The Challenge: Total Madness recap: An elimination upset rocks the bunker
You never know what's going to happen on The Challenge.
This week's episode proved that once again, as the player that everyone assumed was "checked out of the game" due to personal drama back home turned around and won an elimination in a major upset. After last week's relationship issues took center stage, it was amazing to get back to the real gameplay.
We pick up as the players return to the bunker after the last challenge, and Jordan reveals the plan he and Tori want to enact: Jenna chooses herself to go into Purgatory, and Tori nominates herself as the "loser" house vote pick. If Jenna's checked out due to the Zach drama, they think their plan is the easiest road Tori can take towards getting her red skull. The Holy Trinity of Jenna, Kailah, and Nany meet to discuss their plans, and Jenna says she'd prefer to go into Purgatory now and either get her red skull or go home, rather than prolong that wait (since her boyfriend Zach is stewing in his toxic, two-years-old, DM-related-drama back home).
But Kailah and Nany have an idea to get the Tribunal to vote in Jenny if Tori gets herself voted in by the house, since that would put two powerhouses against each other in elimination. Jenna's pissed that even her closest allies are "counting [her] out." But Nany's right — while she wants to help her friend, she has to do what's best for her, and that means getting out the woman no one wants to run against in the final. Jenny and Tori are the two strongest women this season, so pitting them against each other in Purgatory ensures one of them goes home. It's a smart move! But Jenna's also right that Jordan is going to be pissed if Tori has to go against Jenny (although Tori did beat Jenny the last time they went head-to-head in a physical elimination).
After lots of scrambling and mini-meetings, the players finally get to nominations. Tori kicks it off by nominating herself, and everyone votes for her. Thankfully, Nelson then takes a moment to publicly apologize for screaming at Aneesa for losing the challenge earlier, which was great to see. His bullying was not a good look. But then he ruins any goodwill he earned by saying that they're all handing Tori a red skull since they believe Jenna's checked out and is going into elimination. As Wes rightly surmised, there's no guarantee that what Tori wants is what's going to happen. The Holy Trinity's first plan still stands, and it could be Tori v. Jenny in round two. I don't know what Nelson's plan is here trying to call out Tori, but he really needs to learn to keep his mouth shut. Every time he tries to make a move or announcement, he just ends up looking dumber.
Kailah then sticks up for Jenna and Nelson immediately goes off on her, bringing up her relationship issues and calling her "the foulest woman here" and telling her to "go get f---ed in the porta-potty again." Dude. No. Like Kyle says, he's just digging his hole for the next men's elimination. And then Wes perfectly sums up this moment: "Nelson is the only man in the world who can start off an apology about being more respectful to women before he calls one of the girls right in front of him a giant slut." Get this guy out of here.
Bear then speaks up for Kailah, calling Nelson's "porta-potty" comment the stupidest thing he's ever heard. They get into it and Nelson tries to play it off but dude, you brought it up! Then he tries to get in the last word, congratulating Tori on getting her "free red skull." She puts him in his place, saying nothing is guaranteed, it won't be easy, and no matter what happens, she's taking a risk. She officially puts her name on the board as the Purgatory nominee and everyone disperses.
But of course, Nelson isn't done being a jerk. He tells Bear it was nice of him to stick up for his "girlfriend" and calls Kailah a "slut," leaving everyone shocked. Bear says he should know better than that, and even Nelson's best friend Cory tells him he's getting too worked up. He finally admits it was "wrong" of him to call her a slut: "I take that back." He blames the bunker for making him lose it. Nice try.
Nelson's blow-up helps repair Bear and Kailah's relationship. She thanks him for standing up for her during nominations, and they hug and kiss and end up cuddling on his bed. In her talking head interview, she reveals that back home, she was heading for "the marriage route" with her boyfriend, and Bear "might have just confirmed that" she wasn't ready.
What a perfect time for another night out! As Kyle tries to make out with Wes after daring Aneesa and Melissa to kiss, we finally get to see some personality from Kaycee. She reveals she has a girlfriend back home but Nany's caught her eye. Points to Kaycee for telling Nany she should always go into a season of The Challenge believing in herself and not underestimating her own strength. It's what longtime fans have wanted for Nany for years! But Nany also adorably gets flustered when a producer asks her if she's crushing on anyone, and while she says she wouldn't go there with Kaycee because she has a girlfriend, it's clear she's thought about it.
Nany drunkenly tries to get Kaycee to go to the bathroom with her, but Kaycee doesn't join her. Aneesa tries to "save" Kaycee's relationship by stepping in, and Nany overhears it. They get into it, and Aneesa starts using the word "trash," telling Nany to "take the trash factor down," which sets Nany off. Aneesa tries to walk away, and Nany pulls her back. They immediately get separated.
On a more positive note, after getting some good advice from Swaggy, Bayleigh decides to put her ego aside and talk to Jordan. He promises that he always tries in challenges, and they come to a truce. Both couples hug it out.
Back at the bunker, Nany asks Jenna what happened at the bar but then gets mad at her for saying what happened. Nany's clearly still drunk and angry, and things escalate. Aneesa gets involved again, and Nany starts going off, saying she has more money than Aneesa and doesn't have to take off her clothes for money, a clear dig at Aneesa's past. Aneesa gets emotional, and Nany throws her Cup Noodles at her.
The next morning, Nany cleans up the noodles on the carpet and Nelson finally apologizes to Kailah. She accepts the apology but says in her talking head interview it’s getting harder to believe him because this has happened so many times. She's not wrong! And then Nany tearfully apologizes to Aneesa, who accepts it, since they've got a decade of friendship behind them on this franchise.
After all that drama, it's finally time to get back to the game. The Tribunal meets and decides Nany gets first refusal since she won the challenge. Jenna gets second refusal since they put her in the Tribunal to give her that shot. Nany then reveals she's backtracking on her plan to throw in Jenny, which is disappointing. Jordan wants Dee to go in against Tori since she voted in Jenny the first time. Nany says Kailah gets a second spot since they want to give her the chance at a red skull. Third spot goes to Big T, since "you never know" and Jordan wants the best shot for Tori to get her red skull.
Dee's furious, Kailah's game, and Big T's overwhelmed that the house continues to view her as weak. And then Jenna has another horrible video call with Zach during which he accuses her of cheating, saying he caught her "red-handed," guilt-tripping her for staying and competing, and saying that their house back home is now his house. We've seen Zach be horrible before, and I don't even think this is his worst moment (which is saying something!), but it's awful to see Jenna sit and take it. He gives her an ultimatum: if she doesn't leave the show, they're done. Apparently he also told Jenna he would have proposed to her if she came home earlier, and now he's not going to. Again, what a poor showing from a former Challenge champ who knows how TJ feels about quitters. What a baby.
Walking into Purgatory, Nany immediately decides she's not doing it. Jenna doesn't want to wait around in the bunker if it's for nothing, so she nominates herself to go in against Tori. TJ confronts her about quitting, and she says she would have left days ago if that was the case. She's here to compete for the red skull, and he's satisfied. In her talking head, she says she doesn't think Zach can wait but she can, and she wants to be here. She's putting herself first, and it's a great moment for her.
Elimination challenge: Dust to Dust. Players must retrieve bricks, run them up a ramp, and smash them through a grate. Debris will fall into a wheelbarrow, which players will then roll over to their bin. The first to completely fill their bin with debris wins.
Degree of physical difficulty: High. This is all strength and endurance.
Degree of mental difficulty: N/A. This is all physical.
Potential for drama: Low. Jenna is an endurance beast, she's excited to smash things, but Tori is definitely the favorite to win here. Her head's in the game, and as much as Jenna says she wants it, the drama back home is heavy on her mind.
Winner: In a crazy upset, Jenna bests Tori!
Tori's strategy is to bring a bunch of bricks up first and then smash them all, while Jenna goes one at a time. Jordan gets frustrated as Tori pushes individual pieces of debris through the grates while Jenna is straight-up smashing the hell out of hers and getting an early lead. Jordan runs around to get closer to Tori to try and tell her the right way to smash her bricks, and she finally starts getting the hang of it. But Jordan still runs hot, screaming on the sidelines, visibly throwing her off. It comes down to the final wheelbarrow, which Jenna pushes into her bin a split second before Tori.
Jordan keeps on screaming and runs down into the pit, hugging Tori, still yelling but also telling her she did great. He cries about her leaving but she tells him to stay strong. She's got such a good attitude taking the loss, but he can't let it go. From the outside looking in, you'd think it was Jordan who lost and Tori comforting him. As Tori and Jenna hug, Jenna asks her to reach out to Zach and let him know she's doing well and she never cheated. Because she's staying, and with her red skull, she now has a ticket to the final. Could this finally be Jenna's shot at winning The Challenge? If Zach really loved her, he would realize that and support her.
Challenger of the week: Jenna for proving everyone wrong, putting herself first, and securing her red skull. She earned that trip to the final.