The Challenge: Total Madness recap: Double elimination ends in tears
For the first time in weeks, The Challenge: Total Madness didn't suffer from producers editing Dee out after MTV cut ties with her due to her racially insensitive tweets. It was nice to actually let the game do the talking and not feel like we were missing anything. Now, that's not to say we weren't missing something crucial with Dee that was supposed to be included, but either Dee didn't factor into this week's story or the producers are getting better at cutting her out.
After last week sent Nany home, the only people left without a red skull are Josh, Kyle, and Bayleigh, and they are all talking about how much they want their shot at getting one. But Kyle is the only one who's actively tried to go into eliminations multiple times before now. Josh and Bayleigh both had ample opportunities to try for one and refused. It's too little, too late to be talking about how bad you want it at this point.
Meanwhile, all the vets are thinking this might be a double elimination week for one male and one female matchup, which would mean a female who already has a red skull would be up for elimination. And the guys don't want to run a final with Aneesa, so her name is on the chopping block. But she's been cut right before a final many times before (four, to be exact), so it'd be brutal if it happened again.
And after 14 episodes, we finally see some personality from Fessy! He's been an incredible physical competitor but this is the first time he's actually showing who he is when he talks with Cory about his background in sports, how he almost made it into the NFL, how he felt like an outcast after 9/11 because he's Muslim, and how he felt motivated to prove people's assumptions about him wrong by succeeding in sports. It's an amazing insight into a rookie player who has a clear future in this franchise. I'm just annoyed it took this long to get to know him as a person.
But that's enough talk. It's 1 a.m., people are sleeping, Bayleigh's eating, Rogan's on the treadmill, others are getting ready for bed, Melissa's got her hair in curlers...and the bunker sirens go off. It's time for a middle-of-the-night challenge! It's been quite a while since we've had one of these.
The Challenge: Running Out of Time
Played as individuals, players must bring back as much heavy debris as they can from a giant pile off in the distance and place it into their enemies' drum. After a certain amount of time, TJ will ring an alarm, and players will have five minutes to run back and pick their drum up. If players don't make it back in time, they're disqualified. And whichever man and woman hold up their drums the longest will form the first two-thirds of the Tribunal.
Degree of physical difficulty: High. This combines strength and endurance.
Degree of mental difficulty: N/A. This is all physical.
Potential for drama: High. A good old-fashioned "screw your enemy" challenge, as TJ calls it, this gives players the opportunity to target players they want to see go into elimination. With all the drama currently brewing in the house and with a few players desperate to win, fuses are already lit. Could this challenge cause an explosion? And seeing how this is indeed a double elimination with one man and one woman going home, this challenge is also crucial.
Winner: Fessy and Jenny (shocker).
Turns out the pile of debris is actually a pile full of concrete blocks! This is going to be grueling. At the very start, Aneesa finds herself trailing the group, while Cory, Nelson, Josh, and Fessy stick together to target Kyle's drum first and then Rogan's. Kaycee targets Bayleigh first. But all the other women target Aneesa. When TJ calls time, Nelson, Kyle, and Aneesa aren't back in time and are immediately disqualified.
In stage two, Rogan drops his barrel immediately. Dee drops second (and they actually show her onscreen!) with Kaycee and Bananas close behind. Bayleigh drops next. Josh starts to bargain with the other guys remaining, desperate for his red skull, and Cory and Fessy don't want to drop since they don't want to risk getting thrown into elimination. They promise that they'll put Josh in the Tribunal, so he drops his barrel. Then Fessy tells Cory he'll pull him into the Tribunal if Cory drops his barrel, but there is only one open spot for a guy who doesn't win (since the female winner is also in the Tribunal). Cory drops his barrel, giving Fessy the win. And in his talking head interview, Fessy admits he'll say whatever he needs to say to win, so he may not be as trustworthy as all his new allies think. Meanwhile, Melissa's heavy barrel causes her to drop. Jenny could have gone forever since her barrel was empty, so Jenny wins for the women.
Tribunal: Fessy, Jenny, and...Josh!
Josh is shocked to hear that Fessy is going to pick Cory to be in the Tribunal over him, even though Fessy promises they're going to vote Josh into elimination. Fessy and Cory still guarantee Josh the elimination, but he refuses to take it as anything other than a dig. But Fessy forgets that Jenny also has a say in their third Tribunal member, and she overrules Fessy and picks Josh instead of Cory, even though Cory and Fessy say she owes Cory twice now and hasn't repaid him. Cory is also upset at Fessy and starts to distrust him. This is messy and goes to show why you should never quit during a challenge. There are no guarantees despite the deals you make!
At nominations, Kyle has an easy time securing the house vote. No one else wants to go into elimination except Josh, but he's in the Tribunal and doesn’t need the house vote. And Bayleigh is the only female without a red skull, so she easily gets the house vote too. This is very drama-free!
But the drama is going to come with whomever the Tribunal picks to go against Bayleigh since all the other females already have red skulls. Someone’s going to get screwed and risk getting sent home even though they’ve already qualified for the final. Nelson tells Aneesa what the whole house has been saying about her, giving her a heads up that she's going to need to fight in elimination or campaign hard with the Tribunal. She confronts Jenny that night at the bar and asks not to be blindsided. Will it work?
The next day, Josh tells the Tribunal he's absolutely going into elimination so the guys they pick to interrogate won't matter. Jenny wants to have a conversation with Cory but making him sweat the possibility of being sent into elimination is not the right time for that! They interrogate Rogan and Nelson for the guys and Aneesa and Melissa for the girls. The guys are easy-going but the girls' interrogations are tense.
Walking into Purgatory, there are two cars, a lot of rope, and a lot of confused faces since it looks like this is a new elimination. When it comes to picking the female to go against Bayleigh, Fessy votes for Melissa, and Jenny votes for Aneesa, so it comes down to Josh, who votes for Aneesa. TJ even points out that Aneesa's got one of the best elimination records in the history of the show. But she's constantly thrown in anyway. And right before the final! That's got to hurt.
Elimination challenge: Knots of War. Turns out it's a classic elimination, just with a car instead of a jungle gym-type structure. Players start connected to their ropes and climb in, out, and around a car to create knots with the rope. After 15 minutes, they trade cars and undo the knots. The first person to undo the rope completely wins.
Degree of physical difficulty: Moderate. This is all endurance.
Degree of mental difficulty: Moderate. It's going to come down to who has the best strategy for knotting the rope.
Potential for drama: Moderate. Everyone left will have a red skull after this. But does that mean the final is next, or will there still be more eliminations to come?
Winner: Bayleigh and Kyle.
The females go first, and Aneesa appears to be a little behind Bayleigh. But there's really no way of knowing who did a better job until they swap cars. They finish after 15 minutes and TJ doesn't give them a break; they start undoing their opponent's car immediately. Bayleigh's already gassed out, and Aneesa puts in work. But it's pretty equal. They each undo all their knots at the same time and it comes down to pulling the rope outside of the circle, and Bayleigh gets the win in the end.
For the male round, Kyle makes most of his knots inside the car in the hopes that Josh won't fit. Josh's knots seem more all over the place. When they swap, Kyle has a very smooth time undoing the knots compared to Josh. He clears his rope while Josh looks like he didn't make a dent in his. That's some instant karma for Aneesa, who just got screwed over by Josh. And Josh got some major shade from TJ, who tells Kyle that he took out "that guy that cries a lot." He ain't wrong! Josh is crying right now!
What's interesting is that even though everyone left is qualified to run the final, TJ doesn't announce that they're going to run it now. He just says he'll see them "soon." That means there are still more eliminations before the final! And next week is finally Hall Brawl. I can't wait to see who gets thrown in.
Challenger of the week: Aneesa for getting the short end of the stick once again. Watching her talk about how she's never been given the chance to run a final was so heartbreaking, and I hope we see her come back and finally get that shot.