On 'The Challenge: S, L, & A'... Tori Baby, What Are You Doing?

- The Challenge -
On 'The Challenge: S, L, & A'... Tori Baby, What Are You Doing?

Here we are at week 3 of The Challenge: SL&A, and we seem to be getting into the groove of this partner do-si-do thing. So we’re back at the house post-elimination, the love of my life Kelz is gone, and Ed and Emy have brand new partners to cozy up to. What a day! Team Tori/Ed seem to hit it off immediately, and I can't fully tell if they’re flirting or not. Maybe the loss of Kelz so early has made Tori realize she’s gotta get her cuddles in where she can, or maybe I am misreading strong team morale. WHO KNOWS.

In other New Team News, Emy reveals that she picked Devin in part because he gestured to her while in The Lair, just like he did to Michele. I don’t know what kind of weird strategy Devin is pursuing hopping around partners like this, but I eagerly await the smug talking head where he explains this almost definitely ill-conceived “Master Plan.”

By Challenge standards, it was a shockingly wise choice for Ed and Emy to split up; as a Double Rookie team they’d always be a target for the Big Bad Vet Alliance. Glomming onto a Vet, any Vet, seems to be the move at this point in the game even though I still absolutely can’t fathom why no one has snagged CT. Gotta keep chalking it up to Devin’s ineffable charm, I guess...

Speaking of the Big Bad Vets, Big T is upset to discover that hanging out with a bunch of Rookies kinda puts you on the fringe of the Vet strategy. She confides in Fessy, the world’s worst confidante, that not being involved in the highly tactical, very smart (lol) move against Kelz makes her feel like the Vet alliance doesn’t trust her. Pretty insightful because yeah, they don’t.

To be fair though, the Vet Alliance feels less like a strategic thinktank and more like a broad agreement not to throw Vets into elimination til the Rookie population has been decimated, so I’m not sure what level of involvement she expected in this call. It’s clear from the conversation though that Big T’s tight relationships with some Rookies in the house has been duly noted by the Vets, and if she’s on their protection list at all it’s at the bottom.

Elsewhere we get some rarely-seen Love Island-style footage of our contestants just kinda existing. Swimming, chatting, lounging around the pool. Very strong Villa vibes this season, which I'm sure they appreciate since the last few seasons have been, uh, very not that.

Anyway, while most of our weary Challengers enjoy their off-day, a select few are working their asses off at Nelly T’s impromptu bootcamp, including his current crush, Berna. Our high-flying Turk is extremely scared that war with Ashley will put her into elimination this week, so no sun-bathing for her as she prepares for the worst. Ashley throws a little shade in her talking head, derisively saying that Berna cozying up to Nelson is “a choice” implying she’s got... bad taste?? For... liking a guy... that she also... likes??? The mental gymnastics of this insult boggle the mind but that’s Smashley for you.

Enjoying zero relaxation whatsoever is my man Corey L. He realizes that he and Michele are still one of the only Double-Rookie teams, and are therefore super at risk of going into The Lair for... the foreseeable future.


At long last, we get to today’s Challenge and listen, I don’t know if it’s the editing or what but this straight up looks too dangerous! The Challenge is called Sea Cave Recon and our players have to:

  1. Jump off a cliff into water that is rough and choppy enough that Teej calls it the “violent sea”
  2. Dive deep into said water to recover a “bomb”
  3. Swim through a tight and treacherous CAVE to recover ANOTHER “bomb”
  4. Swim back to a jetski that will drag their asses back to shore

Am I wrong!? Maybe it’s just the ocean swim that’s got me freaked out but I couldn’t believeeee more people didn't DQ. Jeremiah and Tacha are the game’s one and only disqualification because they just lose their shit in the cave portion after getting plastered against the craggy walls by rough waves.

Have all these competitors just been so traumatized by the increasingly sadistic/torturous/straight up insane challenges of recent seasons that they’re desensitized? I don’t know, but shockingly few of them bridle at the cliff’s edge.

Hughie has a bit of a wobble but ends up crushing the swim, which I have to assume is in part because his lips are built-in floatation devices. Kyle has to be berated into jumping by Amanda, which is lucky since berating people is her best event. Other than that, people seem to just kinda go for it! Maniacs, all of ya.

Lending credence to my “this-is-just-too-much” theory, TWO very tough competitors sustain injuries! Michele busts her face open and Tommy gets a concussion bad enough that he doesn’t quite realize he has emerged from the water with his dick out. How hard does your head have to get rocked for you to run to shore, all your action on display, on national television?! EMTs swarm him on the beach and let him return to the group, but our ginger is clearly unwell.

In the end despite impressive showings by the still-bleeding Michele and partner Corey L, Tori and Ed win the challenge. So we’ve got a Vet in the power seat, and a Double Rookie-team DQed in the challenge. Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what’s about to happen to the house vote.

To figure out who The Agency will throw in, Tori consults with Devin, our apparent Head of Strategy. She’s got it out for Big T since last season when she threw her into elimination against her bestie, Aneesa, and broaches the touchy subject of tossing in a Vet. Devin seems to talk some sense into Tori, explaining they’ve got plenty of Rookies that pose a greater threat to their game than Big T, and that throwing her in could destroy the already-fragile peace among Vets. Specifically he mentions Emanuel, who has performed well in challenges so far, and Berna, who could disrupt Nelson’s game if he gets more attached.

To further complicate things, Tommy is medically removed from the game due to his concussion so Big T is now without a partner, floating in the wind. No one knows yet whether he’ll be replaced or if, Double Agents style, this week’s elimination will be just for the women to even things out.

I love how much of this game is built around withholding information from the players! Why just go through physical turmoil, political machinations, isolation from friends and family when you can also suffer with a constant fear of the unknown?!

Anyway, I digress. In deliberation Tacha and Jeremiah make a kind of lazy plea to stay in the game, including trying to toss some attention toward Michele and Corey L. Corey’s frustration with the Rookie squad’s total inability to come together and leverage their numbers is palpable, and I feel for the dude. How many more people does he have to drag across a platform before y’all leave him alone!?

Tori also can’t help but blurt out her animosity toward Big T, which has no relevant place in this conversation except to show that she’s letting old resentments impact her game. In the end, predictably, Tacha and Jeremiah are the house vote. Shocker.

For reasons I will never understand, after deliberation Tori pulls Big T aside with Kyle (who just happens to be there I guess?) and tells her she’s thinking of throwing her in, doubling down on her weird outburst during the house vote. What strategic value could a move like this possibly have? If you ARE throwing her in, you’re giving her a heads up to mentally prepare, and if you're NOT throwing her in, you’re revealing that you are not overly concerned about the truce among Vets. Truly, I don't get it at all.

Tori also approaches Tacha to ask who she WANTS to go in against, and she names Michele and Corey L! Again, WHY?! They did GREAT in the day’s challenge, already won an elimination, and in no way seem like an easy team to take out. You can pick and choose among teams which male/female you want, so why not pick two other, weaker, rookies?? I’m sorry but what about going against Bettina, whose only strength right now seems to be the sonic weapon that is her laugh?!?

In the end, none of it even matters because when we get to The Lair Tori throws in Berna, and for no real reason, Corey L. Luckily for him though, to even things out after Tommy’s sad departure the elimination will be women only, with Tacha and Berna going head to head in an elimination called Slipping Up.

Each of them have huge V shaped structures in front of them that they’ve got to turn into a ladder using a pile of poles of different sizes as rungs to ultimately climb and ring a bell at the top. It all seems pretty straight forward but is actually very easy to lose your lead in, since you can use the wrong sized pole, knock poles off, fall from a high rung, etc. Tacha and Berna have a close race – each making agonizingly slow progress that is frustrating to watch.

They both spend toooo long with almost all their poles in place but struggling to climb their ladder without knocking lower rungs off, forcing them back to the start to replace them. This is the exact kind of Challenge that viewers at home can delude themselves into thinking they’d be good at. Finally, some kind of eerie calm overtakes Berna and she slowly, steadily, places her last pole and rings the bell.

I am sad to see Tacha leave the house, and by the looks of it so are most people. Even Tori had said she was friendly with her which makes the decision to snake her by throwing in someone she specifically didn't ask for all the more confusing. My favorite thing about Tacha by far though, is that while she was a gracious loser she exits ugly. It’s all hugs and kisses with Berna but she switches gears quick and calls Tori out for being fake, declaring them enemies for lifeeeeee (and hopefully, future Rivals partners).

So, that’s a wrap on Tacha but she got her words in with Tori so good for her. For the first time this season, an elimination winner decides to roll with their previous partner, so team Berna/CT remain intact. This is not surprising at all because duh, CT is a legend that JUST took home a win last season so you’d have to be nuts to give him up. Jeremiah and Big T are now a pair, and given that we are almost out of Double Rookie teams, I don't think they'll be here long.

And that’s it! Another week down and another rookie challenger bites the dust. Tori has successfully weakened her political position with both Rookies and Vets, all while dressing like a Real Housewife of New Jersey. I sincerely hope this is the beginning of a villain arc for her, since I’d have to imagine a few years with Jordan would turn you at least a little evil.

Stray Observations:

  • I went to school in Pennsylvania so Ed’s brain-scraping Philly accent both elates and horrifies me.
  • How incredibly YOKED would you be if Nelson was your trainer? I’d be pulling two-a-days just to hang out with the guy.
  • Kyle’s teeth are giving me big Ross Gellar energy. If we get him under a black light it’ll blind us all.
  • It pains me that we don’t see more of Priscilla this episode. I don’t actually know anything about her but she is just stunningly beautiful.
  • I have high hopes for Team Juvederm (Hughie and Ashley) this season. Not so much for performance, but for high-octane drama and truly messy conflict.
  • Michele and Emanuel seem like such an unlikely couple but I have never shipped a Rookie hookup so hard. When they were cuddling on the chaises I was BEGGING for a makeout. Based on the preview, looks like I'll get my wish next week.
  • Gabo’s accent is the purest thing on this show right now. When those Vs turn to Ws I just can’t take it. Weterans!

That’s all for me, until next week!


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