- The Challenge -How To Kill Your Own Alliance Without Really Trying, By Messy Fessy
Another week of The Challenge SL&A and still I implore the Viacom gods to give me MORE PRISCILLA! Just do a picture-in-picture or something so I can at least LOOK at her while other stuff is going on! Is that too much to ask??
Okay, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system: we start the episode after elimination, and as per usual we see other Challengers enjoying themselves around the house while Corey L. stresses. There is no evidence that our dude has had a single moment of peace since he got to Croatia, and with good reason - he’s still on a Rookie/Rookie team and is functionally cannon fodder.
In a shocking display of foresight, the Vets seem to realize that with these borderline disposable all-Rookie teams dwindling, the days of this Veteran Truce are numbered. We see a few of our shadiest Vets working on their sub-alliances so that when they use up all their Rookie kindling and the Vet on Vet warfare starts, they know who has their back.
Apparently, Devin and Kyle are quite close IRL, which is not something I’d clocked at all from previous seasons. They’re impressed the Vets have kept up the ceasefire this long and hope nobody rocks this boat, even if it is about a week away from sinking.
Fessy & Josh, my two least favorite people in the house, talk about the built-in Big Brother alliance. These two are working together in alignment with fellow BB alum Kaycee, and Amber B. is... also a person that was on Big Brother. She’s “in” the alliance mostly at the insistence of her partner, Josh, but they have no intentions of talking game strategy with her or keeping her safe from elimination down the line. So yeah, how exactly does that work in an alliance? Is she in the Big Brother Alliance nominally, like an honorary degree from a school you didn’t go to?
Now, Fessy and Kaycee have pre-existing problems with Amber from last season (remember Fessy’s cringey letter?) and with the current elimination format there isn’t really a reason for Josh to campaign so hard for the safety of his partner, so none of this makes a ton of sense to me. If I had to guess, Fessy and Kaycee are just nodding along to shut Josh up and honestly, I get it. Listening to his lukewarm takes on the game in his hollow dopey voice would wear me down, too.
In this moment, it’s also important to remember that Fessy is The Worst. Big and strong and tough and handsome, he seems to have been teed up as a kind of spiritual successor to CT when he first joined the Challenge Fam, but he made quick work of showing his ass and now I’d think of him as more of a hulked-out Jordan. Throughout Double Agents he found new and interesting ways to be deeply unlikeable and proved himself wholly untrustworthy.
He backstabbed friends, constantly blamed his place in the game on his partners and eventually gave up in the final, the ultimate offense in the eyes of Our Lord Teej. He’s been a snake and a baby and is just kind of an all-around dickhead. He can wear the hell out of a turtleneck, though, I’ll give him that.
With all that said, it is upsetting to watch Amber invent virtues for this dude! Remember, he considers them basically enemies, and Amber is waxing poetic to Kaycee about how excited she is to work with them, how much she thinks Fessy has learned and grown from his (accurate) portrayal as a villain on Double Agents, how good it feels to be in with her Big Brother family. Why the desperation for acceptance, Amber B? You WON a final in your Rookie season, you don’t need this man!!
Anyway, moving on from the Fessy topic, which I obviously have very normal non-obsessive feelings about, we do have a game to play elsewhere. Today’s elimination is called Undercover Comms, because spies. You get it.
There’s a giant rig 35 feet above the water where one player from each team will be suspended upside down and have to relay 3 codes via walkie-talkie to their partner on the ground, who will use an answer key to translate those codes to numbers that unlock boxes. Each box contains a detonator they can use to deactivate any other team by dropping them into the water. The third code’s corresponding box eliminates ALL remaining teams, and the first pair to knock everybody out wins. We’re playing in two heats, and the best time wins. LET’S GO.
It’s common knowledge that if Michele and Corey L. don’t win, they’ll be the house vote for the Lair, so the first heat’s mission is clear: knock them out as soon as possible and worry about who wins later. After some theatrics about the heights and water from Hughie, who has apparently never seen this show before, we get into it.
Many of the teams opt to have their non-native english speakers be the ones responsible for communicating codes over the staticky walkie-talkie connection, which seems like an interesting choice! Cory struggles to understand Bettina, Berna has a hard time internalizing the terms “dot” and “dash,” it’s a hard time! Would the reverse be better? I have no idea, but it’s a mess out there. Josh and Amber take an early lead and never lose ground – they take Heat 1.
For Heat 2, there are no Rookie/Rookie teams, so there’s an agreement among some of the teams that they should basically collude and let whoever takes an early lead win the heat so they have a better chance at beating the time of the Heat 1 winners. This makes no sense once you realize that a Vet/Vet team already won Heat 1, so if this was really about Rookies vs Vets, none of these teams have anything to worry about.
In reality though, the Vet that won is Josh, and though I don’t blame anyone for not wanting their fate in The Goof’s hands, this strategy is clearly designed to avoid a Big Brother Agency.
Anyway, in Heat 2 this semi-well-laid plan predictably falls apart. Kyle, inexplicably, chooses to knock out his BFF Devin and Emy. It’s hard to tell how well folks are progressing so I’m gonna blame the editing for this not being a bigger deal to me, because it didn’t seem like Devin and Emy were winning? I don’t know. Highly unclear. What we do know is that Devin is pissed.
This also leaves things wide open for Fessy and Esther to take the win, which I have to imagine is what Devin was really trying to avoid to begin with. Now, with Fessy and Josh taking the two heats, we’ve guaranteed a Big Brother Dude a position of power. Will it be (Unpredictable - Because - He - Has - No - Conscience) Fessy or (Unpredictable - Because - I’m - Not - Convinced - He - Understands -This - Game) Josh? Only time will tell.
I mean, not that much time, TJ rips the band-aid off pretty quickly: Team Festher are The Agency for the second time.
Back at the house, Devin and Kyle’s rift continues. Devin can’t decide if Kyle’s just an idiot who made the wrong call in the moment, or if there was more forethought and this is part of a wider rebellion. It’s hard to ever really know what Kyle’s deal is with that artificial smile plastered on his face, and some Veterans have long-standing reservations about him, but i don’t think he’s the evil mastermind some of them suspect.
Anyway, time for a Big Night Out to let off some steam! We’ve got dancing, we’ve got makeouts, we’ve got Fessy inexplicably wearing a winter coat indoors, but mostly importantly we’ve got drunken strategy talk. Devin talks to Josh, of all people, about the Kyle Krisis, and I have to say I don’t understand this dynamic at all. They are talking like true allies when they usually straight-up hate each other and it seems like Devin pretty transparently did everything in his power to ensure Josh didn’t win the last challenge. Maybe it’s an editing thing, but I’m VEXED.
Anyway, in more relevant news, Corey L. approaches Fessy about elimination. Corey L. knows he’s going in as the house vote, and he just wants The Agency to pick folks he and Michele can beat so they can then pick new partners and return to the house with somewhat smaller targets on their back.
In return for this magnanimity, they’ll be in some kind of vague debt to Fessy and Esther, which long-time fans of the show will know, means absolutely nothing. In this conversation the one and only name Corey throws out is Hughie, and then Fessy and Esther have a rambling conversation that goes nowhere about what they’re gonna do.
During deliberation, Michele lays it all out on the table, talking about how there are plenty of Rookies who have not yet proven themselves in the game. I’m honestly not sure if this is a last-ditch effort to avoid being the house vote, or just a more public appeal to The Agency to be bolder in their choice for the Lair. Flustered and embarrassed since he is pretty obviously one of the Rookies they’re talking about, Hughie accidentally reveals that he burned his last vote on himself, infuriating Ashley.
In the end none of it matters, Michele and Corey L. are the house vote because of course they are.
Post-vote, the real Big Brother Alliance (Josh/Fessy/Kaycee) are finally talking about which woman to send in since that has for some reason been a non-conversation up to this point. Josh suggests the pretty safe pick Bettina, which Fessy dismisses without any real rationale before once again bringing up Amber B. Josh attempts to shut that down and it seems they’ve come to an uneasy agreement at the end of that conversation, but we don’t call him Messy Fessy for nothing.
At the Lair, Team Festher send down Hughie and, shocking nobody but Josh, Amber B. They scream at each other across this little arena and the rest of the Vets get to revel in the implosion of the Big Brother Alliance happening right before their eyes. They yell and point and charge toward each other and TJ is so beyond bored he literally pulls his phone out to, I assume, tell MTV he needs more money. Eventually he just begs these overgrown kindergarteners to stop talking and we finally get to the elimination.
The elimination is called Down to the Wire. Each pair will be handcuffed together by a pole, and they have to make it through a complicated metal obstacle course to retrieve their key and free themselves. First team to do that, wins. A simple concept that looks absolutely infuriating to execute. Going into elimination, Hughie is furious with Corey L and Michele for requesting him while Amber is burning with white hot rage at Fessy, and all that anger translates to a shockingly strong performance. I say shocking because Hughie is a Rookie that has cried at half the challenges so far, and though Amber won last season she wasn’t exactly a powerhouse. She won the final because she can run like hell!
But in this challenge, Hughie and Amber are manic and moving right from the jump and even though they look a little disorganized they are FAST. Everything about their performance in this challenge is completely unhinged. Hughie unleashes a flood of shit talking at Corey L, they DROP their key half way through the obstacle course which Hughie has to pull a Naomi Smalls to retrieve, and Amber does a flip over a bar in the end to secure the win.
Victory isn’t enough for Hughie though, and he charges straight toward Corey for even MORE harassment. These two go back and forth, even getting physical briefly before production steps in. There’s been a lot of gloating on this show’s 37 seasons but I can’t remember a winner as graceless as Hughie right now. TJ applauds the women for their composure but gives the guys the full Disappointed Dad treatment.
Hughie and Corey have a little moment about being the only two gay men in the game, ultimately apologizing to each other. It is actually pretty sad that we didn’t get to see them support each other in the game. The queer population on The Challenge has always been pretty small, so it would have been nice to see Rookies with some common ground come together.
Sad as it is, Corey L and Michele are outta here. Hughie chooses to infiltrate Nany because of the strength of her social game, and Amber chooses... you guessed it... DEVIN! And this is the first and only time this decision has made sense to me. Picking Devin this time means that Gabo and Emy get paired up as the orphaned teammates, giving the house a new Rookie/Rookie pair to gang up on. Finally, something strategically sound!
So that’s the episode! Fessy has effectively destroyed the Big Brother Alliance by making enemies out of both Amber B and Josh, Hughie has proven himself to be both stronger and far pettier than I expected, and TJ has never seemed more disappointed.
- Devin’s “joke” early in the episode about not trusting Kyle once he becomes a parent is both eerily prescient and actually relevant: a great many challenge crime has been perpetrated in the name of “kids back home,” the greatest catch-all excuse for shady behavior that this game has ever seen.
- During this week’s HHB (Hughie Heights Breakdown) Ashley sounds like an overbearing mom on Toddlers & Tiaras yelling at her stage-frightened toddler: “I don’t care what you THINK it’s what you’re gonna do, now GET YOUR ASS UP THERE.”
- I was not a huge fan of this week’s challenge, just feels like a lot of extra steps get horned in to make things seem more complex? The codes translate to the numbers that unlock the box that contain the detonator that killed the rat that lived in the house that Jack built.
- I NEED to know what TJ was doing on this phone during Josh v Fessy. Sir you are shooting a TV show and you are out here texting? Playing candy crush? WHAT?!
- Now that Michele is gone and I have to give up on the love story between her and Emanuel, I have redirected my “aw”s to Big T and Logan. Such pure hearts, such naive souls, such cute accents.
- “Dyle,” the horrifying love-child of Kyle and Devin, will haunt my dreams and I would like to apologize on behalf of all Challenge Viewers to the visual effects expert that had to mash those two mugs together.
Until next week!