The Challenge: Total Madness recap: A personal attack results in a champ's downfall
Even the rookies know that on The Challenge, if you get into a fight (with your words, not your fists), it gives everyone the perfect excuse to vote you into the next elimination. So a champion like Ashley should know that in a season where she has zero alliances, she needs to keep her cool now more than ever. But of course, this is Ashley. And her reflex to make things personal when attacking someone resulted in her downfall this week.
Ashley started off this episode by working on her social game with Mattie, but her strategy seems to be guilt-tripping instead of actually talking real game. She says she doesn't want to be voted in by the house because that would make her "feel really bad about" herself, which is an ... interesting way of politicking in a game where you know anyone can be voted in at any point. And you need to go into an elimination to get a red skull so ... there's just a whole lot of question marks about Ashley's moves here. But she's made a new, delicate alliance with Mattie, so something must be working. Although Mattie knows to keep Ashley at arm's length due to her always changing alliances and hot temper. Smart move.
Kailah's also doing her best to keep Bear at arm's length, but he's flirting hardcore and his persistence is unrivaled. Right now, she's not giving anything back. Aneesa's right: Kailah hopefully won't fall for it, because she's got a boyfriend back home. But we've all seen the trailers for this season ... she's going to fall for it. Yikes. His latest attempt at impressing Kailah is setting off a fire extinguisher in the common area where a bunch of players are chilling, and it's a huge mess.
Ashley loses it and literally spits in Bear's face, which should be enough to disqualify her but the security guard does nothing. Some people are annoyed with Bear, Kailah doesn't really care about it, but a lot of people think what he did is hilarious — they're just trying to downplay their reactions in case he notices and is encouraged to do something even crazier.
Meanwhile, Mattie is officially done with Ashley despite their earlier shaky truce after she spit in Bear's face. When Ashley complains about Bear spraying "toxic chemicals" in her mouth, Mattie yells in front of the whole cast, "I'm sure you've had worse, bitch." And then Ashley brings up Mattie's DUI that landed her in the hospital, and things get nasty.
The other players take notice, and it's not doing anything good for Ashley's mission to make new friends and alliances this season. Then Nany somehow gets involved and faces off with Mattie, and Ashley starts crying. This night is a disaster.
But enough drama, let's get to the actual challenge!
The Challenge: Cold War
TJ puts it perfectly: "This is gonna suck." Divided into teams of five, with three divers and two breakers on each team, divers enter a pool of ice cold water to release puzzle pieces attached to the bottom and then solve the puzzle while the breakers from another team are breaking ice blocks to add to the water, making it even colder. And the water temp is starting at a whopping 62.3 degrees Fahrenheit. Ouch. Whoever solves the puzzle fastest wins, and the winning team of all five people will form the Tribunal, the biggest we've seen yet.
Team 1 is Rogan, Josh, and Fessy as divers, Nany and Ashley as breakers. Team 2 is Nelson, Kailah, and Dee as divers, Jordan and Swaggy C as breakers. Team 3 is Tori, Wes, and Jay as divers, Melissa and Mattie as breakers. Team 4 is Aneesa, Bear, and Bananas as divers, Kaycee and Big T as breakers. Team five is Bayleigh, Kyle, and Cory as divers, Jenna and Jenny as breakers.
Degree of physical difficulty: High. Pushing through the pain of the ice cold water will require high levels of tolerance and stamina. Because this is going to hurt.
Degree of mental difficulty: Moderate. This puzzle looks difficult, and that's with the added "brain freeze" after being in ice cold water for a long time.
Potential for drama: High. After rookie Jay took out legendary Challenge champ CT, this is anyone's game. With a female elimination and lots of drama with the females in the bunker from the night before, getting into the Tribunal has never been more important.
Winner: Team 4: Aneesa, Bear, Bananas, Kaycee, and Big T.
Jordan comes right out in his talking head interview and says his intention is not to win himself but to help Tori win. Time for some sabotage! But he didn't even need to help, because Ashley not being in the puzzle-solving part for her team is a fatal mistake. By the time Team 2's divers go into the water, the temp is already down to 59 degrees. So Team 3's divers tell their breakers not to send any more ice into the water. It's a good strategy since the team's breakers compete in the heat before their divers compete, so they're really only making the water colder for their own team to go in next.
Team 2's divers refuse to quit even though they're clearly not finishing, so TJ has to step in and make them stop. They all require medical attention and Nelson gets taken away in an ambulance due to hypothermia. Wes has the idea to pee in the pool so it warms the area around him a little, and Tori's totally okay to swim in pee if it means she can feel her fingers. They retrieve the pieces fast and solve the puzzle quickly.
Team 4 divers unhook all their pieces before lifting them out of the water which helps them take advantage of the short timeframe in which they can still feel their fingers in the water. Aneesa takes charge of the puzzle and they solve it quickly too. By the time Team 5 divers get in the water, the temp is down to 51 degrees, so the earlier teams definitely had an advantage. Cory calls it for his team and they quit before getting all the pieces unhooked.
Tribunal: The winning team of Aneesa, Bear, Bananas, Kaycee, and Big T form the Tribunal. But real talk, Kaycee and Big T (and all the breakers on the other teams) didn't really do much in this challenge. The clear MVPs are Aneesa, Bear, and Bananas for enduring the water and solving the puzzle fastest. But Bear is always a sore winner, and he pisses off the whole house by shouting that the challenge was "so easy."
Nelson gets back from the hospital just in time for eliminations, and Mattie comes in with the plan to lead the charge against Ashley after a strategy meeting with Kyle assured her she'd have the votes. Ashley's below the belt insults and personal attacks against Mattie earn her all of the votes, even from her friends Nany and Dee. She cries, throws a tantrum, and kicks something off a coffee table afterward in true Ashley fashion. But Kyle still tells her that he's proud of her for keeping her cool. Is this Ashley keeping her cool? She didn't threaten to quit the game, so maybe!
And because there's not enough happening in the bunker, it's time for a night out. It's actually surprising how many nights out they're getting (two out of four episodes) since the whole theme of this season is them being trapped in the bunker, but the extra alcohol does help facilitate more drama. Bananas manipulates Big T into trying to scheme, and she tells Kailah, Jenna, and Nany their names are being thrown around in an attempt to "curry favors," and it works. She makes a deal with all three of the season's "holy trinity."
The next day, the Tribunal picks Dee, Tori, and Mattie to interrogate: Dee because they all think she's "fake" and playing a "snakey" game, Tori because she wants to go in and get a red skull, and Mattie ... just because? All three women come out of the interrogation saying that the Tribunal is on a power trip, making threats, and they have no idea what's about to happen.
Walking into Purgatory, it's clear that this is a new elimination. The Tribunal women don't choose to go in themselves because of the lack of information about the challenge, and the entire Tribunal votes for Dee to go against Ashley.
Elimination challenge: Codebreaker. Players spin giant rings with symbols and, using a giant rolling dice as a step ladder, find the corresponding tile with the symbol the ring lands on in the pots hanging above. Once the players have all five tiles, they flip them over to reveal names of past seasons of The Challenge. They must then put the tiles in chronological order of when the seasons aired.
Degree of physical difficulty: Moderate. The dice looks heavy and it's going to take a little stamina to keep climbing on top of it, but these are two champions facing off. They've seen much worse on this show.
Degree of mental difficulty: Low. This isn't a puzzle, it's just naming the correct order of when the seasons aired. But Dee is from Australia where they don't air The Challenge, and this is only her third season. Ashley is also part of the newer era of players, so they don't know the history as well as Wes, Bananas, and Aneesa do. It's kind of a level playing field.
Potential for drama: Low. It's going to come down to luck of which pots hold the right tiles they need at the right time and a lot of guessing for the chronological order. This is anyone's game.
Winner: Dee. She gets an early lead thanks to her breaking the right pots early in the search for her tiles, getting four before Ashley can even find her second. Once Dee gets all five, it's down to guessing the right chronological order. But she knows nothing ... and Wes knows everything. Since Dee is his No. 1 girl alliance, he shouts the right answers down to her. Everyone else tries to drown him out by booing loudly, but it doesn't work and Dee wins. As Ashley leaves, she starts crying about how much she loves everyone and how Wes is a "bitch" and Bananas should stop working with him. It wouldn't be an Ashley exit without some waterworks and a blow-up!
Challenger of the week: Aneesa for absolutely dominating the puzzle after suffering through the ice-cold water. She's showing why she's one of the Challenge OG's with that kind of performance. Hopefully it continues all season so she can get her first win.