"Halfway through the season I wanted to go home," [SPOILER] says. "I told one of the producers that was there in the middle of the night, 'I just don't want to be here.'"
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Warning: This article contains spoilers about the finale of The Challenge: All Stars 3, now streaming on Paramount+.

Jonna Mannion has done what very few competitors have accomplished on The Challenge in almost 25 years — won two seasons in a row.

After winning The Challenge: All Stars 2 with her partner M.J. Garrett, Mannion returned the next season to win The Challenge: All Stars 3 all on her own. She defended the crown all season long, performing in the top tier of competitors in almost every daily challenge, and also won two eliminations which ultimately gave her the points she needed to win the final. "Now that I can publicly talk about it, it's exciting. I still feel like it hasn't really hit me yet," Mannion tells EW of her back-to-back wins. "I'm getting a lot of really kind words and a lot of support from people. I'm just trying to soak it all in."

But Mannion's game almost ended earlier in the season when a returning vet attempted to ruin her reputation by claiming she had an affair with Garrett during All Stars 2. Worried for how these allegations would hurt her marriage and kids, Mannion almost quit but ultimately decided to stay. And looking back on the final, she believes if she hadn't began with five extra points (earned from her two elimination wins), she would have been purged on day two. Below, Mannion details how close her game came to ending both times, how she strategically made sure her competitors couldn't beat her, and more.

THE CHALLENGE: ALL STARS
'The Challenge" host TJ Lavin, winners Wes Bergmann and Jonna Mannion
| Credit: Paul Castillero/Paramount+

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You almost went home earlier this season after Beth tried to stir up drama. What inspired you to stay in those low moments?

JONNA MANNION: Yeah, season 3 was tougher for me. There was a point in the middle of the season, everybody saw, due to personal reasons, I just shut down and mentally didn't want to be there. I kind of got reminded of old-school drama, like what used to happen in the past. The Challenge in the past used to be about drama and I felt that vibe again. I just came off winning last season and I'm once again taking time away from my family to be here. Rumors and stuff like this can affect my family back at home and that's the last thing that I want to do.

Halfway through the season, I wanted to go home. I told one of the producers that was there in the middle of the night, "I just don't want to be here." This producer was a P.A. on my Real World Cancun season. She was like, "Jonna, I've known you for so long. You've come so far. I know you can't see it in this moment now, but everybody else sees how far you've come. I know you and I know that if you do decide to quit, that's your choice but you'll look back at this and you'll regret it." At that moment, I looked at the reason why I was really there. I'm here to prove to myself that I can do this by myself and that I can win again. I knew at that point that I had a good shot with the people that were still there and in the game, and how the game was set up. I knew I still had a good chance. I had my human moment for a second where I was upset because I was just hurt and I almost let that get the best of me, and I'm really glad that I didn't.

Is there anything you want to say about the Beth situation and the allegations she was making against you?

No. When someone brings up personal things, or rumors that they've heard from — I honestly don't know what her source was, someone told me she read online rumors — but when someone uses something like that … and the thing about Beth is, I didn't realize this because I hadn't seen many of her past seasons, but after all this drama happened, I had several cast members reach out to me and say, "I went through the same exact thing with Beth 15 years ago, I went through this a decade ago, do you need advice on how to handle it? Hit me up, we all got your back." But I didn't realize at that point that Beth is known for bringing the drama and that she's known for attaching herself to whoever has the biggest story line or whatever it is and using that to, I don't know if it's to get herself more airtime? I don't quite understand the motivation behind it because I personally wouldn't do something like that so I wasn't ready when it happened to me. But as far as the whole situation goes, I'm at peace with it. She's told several people that she wants to reach out to me, she wants to apologize, whether it's publicly or privately, but she hasn't reached out. She has my number and you know what? The ball's in her court at this point.

Obviously, the situation was difficult for you at the time, but was it almost validating in a way to realize that she was targeting you because you were now considered a big threat in the game?

Yeah! But it was weird, Beth has said to other people that the reason why she went after me is because I targeted her, which is not the case at all. Matter of fact, when she first came in, I was trying to explain the game to her, bring her in, not necessarily aligned with her, but I was just being nice. She had a different idea in mind. She came in with a plan and a vendetta and I just unfortunately was the victim of it. But yeah, I guess she chose me because I had just come off of winning the last season and I don't know, that's the only reason because I don't know what other reason she would have to come after me like that.

Well, it's great that you did end up staying because look at how it all turned out for you.

[Laughs] Yeah, I really am glad I did. She almost got me! But I survived.

How did this win compare to winning last season?

It felt really good. Last season, it was my first win, it was my first time experiencing being a champion and all that, and it gave me the confidence going into the third season. Winning the third season was a big deal for me because it was an individual game. I took what I learned from season 1 and season 2, and I applied that to season 3, and I wanted to see if I can do this on my own. I went in and my elimination record wasn't great. I think it was like 2-7 at that point or something. [Laughs] I was afraid of eliminations and after making a final, after winning one, I knew that there was one big thing left for me and that was getting over that fear and proving to myself that I can do it.

It's really cool the way that this season was set up, since there was incentive to go into eliminations. We didn't know what it was for the longest time but the eliminations that I won ended up coming with a reward. Had I not gone into those eliminations, I wouldn't have won. The reason why I say that is because in the final they have a surprise last elimination, and I'm great at puzzles, as everybody knows, but I'm talking like math and shapes and colors. I am not good at crossword puzzles. I'm not good with words, word scrambles, maps, none of that. That is literally my worst nightmare. I'm so happy that I did actually go into those eliminations because had I not had those stars, then I would have been eliminated the second day of the final. Everything happens for a reason. I had a gut feeling and it was a personal thing that I wanted to prove to myself but it also ended up helping me in the game, too.

Once again that proves you never know what's going to happen on The Challenge.

You never know! And you have to be brave. It's crazy because all the other women in the house, they're playing the game that I played the first two seasons and I probably always likely will play: avoid elimination at all costs. But this time, me proving to myself my own thing ended up helping me win. I feel like I'm the luckiest girl in the world, really.

How did this final compare to the finals in the other All Stars seasons?

Every time you ask me this question, my answer might change a little bit. I was in different stages in each final — I was postpartum the first one and honestly, the shock value of like, I did it! I was surprised I even made it there. I wasn't expecting to be there. And then after training and actually being in good shape, I would say season 2's final still, to me, was the hardest one, just because of the heat and all of that. But season 3's final, maybe because it was my third final that year and I kind of knew what to expect, it wasn't that it was easier for me, by any means. I will say the eating portion of it was, out of all three finals, the third season's eating portion was the worst by far. [Laughs] By far! It was disgusting. But I think maybe just having the experience from the first two and just coming off of the season 2 final, I was ready for it. I would still chalk up season 2 to being the hardest for me. But all three of them were hard in their own way. The season 3 final was the best victory for me.

You also kept finishing in first place and kept your lead on everyone else in points throughout the entire final. That was incredible.

I learned from season 1, with the point system, the points really do matter. As I was running season 3's final, I was keeping track of everyone's points in my head. The way that I picked my opponents was based on who was closest to me in points and I did that on purpose. Say Nia was next in points to me, I would pick her to go against so that it would widen the gap. It was strategic.

At what point did you realize you were going to win?

On day one, three of us girls were super close. The second day, we started off with that run. When I was in the season 1 final, there was a point where I was all alone and I couldn't see anybody, so I was not motivated to go faster. The second day of the season 3 final, I kept enough ahead of Kailah to make sure that she stayed far behind me and didn't have motivation to go faster. After I finished the eating portion and I started running to the next checkpoint, there was a certain point where the terrain started to turn into sand. I hadn't seen anybody behind me for so long and I wasn't sure how many checkpoints were left. There were two left: the tangram thing and then the stupid Jenga block thing that haunts me still to this day. [Laughs] But running to the tangram, that's the point that I realized I was I was far enough ahead that if I could just get through the next checkpoints, then I had it in the bag, because I didn't see anyone for forever.

Plus TJ had said when we did the overnight portion, "Spend the night with the chest of money," blah, blah, blah, so I knew that the race was going to end in the water. Because if the money was on the boat, I knew that has to be the end, right? As soon as I started seeing sand, that's how I knew I was close. That's the point where it's on. Do not stop. Give it your all. Keep going, push yourself until you pass out. This is the end. When I got to the tangram part, nobody else was there. Then I went to the block-stacking thing and that's when Brad and Kailah caught up to me. Then my thing fell so I was all stressed out but I rebuilt it and that was the point that I knew.

Was there any part of the final that we didn't see in the two episodes?

Not this time. In the season 2 final there was, but this time, the only thing that I noticed, because obviously it's a show and they produce and edit, when we're standing there doing the tangram puzzle, it shows Brad and Kailah being there with me, so it looks like a close race. But at that point, once we left the eating portion, it was Wes in the lead, and then I was next, and then Brad and Kailah didn't catch up to us until we got to the block-building thing. But besides that, everything was pretty much exactly how it was shown. So it wasn't like last season! [Laughs] It was a little confusing last season.

I wasn't going to say it!

You know exactly what I'm thinking. [Laughs] There's no controversy this time! It was pretty cool because it was an individual thing and I was in the lead for the women, obviously, but out of everybody, I was second. It was Wes and then me. [Laughs] And nobody could eat food like him so there was no beating him.

This really was your best season yet, not just during the final but all season long you were consistently performing well. What does this win mean for your future on The Challenge? Will we see you come back again since you're at the top of your game?

What's next from here? It's a hard choice. Last year was a big year: three finals in one year. I don't wish that upon anyone. But now I'm back at home and I'm ready to just live my life and enjoy it. Since I have the back-to-back wins, financially I can do that. I don't know what the future of All Stars is, whether there'll be more seasons or not. All the girls in All Stars that were in the final, KellyAnne, Nia, and Kailah all say to me, "Jonna, please don't come back. Please. It's time for somebody else to win. We mean this in the best way possible." And I take it as a compliment. But you never know though, because with all the spin-offs, the way that The Challenge is evolving, for All Stars, I've proven myself and then some, come out on top for all three seasons, so I don't know. We'll see.

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