The Challenge: USA recap: The first Hall Brawl of the season takes a brutal turn
Last week's episode of The Challenge: USA ended on a cliffhanger, but it wasn't hard to guess what it was: TJ's "so tired of hearing" everyone complain about the Algorithm — which, he says, is "perfect" — so that means staring with this week's episode, it's an individual game. Hell yes! As much fun as it can be watching weird pairings have to figure out how to work together, there's nothing I love more than an individual game. Let's recap!
Some players are obviously more psyched than others about this twist, but shockingly Tyson is now worried. He knows he can perform well on his own but he also thinks this means he'll be the biggest target for all the guys. Back at the house, Desi's celebrating that they all "made the Merge," which is Survivor-speak for making it to the second (and most exciting/important) phase of the game. The next morning, Danny and Ben confirm that at this point, with six Survivor alums left in the game, the smartest move (and one they can pull off) is keeping their alliance intact and making sure no Survivor players go against each other in eliminations. While Ben is frustrated that he hasn't been winning on The Challenge: USA like he expected, he knows his best shot at making it to the final is by working with Tyson and not against him (plus, he also wants to beat Tyson in the final).
Now, if you're only watching these episodes, that doesn't sound too shocking. Obviously, Tyson has been winning a lot, and there's a lot of talk about keeping "Survivor strong," so a Survivor alliance sounds reasonable. However, if you've been listening to Tyson's weekly podcast Surviving The Challenge, you know there's been a ton of Survivor drama behind the scenes that, for some reason, hasn't been shown onscreen. Mainly, Ben and Sarah have been freaking out about trusting each other as well as trusting Tyson for a few episodes now, and the level of paranoia and rage between those two (aimed at each other and at Tyson) has been off the charts. I can't believe we've been robbed of seeing that onscreen, because that makes Ben's epiphany here all the more dramatic given what's been going on with him all season. The Challenge: USA editors, what gives?!
I also love how Danny is all about staying Survivor strong, but he admits that he's still open to going head-to-head in an elimination with someone in his alliance if he thinks he can beat them and steal their money to qualify for the final. He's starting to get worried about not having enough money at this point, and he'll do whatever it takes to get it. This is a side of Danny we didn't see on Survivor, and I didn't know he had it in him to be this ruthless!
While lounging in the yard, Sarah complains about how she's the only woman who hasn't qualified for the final yet. Now that it's an individual game, she's psyched to be playing only for herself, and she wants to get a Hall Brawl to get her money.
Later that night, Ben reveals he hasn't been sleeping because it's the anniversary of the death of his friend, and it's been weighing on him a lot. When he was on Survivor, he struggled a lot with his PTSD and he's always been open about it and was able to handle it, but will it get to be too much for him to handle on The Challenge?
The Challenge: Having a Blast
For the first individual challenge of the season, players have to race back and forth on a soaped-up, slippery runway that's being pulled by a speedboat. Each trip across the runway, they have to grab a key to fit into a safe, and after four keys successfully unlock the safe, they grab a flag and race back to the starting point. The fastest overall time wins, and the slowest goes straight into elimination. But there's a twist — this week, all the women are safe. The slowest guy will head to elimination, and the fastest man and woman will pick his opponent.
But wait, there's more! To maximize the comedy, there will be two players on the speedboat at all times, blasting the competitors with water canons. The potential for wipeouts just increased exponentially — however, it turns out that the way the producers paired the sprayers with the runners, no one actually tries to sabotage anyone with the water. Ugh. This challenge could have been so much better!
Ben and Enzo are the first ones up, with Cayla and Sarah as the sprayers — and I cannot believe they gave Ben and Enzo an easy layup here, since Sarah is close allies with them both. Not only is she going to go easy on spraying the guys, she and Cayla agree to try and spray all the soap off the runways to make it as easy for the guys as possible. BOOOOOO. That's so lame! Of course, Ben starts flying down the runway while Enzo takes little baby steps (and somehow cuts his leg on the rubber runway). Ben finishes fast, and Enzo takes his time and finishes later.
In the second round, those four swap, so Sarah and Cayla run while Ben and Enzo spray. It's another lame round with no water sabotage, and then Cayla just slides right off the runway when she tries to start her run, immediately DQing herself. Meanwhile, Sarah completes the run with no issues. Greatttt.
Next up is Tyson and Dom, with Angela and Cashay as the sprayers. Once again, the matchups for sprayers/runners is BORING. The women don't spray the runways at all, and Tyson flies down the course with no issues, with Dom a little further behind. They both finish, with Tyson in the running for first place. When they swap with the women, Tyson convinces Dom to use the spray to help clear Angela's runway despite their previous rivalry. Both Angela and Cashay complete the course (with Angela in the lead), and the entire time, Sarah watches from the sidelines with a grimace. She thinks Angela's had an "easy ride" all season and "hasn't proven herself," to which I say ... huh? Angela's won multiple challenges and has proven to be the best female competitor this season so far. That makes zero sense. Sarah, your jealousy is showing.
The next round is David and Danny running, with Justine and Alyssa spraying. Of course we get our weekly Kiki shout-out, and there's absolutely no spraying once again. Danny beats David by a few seconds, and then they swap. After recovering from almost sliding off the runway, Justine gets stuck when one of her keys doesn't fit into the lock. Alyssa catches up and ultimately beats her.
The last round is Leo running, with Desi spraying, and he shocks everyone by actually making the initial jump and flying down the runway. Tyson starts to get a little nervous because he knows if Leo wins, he's sending Tyson straight into elimination. They swap, but Desi slides right off into the water, immediately DQing herself. Thankfully, both her and Cayla are still safe despite their DQ's, since it's just a male elimination week.
Enzo was the slowest male and is going straight into elimination. As if that's not bad enough, he also has to get stitches for the cut on his leg, so he's not feeling too confident about his chances of staying. On the women's side, Angela was the ultimate winner (again!). And the top two men (separated by only two seconds) were ... Ben and Leo! Wow. No one saw that coming. But the fastest man was Ben, and he gets emotional, knowing that he won on the anniversary of his friend's death and can celebrate something positive on this day instead as he is now qualified for the final.
Back at the house, Enzo's all stitched up and meets with Ben and Angela. He says he doesn't care who they throw in against him as long as he can get enough money to qualify for the final. After Enzo leaves, Angela works her strategic expertise to try and make a new deal with Ben to save both her and her ally, Alyssa, in the upcoming weeks, and he's all for it. He wants to help Sarah any way he can, but now that he's qualified for the final, his top priority is keeping himself safe, and he knows that he needs to form new alliances to make that happen. Now he just has to make sure all the other Survivor guys agree to Angela's pitch — which they do, but they also laugh at how this new alliance with the Big Brother women just came out of nowhere.
Now, it's time for a night out! Apparently these have happened every week, and we just never see them in the episodes. This time, everyone toasts to Ben's fallen friend. Leo tries to make a deal with Angela by offering to name his fourth cat after her if she doesn't throw him in (he already promised to name his third cat after Alyssa, so he's running out of cats to make deals with). Enzo talks about how he's worried about competing in an elimination so soon after getting stitches, so as soon as he walks away, Sarah says she wants to go into elimination against him.
A male vs. female one-on-one elimination is practically unheard of on The Challenge for many reasons, the biggest being that production would never allow it. While I really want to see that happen for entertainment value alone, Sarah is absolutely ruthless for considering (and getting excited about!) this idea so quickly, since Enzo is supposedly one of her closest allies. She's getting desperate to make her money but stealing Enzo's cash wouldn't even give her enough to qualify for the final, so that's not even her motivation here. She just wants to make what she sees as a big, legendary move, but is volunteering to go against someone who's injured really all that legendary? She also doesn't even consider how Enzo would feel about it. Yikes.
In The Arena, the players walk in and immediately see the Hall Brawl setup, so they all know what's coming. Danny says this is exactly what he lives for, and as a professional football player, he's not exaggerating. He's always wanted to compete in a Hall Brawl, but since beating Enzo still wouldn't give Danny enough money to qualify for the final, he doesn't want to risk his game for nothing. So Ben and Angela pick Leo instead. That's brutal, knowing he was two seconds away from winning the challenge and ends up in the elimination instead.
Apparently, Sarah had pleaded her case to Ben and Dom earlier to send her in instead, but they didn't even consider it. Angela throws some incredible shade by saying that Sarah should focus on winning challenges instead. It's clear that there's no love lost between these two women. I smell a future Rivals pair!
Elimination challenge: Hall Brawl. If you're new to The Challenge universe, this is the ultimate headbanger. It's a classic elimination, where players run full speed at each other in a narrow hallway, and whoever makes it out of the other end first wins. Collisions are guaranteed, and this can (and will) get brutal. And with Enzo's clear size advantage over Leo, this could also end very quickly.
In the first round, the guys hit each other hard. Leo puts up a respectable fight, but he's clearly being steamrolled by Enzo, who gets the first point. The second round is even harder to watch, as Enzo hits Leo so hard I think I saw cartoon birds flying around his head. Leo ricochets back and falls on the ground, and Enzo plows through him to ring the bell and get his second point, winning the whole thing.
Now, Enzo steals Leo's money and is qualified for the final, and someone should probably check on Leo to see if he has a concussion. On the sidelines, Cayla breaks down in tears because she knows how much Leo wanted to be here, and she thinks he deserves to be here over some of the other guys who haven't been in an elimination yet. Meanwhile, behind the Arena, Leo's so heated he doesn't even want to go back in for his goodbye and walkout. He says everyone (except Sarah, Cayla, Desi, and a few others) is a snake and he's over it. So that's it — he's just gone. What a horrible way to go out. That's not good sportsmanship, but whatever.
Challenger of the week: I've got to give it to Angela, for not only proving (once again!) that she really is the top female competitor here (sorry, Sarah), but also for (once again!) showcasing her strategic political expertise. She really is the whole Challenge package.
The Challenge: USA airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.
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