The Challenge: Total Madness recap: Where's Dee?
It's been a little over a week since MTV cut ties with Dee due to her racially insensitive tweets. And while the network announced that the rest of this season of The Challenge: Total Madness is airing "as planned," last week's episode seemed edited to cut out as much of Dee as possible, clocking in at only an hour instead of an hour-and-a-half. The story of that episode suffered, since the entire thing led up to a major Dee blindside. And then she ended up winning last week's elimination, which means she's still around this season.
And while thankfully we're back to the normal 90-minute episode structure this week, the quick editing is still on display, and once again the episode suffers for it. There should be hell to pay at the beginning of the hour since everyone's arriving back from the shocking elimination. Dee should be on the warpath after she was suddenly blindsided and thrown into elimination. She should also be showcasing her worst gloating tendencies, since every win increases her ego. But instead, we never even see her onscreen.
Instead, we see the Dee blindside drama back at the bunker framed through the lens of Melissa being upset with Bananas and Josh for voting the way they promised they wouldn't, rather than Dee confronting all of them for putting her into elimination. We don't even see a single frame of Dee's reaction to not only getting thrown into elimination but also her shocking win against Mattie and return. It's transparent and frankly, a mistake. This season is suffering more from MTV trying to erase Dee than it would from airing everything as-is. And if Dee runs the final, it's only going to get worse. What if ... she actually wins again? It's like Camila all over again.
A lot of the beginning of the episode is just players stressing about how many chances they have left to get a red skull, and it's pretty boring. We don't need all this rehashing of how the guys feel and how they all want to get into the Tribunal to give themselves the best shot at winning elimination. We want to see how pissed off Dee is at all her allies turning against her. If this is what was added to pad out the episode after Dee scenes were cut, it's such a downgrade.
There's a segment devoted to Cory's daughter Ryder not wanting to talk with him on video chat because she's too young to understand why he's been gone for so long, and Cory ends up breaking down while talking to Nelson about how much he misses her and how much that hurt. He says he's going to use that as motivation to get his red skull. But with Josh, Swaggy, and Kyle all determined to get their red skull this week, there's a lot of competition.
The Challenge: Tanks-A Lot
TJ comes rolling in on a tank to announce that today's challenge is played in randomly selected teams of three in two stages. In Phase One, players collect as much heavy junk from a junkyard as they can, drag it across a large field, and deposit it in a bin until TJ says stop. The bins will then be weighed and the two teams with the heaviest bins move on to Phase Two. Players will then be strapped to large, heavy sleds and race across the field to the finish line. The first team with all three to finish will form the Tribunal. Team 1: Josh, Cory, and Kaycee. Team 2: Melissa, Rogan, and Bananas. Team 3: Aneesa, Kyle, and Jenny. Team 4: Nelson, Nany, and Swaggy. Team 5: Fessy, Bayleigh, and Dee.
Degree of physical difficulty: High. This requires lots of strength and endurance. There's no telling how long TJ will have this drag on for, and some players will gas out.
Degree of mental difficulty: N/A. This is all physical.
Potential for drama: High. Working in teams on a physically grueling, lengthy challenge like this means we'll probably see some fireworks. Plus, there are a lot of guys angling to get into the Tribunal for what may be the final guy elimination this season.
Winner: Fessy, Bayleigh, and Dee (even though we don't get a single shot of Dee during the challenge).
All the teams work individually but Cory, Josh, and Kaycee work together to bring large crates full of junk to their bin. But then Bananas, Rogan, and Melissa come up with a great strategy to fill barrels with small, heavy things, close the barrels, and then roll them to their dumpster. Classic "work smarter not harder" ethic there. In the middle of the challenge, Kyle gets his finger caught in a metal piece of debris but continues on. And then Cory feels "a pop" in the back of his ankle but keeps on moving. Jenny gets worried that other teams are lapping them as she and Kyle continue to wait for Aneesa. TJ finally blows his horn and the top two teams' bins (incredibly the only teams with two girls and one guy) were separated by about 22 lbs, with Fessy, Bayleigh, and Dee beating Kyle, Aneesa, and Jenny.
In Phase Two, Fessy is, of course, the first to cross the finish line. Everyone else struggles with the heavy sleds and it's a slow, torturous grind. Jenny is second to cross, Kyle is third, and Bayleigh is fourth, so it comes down to Aneesa vs. Dee. Aneesa had the lead but Dee overtakes her in the final 10 feet. This is the most we've seen of Dee and they still barely show her running in the background.
Tribunal: The winning team of Fessy, Bayleigh, and Dee.
Kyle's upset that he came so close to being in the Tribunal, so now he's determined to be the house vote. But Cory is also campaigning for that spot. Josh wants his red skull but doesn't want to be the house vote. Where is his bravado from earlier? Fessy's right: it's because he's scared. He's also delusional thinking he can pick and choose "the right time" for him to go in at this stage in the game. Dude, that time has come and gone.
Cory kicks off nominations by asking to be the house vote, laying on his "I have a daughter" and "people back home depending on me" arguments pretty thick. Good on Kyle for hilariously using his facial expressions and words to point out how low it is for Cory to play those cards. They're all here to win money, and no one's reasons are any more valid than everyone else's! Kyle tries to use Cory's arguments as well but we all know he doesn't have kids at home (that he knows about, at least). But Kyle brings up a great point: since they don't know how many eliminations are left, a vote for Cory could send Kyle home. Josh votes for Cory, Bananas votes for Kyle, Nany, Swaggy, and Rogan vote for Cory, Jenny votes for Kyle (which pisses off Cory), but then Aneesa votes for Cory (which pisses off Kyle). Nelson and Kaycee vote for Cory, and Melissa votes for Kyle while getting in good jabs at Josh for not having any loyalty, which turns into a screaming match between the two of them. It only ends when Nany points out that Cory has the votes and is going into elimination.
But also ... Cory is injured! His ankle is totally numb, he's icing it and keeping it elevated. He can barely move it. That is not good for the day of your elimination. And if he somehow still wins the elimination, it's not good for running a final in just a few days. He's in some serious denial.
When the players go to a bar that night, Nany and Kaycee continue their flirting and Kaycee whispers she has a crush on Nany. But Kaycee also has a very serious girlfriend back home. Hmmm.
The next day, the Tribunal (but really only Bayleigh and Fessy because again, we do not see or hear from Dee at all) interrogates the remaining three guys without a red skull who aren't the house vote, a.k.a. Josh, Swaggy, and Kyle. Swaggy says he wants to go in, but Josh and Kyle want to go as well.
The first time we see or hear Dee all episode is when she votes for Kyle to go against Cory. But Fessy and Bayleigh vote for Swaggy, sending him into elimination instead. So even the one moment she's onscreen is basically useless. What good is this edit doing?!
Elimination challenge: Launch Button. Players start on harnesses and swing back and forth, pushing buttons on the side of a 40-ft. container. The buttons power lights on the top of the container. The player who lights up all the lights first wins.
Degree of physical difficulty: Low. Swinging doesn't take much effort.
Degree of mental difficulty: Low. As long as they remember which buttons they've already pressed, it's just going to be a race to the finish.
Potential for drama: Low. Cory's ankle doesn't really matter in this elimination, and the stakes for whoever gets a red skull are pretty low considering all their alliances are basically the same.
Swaggy starts off struggling with how to swing back and forth, his limbs flailing everywhere. But Cory's also struggling. They can barely get their first lights going. Eventually Swaggy starts to get it going and earns himself a small lead, but Cory picks up the pace too and shrinks that lead as Swaggy accidentally turns off some of his lights and loses momentum. Cory then gets the lead and finishes strong.
Challenger of the week: Kyle, for being the only one trying at every point in this episode to go into elimination. He gave the daily challenge his all to get into the Tribunal, and when that didn't work, he tried his hardest to become the house vote. And when that didn't work, he tried as hard as he could to be voted in by the Tribunal. Every other guy expressed doubts or fears or desires not to be voted in at certain points. Now is not the time to play scared!