The Challenge: Spies, Lies and Allies recap: The veteran war gets dirty
Thanks to the bold move of rookie Priscilla in last week's episode, the veteran alliance that's had a chokehold on The Challenge: Spies, Lies, and Allies is finally over. And while it's been impressive to see all these hot-headed vets actually working together for this long, now that the gloves are off and everyone is forced to go after each other for the first time all season, the drama is finally getting good. But who was the first victim of the veteran war? Let's get into it!
At the start of this week's episode, Priscilla knows she's in trouble, but she regrets nothing about going against Ashley's ultimatum. But Josh is worried since he's now attached to her. But the target shifts to another team almost immediately after Tori, Josh and Cory talk back at the house, and it comes out that Jeremiah told Cory about the partner stealing in advance. Cory tries to turn the conversation back around to patting all the vets on the back for how they pulled off the seemingly impossible in rallying all the returning players for the entire first half of the season. He tries to hype them up about how now it's time to really get to work.
But Cory's speech didn't distract Josh because he goes straight to Ashley, Kyle, and Amanda — a.k.a. the four vets who weren't attached to rookies — and reveals that Cory knew about Priscilla and Jeremiah's plan. That makes the foursome suspicious that Cory is the "head honcho" of a group of rookies, which means he's got more numbers on his side than they realized. And even though the veteran alliance is technically over, it means Cory's priorities aren't with his fellow vets, giving them the perfect first target in this new war.
The next morning, Cory has his own meeting of the minds with Nelson where he reveals his own version of The List. He sees the house in three loose groups that he's written down: Devin's crew (Kyle, CT, and Ed) plus the group of his Big Brother allies (Josh, Kaycee, Nany, and Emanuel), then it's Cory, Nelson, and Jeremiah's alliance, plus some floaters like Logan. Cory thinks he and Nelson are in pretty good shape, but he has no idea he's already being targeted by an entire group he didn't account for. Nelson's contribution to the conversation? "Spies, lies, and allies," he says while shaking his head. Good talk, bro! You can always count on Nelson for those nuggets of wisdom.
Meanwhile, Ed has a way more interesting and fruitful conversation in the pool room — with himself. I would honestly take watching Ed talk to a mirror over watching Cory and Nelson talk strategy any day. Thankfully Cory starts trying to make real moves when he pulls Devin over for a one-on-one conversation and pledges his loyalty to him. Devin then reveals his goal is to see a veteran non-champion win this season, so Cory isn't on his hit list right now. He'd rather see Ashley and Ed be the first veteran house vote, so he tells Cory, "You should be fine, bro." But Logan tells Big T that he wants to target Nelson and Cory, and even though Nelson is Big T's partner she doesn't hate that plan. Nelson and Cory, you in trouble, bros!
The Challenge: Bombshell Battle
This one's going to get dirty — and I mean that figuratively and literally. One partner at a time, teams race down into a muddy crater to retrieve one of their colored balls (a.k.a. bombs). Then the next partner goes, and it continues until they've gotten all four of their balls out of the pit. Then teams race back into the pit to get one silver ball to finish their round — and since there are less silver balls than teams, that might require fighting other players who are also trying to grab it. Whoever gets a silver ball moves on to the next round, and the rounds continue until only one team is left. This is going to get physical and it's got classic headbanger challenge written all over it, so I am pumped!
In round 1, there are 10 teams fighting for five silver balls, and it's madness right away when the guys rush into the pit. Balls are flying, dudes are tackling each other, mud is splashing everywhere. But amidst all the chaos, Ed employs a smart strategy by throwing all of his and Ashley's balls to their side at the start of the round. And soon all the players realize running through knee-high mud is not easy, but Kaycee/Emanuel are the first to finish with a silver ball, so they move on, along with Nelson/Big T, Nany/Logan, and Devin/Amber, with little to no physical contact.
The real action begins when there's only one silver ball left, and all the remaining guys dogpile on top of each other to fight for it. At one point, CT gets it but Kyle knocks it out of his hands. Ed picks it up, but then CT's right back on top of him. CT body slams Ed to the ground, and Josh capitalizes on the big guys distracted with each other and grabs the ball and tries to run. But he drops it and falls down a few times, which gives Kyle enough time to corner him. And even though Josh employs some dirty tactics — he literally chokes Kyle with one hand at one point! — he still can't get away. Eventually all the guys join in, and Cory gets a good tackle in on Josh.
Josh starts to get his feelings hurt because he feels he's being targeted by all the vets that he's "been protecting" all season, but he does realize the point of the challenge is that all the guys are trying get the one ball that's left, right? No one is going to just give it to him. But he starts to throw a tantrum about being choked (even though he choked out Kyle earlier), and Cory throws the ball out and away from the pile of guys, right to Jeremiah. But Jeremiah drops it, and eventually Ed gets it and takes it to his hoop, securing his and Ashley's spot in the next heat.
After the round ends, Josh starts yelling about seeing who ganged up on him and calling out Cory, so Cory runs up and they start yelling at each other. I guess Josh is mad that he had to actually compete, and he lost? Which is... the point of the show? Cory had every right to do exactly what the challenge asked of him and to try his best to win, and there's footage of Josh putting a hand around Kyle's throat earlier so he really doesn't have a leg to stand on here. This is just poor sportsmanship. Stop complaining, you both lost.
But on to round 2, which has neither Cory nor Josh! Nany and Kaycee work together despite being on opposite teams, but yet Ashley is the first back with a ball. This round goes lightning fast and it doesn't really get interesting until it's time for the silver balls to come into play. Devin/Amber are the first to attempt to get a ball, and Amber almost makes it up the rope before Kaycee — positively gleeful about getting to put her hands on Amber, because her secret vendetta with this girl is somehow still going strong for no reason! — tries to tackle her. Unfortunately for the two-faced Kaycee who needs to let her nonexistent beef with Amber go, that only results in Amber just plopping her butt right on Kaycee's chest, trapping her and allowing Big T to grab the ball instead.
While those three are fighting, that allows Ashley/Ed to smoothly grab another silver ball to advance to the final round, as well as Nany/Logan. Eventually, Big T makes it up the mud and secures her and Nelson's spot in the finals too. Kaycee just screwed over herself and Amber, once again, for no reason.
In the final round, all hell breaks loose until for all three teams to fight for the one silver ball. Nelson gets to it first, but ends up in a showdown with Ed, giving Logan time to join the pile. Eventually, the guys, totally breathless at this point, try to talk it out instead of wrestling. Logan points out they're closest to his rope so they should stop fighting and let him win. In exchange, he promises both Ed/Ashley and Nelson/Big T will be safe from elimination. Ed agrees that of the final three teams, "everybody's safe," but says he still doesn't want to let go. Ed finally lets go but Nelson keeps fighting, and Logan says if he keeps fighting, he won't be safe. Nelson finally decides to take the deal, tackles Ed away, and Logan/Nany win.
Nany says she and Logan owe Nelson their thanks for the win, but Ed wasn't fighting at the end! That final tackle from Nelson was performative. Why is he getting all the credit here?! If Ed and Ashley don't get any safety that is extremely messed up. And Ashley's paranoia starts to come out immediately, which does not bode well for her. After the challenge, she starts tearing up immediately and then back at the house she freaks out even more. Josh tries to calm her down, saying she should trust him, but she's in full on "Meltdown Mitchell" mode.
What a perfect time to add alcohol to the mix with a party at the house! The drinks start flowing, and people start dropping intel, like Nany telling Priscilla that she's not targeting her despite her kicking off the vet war, and Ed telling Amber if he goes into elimination and wins, he'd pick Kaycee as his partner, and Amber and Ashley bond over being female champs who get targeted for having won before. But the real juicy gossip comes when Logan tells Nany he wants to see Cory/Bettina as the house vote and then they'll put in Jeremiah and Amber as the Agency vote. He thinks it would be "perfect" to see the "boyfriend and girlfriend fighting for their life." So… it turns out Logan's messy and loves to create drama, and I kind of love it. And Nany loves that plan because she lost to Amber in the final last season, so she doesn't want a repeat performance.
The next morning, Cory tries to rally numbers to have Ed and Ashley as the house vote. And outside the house, despite CT trying to rally numbers against Cory, Devin wants to vote in Ashley instead because he sees Cory as shackled to an anchor (Bettina) and therefore isn't someone to worry about getting power later in the game. But then Ashley joins the conversation with all the vets to politic her way out of danger, exposing Cory for working with all the rookies. That opens Devin's eyes to maybe needing to worry about Cory after all. But it's all going to come down to the deliberation.
Logan starts things off by revealing he promised Ed and Nelson they'd be safe, and "it's very important to keep your promises, if not you are a piece of s---." And then Cory doesn't waste time in revealing he and Bettina and Ashley and Ed are the two teams being discussed. Cory tries to play the "I'm super loyal" card, knowing that Ashley unfairly has a reputation of not being trusted. But I honestly can't remember a single time where she's broken a promise or betrayed anyone — aside from taking the money from Hunter on Final Reckoning.
Ashley comes out swinging, pointing out Cory was the only vet to know about Priscilla and Jeremiah's plan to destroy the vet alliance. Cory then gaslights Ashley by attacking her character while telling her not to attack his, and I'm proud of her for not backing down. "Who did I snake?" she asks Cory, and he just stares at her because he can't think of a single example. Devin tries to get the conversation back on track by focusing on Cory working with the rookies, and even though Priscilla takes ownership of her move and says she didn't talk with Cory about it, Devin doesn't believe her. It all comes down to Cory passing the ball to Jeremiah during the daily — it paints him as guilty in all the other vets' eyes.
Then Nelson tries to convince Amanda to stop defending Ashley — even though they're close friends outside of the game — because of what Ashley did to Hunter, and this whole part was really unnecessary. Nelson says it wasn't right that Ashley only gave Amanda a $500 gift card from her winnings as a thank-you for not voting her into elimination that season — which resulted in Amanda and Zach, the team that won the daily challenge, going into elimination instead since they couldn't agree on their vote, and they were sent home. (Side note: Doesn't that cross some line? Are winners even allowed to share prize money?) Regardless, Nelson is all pissed for some reason that Ashley repaid that favor to Amanda, but Ashley points out that Cory never repaid Nelson after Nelson volunteered to go into elimination for Cory. Oooh, she got him there!
Finally it's time to vote, and Cory just laughs when he sees that he and Bettina are the compromised agents. After the vote, Devin and Kyle start talking about how they don't like Ashley and don't believe anything that comes out of her mouth, but Cory calls Kyle out for lying. They start yelling at each other and it gets ugly. When Cory cools down, Bettina tells him if they win, he should pick Kaycee as his new partner and she'll pick CT because "they're the best." I don't think CT or Kaycee are going to be thrilled about that plan!
At The Lair, Nany and Logan follow through on their plan and vote in Jeremiah and Amber. This time, Amber takes it well — and that's because Nany factually points out that Amber whooped her ass in the final last season. That's a valid reason to make a move against someone, unlike Fessy and Kaycee consistently targeting Amber this season for no reason other than jealousy that she won and they didn't.
Elimination challenge: Hang in the Balance. Teams must work together to transfer puzzle pieces from one platform to another, balancing on an odd-shaped beam the whole way. Then teams must solve the puzzle at the end. Right now, I'd say Jeremiah and Amber have a slight advantage over Cory and Bettina since Bettina is the only player who's never been in an elimination before. But mixing business with pleasure is never a good idea, so Cory's banking on Amber and Jeremiah's new relationship to cause them problems.
When the elimination begins, Cory and Bettina fall immediately and have to re-set, but Amber and Jeremiah do the same thing a few seconds later. There's definitely a learning curve to this, and it takes both teams a really long time to figure it out. They just keep falling over and over again. Cory and Bettina finally make some progress but fall again halfway through. Finally Amber starts crouching low and crab-walking sideways while Jeremiah bends over and holds her up, and it's awkward and probably painful but somehow works! They make it across twice, but their strategy is clearly exhausting both of their bodies. Cory and Bettina copy their strategy and finally make it across once, but continue to fall. Cory even gets smashed on the head with some puzzle pieces after one particularly painful fall.
Both teams eventually start gassing out, and while Amber and Jeremiah have such a massive lead at this point, they're forced to take a break, giving Cory and Bettina the chance to try a new strategy. And this time, it's the right strategy since it's not putting all the strain on just one player. Cory and Bettina get into a rhythm and surprisingly take the lead, finishing the beam portion while Amber and Jeremiah still struggle to finish their last run. Bettina takes over on the puzzle knowing Cory can't do puzzles, and she solves it quickly, securing the win and eliminating Amber and Jeremiah. Talk about a shocking comeback!
After the elimination, Cory celebrates being "a puzzle king" while Devin points out that he won a puzzle challenge without ever touching it, so Cory needs to chill out and accept that he only won that because of Bettina. And Amber says she and Jeremiah will continue their relationship outside of the game, so at least the former champ is walking away with something.
High on their win, Cory and Bettina are jumping at the chance to steal Kaycee and CT as their new partners. But... TJ just tells them to rejoin the group. The confusion on everyone's faces is hilarious as he just says cryptically that they have to be prepared for anything that comes their way in this game. "See you soon!" he says, walking out while Tori freaks because she no longer has a partner (and neither does Devin). Gotta love when TJ throws a little twist into the game! Is this season about to become individual? I wouldn't hate that.
Challenger of the week: Logan for exposing his messy side. This man loves drama and because of that, he suddenly just got a lot more interesting.
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