The Challenge: Total Madness finale recap: The 2 winners are...
What. A. Season. The Challenge: Total Madness has sure had its ups and downs (check out what The Challenge showrunner told EW about the decision to edit Dee out rather than air the remaining episodes as is). But it came to a fitting end in this week's finale with two deserving winners coming out on top. So, who won?
After last week sent Dee and Nelson packing, it's officially time for the final to begin. While everyone is celebrating making it this far, Bananas seems to be the only one worried about what's coming next since he knows how physically, mentally, and emotionally grueling finals can be. And Cory is reading a letter left for him from Nelson. Lots of emotions happening in the bunker. And then lots of drinking at the bar later, including the guys doing a "shoey" (look it up and try not to gag), Bananas making another one of his signature speeches, Bayleigh talking s--- about how Melissa is only here for bragging rights, and Fessy crying to Kaycee about making the final on their rookie season.
But at 6:47 a.m. the next morning, the final begins, and some players are already "so miserable" from the cold (lookin' at you, Kyle) that it's clear they are not ready for what's about to happen. TJ announces that there are going to be two winners taking home prize money: $500,000 for the first man and woman to finish, winner(s) take all. There is no second place.
The final is a trek through snow up 9,000 ft. of elevation over 12 miles, with checkpoints along the way. The first checkpoint begins immediately, with players strapping on ski equipment and skiing to a pile of logs. They can pick up a max of three logs at once, ski through a valley, and eventually deposit a total of 12 logs in a pile, light the pile on fire, and set off the monument on top. It's a race, and if you don't finish, you don't move on. TJ also makes a cryptic remark about how they reward winners on The Challenge, so you want to win. That's definitely going to come into play not just at the end of the final but also during it. TJ never makes a cryptic comment without it meaning something big.
The horn sounds and we're off. Fessy is the first to reach the log pile but everyone is struggling with the knee-deep snow. Bananas keeps pace with Fessy at the front of the pack, and Jenny is in first for the women. Bananas is the first to reach his monument, but Fessy's cocky and doesn't think he needs to worry about any of the guys beating him overall. Kaycee is smart and puts logs in her jacket so she only has to carry one in her arms instead of all three. Cory just takes off his skis and carries them along with his logs while he walks the whole way... which is maybe the smartest move we've seen yet? Who would have thought! He's also not sweating the snowy terrain at all, unlike everyone else (especially Rogan). Everyone is taking three logs at a time except Melissa and Kyle, who only did two on their first trip. That's going to cost them a lot of time.
Pretty soon almost everyone is doing Cory's strategy and walking while holding skis. Even Bananas is doubting his ability to finish this final, and we get a hilarious mini-montage of him falling on his skis over and over. Cory eventually overtakes Bananas and becomes the first place male. And then Bayleigh takes a hard fall on her skis and "feels a ligament in [her] knee just rip," but says she's going to push through the pain because she needs the money to have a wedding ceremony for her and Swaggy C. Wait, doesn't he always talk about how much money he makes and how he doesn't need reality TV money? Interesting.
Cory is the first male (and first person overall) to collect all his logs, with Fessy finishing immediately after. But Fessy starts his fire first. Cory gets his fire second, and Bananas gets his third. Jenny is the first female to collect all her logs and lights her fire as Kaycee finishes collecting her logs. Kaycee finally starts her fire (and yells, "Where the marshmallows at!") just as Rogan finally collects his logs. Meanwhile, all the people who lit their fires are making their way up the steep mountain, with Cory overtaking Fessy for first. Back at the bottom, Bayleigh and Kyle finish collecting their logs. Kyle is the last male to light his fire and move on; then Bayleigh does as well. Melissa, in last place, lights her fire immediately and moves on.
TJ takes an ATV to the checkpoint finish line as Cory crosses it, solidifying his first-place lead. Even TJ sounds surprised! Fessy crosses second, with Jenny first for the females. Bananas crosses next and Kaycee is right after, then Rogan, Bayleigh, and Kyle (with a "screw you!" to TJ). Bayleigh asks to see a medic for her knee, and they tell her it's up to her if she wants to quit and go to the hospital. She says no. Melissa finally crosses the finish way after everyone else, but she completes the first checkpoint. And then TJ drops a bomb!
Winner/Tribunal: Cory and Jenny won the first checkpoint, and they now form the final Tribunal... because "winners get rewarded." See?! Two players will be eliminated, and Cory and Jenny are safe. But first, they have to make it through "the journey," where they all stay together as a group and get to the top of the mountain to the compound. And that journey is up a sheer, snow-covered cliff with only a cable to hold on to.
Bayleigh is really feeling the pain in her knee, and Fessy says he's scared of heights when he realizes they have to walk a tightrope over a huge drop. Jenny hears Bayleigh complaining about her knee and sees how much Melissa is struggling, so she now only sees Kaycee as her competition. The group makes it to the compound just as the sun sets, completing checkpoint two.
Cory and Jenny decide that Cory will pick the male and Jenny will pick the female to go into elimination, and they need to be ruthless and not think with their emotions. If they do the smart thing, Cory will pick Fessy (Bananas is the bigger overall threat but so far in this final, he's trailing both Cory and Fessy) and Jenny will pick Kaycee. For the "house" vote, Rogan nominates himself (like last week, he was going to be nominated anyway so it's not really that heroic) and then Melissa nominates herself because she isn't sure she can keep going if she doesn't have an elimination win to motivate her after her poor performance in the first leg.
Jenny picks Kaycee to go against Melissa and then Cory picks Bananas to go against Rogan, even after he makes a speech about how he and Bananas had a truce for this season and Fessy actually went against a deal he made with Cory earlier. But he sees Bananas as the bigger overall threat after seeing Fessy "gas out" on the hike, so he's making that choice for his game.
As TJ calls forward the players going into elimination, Melissa shocks everyone by announcing she's quitting. Knowing how much TJ hates quitters, will this be the last time we'll see Melissa on this show? It's worth noting that Melissa didn't know she was pregnant at the time of filming. I'm not saying that has any bearing on her performance in the final or her decision to quit, but this might be the first time a player has competed while pregnant on The Challenge. I just wish Melissa would have continued on; it's always so frustrating to see someone come this far and then give up, especially considering all the other players who fought tooth and nail to get to the final and were cut before they could make it (it would have been awesome to see how Aneesa competed in this final). But Kaycee gets the easy "win" and stays in the game.
The Challenge: Knock Out
The Bananas and Rogan matchup is the only elimination we'll see in the final. They start on opposite sides of the snowy field and race to hit the bell hanging in the center. The first player to ring the bell twice wins and stays in the game. In the first round, Bananas makes it to the center first but Rogan knocks his hand out of the way. They scramble in the center, but Bananas rings the bell first. In the second round, Rogan gets to the center first and takes a flying leap but just misses the bell, and Bananas hits it with his finger first. Rogan knows he lost, and the two hug it out as Rogan is eliminated.
So now both of the players picked to go into elimination by the Tribunal are back in the game, which doesn't bode well for Jenny and Cory. But TJ announces again that they reward winners, and Cory, Jenny, Bananas, and Kaycee have all won during the first day of the final. That means they get to head up to the warm compound and get a cozy night of rest. That's going to mean the world to them on day two of the final. And Bananas tells Cory that "it's all good" with being thrown into elimination, meaning their truce still holds. It's so great to see longtime rivals put aside their history this season. There's been a lot of growth with a lot of vets.
Meanwhile, Kyle, Bayleigh, and Fessy have to stay outside in the freezing cold all night with only a fire to keep them alive. That's going to be brutal. At this point, let's be honest: the final is now between the four staying in the compound. There's no way Fessy will be able to stay on pace with Bananas and Cory after a miserable night like this. Even Bananas says that Cory basically saved his fate in this final. And Kyle and Bayleigh... LOL. They never really mattered if there's only one top male and female winner.
Outside the compound, Bayleigh starts crying and tells TJ she thinks she pulled her MCL and can't continue. She gets taken away by the medic and is officially out of the game.
The four top winners head into the warm compound and are elated to see beds with pillows and blankets. And they laugh at how they can see Fessy and Kyle standing miserably by the fire through the window. The winners fall asleep, comfy and cozy in their beds, while Kyle keeps chattering away outside to a completely silent Fessy. Watching them struggle for hours trying to get comfortable laying on top of barrels in the snow is hilarious only because of how depressing it is. After six hours, they're finally allowed to go inside.
The next morning, everyone suits back up and sees that it's starting to blizzard. But they put on snowshoes and meet TJ outside for day two, the final push; it's the last race to the end. It's simple: whoever crosses the finish line first wins. And the Tribunal, a.k.a. Cory and Jenny, get a minute head start. Then the elimination winners, Bananas and Kaycee, get a minute head start after that. Then Fessy and Kyle get to start, a full two minutes after the first place guy. That is huge.
Cory and Jenny reach a checkpoint where they have to solve an equation to open a lock, and all the parts of the equation are on separate posts along the way. Everyone catches up at this point, and Fessy is the first to open his lock; Bananas is next. Kaycee struggles with her equation and Jenny gets hers open first. Kaycee has to go back down and read the full equation again while Kyle gets his. Cory asks Kyle what the answer is, as if Kyle will tell him! Kyle just says, "Sorry Cory, man," and continues on. Cory finally gets it.
At the front, Fessy loses his lead as Bananas, Jenny, and even Kyle pass him, and Kaycee finally times out on her math equation and can move on. Pretty soon, Cory overtakes Fessy, putting Fessy in last place for the males. Bananas sees Kyle and Cory right behind him, and Cory can see TJ in the distance, so he overtakes Kyle. And then Jenny reaches TJ, who tells her to touch the red skull. She does.
Winner: Jenny! And then Bananas! By touching the red skull, Jenny finishes first, not just for the women but also overall. Bananas sees her celebrating and shouting, and he races the final few feet to touch the red skull, making him the first place male.
As for everyone else, somehow Kyle ends up finishing first for the losers, with Cory finishing next, and Fessy after that, with Kaycee bringing up the rear. Both Jenny and Bananas cry in their talking head interviews about how much this win means to both of them, but Bananas is especially emotional, talking about his dry spell and the "curse" he's been under since stealing the money from Sarah in Rivals III.
The final shot of the season is Bananas shouting, "Curses be damned!" at the finish line on top of the mountain. But it's very important to remember Jenny beat Bananas, and in prior seasons, only the first person to finish won the money. Bananas is lucky this season played out with the top two winners.
And with that, the Madness is over! Stay tuned for next week's remotely-shot reunion, and in the meantime, check out EW's winner interviews with Bananas and Jenny to find out what we didn't see air, their thoughts on everything that happened, and more.