The Challenge: Total Madness eliminated player admits his shocking loss 'was a wake-up call'
Warning: This article contains spoilers from Wednesday's episode of The Challenge: Total Madness, "A Hard Jay's Night."
It was the outcome no one saw coming on The Challenge: a rookie took out one of the most decorated champions in Challenge history in this week's episode.
Wednesday's "A Hard Jay's Night" featured the third elimination of the season on The Challenge: Total Madness. And yet it was last season's War of the Worlds 2 winner and Challenge legend Chris "CT" Tamburello who was sent home, taken out by rookie Jay Starrett after CT nominated himself to go into Purgatory. CT was in the Tribunal after winning the daily challenge, meaning he was effectively safe from elimination, but this season's red skull twist — where players must win an elimination in order to qualify for the final — motivated CT to volunteer for elimination. Everyone thought it was going to be an easy win for the vet but it came down to the final seconds where Jay beat him.
"I thought I was walking away with it," CT admits to EW. "But because I was too comfortable and I thought I had a big lead, this is why you never take anything for granted in The Challenge. This is what's beautiful about this show, you never know what can happen in any moment at any time. I love it. He looks like he's so far behind. But all of a sudden, he has his door wide open."
As for why Jay, who had only seen one other elimination in his short Challenge career, was able to take down someone who's a tried and true elimination beast like CT? "It was carelessness on my part," CT says. "Maybe I was tired, and that's why I was careless. Let's be honest, I look so out of shape if you ask me. It looks like I just got off my championship parade. I'm not happy with it but it was a wake-up call."
And CT adds that Jay isn't as much of a layup as people may think. "People can sleep on Jay all they want," he says. "The same way people are sleeping on Jay, they slept on Jordan, they slept on Bananas. Coming into the house, if people are hating on you, you're doing something right."
Below, CT dives deep into his shocking early elimination, why he chose to go in to elimination now, and what this means for his future on MTV's long running reality series.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: It's shocking to see you eliminated this early on in the season, especially after you won last season. How are you feeling about going home in the third elimination?
CHRIS "CT" TAMBURELLO: You know what, you can't win them all. It was a blessing in disguise just like being on the U.K. team last season was, because it was a wake-up call. I think I came in too comfortable. I mean, I looked like a stuffed pig on camera. I came in still floating on my last win and I was just too comfortable, I got lazy, and I got caught slipping. I'm going to take this L, I'm going to go back to the drawing board, tighten up, and come back with a chip in my shoulder and some teeth. I feel like I was just too soft, you know? And I paid the price for it. And not to take anything away from Jay because you gotta give it to the young kid. I didn't realize he had the whole entire house against him like he did. And he fought for his life, and he earned it. You've got to give it to him, where credit's due.
Last time we spoke, you said that you’re definitely not done with The Challenge just yet. And after your elimination, you promised that you're coming back stronger than ever next time – what are you doing in your time off to make sure that happens?
Now I’ve got all this time in the off season, I’m going to get up off my fat ass and get busy. I’m going to stay busy and get back to maybe what I was in past athletically. Statistically, I think I've done better in the "dad bod" era. Now if I can combine being in shape like I was in the past, if I can even come close to that I'll be happy, we're all getting older, but coming in, if I can combine that with the dad bod era where it's about working smarter not harder, I think I have a serious shot. And that's one of the main reasons why I keep coming back at this point. I still plenty left in the tank. And that's the beauty of The Challenge. You can come in one Challenge and you can win it, win it all, take it all home. Next Challenge, you can go home early. It doesn't matter, The Challenge doesn't care. I wasn't ready. That's all I could say.
Do you regret going into elimination so early in the season to try to get your red skull, or do you still think it was the right move despite getting beat by Jay?
This Challenge concept was completely new to me. I spent my entire Challenge career avoiding elimination. I didn't think I was going to have a chance to go in. And I had the opportunity to do it, to go in, whether I'm ready or not I have to take it. I've got to roll the dice. And that's what I did, it just didn't work out in my favor. Here's the thing: if I didn't go in, who's to say I would have had another opportunity? I wouldn't have. I don't think I would have. It was either now and never, whether you're ready or not, take what you can get. I did, and I came up short.
Everyone keeps talking about how Jay is a layup for the guys, but so far, he’s the only guy with a red skull. Plus he now has two and he’s just taken out one of the most accomplished Challenge players ever by beating you. Do you think people are underestimating him or has he been getting lucky?
People underestimate him, for one because he's small. But statistically, if you look at all the men who have ever won a Challenge, they're not big guys. Big guys like me, we don't generally do well, especially in finals. Two, it's because he had all this pre-existing drama with Bananas [Jay's ex-girlfriend Morgan Willett cheated on him with Bananas after meeting on War of the Worlds, and they've been in a relationship ever since] and with Rogan [since Dee and Jay made out]. Him being labeled a layup right off the bat was because he already had this existing drama – labeling him a layup was just a way to discredit him to try to get rid of him as fast as possible. But you know what, the kid's earning his spot. I remember when I came up, I didn't have it easy with me against the whole entire house also. A lot of people who are big names, Cara Maria for example, she had the whole house against her for the longest time. And now, you've got Jay in here. No one gave him a fair shake. And he had to earn every step he took, and he did it well. I wouldn't be surprised if we see him back.
Do you wish you had gone against someone else in the elimination?
Woulda, coulda, shoulda. The last thing you want to do is 'woulda, coulda, shoulda.' Do I wish, what, that I got to pick somebody else? Do I wish I got to pick another elimination? That's not how The Challenge works. That's out of my control. In a weird way that's actually satisfying. It's easier for me to come to terms with it because I really didn't have control over it. I didn't think I was going to get a shot at going in. I got a shot, I took it, rolled the dice, and that's all I can do. I really take responsibility for the L. I honestly thought there was just no way he's going to untie all my knots but because I was careless, he pulls one piece of rope and the whole entire thing falls apart. That's carelessness. When I really wanted it, when I was really hungry, and I really had something to prove like when I did that elimination against Darrell, that knot was tight. Production had to cut that rope off with a chainsaw, it was that tight. And then this rope, it just falls apart in like three or four different places? That's carelessness.
Rogan approached you the night before about wanting to go in to the elimination instead and send Jay home himself. Did you consider sending in Rogan instead of yourself after he asked you to do that?
Everybody wants to go in at some point but then they don't. Then they do, then they don't. At some point you just have to weigh your options and do what's best for you. For me, if I let somebody else go in instead of me, who's to say I'm going to have that opportunity to go back in? I'm not. Not the way this game is. It's going to get tougher and tougher and tougher to get your shot at getting a red skull. I had mine. I took it.
What was going through your mind in the moment when Jay beat you?
How the f--- did this happen?! [Laughs] That's what I was thinking. I'm pretty confident when I do these challenges or eliminations. The worst thing you could do is worry about what somebody else is doing. Stay focused on yourself. And I do remember thinking, "I'm just walking through this. I got this in the bag like I did with Darrell. I'm acing it." All of a sudden I just hear everything drop and hit the ground. And I turn around and I see him cranking that door all the way open. And I'm like, "Oh my god oh my god oh my god." And then next thing you know, bing! You're out of here. I can’t complain. I think it’s all on me. The Challenge has a way of letting you know you ain’t s---. Just when you think you had it all figured out, all of a sudden you get hit with a sneak attack. In this game, you have to be really good at adapting. I’m going to take that home with me, take that L, put it in my pocket, carry it with me until I come back for the next one with some teeth. Because I ain’t going out like that. That’s not how it’s going to happen. Not for me.
Jay is a self-admitted Challenge superfan and he says he grew up watching you on the show. So what did you think of how Jay told you that beating you was a dream come true for him?
Jay’s a good kid – he should be proud of what he did in this elimination. He’s making a splash, that’s for sure. Basically what he's saying is, "Man, you're f---ing old." When people say, "I used to watch you in high school or middle school," I'm like, "Yeah all right. Okay, easy now." I appreciate it. I'm lucky enough to be doing this for as long as I have been. I have a different appreciation for it now than I did in my 20s. I know where I stand, everybody's on borrowed time at this point. I embrace the role as one of the OG's. Compared to some of the other people who sort of resist change, it's only natural. You’ve got to keep looking forward. But I ain’t going down anytime soon, and not without a fight, I’ll tell you that. Let’s just all act like this Challenge didn’t happen, all right? Let’s just wait for me to come back on the next one.
The Challenge: Total Madness airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on MTV.