The Challenge: Battle for a New Champion — The Mega Recap

29 min readFeb 14, 2024

With Survivor in its off-season, I thought it would be a perfect time to catch up on the current season of The Challenge: Battle for a New Champion. I put the show on the shelf and stopped watching when Survivor 45 started (this was about when the Control phase ended, before any champs showed up), so before the final starts, I wanted to binge all the episodes I missed and come prepared to watch the end of the season in real time.

Overall, I enjoyed the season and had to get my opinions out there for one mega recap… and I hope to put a bow on this season of television with a final recap after the winner is crowned.

With all that said, strap in… this is going to be a long but overdue post. I have a lot of things to get off my chest and I might walk in circles as I put thoughts into words. I also should note that I have stayed off the Challenge reddit and have not consumed much online content about the season… so all my raw observations and thoughts and not super influenced by the community as a whole. And if any new narratives from eliminated contestants came out about details on the season from press or interviews, it will not be covered here.

The Control Phase — Hit and Miss, But Interesting Politically

I don’t think I can remember a season off the top of my head where all the challengers played on the same team. And I think it is why the opening bit of the season overall felt slow in contrast to recent seasons. Watching The Traitors confirms this for me… cooperative team challenges in competitive reality TV shows just aren’t entertaining. Do fans really care whether the champion of the Challenge wins 200,000 dollars or 250,000 dollars? No! People care who wins, not how much. This is not Deal or No Deal. And I’m assuming there won’t be an Ashley and Hunter money steal decision at the end of it all. We want to see people compete against each other to see who is the best… and the dailies centered around this rosy teamwork doesn’t fit the show.

While the “Control Phase” challenges have been a mixed bag in execution, the political game to start the season pleasantly surprised me. Opting for a genderless, weakest link, at-the-arena house vote followed by a duel style callout from the nominated person to fill the arena was an interesting way to start things off. Challengers can form alliances and groupthink elimination nominations to avoid getting their hands too dirty as long as they prove to be a helpful asset. And for the most part, the challengers that have been put into elimination are the ones that have made mistakes politically.

Jessica from Australia made zero connections on night one in the house, then tried to defend herself with a deliberation monologue that was so bad that it guaranteed her doom. Chauncey made a big mess with the Ride or Dies challengers and gave them reason to throw him in. Ravyn decided to defend Chauncey despite him being dead to rights as an outcast and it placed her in the next elimination. Then Hughie, while he has allies in the house, fell prey to perception and was voted in by the boys as the weakest guy remaining.

The smart way to play this phase of the game was to keep as under the radar as possible. People just try to find reasons to send you into elimination this early in the game, so the more ammunition you provide for other challengers the less blowback they will receive for their actions. A vast majority of the challengers weren’t showing their cards in full. Of course, there are alliances abound, but no one has been forced to break away and make a selfish individual move. The Ride or Dies crew dominated the early portion with the largest alliance. The UK alliance made up the minority block with two different collections of challengers, but they aren’t such a unified group like the Ride or Die people. Players who didn’t fall into either category like Kyland, Zara, Colleen, Ed, and Emanuel stayed relatively safe by staying under the radar.

The British Takeover Burned Bright but Died Fast

Much of the purpose behind this season is to find new stars to carry the show into the post Real World vets era. The girls’ side seems pretty set early on who the future vets will be… Michele, Olivia, Nurys, Big T, Melissa if she comes back long term, Berna if she can handle a bit of bullying, etc. all have enough to keep my attention in a challenge season. There still seemed to be a void on the boy’s side. People like Jay and Horacio feel like the natural headliners for the Challenge on future seasons, but it was the newcomer Brits (and one Irish gypsy) Callum, James Lockie, Ciarran, and Hughie who drove the show with their personality early on.

Callum lasting 12 hours before cheating on his girl at home with Michele is the right type of reality TV relationship drama we need on the show. Watching both of them make different kinds of mistakes all for the sake of being horny for each other is what the Challenge is all about. James Lockie also turns out to be a little more charming than I gave him credit for and he pulled out a surprise win against Chauncey to establish himself as someone who was worth the spot on the show. Ciarran was an early standout as an impressive competitor in the team challenges. And Hughie, while eliminated, factored plenty into the storyline of these first few episodes and was portrayed as not only the plucky underdog, but a hero. He gave an impassioned speech at the second deliberation outlining his will and desired to prove he is not a layup (spoiler, he was a layup). I think MTV wants Hughie to be a star more than the other British guys but no matter how much Hughie insists he is a strong player, actions supercede words. He needed to show the guys that he can beat them in an elimination to get the necessary respect.

But the Challenge is an alliance-based game, so unless you are an Avengers-level problem, numbers are always gonna win out in the end. The British guys were quickly eaten up by the Ride or Dies alliance, and the personalities introduced at the start of the season quickly got lost in the void as different challengers stepped up to take their place. Ciarran gets unlucky and becomes the first victim to a champion. Callum doesn’t evolve beyond being Michele’s fling and gets the boot against Devin. And while James somehow lasted to the elimination before the final, he got there by adamantly simping and hiding behind his big-boobed house girlfriend. It was Jay Gotti-esque in execution, where he got far for simply being tied to someone connected in the majority alliance. Unlike Jay Gotti, James didn’t do anything to get an inch of screen time and easily became the forgotten challenger of the season.

The Chaos Phase — A Scramble for Power and a Shot in the Arm for the Season

Control moved into Chaos and the entire format took a huge left turn. Now challenges became competitive as people were thrown into random teams. The winning team immediately votes someone into the arena, and another person is voted in through a deliberation. Once at the elimination, a draw ensues to determine who gets to go against not a fellow challenger… but a mercenary champion.

That’s why it’s called chaos. Not only will a contender have to beat a champion in elimination, but there is a chance the champion pulls a mace out of the draw and can pick basically whoever he or she wants to try to take out of the game. Certainly chaotic as if you don’t win the daily challenge — there is always a chance you could fight for your life.

The political strategy changed. It benefitted people more to play more active, instead of continuing to play under the radar. Battle for a New Champion became a political pyramid: the closer to the top you stood the safer you would. This was only compounded by a dominant majority alliance that was able to throw less important members to the wolves safely when they could not go after one of their true targets. Under the radar players like Colleen and Ed found themselves at risk much more often, because they did not make the subtle moves that could propel them into better spots on their own alliance.

There certainly was a boost in momentum for the season upon knowing a random champion would come in the game as mercenaries. Jordan vs Ciarran proved to be an excellent appetizer for the season, as their physical elimination turned into a Jordan mind games clinic, which took a strong contender out of the game. The tone set unfortunately was rarely matched moving forward, with only a few eliminations living up to the promise of heavyweight champion vs contender fights. Devin was predictably given a joke of an elimination which came down to counting things. In all honesty, Devin was probably thankful he was given a mental elimination but it doesn’t help his reputation as a weaker champion. Laurel and CT were totally misused as well. Two of the most physically intimidating challengers in the show’s history were given memory and math eliminations respectively, when a more physical head to head elimination (like Balls In, which has been absent from the season) would have certainly been more entertaining.

While the eliminations were hit or miss, the daily challenges constantly entertained me. While it frustrated me to see teams split up in ways where some groups would have more contenders than others, the challenges themselves felt consistently fair and interesting enough to keep me locked in for twenty-ish minutes.

The Big T Paradox

Very few challengers this season have been pushed into the star role quite as much as Big T, and it was especially apparent in the first half of the season. The problem here is that while Big T is a strong reality TV character, giving her the focus when the current iteration of The Challenge is at its heart a competition show feels lacking. Our lovable UK challenger isn’t strong enough competition to be an important character.

Big T is (somehow) the most seasoned veteran challenger of the entire cast and has been given that respect with a hefty edit, from production dressing her up in her chef’s outfit to cook in to getting a whole ass coming out party. But Big T was also seriously considered as the first nomination due to a reputation as a weak physical player, and while she wants to make moves as a political player to make up for that, her grand alliance consists of Melissa and… no one else, really. It got to be sad to see the two contenders try to politic and scheme like power players and consistently be rebuffed and pushed into the draw once the game turned to chaos.

Maybe Big T’s game could have been helped by starting the game off more as a follower and falling in line with the Ride or Dies alliance for a time. She theoretically could have used connections from her time in Spies, Lies and Allies with Michele, Emanuel, Colleen, Berna, and Corey to stay safe for a short time, then break apart when there was a chance to actually take some power with a fragment alliance. But Big T came in strong on day one when the best strategy was to hide in the majority. She failed and doomed her game right at the start of the season.

Even as Big T won eliminations against Jessica and Kaz, she still didn’t feel like a serious contender. People in the majority alliance were even campaigning to save Big T from the draw because she would be an easy player to beat in the final. But Big T finally met her end when getting drawn to go against Kaycee in Pole Wrestle. And to give Big T credit, she did well. She had come a long way from her pitiful pole wrestle performance way back in Double Agents against Kam. I also thought Kaycee came in as a mercenary looking small, or maybe I’m not rating Big T’s training and increased strength. Winning a round against former football player Kaycee was a surprise, but round three was decisively taken by the champion.

All in all, I guess this whole discussion is to say that strong performances are required nowadays to evolve into a worthy Challenge personality and staple of the show. With a seemingly endless pool of reality TV people to pull challengers from, you have to at least be a threat to make the final. And I don’t know if Big T can do anything to change her reputation.

The Melissa Monsoon — Hitting “Battle for a New Champion” with a Vengeance

Big T had a trusty sidekick to weather the witch hunt of The Challenge 39 with. Melissa Reeves returned for another season of the show, her first season since Total Madness way back in 2020. I was very thankful that Melissa was on this cast as she gave the show a shot of messy energy during the second quarter of the season.

I mean, who doesn’t get a kick out of a tiny girl with a Welsh accent aggressively standing on her tippy toes to berate Berna for her moody behavior. And we always need people in our Challenge life who will get mad enough to throw drinks in people’s faces. In an era where “the game” has become king, people like Melissa are needed to keep the drama alive and kicking.

Now drama aside, Melissa predictably had no chance to go far. She came in as one of the least connected players in the game and made her bed by aligning with all the other Brits. All I can hope is that she can be in future alliances in future seasons by just being present on Battle for a New Champion and getting the “we were on the same season” connection. Because I do think Melissa did enough to deserve another invite to a future season, just like Amanda is always welcome on a season just to make messes… maybe not a star studded Season 40, but if the Challenge continues afterwards Melissa deserves another opportunity.

Simping Rarely Prospers

As in every Challenge season, horniness abounds. The “love” connections made this season ended up having a major impact in how the politics played out this season, either isolating contenders from their alliances or allowing them to actually get much farther than expected.

The marquee love triangle was, annoyingly, Moriah dropping Bananas for James Lockie. Bananas getting “cheated on” on national television? Didn’t expect that to be a storyline going to the Challenge 39. Realistically, I don’t care to really discuss this much further. Moriah was forcing it. James was boring. The whole storyline was forced with the champs coming in to make a snide comment every now and then. The only interesting thing is how James somehow almost made it to the final because of how irrationally protective Moriah was of him… actually insane.

The more interesting in-game romances were between Melissa and Kyland and then between Horacio and Nurys, as both these love affairs ended up massively affecting games this season. The Melissa/Kyland romance is simply shocking as I would never put the two of them together, and it resulted in an interesting early storyline where Kyland’s awkwardness got in the way of him gettin it. Horacio and Nurys are the result of two hot people liking each other… though it is also a bit of an opposites attract scenario as I didn’t think Horacio would actually go for a TV relationship.

Ok, they all love each other, cool. But how about what this did to people’s games? These relationships ended up isolating two contenders who could have had an easy path in the Ride or Dies alliance and pushing them to the outcast role. Kyland spent the first half of the game investing in public enemy number two Melissa which made it easy for people to throw his name out for elimination. Nurys stuck with Horacio through thick and thin, abandoning friendships and “the easy path” for the hard road of conquest elimination. Who even knows if the relationship is even worth throwing away a chance at a payday?

The Slowly Boiling Political Landscape of The Challenge 39

The middle of “Battle for a New Champion” was certainly slow, but not necessarily bad. This is where the… interesting format choices made by production reared its head. The game turned into a hierarchy of power where as long as you weren’t the scapegoat or the lowest member of your alliance’s totem pole, you were fairly safe. But amidst the witch hunt of Big T and Melissa and the attack on Horacio and Kyland, tensions began to rise and the political machinations of the game evolved.

Some of this has to be credited to the vacuum of power created by giving the long term vets a season off. At this point in the game in the last two seasons of the mainline Challenge, we would basically be watching to see who Tori, Bananas, Devin, Fessy, Josh, Aneesa, Kaycee, and Nany would decide to send into elimination. There was no tension involved because this core vacation alliance was so tightly knit and established that there was no chance that betrayal would occur, and their numbers were so large with the inclusion of whichever rookies had latched onto the group for safety that no one could realistically oppose their will. It’s why seasons like Spies, Lies, and Allies and Ride or Dies felt so stale in the middle portion of the season.

Battle for a New Champion just has more tension involved in the season’s politics because new people are in charge, which means the battle lines aren’t established in stone and people who didn’t have a chance to make power moves can have more freedom. Seeing how people slot into alliances and how people look to further their own game is certainly more interesting than the same ten people taking the path of least resistance for the third season in a row.

This is compounded by just how dang tricky it actually was to get someone out of the game. If you wanted a strong player out during the chaos phase, you only had a 33% chance to even get them in the elimination arena for a whatever percentage chance for that target to actually go home depending on the champion opponent. This results in a multi week stretch where no one left the game, because of a 4-elimination win streak from the contenders. It ‘s not so annoying when you binge watch the season like I have, but I can see how this would be frustrating as a weekly watcher, where it feels like the season is metaphorically stuck in the mud without no one leaving.

But hey, this is chaos, and a slow burn of a midgame isn’t bad. With rivalries slowly building in tension as no one could get anyone out, it resulted in a fiery conquest phase with a shocking home stretch where new rivalries formed and multi-episode storylines were resolved in high stakes moments. If Horacio and Kyland didn’t stick around as long as they did, would Nurys have the signature moments she got in the last couple episodes?

Michele’s Beautiful House of Cards

In a game devoid of the established vets, it was one Michele Fitzgerald that rose to the alpha position of mafia boss and political shot caller. Love it or hate it, you have to give Michele her props for putting together her best season so far.

Michele certainly came in connected, but it is still a commendable accomplishment to have five to six different contenders consider you their number one. Michele had Jay as a number one, Corey Lay as a number one, Berna as a number one, Moriah as a number one, Olivia as a number one… over half the house considered the Survivor champ as a vital ally in the chaos phase. It’s how Michele controlled the season and protected the people who were really her true alliance: the Ride or Die group of herself, Olivia, Nurys, Moriah, and Jay. The side group of europeans (Emanuel, Berna, Colleen) fell into her sphere of influence, but were ultimately used to further her own agenda.

Michele had to back up her reign when the chaos phase was its most chaotic. I’m thinking of Cara-Maria’s return to the game and subsequent callout of “orange shirt girl” when she pulled the mace at the draw (sidenote: if I was to believe any Challenge conspiracy from this season, it would be that the draw for Cara-Maria and CT would have just been three maces… with the sand conveniently hiding the heads of those poles, it would be easy to do). The elimination itself was simultaneously the worst and the best for Michele. She had to push heavy blocks against one of the strongest physical challengers to ever compete, but it was for a puzzle that as a Survivor alum would be very familiar to her. Cara-Maria came in with bravado and started off with an early lead as Michele struggled with the physical portion of the challenge, but Cara also sucks at puzzles and seemed befuddled by the twisty design while Michele made quick work of it.

Michele defended herself when she needed to, without warning and against one of the best elimination performers ever. It should have been the signature moment in the first season when she made a final…

Jay Demands His Way, A Lot of People Have to Pay

If Michele is the good cop of the dominant alliance of the season, Jay is the bad cop. He just loves to make it messy. The back half of the chaos phase was defined by a Jay-led war against two of the strongest players on the men’s side of the game — Kyland and Horacio.

Jay let people know where he stood, and when opposed he went at them like an angry bull. This seems like a far cry from the plucky rookie who beat CT and was the Total Madness punching bag… but really this should have been expected. Jay has always been aggressive on the Challenge and it has often got him into trouble with early eliminations in Double Agents and Ride or Dies. This is just the first season where he wasn’t punished for it. He just had the number to puff his chest out and antagonize enemies, allies, basically whoever looked at him funny.

I can understand why people dislike Jay because of this attitude. He’s a villain and I think he is ok with that. I also think watching people play flawed and overemotional is more interesting than watching someone like Ed play a clean game with a fun personality, yet just kinda exist all season.

A Powerful Underdog Alliance Forms — What The Challenge was Desperately Needing

When one alliance forms, it is only natural for another to oppose it. But in the last few seasons, no strong faction rose up to really put up a good fight. Historically, the Challenge has been at its best when the best players go to war for a whole season. In the golden era it was the J-E-K alliance vs Wes, which evolved to Johnny vs Wes in the mid-twenty seasons. Other groups started rising up around Rivals 3 and Invasion of the Champions, with alliances like the Lavender Ladies and Young Bucks alliances trying to earn their spots amongst Bananas and Wes’s numbers. Then people like Cara-Maria, Kam, Big Brother and some of the Brits led alliances into the War of the Worlds season with decent success against Johnny and Wes. But I think after the wonky skull format of Total Madness and the peacemaking between Bananas/Wes, veteran alliances just kinda merged into one big group, where long-time players agreed to watch each other’s backs and work together instead of trying to beat each other. It also didn’t help that a rotating door of rookies came and went with no one returning consistently enough to form resistance against the dreaded “Vacation Alliance”. It just made more sense for rookies to slot into the veteran group as a pawn to stay in the game longer.

That’s why this vet free season was necessary. These new players could actually figure out who to ride with without the vets interceding to manipulate or eliminate them. Bonds could finally be formed, and the hope is that these bonds will stay strong enough to encourage new factions to give the vets a run for their money next season and beyond.

The most important group that formed was this new underdog alliance of Horacio, Kyland, Nurys, and by the end Zara. This alliance formed out of friendship and mutual respect and more importantly, all four of the challengers in the new alliance are threats. Horacio is one of the most physically gifted challengers in the new era. Nurys is a strong political player and can back it up in challenges. Kyland has an all-around skillset and proved he is worth paying attention to with three elimination wins, two against champions (albeit older, somewhat washed champions… sorry Brad and Darrell). And Zara, if she comes back for more seasons, is physically gifted and dominates daily challenges.

This is an actually formidable group. They made it incredibly difficult for Michele and Jay’s faction (another group that could have staying power… if Michele and Jay’s manipulation all season doesn’t burn their bridges) to get them out, which points to an alliance that could hold sway in a veteran-filled season.

The only thing they are missing is a catchy name. They have some work to do with branding.

Conquest — Pressure to the Max… Because There’s Only Room for One Champ

First off, let’s acknowledge that it is incredibly stupid that there is only going to be a single champion at the end of this season, instead of one male and one female champion. This is a physical competition and to expect men and women to compete against each other equally, especially when none of the female cast members are actual athletes, is just unfair to the ladies. I’m relieved that the conquest phase did not just become a consistent female purging which would have been appalling to see. Even so, two of the three daily challenges put basically all the women in last place against the guys, and I wish production would use common sense and just have both a man and a woman get to be champ.

Ok, now that the elephant in the room is acknowledged, let’s actually talk about the format. It’s a brutal format and definitely amped up the pressure to make the final. The daily challenges turning into purges worked perfectly to build up the stakes and weed out all those extra contenders standing around after the chaos phase. The dual style deliberation is a great format when people are willing to make selfish moves and difficult decisions, and that is exactly what we got. No one felt truly safe and it resulted in plenty of drama.

And while I’m not a fan of the genderless eliminations, at least the Fresh Meat style exile elimination was puzzle heavy and allowed for equalizers. Though if any of the guys were competent at puzzles at all, they would still just run over any women they faced. I even think they saw how the first elimination went, namely Zara on the climbing wall struggling on an obstacle that the guys made look easy and made a few changes of their own.

Living Long Enough to Become the Villain: The Olivia Story

The biggest and most dramatic move of the Conquest phase came in the second to last deliberation, when a sophomore challenger made a heel turn nobody would have guessed at the start of the season.

Olivia for most of the season had been more of a background character. She was very safe within the Ride or Dies alliance and would pop in a few times an episode to add some strategic commentary or get a funny one-liner off. She had mentioned a general anxiety forming with her relationship with Horacio and Nurys in the game, but had no need to act on it. She had in fact doubled down on her Ride or Die alliance, and she was more grouped with the fragment Horacio-Nurys-Kyland alliance than with the Michele-Jay alliance by the time the conquest phase began.

But the conquest phase amped up the pressure and made Olivia second-guess her decisions. She noticed that she was sent up to go down with the ship with her alliance, and if she wanted to survive to make the final, she was going to have to beat Horacio, Kyland, and Nurys in elimination. That was shaping up to be a murderer’s row of contenders to defeat, and she made a desperation move. She cut a last second deal with Michele to choose Moriah over her BFF Nurys or her Ride or Die Horacio in the deliberation, guaranteeing her safety and sending all her alliance members to the conquest elimination to eat each other alive. It was without a doubt cold-blooded self-preservation on Olivia’s part… the type of move someone won’t let you easily forget for seasons to come.

What makes it worse is that Olivia does a complete 180 right after Nurys returns from elimination. She gets on her hands and knees and says she’s super sorry and that she was just scared of elimination and she would totally never do anything to ruin their friendship and what not. Olivia basically decides to fall on her own sword instead of owning up to her move, and she goes directly into the next elimination and gets sent out of the game.

If you are going to make a friendship damaging move you have to own up to what you did, and instead Olivia tried to sweep it under the rug and pretend like it never happened. She ended up coming across as a fake friend and I’m sure the consequences of her decision will be felt in future seasons. Nurys is the type of person who is unlikely to forget something like that and on top of being “warned” of Olivia by her family, so I don’t see a future right now where Olivia can play safe in an alliance with both Nurys and Horacio again.

Michele’s Beautiful House of Cards, Revisited

The flipside of Olivia’s betrayal is the control that Michele had over the vote. She wheeled and dealed and got exactly what she wanted, and then when the dust settled and Nurys returned to the house, she got the two angry ladies to agree to ensure a women’s alliance to guarantee all their spots in the final over the guys. Michele seemed set to make her first final in a game she controlled from start to finish.

But this is The Challenge, and in the conquest phase you have to consistently perform well to stay in the game. The final daily challenge involved staying on top of a rolling log and Michele, as one of the weaker physical players remaining in the game, could not survive long enough to avoid last place. All the work that she put in to get herself to the end was ruined as she was purged in the daily before the final. Truly gutting to see as Michele fan, whose heel turn to mafia boss was all for naught.

The ironic part is that in the same challenge Michele got purged, Berna won and got a chance in the power seat for the first time all season. Berna had been part of the international contingent of the majority alliance, but all season the group of Emanuel, Colleen, Corey, and herself had been the pawns in Michele and Jay’s social hierarchy. There was totally a world where in these last few episodes that that international foursome would have been the ones going to eliminations, if Horacio and Kyland didn’t stick around for as long as they did. But you never know what is going to happen in The Challenge, and this season just being in the right group could get you all the way to the end.

Back to Michele for one more second. I worried in my preseason power rankings that Michele was going to morph into a Nany-like character, who finds ways to get far in seasons but never gets to the final. I certainly think Michele played a game in the power seat that Nany never could, but there is concern that Michele’s physical limitations might never allow her to get to the final. Add on top of that that there will probably never be a season with so few legacy vets ever again, Michele might never even be permitted to control the game so thoroughly like she did this season.

While she may never be able to finish the job and capture an elusive Challenge championship barring a big team season, I think you can just write her into any future cast she wants to be in. It’s her and Nurys as the future faces of the challenge.

Nurys the Dragonslayer

I think it’s clear that no matter the outcome of Battle for a New Champion, the true winner of this season is Nurys. Her gutsy performance in the conquest phase of this season cements her legacy as a strong Challenge competitor and earns her respect that can be parlayed into big things in the future seasons that she is guaranteed to be a part of.

Nurys could have taken the safe path. She entered the season as one of the most connected females on the cast and started off with secure positions at the top of two alliances: the Ride or Dies crew and the Fantastic Four alliance (who was quietly running the show). Nurys could have played her role and stuck with Michele and Jay, systematically picking off the outcasts and bottom tier alliance members until it was her and her friends left in the final. Instead, Nurys played with her heart, choosing to stick her neck out for a hot Mexican man and his empath buddy against the wills of the powers that be. Her decisions kicked her out of the power player press box, destroyed a years long friendship with Jay, and sent her into the trenches where she needed to fight for her life to stay in the game.

And boy, did Nurys fight. She locked in for her two eliminations, using her puzzle skills to triumph over two of the strongest contenders in the game, beating the odds (production) stacked against her and returning to the house over Horacio and Kyland. It left TJ impressed, and it left her enemies pressed. I mean, Olivia basically did backflips to try to backtrack her betrayal and keep Nurys from disowning her. She had to go back to the conquest elimination against James and Olivia and she went back to back, winning yet another elimination and earning her spot in the final with a path that no one else she will be standing next to had to take.

The momentum Nurys carried this season will put her in a position to be the future face of The Challenge with Michele. She is unabashedly herself and is exactly what the show needs moving forward.

Contender Stock Watch — Risers and Fallers from Season 39

Before projecting the finalists, I want to spend a few sentences touching on other challengers on the season and whether they performed well enough, either competitively or dramatically, to come back on future seasons.

Riser — Ravyn

I guess we should thank fuckboi Johnny Middlebrooks for leading Ravyn on so she could enter the Challenge universe as his Ride or Die. She’s both a good competitor and a messy drama queen, and she feels to me like a casting blast from the past. Like, if you could surgically insert her into the Rivals 3 rookie cast (Amanda, Nelson, Ashley, etc.) I think she would fit in perfectly with that group. She’s earned another few seasons.

Faller — Horacio
He has to start trying to develop a political game if he wants to win. It’s counterproductive to ignore trying to politic and wheel and deal if the people who actually would protect don’t see the worth in doing so. He doesn’t carry the scare factor like a Laurel or a CT did, so unless he wants to continue trying his luck in eliminations then he has to play the game he signed up for.

Riser — Berna

Her paranoia is a good trait for stirring up drama and starting conflict. The unfortunate part is that all the enemies she makes seem to not be on purpose, but by accident: also known as, she just sucks to live with.

Faller — Zara

Battle for a New Champion just kind of passed Zara by. She’s a good competitor, and she might have charisma, but if she wants to be on the show in the future she can’t be a passive presence in the game like she was this season.

Riser — Asaf

He surpassed my low expectations. Asaf played a good-ish game assisted by an under the radar alliance with Jay that allowed him to play double agent. He was unnecessarily cocky to the point of verbal altercations, and I like players who play flawed political games. Asaf had some funny one liners in confessionals (Asaf commenting that he got wine on his favorite shirt from Ross Dress for Less during Melissa and Rayvn’s drink tossing altercation lives rent free in my head, as an avid thrifter). Why not bring him back for a few more seasons?

Faller — Moriah

Unless it is an exes season where she is paired with Bananas, she should never appear on the show again. Her defining traits are gushing about whatever boy she likes and wearing skimpy clothing. I could not help but roll my eyes whenever she was on the screen, because whenever she was on the screen she was either talking about James or reading off some vanilla-ass trash talk line.

Riser — Callum

Locking in Michele for the exes season… a smart investment strategy.

Faller — James

He just existed all season long as boring Moriah’s arm candy. He was the least charismatic of the British newbies and I don’t see a reason to bring him back.

Riser — Corey

He recovered from drama with his alliance pertaining to Melissa and Big T and safely made the final, which should be commended. Most seasons, he would’ve been in elimination and probably out of the game by the halfway mark.

Faller — Colleen

One of the golden rules of reality TV competition… don’t tease the audience about “shaking up the game” only to do nothing and hide behind whoever has the power. Colleen broke that rule.

Riser — Emanuel

I don’t know if Emanuel has long term staying power on the show… but I’ll give him credit for playing a good political game that kept him on the right side of the numbers for most of the season.

Faller — Ed

He’s super likable and was a favorite to win, but he choked that rappelling daily massively. And let’s be honest, he was a secondary to tertiary character this season and he isn’t messy enough to guarantee himself another chance to play.

On to the Final — Rankings the Contender’s Chances at Winning

7. Colleen

The mini-final performance showed Colleen does not have what it takes to win against this group of contenders. Probably the worst stamina in the group so I rate her as a clear last place. Love ya Colleen, but I’m just facing the facts here.

6. Berna

5. Corey

4. Moriah

3. Emanuel

These challengers made the final without having to see elimination. Say what you will about that: I think the goal of the game is to get to the end, and not seeing elimination is the safest way of doing that.

However, I don’t think these contenders have the all-around skill set required to dominate a final. They are good at individual things, but each has clear weaknesses. Berna is good at heights but physical strength and composure are clear issues. Corey has the raw strength but not the coordination or stamina. Moriah is in good physical shape for the final but she can’t swim. Emanuel is probably the most well-rounded athlete but he is weak at puzzles.

All that to say… yes, they made the final, but they have clear skillset flaws and I imagine they struggle in their first experience.

2. Nurys

1. Jay

I think it is a two-horse race for the title of champion… which makes me frustrated that we can’t have a male and female champion because I’d like to see them both win.

Nurys has been on a hot streak with two impressive elimination wins in a row. Nurys has been great with puzzles which I think will be a big deal, since something is needed to equalize the men and women due to physical differences.

Jay is the type of challenger built for finals as an all-around threat. He has stamina and smarts and theoretically should excel in his first final experience as he has been good in mini finals historically.




Reality TV connoisseur writing about the shows I like, especially Survivor. I also watch the Challenge, the Bachelor, Love is Blind, and more.