The Challenge: Total Madness recap: An epic blindside shakes up the game
You know it's a wild week when the biggest drama on The Challenge: Total Madness happens offscreen rather than in the episode. Unless you've been hiding under a rock, you know that MTV has cut ties with Dee due to her racially insensitive tweets but is still airing the rest of this season as planned. That means that once this season ends, Dee is banned from future Challenges. She also won't be included in the reunion special for this season. To hammer that point home, MTV aired a statement before the episode alerting viewers to what happened over the past few days. And once the episode aired, it was clear why: This week's hour (and truly, it was only an hour! Not an hour and a half! For the first time all season!) was pretty Dee-centric in that an epic blindside revealed how many enemies she's made in a short time.
After last week's legendary elimination saw Wes and Bananas go head-to-head for the first time on a regular season (not a spinoff), Mattie kicks off this week's episode by campaigning to be the house vote even before the daily challenge begins. No matter what, she wants to go in and get her red skull. But Nany also wants to go into elimination this week, believing that it's now or never.
The Challenge: Flag Down
Players will be strapped to the front of a moving tank, grabbing flags along the way as it drives forward through an obstacle course. Different colored flags equal different points. Played as individuals, the man and woman with the most points will form two-thirds of the Tribunal and pick the remaining member.
Degree of physical difficulty: Low. This just requires speed and good reflexes. There isn't much physicality to this one.
Degree of mental difficulty: Low. What's most important is keeping focus despite the chaos and grabbing the higher point flags as much as possible.
Potential for drama: Moderate. This episode is already teasing both Mattie and Nany as elimination contenders, so unless there's some big shakeup, one of them is most likely going in. And this daily challenge actually looks kind of ... easy? It seems to be more fun for the players than it is for us to watch at home.
Winner: Josh and Melissa.
As the tanks drive through the course, the players are rammed into cardboard boxes and sent flying. It turns out to be pretty hilarious! Rogan decides to give all his flags to Kyle so that Kyle will bring him into the Tribunal, which is the same kind of deal he did last week with Wes and trivia. Ugh. Why can't he just play to the best of his ability every week? Josh's arms are longer than Bananas', so he grabs all the flags before Bananas can get to any of them. Meanwhile, Melissa does the same thing to Kaycee. Jenny ends up giving Nany all her flags. Everything else occurs without incident.
But when the players gather to find out who got the most points, TJ drops a bomb: Anyone who worked together, a.k.a. cheated on this challenge (Kyle, Rogan, Nany, Jenny, Fessy, and Nelson), is automatically disqualified. He says since they won't get help during the final, this challenge is no different. I love that! We've seen so many people win dailies in the past due to unsanctioned team-ups, and for an individual challenge, that's just not right. Why they started enforcing that now instead of all season long is anyone's guess. Better late than never? (Which is a sentiment you can also apply to MTV taking action against Dee's racially insensitive tweets this week after decades of sexist and racist incidents on this franchise have gone on without proper consequences.)
Tribunal: Josh, Melissa ... and Bananas? Josh convinces Melissa to pick Bananas in the hopes that he'll help Josh help Nany or help him make a big move. But Bananas is a known troublemaker and pot-stirrer, so there's no telling what he'll do with this power. Why Josh would give him any kind of power after his performance last episode is baffling. But Josh has never been the most cerebral player.
Back at the bunker, Mattie keeps campaigning to be the house vote. But Melissa wants to go in and she doesn't think she can beat Mattie, so she's no longer enthused about her chances. At nominations, Mattie nominates herself with no resistance from the rest of the bunker, so she puts her name on the board as the house vote. Now it's up to Melissa to decide if she wants to risk going against Mattie or if they'll send in someone else.
Later that night at a bar, Melissa throws out the idea of sending in Bayleigh against Mattie if she doesn't feel good about the elimination once she sees what it is. But Nany is still determined to go in. The next day, the Tribunal decides to interrogate Nany and Bayleigh as options to send in against Mattie (if Melissa doesn't want it), and Bananas and Josh convince Melissa to burn an interrogation pick on Dee. But something tells me they're going to pull a fast one on Melissa despite promising that they won't and vote in Dee if Melissa doesn't want to go in herself. Dee is, of course, pissed. And Bananas doesn't want her to get any advance warning so he can blindside her and make her go in when she's not mentally or physically prepared to compete. This is getting good!
Walking into Purgatory, it's clear that this is a new elimination challenge and Melissa decides (after Bananas whispers into her ear that it's "too risky") that she's not doing it. Melissa votes for Bayleigh to go against Mattie, but then Bananas of course throws a curveball and doesn't do what he promised Melissa he would. And being the troublemaker that he is, he publicly asks for Rogan's "blessing to throw Dee in," which makes the betrayal even more incredible to see. Because in Dee's own words, that's her "No. 1 guy!" Rogan of course gives his blessing, and it sends shockwaves throughout the entire cast. And then Josh also votes for Dee, sending her into elimination again. You love to see it! (Although Melissa's pissed.)
Elimination challenge: Tunnel Vision. Players start on one end of a dirt-filled tunnel and will be locked inside with only a small space to dig. The only way to get out is to dig from one end all the way to another. The player who escapes their tunnel and rings the bell first wins.
Degree of physical difficulty: High. This requires a ton of strength and endurance. It's going to be a long, grueling fight to the finish.
Degree of mental difficulty: Moderate. The tunnels are extremely claustrophobic so I can see a player freaking out and getting tripped up while locked inside the tight, small space with not much room to move around while digging.
Potential for drama: Considering the blindside that Bananas and Josh (and Rogan) just pulled off, if Dee comes back into the house, there's going to be hell to pay. Also, considering the IRL drama with Dee, a lot (a lot) of people are hoping that she doesn't come back. This one's big.
Winner: Unfortunately, Dee.
The entire bunker is rooting for Mattie but Dee is able to move through smaller spaces better and she gets an early lead. But halfway through, Dee goes still and quiet inside her tunnel, prompting TJ to investigate. She doesn't answer him when he calls out her name multiple times, but she's okay and keeps moving. She eventually makes it out of her tunnel first and rings the bell, earning her second red skull.
Challenger of the week: Bananas for continuing to ride the high from his epic elimination win last week to pull off an epic blindside this week. Too bad it didn't work out in his favor though. Honorary mention goes to Mattie for fearlessly putting herself into elimination even though it didn't work out in her favor.