The Challenge: Spies, Lies and Allies recap: Wait, what happened to Ashley?!
It's taken quite a long time, but we're finally seeing some real vet-on-vet action on The Challenge: Spies, Lies, and Allies! It took us 14 episodes to see some non-rookie-related drama, and when it finally happened, it did not disappoint. But we also lost one of the best female vets, which had nothing to do with an elimination. So what went down? Let's recap it all!
Back at the house after last week's elimination, Nelson is feeling sad — he just lost his BFF Cory, plus Logan defected to Sapphire and sent Kyle back to Ruby, so things are not looking good for him. And Logan says he only left Ruby because his Ruby team member Cory called him down into the elimination. It's a BS answer because the truth is that Ruby is just the worst, and Sapphire is looking like the best team now (at this point, Emerald's winning streak is only due to their numbers advantage, not because they're actually the best). But it's frustrating seeing how easily Nelson lets it go with, "It is what it is, you can't change the past," because if Logan were a woman, Nelson would be giving him hell right now. We saw that last week with Amanda! But Logan's a man, so Nelson's cool with him. Curious.
Meanwhile, Tori is feeling really cocky about how Emerald hasn't been infiltrated yet, and she wants to stay Emerald to the end, so clearly Tori is about to get her spot on Emerald stolen — likely from Amanda based on all the shade thrown in their interviews. Finally, something exciting is going to happen! And I'm living for Devin's fake narration as he and Kyle watch Nelson mournfully walk the path he used to walk on with Cory (it's the messing up the math on purpose for me). Speaking of math, Amanda makes a practice quiz to see who has a brain when it comes to word scrambles and math problems, and it exposes who's actually smart (Devin) and who isn't (Josh). The Challenge is more than just a physical competition, and a lot of these players seem to forget about that every season.
Then Big T starts to think about her future in the game, and she tells Logan if she goes into elimination and wins, she wants to infiltrate Sapphire. But not Emerald? CT is not going to like that. And lo and behold, he immediately appears to try to talk Big T into going to Emerald instead. He gives it to her straight: she'll have a much better shot on Emerald since it's a bigger team than Sapphire, which only has four people. She won't say why she wants to be on Sapphire instead of Emerald, but we all know: CT! And Logan says if Big T follows him to Sapphire, he'll just go back to Ruby. We're back to last season's issue of how everyone loves Big T as a person but knows she's one of the weakest players there. At least this time, CT is being respectful and as nice as possible while telling her that. We call that progress.
Out in the cabana, there's another game of weak player hot potato happening where Josh tries to convince Amanda to infiltrate Sapphire instead of Emerald. And unlike Big T, Amanda sees right through it. She just laughs as she tells him, "Because you don't want me to be on your team." He tries to deny it but eventually, after making Amanda promise not to tell anyone, he reveals he'd prefer her to steal Tori's spot instead of Kaycee or Nany. Tori, you in trouble, girl. Also, Josh, you should know better than to tell Amanda a secret!
The Challenge: Submerged
Thanks to a hilarious Top Gun: Maverick tie-in, we're treated to a special intro video from the movie's stars Glen Powell, Danny Ramirez, and Monica Barbaro. Powell details this week's daily, inspired by an official underwater naval aviation survival training course. Do you think he'd ever heard of The Challenge before he appeared on it?
But anyway, on to this week's daily, which looks really cool. Teams start inside a fighter jet hanging above the water that will drop and become submerged, flooding the cabin. Meanwhile, players must collect 25 symbols hanging inside and outside the jet while also memorizing a key underneath one of the wings. Then onshore, teams must recreate that key using all the symbols they collected. The team to complete the key the fastest wins, and there's a 45-minute time limit.
Emerald goes first, and they're feeling strong because, as Tori points out, over half the team is boning each other, so they're really connected. As soon as the jet drops in the water, the cabin floods all the way. This looks terrifying, but they get to work... well, everyone except Nany, who gets the job of bringing all the symbols to shore while everyone else dives down to do the hard work. Devin starts memorizing the key and shouts it out to Nany, but they waste a lot of time searching for one piece that was tied to Josh's ankle the entire time. Oops! And even though they were yelling out the order to Nany, something isn't right when they call for a check. So they have to dive back in and figure out their mistake, but Tori and Josh keep calling out in different orders, so it's all wrong and Devin's getting frustrated. After the second check, it's still wrong. They finally finish, but Sapphire and Ruby are laughing on the sidelines. This might finally be the week that Emerald's streak is broken!
Ruby is up next, and Amanda is freaking out, thinking that Tom Cruise is going to watch her drown and die during this mission. Honey, I don't think Tom watches The Challenge in his free time. Our confirmed celebrity fans are actually Rihanna and Drake, so take the win there. Even though Ruby has only four members, they make quick work of finding the symbols. Big T gets the job of swimming down to read the key, but she can't swim deep enough to see it. She literally had one job! So Kyle and Nelson, who already found the symbols, have to pick up her slack.
Amanda starts freaking out because having to rely on Nelson and Kyle for a puzzle key? Not great! And then Amanda realizes they're still missing pieces, and it's because Big T didn't grab the piece that was right next to her seat in the plane at the start. And then Nelson can't count despite Amanda screaming that they need two more pieces, and they only found one, so they take more time before finding the last one. Big T loses her wig on the swim back, and Amanda makes the guys start over at the beginning of reading all the symbols because she knows it's not right. Eventually, they run out of time and DQ. TJ laughs as he tells them they weren't even close. Classic Ruby!
Now it's all up to Sapphire to beat Emerald, and I'm actually feeling optimistic that CT, Logan, Ashley, and Emy can pull off the win this time. CT and Logan are on the key while Emy collects the pieces, and Ashley handles the puzzle on the shore. And they all attack this mission with precision. You can tell just by how silent Emerald and Ruby are on the sidelines that this is going quickly and smoothly. The other teams are worried!
But they can't find their last symbol, so Ashley dives back in the water, and it's all hands on deck for the search. Emy dives deep, deep down to check underneath a wing, and finds the last one, so the team rushes back onshore and finishes. No mistakes, a quick run... Sapphire absolutely crushed this daily, and Emy is the MVP for saving them.
Obviously, Sapphire wins, finally ending Emerald's reign of terror, and for their prize, they all get Top Gun-inspired call signs and an advance screening of the new movie. And everyone gets a Top Gun-themed party at the club tonight, so it's aviator sunglasses and pilot hats all around! Ruby has a team meeting at the club, and Big T says she doesn't feel like she needs to apologize for her performance at the challenge... even though she couldn't do a single thing to help her team and cost them time by not grabbing the symbol right by her seat. And both Kyle and Nelson tell Amanda and Big T that if they win the elimination, they need to go to Emerald. Enough is enough; infiltrate Emerald!
On the other side of the club, Sapphire has a team meeting where CT tells them he'd be happy to run the final with their team as is. And Logan says, to protect their team, they shouldn't vote in Big T or Amanda because they'd come to Sapphire. He and Ashley essentially want to target a woman on Emerald, but CT says Emerald hasn't voted him in at every chance they had, so they shouldn't go rogue with this vote because that will just "open the floodgates." He wants to vote in Big T because she's "a problem that nobody wants," and sending her in would do "everybody a favor" because if she goes in, she's going home. Brutal, but not untrue.
Ashley immediately goes to Amanda to let her know what's going on, and Amanda agrees that targeting any of the Emerald women is the smarter option here. And Amanda sees that all three Emerald women are sitting with Big T, probably talking about how they'd all choose Amanda as their elimination opponent. So she decides, with Ashley's encouragement, to break up their party.
Amanda comes in hot, threatening to throw herself into elimination and pick someone on Emerald, and Kaycee calls her bluff, begging to be picked as her opponent. But in classic Amanda style, she doesn't allow for a real conversation. She just drops that bomb, tries to start an argument, gets defensive, then walks away. And while that successfully riles up Nany, Tori isn't worried because she's convinced Amanda would just pick Big T since that's her best option to win.
Walking into the deliberation chamber, it's clear that something is up right away when Sapphire sits at the head of the table, and Ashley is nowhere to be found. No one on Sapphire is smiling either. Where's Ashley?! But everyone acts like everything is normal, and Kyle taunts Emerald for finally being on the loser side of the table. This is... weird.
While Big T says the likelihood of her getting sent in is high, Amanda makes good on her word and tells Sapphire to vote her in. Tori tells Amanda she shouldn't call out an Emerald girl as her opponent if she plans on infiltrating Emerald so they can keep their number at six, but Amanda gives no f---s about that. And even though she promised not to tell anyone, Amanda exposes Josh for his earlier comments about Tori, and he tries to expose her right back. But now Tori's feeling worried, and Josh should have seen this coming.
Three out of four Sapphire members vote... and Amanda gets her wish. She's going down in the sand. After nominations, Amanda starts crying about how Nelson is her only friend and Devin and Josh aren't because of their comments during the deliberation. And then Tori complains to Josh about how Amanda is attacking her constantly, and he fuels the fire, lying that he never gave Amanda the green light to steal her spot. He knows that this is all going to air out eventually and expose his lies, right?
At the Lair, before we find out who Amanda is picking as her opponent, TJ drops a bomb: "As you've seen, Ashley is no longer at headquarters. Ashley has broken one of our rules, and because of that, Ashley is no longer able to stay in the game. She has been deactivated. She is no longer able to continue in this game for the rest of the season." Wait, what the f---? What happened?! What rule?! I'm so frustrated by how many exits we've seen this season that have gone by without any explanation. The fact that no one on the cast is surprised or reacting to the news at all speaks volumes — they all know what happened, and it's not news to them. But it should be explained to us!
So now Sapphire is down to three players, and Amanda has to put her game face on. And despite all her posturing, she calls out Big T as her opponent so that, if she wins, she'll steal Tori's spot and become teammates with both Kaycee and Nany. It's the smartest option.
Elimination challenge: Vault Escape. Players must twist and unlock a large pole from a vault, climb on top of the pole, and repeat the process eight times up the 20-foot tall vault. After the eighth pole is unlocked, players must make a leap of faith to ring the bell. Whoever rings the bell first wins. This has a small puzzle element to it in how the poles unlock, but it's mainly strength and endurance, so my money's on Amanda.
And I was right: Amanda goes for precision with constant small pulls, and it works, as she gets the early lead with the first pole while Big T struggles and is chaotic with her pulling, missing the niche, and wasting energy hopping down to the ground to climb back up instead of just climbing as she goes. And while Big T finally starts to catch up a little, Amanda keeps her lead, and Big T's arm gets tired. Amanda finally gets to her last pole as Big T slows down and looks absolutely defeated. Amanda makes the leap to her bell and wins, sending Big T home.
But after Big T gets her round of applause and runs out of the Lair, TJ calls her right back. Because Ashley's gone, and they can't lose another woman (since it would mess up the plans for the rest of the season's format). So Big T is given a second chance and sent right back to Ruby. I'm happy for Big T, even though Nelson and Kyle definitely aren't thrilled to have her back on their team. Meanwhile, Amanda does exactly what she threatened to do and steals Tori's spot on Emerald, sending her to Ruby. We're finally seeing some vet battles, which is great, but seriously... what happened to Ashley?!
Challenger of the week: Emy for coming in clutch, finding that final piece, and solidifying Sapphire's first win... and Emerald's first loss.