Jenna Compono reveals she almost quit The Challenge: Total Madness: 'I was all packed up'
Warning: this story contains spoilers about Wednesday's episode of The Challenge: Total Madness, "Backstabber."
All season on The Challenge: Total Madness, Jenna Compono focused more on drama back home than she did on the competition. Her boyfriend, Challenge vet Zach Nichols (who was not competing this season), looked at some years-old Instagram DMs (from before they were a couple) while she was away competing and became convinced she had cheated on him. Over video chat, he gave her an ultimatum: come home or break up. She eventually put herself first, stayed to compete, and won an elimination against elimination beast Tori Deal, earning a red skull and stamping her ticket to the Total Madness final.
But the drama didn't end there. Increasingly combative arguments ensued over video chat as she continued to compete, and he eventually stopped taking her calls. Seeing the toll the drama was taking, the other competitors believed she was checked out and wanted to go home. So she was thrown into elimination again in this week's episode against Aneesa Ferreira, and despite giving it her all, Jenna lost and was sent home.
"I honestly thought I was going to win that one," Jenna tells EW. But, it turns out, she did plan on leaving due to her relationship drama with Zach. It just wasn't shown on TV.
"I actually did pack my suitcase. I had it all packed and ready to leave and then Nany [Gonzalez] told me, 'Just think about it until the morning,'" Jenna says. "And then that morning is when I decided to stay but I was all packed up and ready to go ... before the Tori elimination. I talked to production, I was ready to be out."
Jenna credits Nany with saving her from making a mistake by quitting. "She was the one that kept saying, 'You're going to watch this and you're going to regret this in a few months when it airs,'" Jenna says. "And she's right. I mean, I have anxiety just watching it now. I would have regretted it really bad if I would have left. And that's just not me. I'm not a quitter."
And because she didn't quit, she'll always have an elimination win against Tori in her Challenge record. Not too shabby. "Right?" Jenna agrees with a laugh. "But then I lose to Aneesa so it’s like, eh."
Below, EW got Jenna to break down her elimination, what happened with her and Zach after she got home (they're now engaged), and more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Now that you’ve had some time to process your elimination, how are you feeling about how it all played out?
JENNA COMPONO: I was super excited to do this season. And then with the living conditions and all that stuff, and then obviously fighting with Zach put me in a bad mood. The only good thing about this season was me beating Tori in an elimination because she's one of the strongest people there. But looking back, I'm happy that I didn't leave or quit. I know in the moment I really wanted to and thank God I had Kailah [Casillas] and Nany there because I probably would have went home if they did not talk me into my senses. Looking back, I'm just really happy that everything worked out at home, but I also stayed and competed and tried my hardest.
What happened with Zach when you got home after your elimination?
Obviously, we argued a little bit. Both of us had some explaining to do between each other's social media and whatnot, but we didn't realize the way we handle situations wasn't healthy, so we actually signed up for therapy. We went to a few of those, and we learned how to handle situations in a better way now instead of just lashing out at each other. We did understand that that was super not healthy thinking about it and now seeing it, so I'm happy that we actually attended those therapy classes, and now we're just better than ever.
How do you feel about how your relationship drama affected your time this season?
Even with the living situations too, I mean, it was really hard to want to stay there. Usually, we're in big mansions and hot weather, and we want to stay, so there was very little of me that wanted to stay. Obviously, the million dollars, I wanted to stay for that, but I kept thinking, "If you do get eliminated, it's not the worst thing." But I'm just so competitive that I still wanted to stay no matter if Zach and I were fighting, no matter how bad the living situations were; it's just not in me to quit. Looking back, I definitely think we overreacted. But we get one phone call a week for 10 minutes, so it's not like we have time to explain everything. And then everything's getting aired, so it's just hard to have a conversation with your significant other, knowing that it's going to be aired, so you just want to be careful with what you say. When we don't talk to each other for so long, a lot of emotions build up, a lot of feelings and stuff, and we kind of just take it out on each other, and unfortunately, that's what was aired. [Laughs] We definitely could have handled it a lot better, especially learning different ways in therapy to handle things, so I wish we would have went before and learned to handle our situations then, but now we know for next time.
It was great to see how you still killed it in eliminations when everyone assumed you were checked out.
Yeah, I really did want to be there. I really did! That's why it kills me that Zach and I were fighting. At the end of the day I knew we were going to be fine as soon as I went home. But I kind of have to baby him a little bit and be like, "I'll be home soon, I'm trying, I'm trying," just to like shut him up for a little bit, and then I try my best while I'm competing. I just have to tell him what he wants to hear for the time being. And then he gets over it.
Do you think you would have done better this season if you hadn’t been dealing with Zach drama?
I definitely think I still would have been probably thrown in [as] one of the first few people. In past seasons I haven't done as well as I used to back in the day. I don't know if it would have went too much differently; I mean I definitely wouldn't have went against Tori. But the thing is, every time I do a Challenge and I'm so over it and I don't want to be there anymore, I wind up lasting to the end. It happened on Rivals II, Zach and I were fighting, I didn't want to be there, and then I made it to the final. I had so much anger and everything built up, so that's why I performed so well in that elimination. Maybe if me and Zach weren't fighting, to be honest, I don't know if I would have won. I just had so much resentment and everything against him at that time that I just took it all out in that elimination.
"Bombs Away" was an elimination that hasn't been seen before, so what was it like getting thrown in for this specific one?
It’s a little scary. I was extremely nervous, but I thought that it was going to be a little bit of endurance and a little bit of muscle, and endurance is kind of my thing. So I thought I was honestly going to win. And I didn't lose by too much. I think it was like five or six balls [left when Aneesa finished], so I was pretty close.
Were you upset knowing Nany was in the Tribunal and you were still voted in?
I know Nany would have kept me out of it if she could, but she was outnumbered and I'm not going to beg her. She's there to play for herself, she did very well, she got into the Tribunal. I didn't want to ruin her game at all and I know I was probably driving her crazy all season. [Laughs] And I thought I'd beat one of the best girls in the game, so I thought I was going to beat probably anybody else that they throw me in against. So I guess that's my fault a little bit, but I know Nany did try and sway everyone to pick somebody else but unfortunately, she was outnumbered.
Once you knew you were going against Aneesa, what was going through your mind?
Aneesa, and even Kaycee [Clark] and Kailah, we were all on the same side. Aneesa is one of my friends outside of The Challenge, so it really sucked going against her. But I'm happy I lost against her rather than just a random person in the game. The main person that I was rooting for was obviously Kailah and Nany, so it's just Nany because Kailah lost with me! The Holy Trinity ended up as just one person. If we were just mentally sane this one season, I really thought all three of us could have made it to that final — if Kailah didn't have her boyfriend drama, if I didn't have my boyfriend drama, and Nany ... she ... I don't know, she just argues with people. [Laughs]
What was it was like actually competing against Aneesa once that horn went off?
You go into complete work mode. I didn't even look at Aneesa once, I was just throwing those balls outside of the bin as fast as I could. It would throw you off because some balls were super heavy, some were super light, so you'd be throwing a bunch and then you get a really heavy one and try to get it over. It was a little exhausting, but not as much as my first elimination. I did come close but I did not win.
Looking back on this season as a whole, do you have any regrets about how you played or strategized?
No, I think I played and strategized fine. I just wish that my outside drama — sometimes I wish we didn't even get phone calls home. If I have my head in the game, I perform so much better. That's my weakness. I just get emotional about stuff at home that has nothing to do with the game. That's the only thing I look back and regret. I wish I could have just kept my home drama out of it but of course, I can't. It ended up not costing me my game but kind of, because I threw myself in the first time and that was really dangerous because Tori is such a good competitor. It was a rough season for me, like always, but I tried my hardest and I want people to know I did not quit, I did not give up. I did not go home because I missed Zach. I genuinely lost.
Do you think it’s better if you and Zach compete together or separately?
We thought competing separate was going to be easier but I think competing together is probably easier. That way we can get a feel about who's competing and then we can talk about it when we get home and we can feel out the house and the people. Competing together would probably be better but he would just have to focus on his own game and I would have to focus on mine; we couldn't like break each other's backs to save the other one kind of thing. He always does perform better when I'm not there. So if we ever do another one together, I'd be like, "No, just focus on your game." He probably has a better shot than me getting to that final.
What are you doing in your time off to better prepare for future seasons?
Right now all I'm really worrying about is the wedding because that's in February and nothing is open, so I'm starting to freak out. Our engagement party got pushed to August. So that sucks too. So we actually will not be doing the next [season of The Challenge]. But for the future, we're still going to work out and obviously work on our communication.
The Challenge: Total Madness airs Wednesdays on MTV.