and Leroy as the compromised agents. Big T and CT deny the chance to go in against them, and instead vote for Tori and Devin. It is indeed a women's elimination this week (finally!), so Big T gets her wish of Aneesa vs. Tori.
Elimination challenge: Asset Destruction. Players must pull crates filled with heavy bombs across the Crater until it tips over. They will then throw the bombs at targets, knocking down 13. First to knock down 13 targets, wins.
Elimination analysis: This one's new. It requires not only strength and endurance but also accuracy in throwing. This is suited for Tori's skills but Aneesa is the elimination queen. You can never count her out!
Winner: Earning even more respect on her name: Aneesa!
It's a tight race from the start, with Aneesa beating Tori in pulling the crate across the Crater by a second. But while Aneesa easily knocks over her crate, Tori struggles. And struggles and struggles and struggles. Aneesa knocks out target after target while Tori just can't get her crate to tip over. She starts freaking out and blames the crate before taking a breath and trying a new strategy. She pushes her crate back to get some momentum going and it finally tips over, but Aneesa has already knocked down 10 out of 13 targets. While Aneesa's remaining targets are high up, and Tori starts hitting hers in rapid succession, Aneesa's lead was just too great for Tori to overcome. Aneesa hits her last one and wins the whole thing. Aneesa says it best: "The old bitch still has it!"
And to give one last middle finger to her haters, Aneesa decides to steal Fessy back as her partner. He does his best to act all happy ("Round two, baby!") but we all know he's dying inside. You love to see it! Kaycee is back with her old partner Leroy and Devin is now a rogue agent. This all just feels right.
Challenger of the week: Natalie, for having to make the tough call to leave a game she was beautifully set up to go far in. Because let's be honest, no female player was going to challenge her for her gold skull, so Natalie was guaranteed a spot in the final. And she likely would have won that final. Check out EW's honest and inspiring interview with her about why she had to leave the game early, if she'll come back in a future season, and more.