The Challenge: USA — Episode 2 Recap
Another episode of the Challenge: USA is in the books. Let’s run back through the episode, decompress, and gather our thoughts over what has happened this week.
The Algorithm “Randomizes” the Pairs
We lead off the episode right where we left off in the premiere: with the introduction of the algorithm, which is going to randomly select pairs for each challengers to work with for the upcoming challenge. It just so happens that the algorithm puts together some pairs that coincidentally help push plenty of the week one narratives forward. Do I care that the algorithm may not be as random as advertised with this small sample size. No way! I just want good TV! This isn’t a particularly game-breaking mini producer intervention, and it’s not like they can put these pairs back together any time soon anyway, so let’s get the juice out of the preexisting storylines early.
A couple pairs get highlighted. Firstly we have an all Amazing Race pair in Cayla and James, which given how the politics shaped out so far means they are essentially guaranteed to be seeing elimination this week. We also get the two exes paired together in Cinco and Cashay, and as we see in the episode there is clearly no love lost between the pair as they have a lot of baggage to unpack if they want to work well together. Thank you News Shan for the scoop for those who didn’t watch Love Island 3. Lastly we see that Tyson is now paired with Justine after just sending Justine’s close friend Cely into elimination without warning. Justine is feeling some type of way about this partnership at first glance.
The Daily Challenge: Some Good ol Fashioned Buoy Hopping
The daily challenge this week is a bit more physically demanding. The pairs must swim to and climb up a ladder to reach a platform, and then must jump onto this large spinning buoy decorated with tires to hold onto. Once on the buoys you can grab 5 letter pieces to then use on a board, where you play bananagrams with the letters you grabbed. After 20 minutes, whoever has the most words on the board wins. It’s a mix of Challenge fearlessness to hop off the platform confidently, physical strength to make the jump, swimming skills to reach the ladder quickly, and brains to make the right words.
Just like last week, one group makes a mess of the challenge early which sets a low bar for everyone to climb over. The Amazing Race pair of James and Cayla fall off the buoy one too many times, and once James backflops into the water and is delirious from the pain of the fall it is clearly over for them with zero words to show. From there we get to see the quirks of each team trying to run this challenge to acceptable success. Leo has to take the wet shoes off before swimming. The only word Cashel can think to spell on the board is his ex Kyra’s name. Cashay heavily overreads Cinco’s general teammate encouragement as a breakthrough in fixing their broken relationship. And David looks like a fool on the buoys when paired next to Tyson.
Tyson once again comes out the big winner from this week with another scintillating performance. He’s made it a priority to go out and dominate these early challenges to intimidate the other challengers and avoid people calling him out into elimination. And while Justine had reservations about working with snakey Tyson, once he started killing the swimming and the buoy jump she was bought in. The two had executed the best strategy mainly because Tyson destroyed the buoy portion of the challenge. I didn’t even realize that there was a second buoy for people to go to until Tyson’s run. And because Justine felt confident doing the scrabble portion of the challenge it allowed for Tyson to just focus on getting pieces. The divide and conquer brought them victory and power in this second episode.
A couple other players like Angela, Cashel, Danny and Desi (who holds salt shakers with only her giant biceps) get shoutouts for strong challenge performance. It’s a good indicator for players to keep an eye on later on.
All Targets Center on Tiffany
Because the Amazing Race team got last and is automatically in elimination, picking another team to go against them becomes a bit more complex. First glance at the showlines strategy and pairs point to an all Big Brother pair going in, with Survivor and Love Island being protected by the winning team. Once James and Cayla get into a room with Tyson and Justine however, a new target begins to emerge. James once again looks impressive as a political player, as conversations around possible matchups reveal that Justine wouldn’t be against throwing fellow Love Islander Cashel into the arena with his partner Tiffany.
The wheels continue to turn on this alternative plan because Tiffany has been rubbing a lot of the girls the wrong way, especially because she has been entertaining a bit of showmance with Cinco over the past couple days in the house (did not see this coming going into this season by the way). Cashay is openly disgusted watching Cinco carry Tiffany to her bunk like a knight in shining armor and starts openly campaigning to Justine to throw Tiffany in. Alyssa also wants to get back at Tiffany for her Big Brother season, where Tiffany’s Cookout alliance essentially strung Alyssa along as a pawn all season. Alyssa politics with Xavier who also isn’t so enthusiastic about keeping Tiffany in the house because of her newly created “bonds” with some of the Love Island guys. And just like that its Tiffany in the arena without her even catching wind of it.
It’s funny how fast things can turn on a dime like this: maybe because this version of the challenge has people who played past reality TV competition shows rather than throwing international rookies into the deep end of a pool with MTV veterans who have no inclination to backstab each other in a million years (looking at you Spies Lies and Allies). Maybe Tiffany thought she was putting together the pieces for a long run by bringing in the Love Island guys into a sort of partnership, but the algorithm makes people think for themselves first over sticking with the show lines. Tiffany isn’t the strongest physical competitor and has a strong strategic game, and because her partner was disposable to the other Big Brother players, it made this episode the perfect time to take the first shot.
The Elimination: Spin Class from Hell
The elimination is simple but creative this week: the teams go head to head on exercise bikes, pedaling hard to fill up the meter. Three times during the bike ride a code will pop up that you have to memorize and recreate before moving forward. Tiffany and Cashel are blindsided by the power pair and now have to compete against Cayla and James, and the stakes become much bigger now. The shot was taken at Tiffany so it has to hit, because the algorithm could keep her safe next week and give her time to plot back against you.
James and Cayla are filled with energy and despite screwing up the first round of memorization they still beat Cashel and Tiffany. This elimination was so based around who had the best cardio, and it looked clear that Tiffany wasn’t able to keep up with the rest of the group. Add onto that that literally the whole house was cheering on James and Cayla and the mountain becomes too big for even fit Cashel to climb. That adrenaline from being supported so much has to help you in these cardio style “who wants it more” eliminations, and it was obvious to see that James and Cayla were feeding off the energy, waving around their shirts as the pedaled to victory.
While I would have loved to see the aftermath of the post-elimination if Tiffany and Cashel had won and reentered the house, I can’t deny that I really like the enthusiasm this Amazing Race group brings to the season and I want them to stick around a little longer. Now that the two have been paired together it becomes much easier for them to stay safe if they get the right partner. Cinco is probably the biggest loser from all this because of how tied he had become to Tiffany, and that he is now the only Love Island guy left (with the LI girls being content to throw their guy counterparts in). I’m also interested to see if Tyson can keep up the winning momentum: if he gets paired with a weaker partner in the near future and doesn’t win, I think every guy has to be considering sending him into elimination ASAP.
Two great episodes in a row. Let’s keep the momentum going next week!