The Challenge: Spies, Lies and Allies recap: 'The List' vs. Survivor
I'm just going to say it: We're only one episode into The Challenge: Spies, Lies, and Allies, and this might already be one of my favorite seasons ever. The cast is huge, the vets seem to have learned from their past mistakes, most of the rookies are actually threats, the challenges look epic, the house is beautiful, and the structure seems promising. And I'm back again to recap it all, so season 37, let's go!
Okay TJ, I see you coming in hot this season like a badass secret agent yourself. Our illustrious host shows off his super yacht, red sports car, and motorcycle within one quick montage, and we love to see it. But enough about TJ, let's get into the action from the actual agents competing this season because the premiere kicks right off with all the U.S. operatives chained up to cinderblock towers, awaiting the international agents to arrive and free them, solidifying the partnerships (each team consists of one U.S. player and one international player, regardless of vet/rookie status). If you missed out on Monday's introduction episode detailing all the vets and rookies arriving to the house, I highly recommend watching it. It's informative (Ashley and Nelson came into this season as f--- buddies! Tori and Fessy f---ed on vacation but it did not end well! CT got even hotter!) but more importantly it was also straight up hilarious. It's also why the premiere begins with the first daily challenge out of nowhere because the time for introductions has passed.
The international agents race through the woods, picking up a sledgehammer attached to a key along the way. Emanuel is the first to arrive, with Kelz not far behind. Ashley is yelling out "two-time champion!" and is shocked that no one picks her. Emanuel runs straight to Kaycee and unlocks her right away. Kelz goes for Tori and then starts crushing the cinder blocks with a sledgehammer. Kyle is faced with either Nany or Amanda (who is coming out of retirement as a new mom!) as his choice, and he picks ... Amanda?! Because of her "connections in the house" apparently, even though he knows she is "Satan." That certainly is a choice. Good luck with that one.
Rookie Gabo tries to pick Survivor winner Michele but Nam claims her first. Sorry Gabo! Lauren picks Josh, Logan picks Aneesa, Hughie picks Ashley, Bettina picks Cory before Priscilla can get him, so Priscilla gets Nelson instead. Gabo picks Nany, and right from the start it's clear he's going to be my new favorite Challenge himbo. He has no idea what this show is about, just wants "a cute face" for his partner, and is built like a threat despite not having much going on up there behind those eyes. I love him. Meanwhile Renan picks Michaela, Emy picks Corey, Berna picks CT (who's hiding because he's nervous), Esther picks Fessy, Tracy picks Devin, and Big T finally picks Survivor winner Tommy (now calling himself Little T), while Tacha picks Jeremiah. That's a lot of names, I know. I'm having trouble keeping track of them too. It's chaos, but a good kind of chaos.
Everyone makes quick work at releasing their chains from the cinderblocks with the sledgehammer, but only some teams realize the letters and numbers painted on the blocks are going to be important later. At this point Emanuel and Kaycee are in first, Aneesa and Logan are in second, CT and Berna are not far behind, and soon all the teams are heading to the decoding station to learn they should have paid more attention to what was on the blocks before they destroyed them. They only get three tries to put the correct code in their safe before they get a five-minute delay. Even the vets are making rookie mistakes!
So now Nelson is screaming at his safe because he's locked out as Aneesa and Logan are the first to unlock theirs, racing to the finish line. Wow, Aneesa comes in first in the first daily challenge two seasons in a row! You love to see it for this seasoned vet. Meanwhile, Renan and Michaela unlock theirs second and finish second, Tori and Kelz are next, finishing third. Kaycee and Emanuel finish next, then Fessy and Esther, Cory and Bettina, and then Kyle and Amanda.
Back at the decoding stations, Ashley and Hughie are arguing with each other and Ashley wants to kill him already. These are two hotheads who are not going to work together well. Nany and Gabo finally open theirs and race to the finish, meaning Hughie and Ashley come in last — but at least they finally finish.
After the challenge ends, TJ introduces himself to the cast as their new handler and reveals they're fighting for a million dollars. He also plays a prank on Ashley and Hughie, pretending like they're cut immediately for coming in last place but don't worry, we're not losing Millionaire Mitchell that easily! As for the winners, Aneesa and Logan are now The Agency, meaning they're safe from elimination and will decide which team will go into elimination against the team the rest of the house votes in. There's no penalty for coming in last, much to Ashley's relief.
Back at the house, the teams finally start to get to know each other. Rookies Renan and Michaela talk about getting all the rookies together to target the vets since they actually outnumber the returning players, while Hughie and Ashley kiss and make up, and Nany realizes her partner Gabo is an international Jersey Shore cast member who admits his own body is all "popcorn muscles" and he only picked Nany because she's "hot." Sweet, sweet Gabo. Logan and Aneesa bond — he says sees her as his grandma and wants her to baby bird food into his mouth? It's weird but okay! CT loves that his partner Berna used to work in a circus because that's actually some great training for The Challenge. Kelz and Tori are ... flirting. That's one way to bond as a team, I guess.
But then the real scheming starts — Ashley whispers to Devin that there are a ton of Survivor players among cast, and she wants to pit them against each other. And while all the vets aren't working together in an alliance per se, Josh reveals they at least have "a truce, a pact, and a promise" to stick together to make sure the rookies don't team up to target them. The vets are outnumbered, so they need to work that magic fast and get some rookies out immediately to get the advantage. It's so satisfying watching these vets put aside their petty past beef and at least start the season the right way. The agreement is no veteran will vote for another veteran until all the rookie teams are gone. Let's see how long that lasts ...
Especially since it's both Logan and Michele's birthday, and even though they don't want to celebrate, Aneesa makes them so everyone dresses up and starts getting rowdy. There are shots, Devin serves up a cake while wearing a tiny speedo and strips before jumping in the pool. And almost immediately, Emanuel and Michele start making heart eyes at each other, making the perfect Survivor couple. But they're actually not the first to hook up — that honor goes to Nelson and Ashley who came on this season as kind of a couple after Ashley moved "like right down the street" from Nelson and they've become friends with benefits in real life. And Nany and Kaycee are maybe kind of also becoming a couple! Finally.
And even though Amanda is mad at Fessy for doing her friend Nelson dirty last season, she and Fessy immediately gravitate towards each other for a secret hookup outside. That took her no time at all to screw over her friend and ally! Her way of flirting and hooking up with him is by insulting him, which feels right for her. But Cory catches them immediately, so Fessy and Nelson finally confront each other about the Double Agents betrayal while everyone watches. Esther wises up to the fact that her partner is actually "Messy Fessy," and Nelson hilariously calls out that Fessy screwed him over and didn't even win the season so it was all for nothing.
Back in the kitchen, Michele tries to downplay her threat level despite winning Survivor while Cory tries to expose her intelligence and social game in front of a group of people. Tori even teases Michele that she should "get ready." And then even though Emy is an international Survivor, she sells out a group of them to Tori and Aneesa, exposing that Renan, Michele, Tommy, and Michaela apparently made a list of people they trust, don't trust, and want to put into elimination — with Tori at the top of the list. Uh oh.
The next morning, "The List" is the talk of the house, with Michaela being targeted as its creator. Aneesa even tries to go through her bunk and bags to find it. Tommy tries to throw the heat off of him and even suggests to Big T that they vote for Michaela to show he's not loyal to other Survivor alums. But Big T finally confronts Michaela about "The List," and she says it was just a list of all the teams. She even brings it down to show Tori, Aneesa, Cory, and CT, but everyone thinks that makes her look more guilty. Meanwhile, Michele and Tommy decide to keep their mouths shut and maybe even vote for Michaela to distance themselves from all the drama. Now that's cutthroat. This is why they're both Survivor winners, people!
This season's deliberation room is awesome. And with only 20 minutes for deliberation, it's time to get right to business. Michaela immediately calls out Michele for turning the tide against her and for being a huge threat, and then she tries to do the same with Tommy and not give Michele a chance to talk. But Michele refuses to go silently and gives a great argument back against Michaela. Then Emy exposes Michaela as the maker of "The List" and while it looks like Tommy might defend Michaela, he actually corroborates the whole thing and reveals Tori is Michaela's target! This deliberation is spicy but I'm impressed with how Michele and Tommy handle it.
When the 20 minutes ends, each player votes on individual iPads at the same time, and it ends up being a landslide vote for Michaela and Renan. Aneesa tells Logan she wants to put in Emy and Corey against them because Emy is who blew up "The List" drama in the first place. He doesn't want to say Emy's name, but he says he'll support Aneesa in whatever she wants to do.
TJ welcomes everyone to The Lair, and just like the deliberation room, it is epic. He also announces the season's title (to mixed reactions) plus a twist: Instead of having The Agency (aka Aneesa and Logan) pick any team to face off against Michaela and Renan, they can pick any guy and any girl, regardless of who their partner is. Logan definitely doesn't want to vote in Emy now!
Aneesa and Logan both vote Corey in for the guy, and for the girl? Logan votes Michele (which pisses off Corey because he's now been voted in for Emy's beef and she's not being sent in with him) and Aneesa supports him. WHOA. So now Michele and Corey have to bond as a team with only minutes to go before competing in elimination together. That's rough.
Elimination challenge: Back Me Up. All four players are strapped together in the center of the platform, and must push or pull their opponents to the opposite side by any means necessary. This one's all physical and endurance, and I have no idea who will come out on top. Both teams seem evenly physically matched, with Michaela physically stronger than Michele but Corey is stronger than Renan.
At the buzzer, Corey and Michele immediately push off hard, and it looks like they're actually way stronger as a team than Michaela and Renan. But Michaela gets on her stomach and plants herself like a weight. Renan doesn't do anything though, and Michaela can't win this by herself. Slowly but surely Corey and Michele inch towards Michaela and Renan's edge for the win, but it's literally a game of inches. Eventually, they make it over the edge, securing the win and sending Michaela and Renan home — with Renan's arm in a sling. Corey even gets a standing ovation for doing the lion's share of the work. He really impressed everyone with his strength tonight.
As the winners, Corey and Michele now have a big decision to make. They can stay together as partners, go back with their original partners ... or infiltrate and steal any other agent (except for The Agency). But wait, Michele actually can't go back to her partner Nam because he's been deactivated from the game! And we're not given any reason why (I'm thinking maybe ... a positive COVID test is to blame? Hmmm). Nam's replacement then walks into The Lair ... and it's Ed from The Circle! But he's without his mom this time. This season just got a lot more fun.
But Michele doesn't partner up with Ed. She immediately says they're going to infiltrate, earning one of the strongest reactions I've ever seen from TJ as he calls it a "Smart! Choice!" Michele goes for "beauty over brawn" and picks Devin — because he was the only one signaling to her that he wanted to be picked. Meanwhile, Corey picks Tori, which bums out Kelz in a big way. So that means Emy and Ed are now partners, and Tracy and Kelz are partners. That is a massive switch-up, and we're only one episode in. If this was just the premiere, there's no telling where this season is going. But I'm so happy to be along for the ride.
Challenger of the week: Rookie Corey for getting screwed over by Emy's drama but having the last laugh by winning with Michele and getting his No. 1 choice for a partner. I expect big things from him this season.