"I'm not going to lie, I have PTSD because of what happened last time in Dirty 30," legendary veteran Taylor says of getting eliminated first in his last appearance six seasons ago.
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One of The Challenge's most legendary players is finally back — and he's got something to prove. After four-time winner Darrell Taylor was eliminated in the first episode of The Challenge: Dirty 30, he didn't compete for the next five seasons. And now, the man who holds the record for most winning seasons in a row (literally winning his first four seasons!) is making his highly-anticipated return with Double Agents.

"It's been a while, I know," Taylor tells EW with a laugh. "Feels like ages!"

Taylor has been seen on The Challenge since his unfortunate early elimination on Dirty 30 — he made an appearance the very next season on Vendettas as a mercenary against Nelson Thomas, resulting in the first-ever elimination draw — but this is the first full season he's competed in since season 30. And, he reveals, he's actually been ready to appear in every season since then.

"They always ask me if I'm available [for each season], every time, like twice every year," Taylor says. "I'm always available. And then last year, me and Derrick [Kosinski], we were actually both alternates on season 35 so we thought we were going to come in as some mercenaries or something, maybe as partners; we didn't know the format. But they just never pulled the trigger."

That's been a trend for Taylor the past five seasons. "[MTV] always called me and would then say, 'Sorry, we're not going to go that route,'" he says. "Which was fine, it never really bothered me too much. I guess they just pulled the trigger this year, and it was perfect timing. I just closed my gym and then I could go do The Challenge and get paid to try to win some more money."

Below, EW got Taylor to break down what fans can expect from his return this season, what exactly happened that led to his Dirty 30 demise, how he's not allowing that early elimination to happen again on Double Agents, and more.

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ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Taking into account how long it's been since you’ve competed on the show, what happened to you in your last season, and how the challenges keep getting more and more intense every season, how did you prepare for Double Agents?
DARRELL TAYLOR: It's crazy because yes, the game has changed. A lot. You've got to expect the unexpected, and just take it one challenge and one day at a time. Because if you beat yourself up? I'm not going to lie, I have PTSD because of what happened last time in Dirty 30. What I was going to do for this one was I wasn't going to drink on the plane, I wasn't going to drink until I finally got my feet settled in the house and I got the concept of the game. That was my No. 1 priority: no drinking until I hear the rules of the game, until [host] TJ [Lavin] has announced what's going on. Then I can relax a little bit. Because last time I went a little too crazy on the plane, and as soon as we got there, right away it was a challenge. It was a purge, and I had no idea. Normally when we first meet everybody, we see the house, we do cast photos, and usually we don't have a challenge until like two or three days after we get settled in.

Yeah, watching you go in the first episode in Dirty 30 was absolutely heartbreaking.
I was in tears. I quit drinking. I was so mad! [Laughs] I don't think you understand, it was like fresh off the plane, they put us in a holding place for like a good eight hours, but I was still pretty — yeah. I was going crazy on that plane, drinking way too much of the free alcohol, way too much, ready to have a good time. So it was good that I calmed down and got my bearings back first [this time].

I always wondered what went wrong for you in Dirty 30. I don’t think anyone saw that coming considering back then — and even now! — you hold the record for most Challenge wins in a row.
Yeah, it's one of those things where it's kind of [based on] respect with Cory [Wharton] and everybody else [getting me out in the purge]. I'm pretty sure he was not the only one who would have done that. Because I'm a threat. Like you said, I've won four, and they know if I'm there sticking around at the end, most likely the percentages are going to be on my side of taking that money and winning. Everybody's built different, and I'm more final-built. And maybe eliminations. I'm not really too good at the daily challenges unless they're on the ground. I think they know if they keep me around long enough, it's going to come back to bite 'em in the ass. Unless they're on my team!

So taking all that into consideration, were you targeted right away again this season?
Oh, I was ready. Coming into this season I knew that I had a big target on my back. I'm not in the loop. Last time I was on was Dirty 30 and I didn't even get to really play the game because I was gone so quick. And then before that it was Invasion, and we already knew what was happening. It was just me going against CT, Johnny ["Bananas" Devenanzio] and Zach [Nichols]. And so I knew right away coming to this one, it's easy for people just to throw me in and try to dispose of me because I haven't played the game in so long. But at the same time, I had the advantage [because] people have been playing the game for a while so they have enemies amongst themselves.

Another advantage you’ve never had before is the skull twist because even if someone does try to eliminate you early again, they’re also giving you an opportunity to secure your spot in the final.
I like that, the concept of [having] to get a skull. If you throw them in, you're giving them a chance to run in the final. So it's like a double-edged sword there if you try to get rid of me, at the same time you're going to give me an advantage of getting a skull. It's a good concept and I think they should keep it. I will admit, back in the day I would skate by without having to go in [to elimination], but it wasn't by choice. It was just because they never said my name, so like, "Alright, why go in if I don't have to?" Now it makes people want to go in and they know they have to go in. Even though there are a lot of people that still don't want to go in and just hang around. I hate to say that but it's true. It's pretty crazy. I don't get it.

Did you go into this season with any assumptions or goals?
Going into this season, my goal was to win the money because TJ has never said anything about a million dollars on any of the seasons that I've been on. That was pretty exciting for me. My whole goal was just not to be eliminated first. [Laughs] To go out of the game first is the worst feeling in the world. That happened to me in Fresh Meat II. And then it happened in Dirty 30. That was my biggest fear too, I kept trying to block it out but it was continuously in the back of my head. And with Wes [Bergmann] being there, ugh, I already knew he would get all his minions and all the rookies to try to throw Darrell in. "You don't want him here!" That was not working on my side. I love Wes outside the game, but inside the game? Aw hell no. I cannot trust that guy. At all! They call him Rumplestiltskin, [laughs] do not believe anything he says.

Were there any rookies or vets you viewed as a major threat going into this season?
Yeah, Wes was my biggest threat, and all the rookies for the simple fact I know he could gather them up. Everybody knows the vets. Every season the rookies come and the vets throw them in and keep throwing them in. We kind of use the rookies as a scapegoat. So Wes was definitely a threat and any of the rookies that he could get his hands on or into their heads to make them vote a certain way for me. I was pretty paranoid. Even during quarantine, I'm talking to Leroy [Garrett] like, "Man, we've got to get Wes up out of here. Before he tries to come for me. I can't relax!" [Laughs] I was like, I'm not drinking in my room, I'm doing hella burpees, I'm getting ready. I was doing two-a-days, jump rope, skip rope, like oh man, just getting ready for that first elimination, just in case.

What can you tease about who you ended up working with throughout the season?
The only person that I really trusted was Leroy because of the simple fact we see him twice a year, me and my wife, we go to Vegas a lot, but I'm pretty sure everybody hits Leroy up when they go to Vegas. He's cool with everybody, so it's kind of like, where do I stand? I know he said I was his No. 1 so I trust him. He wouldn't tell me that if he didn't mean it because he's not the type to say something just to say it. So going in, I knew that I could trust him, and I guess Kam [Williams] because he's with her to a certain degree, because at the end everybody's trying to look out for themselves. And then once I got settled in, I started to hang around the Big Brother cast a little bit. But I think they're just really good at the social game, they just make their rounds and talk to everybody. So I'm pretty sure everybody felt like that with them. I can't say too much but I was with Fessy [Shafaat] and Josh [Martinez] and Kaycee [Clark].

What can you tease about how this season went for you?
I can say that I showed more brains this season than any other one.

What do you think is going to surprise fans about this season?
There are just so many twists and every time you think you got a foothold on the game, even probably as viewers when they watch it, man, it's crazy. These cats are not playing. They are real cutthroat compared to how I used to play the game with other cast members. Adding on the Big Brother people and Survivor, man, it has just changed a lot. These people are straight-up cutthroat! I'm talking about smiling in your face backstabbers. Just how people vote will surprise you. I was even shocked a lot of times by the people that were going in eliminations. I don't see a lot of stuff coming. I thought I knew but I didn't. The season jumps off like, what?! But as long as it's not your name, you kind of just got to go with the flow, you know?

Get a sneak peek at the new season with the preview episode The Challenge: Double Agents Declassified on Dec. 7 at 8 p.m. ET on MTV. The premiere will follow two nights later.

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