The Challenge: USA 2 is back for a second season, and I couldn’t be more excited to satisfy my need for more of the Challenge. USA 2 is truly combining the universes, as MTV mainstays collide with a CBS cast this time around. And with the trailer and cast officially released, there’s no better time for a good, old fashioned power rankings.
If you look at the cast picture, you can discover one basic format clue for this season: this is a teams season. Because of that, the team concept will factor into these power rankings and I’m not considering it a spoiler for the show. Beyond that, I took a lot of stock in recent Challenge history, connections with the cast from past shows, and obviously the challenger’s skills both physically and strategically when putting together the power rankings. With players that we are light on knowledge (or players that I have not seen at all on their original show) I had to project their rank based on almost no knowledge, so please forgive me if you are a Tyler stan or Amazing Race junkie and are offended by my projection of your favorite player. All this is just for fun and healthy discourse!
Some early impressions of the cast as a whole:
- I find myself liking the cast a lot. I think they picked great MTV vets to transition over to the CBS show. The rookie CBS challengers are a bit hit or miss but I’m patient enough to give them a chance to make waves
- The ladies in this cast are overall weaker than the men. The Big Brother women especially feel weak, while on the flipside I think the Survivor women could dominate.
- The men in the cast are overall stronger and has a lot of depth. I could see eight or nine of these men make a final in an MTV style individual season. Show strength is flipped: the Big Brother men are in general stronger and the Survivor men are the weakest
- Challengers I’m most excited for various reasons: Amanda, Paulie, Michaela, Wes, Cassidy Clark, Chris Underwood, Michele, and Bananas (just to see how CBS will edit him)
Starting with the women, ranking from last to first:
12. Tiffany Mitchell
Looking for redemption after a flop of a first season, Tiffany returns to the Challenge USA 2. In USA 1, Tiffany was sent into elimination very early due to some BB23 on BB23 crime, and she and Cashel lost a cardio based elimination against the Amazing Race duo James and Cayla.
I’ll keep this short and sweet: I see the season going the same way for Tiffany UNLESS she gets cozy with other Big Brother players who are willing to bring her along for the ride. She’s one of the oldest players on the season and didn’t look impressive in her first appearance. I think she is bound to be a liability in a physically demanding challenge, and no one will be intimidated to go against Tiffany in an elimination. She must hope that her team wins things and keeps her safe… otherwise she must put together a smart political game to stay alive.
11. Alyssa Snider
Someone’s gotta fill the sorority girl quota on this season of the Challenge! Alyssa comes from Big Brother 24, where she wasn’t a major player on the season but still lasted a long time. Her biggest contribution to that season was having a showmance with Kyle.
Alyssa doesn’t seem like she’ll be a good challenger. She was unimpressive in Big Brother challenges that required dexterity and coordination, winning zero HOH and POV competition despite being in the house for over 10 weeks. She’s in fitness model shape so I think she will be able to perform in the grunt work type of challenges that involve just lifting things or running short distances, but I think that is as far as her skills will take her. She likely sees an early elimination, and from that we will learn if she has the guts to make it in the Challenge universe. I’d also put her as the prime candidate for Challenge introvert Faysal to try to rizz up.
10. Ameerah Jones
An early Big Brother boot gets a second chance at reality TV success in the Challenge USA. Ameerah started strong on BB24 as a centerpiece to a few alliances, but was backdoored early by what would become the dominant alliance of the season.
On paper there isn’t anything that particularly stands out about Ameerah: she just kinda seems like a normal person. She doesn’t scream “athlete”, and she doesn’t look to be too connected with her other Reality TV mates. That might mean she is coming onto the show as a free agent, and maybe she’ll be picked up by some alliance and ride along like that. Or, she could get thrown in early without any connections to protect her and find herself on a quick vacation. I will say though, she was a respected player on her Big Brother season as she was blindsided due to being a big threat, so there is a chance that Ameerah could surprise us and put together a strong season on the back of some strategic prowess.
9. Cassidy Clark
The woman who lost to Gabler in a final tribal council is looking for a second chance to win a competition reality show. Cassidy is one of our most recent reality TV debuts in this cast, getting second place in Survivor 43, which aired this past winter. She played a safe but solid game of Survivor which got her to the end and theoretically set her up for victory, but the jury voted for the whimsical old man Gabler instead. Some will die on the hill that Cassidy was wronged and the jury was bitter, others will say that bitter juries are part of the game and that Cassidy’s Survivor resume was just mid as hell.
I really don’t know how well Cassidy will do on the Challenge. She won three individual immunities during her time on Survivor, tied for the most wins on that season. That gives credence to Cassidy having some challenge skill, where she is at least competent physically and then can beat people in puzzles, balancing challenges, or a hand-eye coordination game. But Cassidy is hardly an intimidating presence and I think people will have little issue calling her out for an elimination. I think she’s gonna have to earn her stripes in the arena as a rookie if she wants to make a lengthy run in this game. Of the bottom third of the female cast, my feeling is that Cassidy is the most likely to make a deep run. She definitely has a chip on her shoulder from Survivor 43, and she has plenty of Survivor ladies to align with beyond team borders and protect her.
8. Alyssa Lopez
The plucky Alyssa Lopez returns for her second season of the Challenge USA after just missing out on the final in the first season. Alyssa proved that she belonged in the first season: despite being one of the smallest girls in the house she had a strong season. The biggest highlight of her appearance was a gritty elimination win against Kyland and Kyra, which involved not only lifting exercise balls onto a high platform but also winning with Leo, one of the weakest guys on the season.
For her second season, Alyssa needs to find a way to play with the majority instead of riding against it. Being tightly aligned with the strongest girl in the house in Angela last time was a huge boon for her and helped stay largely protected despite having a constant target on her back, but without Angela to protect her this season she will need to rely on a stronger social game. It should be easier for her this time with an influx of Big Brother players, both first-timers and Challenge veterans, entering the game. While she did prove her place in the Challenge in her first season, I still see Alyssa as one of the weaker girls in the house physically. She has a base level of fitness, but she won’t win many physical eliminations in either a headbanger or a “grunt work” type of game. I also don’t really see her as someone whose cardio would blow others out of the water. Making the final would be a huge success: I don’t think a win is something she should expect, but just getting to the final would be a win in my eyes.
7. Amanda Garcia
The Challenge’s resident devil is back again. Amanda returns for her 7th season after last appearing on Spies, Lies, and Allies, a season which I have selectively removed from my memory. It’s so removed from my memory that it shocked me to see that Amanda lasted 18 episodes in that season, just barely missing out on the elusive final in probably her best all-around performance on the show.
While Amanda is an experienced vet and can be counted on to usually reach the halfway point of just about every season she’s on, she has yet to make a final. This is likely because from a pure physical standpoint she will never be in the top half of a cast, especially in the current era as the bar has been raised athletically. Her strength as a challenger is on the puzzle side and while she is one of the smallest girls in every season she will be feisty if she has to be in a physical elimination. Politically she plays the part of the fiercely loyal alliance member, and she needs to parlay her Challenge experience with the newer CBS cast members to build the foundation to take out her many enemies. Her team is a huge factor this season. If her team rides with her then she has a great chance to make the final. If her team hates her, she could go home very early.
Thankfully, one thing we can count on Amanda for in any season she’s in is that she will cause some drama and give the fans the messy entertainment we want. That’s why regardless of the lack of results from Amanda in her Challenge career, I think she always deserves a spot on the cast when she wants one.
6. Chanelle Howell
Chanelle is coming into the Challenge: USA 2 with little to no expectations. Her appearance on Survivor 42 will only be defined by her huge screw-up on a prisoner’s dilemma advantage, where she unnecessarily risked her vote for an advantage and failed, leading to a chaotic tribal council which destroyed any chance of a deep run in the season. She was an early merge boot who made minimal impact. But, I think there’s room for tertiary Survivor characters to carve out a lane in this Challenge spinoff as we saw with Desi last season.
Having no reputation might serve Chanelle pretty well here, because physically I think she stacks up well in this cast. She’s bigger and taller than a lot of the other ladies and looks to have kept herself in shape in preparation for a physical show like this. I wonder if she will try to come out of the gates hot and stir up a bit of drama, as a player who isn’t a big name and likely looking for staying power that will bleed into the influencer lifestyle she is trying to maintain. In Survivor 42 she gave a lot of cocky confessionals to the camera, and I wonder if she will do the same with a second chance at reality TV stardom.
5. Jonna Mannion-Stephens
Jonna’s post MTV resurgence continues as she moves into the CBS spotlight! It was an unfortunate exit for Jonna in the Challenge World Championship after her partner somehow completely missed a giant pillow in the water and screwed up his knee, DQing them. But do not let that distract you from the fact that Jonna has won two of the three All-Stars seasons on Paramount Plus. Somehow, Jonna hit her Challenge prime many years after she stopped doing the MTV show.
One boon for Jonna is that the modern day Challenge puts a bigger emphasis on puzzle and math skills, and Jonna is one of the best in the MTV cast at those. But the biggest factor to Jonna’s All-Stars improvement is that age and experience made Jonna a lot tougher, stronger, and more confident in her abilities. It’s made her better in eliminations as she showed in All-Stars 3. She’s also stepped out as a more active political player in recent seasons as well which has benefitted her reputation and impact on the game. With such a CBS dominated cast in this season, Jonna is going to need a top-shelf social and political game to get in the right circles, and if she does that and makes a final her experience gives her a chance to win against the right people, even if her cardio is less than her younger counterparts. I think Jonna could do well recruiting the rookies to her side as someone more “down to earth” than her fellow MTV alum. She could be the centerpiece of her team if she plays her cards right.
4. Desi Williams
Turns out Challenge producers completely screwing Desi out of a final didn’t turn her off to the experience. Desi is returning for her second Challenge USA season, after a heartbreaking DQ in the final due to being partnered with Enzo in a swimming challenge that he quit.
Desi on paper should be set up to make another final. She was a consistently good partner in her first season, winning two challenges and never seeing the arena for an elimination. She stuck with the other Survivor players and never felt particularly at risk politically. That’s an easy formula to recreate with this group: she’s in the upper half of the cast from a physical standpoint and should be treasured as a dependable team member, and she has plenty of former Survivor players and USA 1 alums to work with this season. Desi deserves a shot to actually run a final this time around, and I think she is likely going to get that chance in USA 2.
3. Michele Fitzgerald
One of the most popular recent challengers might finally be able to make some waves and go far in her third season. Michele Fitzgerald came into the Challenge world with a reputation to uphold and she did; however, it has led to two early exits in Spies, Lies, and Allies and Ride or Dies. She made the best of her limited time in Ride or Dies, being a key political player opposing the Vacation Alliance with Jay and getting into a rivalry with Laurel.
In a CBS dominated cast, Michele may finally have people who will back her up. There is a strong contingent of Survivor women in this cast that will likely agree to help each other out. The returning MTV vets also don’t have much reason to get her out this time around (other than Amanda, who beefed with her over Messy Fessy in SLA). In fact, the vets may use her as a bridge to align with CBS rookies. Michele has always relied on a strong social game anyway in both Survivor and The Challenge, so in a cast that won’t be so wary of the “sneakiness” of Survivor players this should be great for her.
Michele has a bit more experience in the challenges after a few seasons, which should also give her advantage over CBS rookies. She’s in shape but isn’t an intimidating physical presence in any cast she’s in. Her biggest strengths are her puzzle skills and her swimming ability. Michele’s chances of making a final are all about managing her threat level and playing the politics well, and in this season her chances of reaching her potential and making it to the end have never been higher. If Michele actually gets to the final, I’m interested to see how she does. She might need the physical experience of just running the final before trying to win one, and I wonder if her team will feel she is someone physically capable enough to run with them.
2. Michaela Bradshaw
Back by popular demand! Michaela returns for her second appearance in the Challenge universe, after being the first boot of Spies, Lies, and Allies. She was sent to the first elimination of the season for making a list (and because of a COVID isolation period that allowed challengers to actually research her and realize she was a threat) and she lost her elimination due to her fate being tied to a Belgian guy.
There is no reason why Michaela shouldn’t go far in Challenge: USA 2. She proved in her two Survivor seasons to be an all-around challenge threat, and she carries that to The Challenge with one of the best physical skill sets on the female side of this cast. She’s exactly the type of player who may avoid eliminations against smaller women based on reputation and intimidation. Her ability in finals is a question mark as her endurance skills are a bit of an unknown and she has basically zero experience with the Challenge intangibles (like heights challenges and carnival-type games). But beyond the physical aspects which I believe she will have no problem with, the big question I have for Michaela is whether people will want to align and protect her, or if people will be quick to send her to elimination as a clear threat. The team format absolutely helps her, because I think she will be a cherished challenger to run the final with.
1. Tori Deal
Tori continues to be a consistent presence in MTV’s The Challenge and now makes her CBS debut. She has always been a solid physical competitor since her debut on Dirty 30, but it took until last year for her to put together all the pieces to finally win her first challenge championship in Ride or Dies. But it’s like what Batman said: you either die the hero or live long enough to become the villain. Tori is one of the key figures in the “Vacation Alliance” that has drawn the ire of the fanbase for the past few seasons, defined by the group’s safe, boring, alliance based gameplay and the crew’s egotistic veterans. Tori has embodied the spirit of the group’s ego and zero-risk strategy, and while it led to Challenge success it has turned someone who was once the hungry underdog of War of the Worlds 2 into a Challenge “gamebot” who is more interested in protecting her political investments in the game than making big moves or enemies. She will likely enter the game aligned with any long time vet also on the season not named Amanda.
From a competitive standpoint, Tori is the best all-around physical player in this female cast, only bolstered by the fact that she is an experienced veteran. She is a good long distance runner, a competent swimmer, and strong enough to beat most women in a headbanger elimination. She also has enough experience in the show to handle the carnival game challenges. Puzzles have historically been a weakness in her earlier seasons but being on a team will cancel that weakness out. The big question is how she will operate politically in a season where doesn’t have her same safety blanket alliance members. World Championships and Ride or Dies saw Tori play a passive game, which worked because she had people to protect her but was inevitably frustrating to watch. Tori does not have the same luxury here, and will likely be hunted rather than protected. But given her Challenge skill, she should expect to be hunted and I am intrigued to see if she can get her second win.
Onto to men now…
12. Luis Colon
I’m not an Amazing Race head, so all I know about Luis comes right from his bio. Luis ran in the most recent season with his wife (a Pitbull backup dancer?!) and got third place. The duo stayed in the top half of the race throughout their time on the show.
His occupation is firefighter, he seems like he’s in decent shape, and he clearly loves his wife. What will this mean for his Challenge success? I have no idea. Maybe he will come out really strong and make some good early alliances (he is from Miami… maybe he can parlay that into an alliance with Josh and a seat in the Big Brother alliance). But Amazing Race has a huge show minority in the Challenge USA 2 and if I was a betting man, I’d bet Luis to be in the first male elimination just on lack of tangible pre-show connections.
11. Chris Underwood
If this season has a redemption house, then this man will be a PROBLEM. Chris Underwood is a one-time Survivor player and winner of the 38th season, Edge of Extinction. He has by far the most unique winner arc in Survivor history, as he benefited from a game shaking redemption island twist that allowed him to reenter the game twenty days after being voted out. He took advantage of the opportunity and made it from the final six to the final three, and won the final tribal council over underwhelming adversaries.
Chris on Survivor was portrayed as a golden boy: smart and athletic with a heart of gold, and that was the reason he was blindsided early in his Survivor season as a threat. Chris today has more of a dad bod than he did on Survivor, but I wouldn’t count him out physically as he’ll likely have baseline competence in these challenges. As a Survivor player I’d put him in the top half in mental competitions in this male cast as well. His big strength is his social game, which he used on Survivor to win over people on Edge of Extinction to vote for him at the end despite a bare bones strategic resume. He’s a salesman and recruiter in real life, and without fleshed out reality TV connections he will need to charm his way to safety early (as well as latch on to the Survivor women to protect him). However, I’m not expecting to see a deep run from Chris in the Challenge USA 2. I think the athleticism of this male cast is very strong, and Chris is unfortunately at the bottom of the list. I think people will see him as easy to beat in an elimination until he proves himself.
10. Josh Martinez
Josh “The Goof” Martinez returns to the Challenge world after taking a year off. Josh is one of the most polarizing characters in the scene right now. You are either a Josh hater who would cut off three of your own fingers or eat a baby if it meant never having Josh on a Challenge season ever again, or you are a Josh apologist who swears that he is a nice guy outside of the show and that he is a necessary member of the cast to bring drama and fights (full disclosure: more of a Josh apologist, but not a Josh fan). As a challenger who sits in the gap between CBS and Challenge alums, it will be interesting to see if he can parlay that into some actual Challenge success.
While Josh has done six seasons of the Challenge, he has yet to make a final, even though he has often gone far into seasons. Josh will forever be hampered by his lack of natural athleticism and below average puzzle skills. He is a clumsy and uncoordinated human being which means he will perform poorly in challenges that require agility or hand-eye skills. His strength as a physical competitor is that he is a big body so in a physical elimination that requires little thinking Josh could do well, and he has shown to be a strong swimmer. Unfortunately, Josh also does not perform in pressure situations (it took six seasons for him to win his first elimination, and the one he won was against a man who calls himself Mechie who could not figure out a common Challenge puzzle). Josh’s saving grace as a challenger is that he has been able to form strong alliances with players throughout the years. He is central to the Big Brother alliance with Kaycee and Fessy, and will always stand up for people he cares about, which is a valuable trait in an ally. If he is able to work within two groups, the MTV Challenge people and the CBS Big Brother people, then I don’t see why Josh can’t go far in the game again. But can he make it to the final? I’m not too confident.
9. Sebastien Noel
The surfer bro quota definitely has been filled in Challenge USA 2. Sebastien comes from Survivor, where he was a low impact player on a low tier season. He did make it far on Survivor: Ghost Island, but he opted to play an under-the-radar game with little active strategy and benefited from starting on a tribe that dominated the season. This makes Sebastien’s return to Reality TV a bit of a surprise. Do the producers believe there’s some television magic deep inside him waiting to be unlocked? Or were they running out of former CBS alumni to call and they needed one more spot to fill?
Regardless of how he got here, on paper Sebastien seems like the type of guy who could do well on the Challenge. He’s still in his twenties and lives the island life which keeps him in great shape. Beyond that, who knows what will happen. He’s a complete wildcard. If he gels well with people in the house, then maybe a final is in the cards for Sebastian.
8. Dusty Harris
Another Amazing Racer I know nothing about. He was the partner of his friend Ryan Ferguson, a man who spent many years in prison due to being wrongly convicted. As a duo they did well in the Amazing Race, getting first place a few legs, but ultimately finished in third place overall.
A healthy stalk of his Instagram would show you that he is an Ironman athlete, and someone who may have been shamelessly trying to get the attention of The Challenge USA’s producers with hashtags on his posts during the first USA season. If Tyson Apostol is any indication of what dedicated long distance runners/bikers/swimmers can do, then Dusty may be a dominant physical competitor on The Challenge: USA. However, that’s where the Tyson comparisons end for Dusty. I see Dusty playing a very straightforward, non-strategic game, and he could become an easy scapegoat in early votes due to Amazing Race players being in a huge minority in the cast. He needs to show whichever team he is on that he will be a huge asset in a final, or else he will likely be thrown into eliminations early.
7. Paulie Calafiore
Now this is a casting choice! The last time we saw Paulie on The Challenge, he had gassed out on the War of the Worlds 2 final and had ranted against everyone on the show at the reunion. MTV put him and Cara Maria on forced hiatus after that season, and after three plus years, Paulie and Cara are each getting soft launched back into the Challenge universe with Cara Maria on All Stars 4, and Paulie on the Challenge USA 2.
Paulie has been able to find success in The Challenge as a scrappy, competitive character and has made two out of three finals in his career. He is a solid athlete with a high motor and by reality TV standards has a decent mental game. The question with Paulie this season is where the political game will be at. Pre-hiatus Paulie has been a solid political player, usually making smart choices with alliances. Since then, Paulie has descended into a lot of peacocking and shit-talking on Twitter, and I don’t think Challenge veterans will be too keen to play the game with him. He will openly have beef against multiple people in this cast, chief among them Amanda and Bananas. If Paulie comes into the season more reserved and apologetic, maybe he can reopen an alliance with some of the vets. If not, then he has to rally the rookies to play with him and openly target players like Josh, Fessy and Bananas. I think we are more likely to see the latter with a big fat target on his back from day one.
6. Tyler Crispin
Tyler comes to the Challenge universe after two seasons of Big Brother as an incredibly popular player. Tyler’s first season was a huge success as he had one of the strongest games of the season, but was narrowly beaten out by Kaycee in the end by a single vote. BB22 was another positive result in theory as Tyler made the top six, but he wasn’t quite as impressive in his second season as his first.
Tyler seems like someone who could do really well in the Challenge. He was a well rounded player that throughout his BB career showed strength in competitions, strategy, and the social game. He’s not going to be the strongest male in the cast in a headbanger elimination, but in other dailies and eliminations he should be able to show out. He also has connections to BB Challenge vets past and present: he played Big Brother with Faysal (which I’m sure he will try to take advantage of for an alliance in USA 2), was closely aligned with Kaycee on Big Brother, and had a long dating relationship with USA 1 vet Angela (though they are exes now). He will know about the Challenge going into the season and I think that will benefit him right from the get go.
5. Cory Wharton
Somebody has to do it for his daughter! Cory is making a return to the Challenge after a season off on the MTV show. It had felt like Cory reached his challenge performance peak with a strong game in Total Madness, but after coming short in that season and the two after, it felt like Cory missed his window to win his first final. Maybe the short break Cory took is exactly what he needed to finally get over the hump.
Cory can come into this game as a bit of a free agent; as Cory doesn’t really have a strong connection with any of the vets in this cast. In the past Cory was set as a key figure in the “Young Bucks” alliance, but this time he will have to put some faith into the CBS players to feel secure in the games. Cory has always been a strong challenger in physical competitions and eliminations, but his brain and mental skills have been a roadblock to winning finals (think Invasion of Champions), though he has put in a little work to do better in the common Challenge puzzles he knows he will likely see. I think the team format will benefit Cory greatly, as he will be able to carry his own weight physically in a challenge or a final, and other players can help make up for his weaknesses. Age has made Cory better at making connections and he can take a leader role on his team with his experience in the game.
4. Wes Bergmann
Future dad Wes Bergmann is making his network television debut! A staple of the challenge and multi-time winner, Wes’s most recent seasons included a victory in All-Stars 3 and a midseason exit in the Challenge World Championship.
As a competitor Wes is still strong but past his prime. He keeps himself in Challenge shape and will be able to handle whatever is thrown at him, but in purely physical non-swimming tasks younger studs will outperform him. But Wes has always been a challenger that relies on political connections, both new and old, to strengthen his position in each season he is on. Wes’s success has always hinged on whether the cast he is playing with is buying the strategic pitch he is selling. And with the type of people in a USA cast, Wes is more set up to succeed in this season than other veterans. Wes has always had a propensity to make alliances with rookies and spread his political fingers wide, so a season without much of the recent MTV regulars is a perfect playground for him. Of course, this also depends if, like Johnny Bananas, he will have to fend off a lot of heat purely as a Challenge legend. If Wes can find people to work with and and get his team to buy into his vision, then Wes still can run a final with the best of them and should greatly benefit his team in the end.
3. Johnny Bananas
This is the man who has truly made his life revolve around the Challenge. With over twenty seasons under his belt, Johnny is by far the most experienced of the entire cast. He is a proven winner over multiple eras, with his most recent victory coming in Total Madness in 2020. Johnny also made the most recent MTV final but came in second as he and Nany crumbled as a partnership in the final stretch.
Johnny Bananas is a threat to win yet again. Despite being in his forties he still keeps himself in great shape, and he might be the best challenger of all-time at the carnival game type challenges. The biggest thing that will bring him down is reputation and ego, but being in a team should dampen his threat level a little bit unless other teams want to go after him. Anyone who’s watched the show who is going into the game knows you don’t want Johnny against you in a final, so Johnny’s success is dependent on how long he can avoid being targeted by the house for elimination. He’s not invincible in eliminations: if someone is better at puzzles they will beat him in a puzzle elimination, and if someone is bigger and stronger than him they will beat him in a headbanger. Johnny will have to rely on veteran allies too, because he has historically not worked with rookie challengers (unless it is an attractive, young, submissive woman). If World Championships is any indication, rookie challengers coming from shows like Survivor and Big Brother are not going to be so keen to bend the knee and kiss the ring. Johnny will have to adapt to reach the final, but if he gets there he gives his team a great chance to win.
On a different note, I’m interested to see how an MTV staple in Bananas will translate to a CBS audience. Johnny is not what I would call a “family-friendly” character.
2. Monte Taylor
Monte is the runner-up of the most recent Big Brother season. He worked his way into the dominant majority alliance in BB 24 and played primarily in safety and under the radar. Once the numbers dwindled Monte took over the endgame by winning HOH and Veto competitions, using his physical talents to guarantee safety and hold power. But once he found himself in the HOH spot in the final three, he made the wrong decision to take perennial underdog Taylor to the end instead of Turner, and he lost the jury vote decisively.
Monte is a fitness trainer so the physicality of the Challenge should be no issue for him: in his Big Brother bio he placed himself at 6’4’’ and 235 lbs. That will put him right up there with Faysal as the biggest guy in the house and on appearances that will make people think twice before voting him into an elimination out of fear for their own safety. The big question mark with Monte will be the political game and the social game. Will he ride out with other Big Brother players, or is he not connected enough with people outside the game to be a high priority politically? He didn’t stand out as someone with a strong social game in his Big Brother season, as his own read on people and the jury ultimately condemned him to second place. Thankfully, Monte will likely be able to safely ride through his rookie season on his physicality, and as long as he does not poop the bed he should make it to the final.
1. Faysal Shafat
Messy Fessy. Messyal Faysal. The self-proclaimed almost NFL practice squad player returns to CBS land in hopes that he can finally win the final he feels he deserves. Faysal has been a polarizing MTV Challenger and certified modern-day villain from his sophomore season on the show in Double Agents up to his late season elimination loss to Bananas and Nany in Ride or Dies. In his first two seasons Faysal made it to the final but fell short of the win. Fans will definitely remember the karma-filled final in Double Agents where Kaycee destroyed her knee and shattered Fessy’s egotistical dreams of beating CT.
Faysal has never been more set up to win than this season. He can rely on both MTV alums and Big Brother alums to buoy his game politically, and whether you like him or hate him, you have to admit that he is one of the most talented athletes on this cast. He’s a strong physical competitor who people don’t want to see in elimination, and he is smart enough to handle the simple puzzles the Challenge throws at you. You can beat Faysal in a carnival type elimination (as Johnny and Nany did), and anything food-related Faysal will struggle with. But Fessy is a desired ally because he will win daily challenges, and I think Faysal will be the foundation of the team he’s with.
Things are about to heat up on the blog in the next few weeks. Challenge USA in August. Survivor 45 in September. And I have some more Survivor analysis in the works covering a few old school seasons too, which I’m super excited about!