By Sydney Bucksbaum
May 20, 2020 at 09:30 PM EDT
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The Challenge

S35 E8
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The odds of earning a red skull are getting slimmer and slimmer as each week goes by on The Challenge: Total Madness, but many players are still sticking to their old strategy of doing anything possible to stay out of eliminations. And after last week saw elimination beast Tori get sent home by Jenna, some players are now more scared than ever to head into Purgatory and risk their fate. As a double elimination this week sends home two strong players and two more guys earn a red skull, are we seeing the makings of the final solidify before most of the vets and champions choose to go down onto the elimination floor? Let's recap the action!

Tori's elimination should have been a signal to the vets that they need to do everything they can to get a red skull quickly, but if anything it's made a lot of them want to wait even longer. That's going to bite a lot of them in the butt, since as of right now, Jenna, Dee, Jenny, and Rogan are the only players eligible to run a final. And Jenna thinks Zach is going to forgive her if she comes home with a million dollars. Kailah and Bear are happily canoodling. Just a lot of eyebrow-raising things happening right now.

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The Challenge: Decontamination

Played as individuals, each player must race through a room filled with foam to the back wall window and memorize the flashing colored lights in sequential order. They must then race back through the foam room and place colored disks in the correct order on a pole. The timed event is played in three rounds to space out competitors, but the fastest man and woman overall will win and form the Tribunal. It's a male elimination week but since TJ doesn't have enough competitors to run the final yet, it's a double elimination week (male only) to give them more opportunities to earn a red skull.

TJ's emphasis on not having enough players to run the final "yet" makes me think that once he's got enough players with red skulls, everyone else will be immediately purged from the competition. Could it be as simple as the first eight (or 10, 12, etc.) with red skulls who are still in the game (RIP Jay) automatically make it to the final? This is why it's important to get your red skull as soon as possible! Stop waiting!

Degree of physical difficulty: Low. There's a little bit of speed necessary here but the focus is more on mental than physical.

Degree of mental difficulty: Moderate. This is all memorization, which shouldn't be difficult. But then again, we know how these players perform in mental tasks.

Potential for drama: High. With a double elimination for the guys and most guys still wanting to stay out of elimination despite the need for a red skull, I predict chaos is coming to the bunker.

Winner: Mattie and Wes.

In the first round, Mattie, Swaggy, and Cory decide to team up and chunk out the sequence together. Despite that, Wes still finishes first in that round working alone, with Mattie finishing second. In the second round, Rogan and Dee work together (ugh) and Nelson doesn't emerge from the foam for a long time since his strategy is to let the other players figure out the first half of the colors and then copy their orders. Fessy still finishes first and Dee finishes second. In the third round, Aneesa, Nany, and Kailah work together to try and help Bear but they're a total mess. Meanwhile, Bananas just stays outside the foam room, staring at it, and then magically stacks his discs in the right order, winning that round (turns out he realized he could see the reflection of the lights on a metal piece of equipment to the side of the foam room and didn't have to run back and forth into the foam at all — work smarter not harder!). Big T finishes second. Now it all comes down to the timing of each round's two winners, and the two fastest women are Big T and Mattie, with Mattie's time beating Big T's. The two fastest men were the unholy alliance of Wes and Bananas, with Wes beating Bananas.

Tribunal: Mattie and Wes, and their choice for the third member is... Bananas! Wes says it's because he's done almost everything on The Challenge except for "save Bananas," but we know it's because they've got a secret alliance. Will this finally expose their shadow deal?

Back at the bunker, Nelson immediately tries politicking with Aneesa, Kailah, and Jenna, knowing his earlier outbursts put him on the chopping block, but his argument is all over the place. And Kailah's already made up her mind.

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Nominations

It's a double elimination, so that means the house has to nominate two losers automatically going into elimination. The Tribunal will then pick four guys to interrogate. At nominations, Fessy kicks it off by essentially saying he's fine being voted in because he's confident now that he's seen a bunch of eliminations in person that he can't lose, so he's probably coming back. Big words from a rookie! He's voted in for the first elimination, with Bear and Nelson also getting some votes. In the second round, Nelson's messy "politicking" strategy of promising everyone he won't say their names backfires since you can't make that promise to everyone. He tries to defend himself, saying how he never promised anyone he'd take them to a final (which, duh, because he's only made it to the finals himself once out of six seasons). But his lies have been exposed and he's voted in as the second pick.

Later that night as the gang heads to a bar, Nelson's salty, blaming Kyle for exposing his "strategy," calling him a rat. He keeps insulting Kyle with some ridiculous low blows to Kyle's face, putting his hand condescendingly on Kyle's shoulder, trying to goad him into a fight by calling him "the biggest p---y I've ever seen in my life." Security gets involved, Melissa starts yelling at Nelson about how he has no respect for women (true!), and it just makes Nelson look even worse than he already does (which is actually impressive, because I didn't know that was possible!).

Back at the bunker, Big T is wasted and she cuts her foot on a chair while getting down from her bunk. It's a bad cut and blood makes her feel "fainty," so everyone bands together to help her put pants on. Producers tell her she needs to go to the hospital for some stitches and she's freaking out. She ends up getting three stitches in her toe but she's back at the bunker that same night.

At the interrogation the next day, Bananas tells Wes and Mattie he doesn't want to go in this week but Wes says he "might." For their picks, they choose Jordan because they want him out of the game, they burn a pick on Kyle and then choose Bear and Cory. Interesting picks! Josh is shocked he's not listed because he's still convinced Wes has it out for him, which is just delusional at this point. The interrogations go as predicted: Jordan is content to go in rather than stick around without Tori "for nothing," Kyle's shocked that Bananas' isn't protecting him and doesn't want to go in, Bear begs to stay out because he wants to just spend more time with Kailah, and Cory tries to make a blank slate deal with Bananas after their turbulent past, wanting to stay out as well.

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Purgatory elimination

Walking into Purgatory, it's clear that this is a headbanger with an age-old Challenge staple, the pole wrestle. But Jordan is disappointed as it's "probably the worst elimination a guy with one hand can get."

For the first pick, Bananas and Wes both decide not to go against Fessy. The Tribunal picks Jordan to go against Fessy. Not surprising given who's voting, but still — that's cold. For the second pick, surprisingly both Bananas and Wes choose to stay out of elimination against Nelson and Wes votes for Bear as payback for last season's blindside, Bananas votes for Cory, and Mattie's deciding vote is for Bear, sending him in. Kailah's pissed and Bear is shocked.

Elimination challenge: Pole Wrestle. Players must hold onto the same pole and try to wrestle it away from each other. First person to wrestle it away two out of three times wins.

Degree of physical difficulty: High. A classic headbanger, this is all strength and endurance. It's grueling and usually gets pretty violent.

Degree of mental difficulty: N/A. This is all physical.

Potential for drama: High. With Jordan against a beast like Fessy in an elimination that relies on grip strength, he's at a clear disadvantage. But then again, Fessy is a rookie who has never been in an elimination before, whereas Jordan's an elimination beast. And Nelson vs. Bear is actually a stacked lineup as they're both proven elimination performers. This could be anyone's game.

Winner: Fessy and Nelson.

Jordan has to use his wrist to grip one side of the pole against Fessy, but Fessy immediately gets the first point. In the second round, Fessy lands on top of Jordan's shoulder and it's clear that he's injured during the reset, but Jordan tries to play through it. It costs him, and Fessy gets the second point. In his talking head interview, Jordan starts crying as he says that anyone with a disability shouldn't let fear stop him or her from doing anything. It's passionate and heartbreaking to see because he's never let having one hand be a disadvantage for him before. This was just one the elimination he couldn't win. He ends up going to the medic after because he can't lift his arm anymore, but he runs back into the ring to still support the next two players going at it. Meanwhile, Josh is pissed to hear that Swaggy knew Wes was voting Bear in, and he decides to try to "rally the house" against both Wes and Swaggy next time.

But time for elimination No. 2! This time it's more evenly matched and Nelson gets the first point. And despite Bear trying to play dirty, Nelson gets the second point as well. That means Fessy and Nelson now have red skulls along with Rogan, Jenna, Jenny, and Dee. This is already looking like it's going to be a very weird group in the final.

Challenger of the week: Jordan for still showing up and giving this elimination his all despite the odds being stacked against him. He risked further injury to his shoulder after the first round and then left the medics early to support the second matchup. Say whatever you want about Jordan's personality, but his attitude when it comes to the game is commendable here.

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