The Challenge: USA — Episode 5 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. I’m writing this in the airport because I gotta come through with the content even as I travel.
The Daily Challenge: It’s Swimmin’ Time
We have flirted with swimming in the past few episodes, but today’s challenge is really the test for every competitor whether you got the skills of a dolphin or if you are just a human buoy. Pairs must swim out to a code, then swim to a ship with many barrels. Find the barrel with the code, and you get puzzle pieces to swim back to your puzzle station. But, if you open the wrong barrel you have to do extra swimming as a penalty. Pairs do this twice and then put together a tangram puzzle to win the challenge. The swimming is grueling for this challenge, and amounts to like 750–1000 yards of swimming: like a half-mile plus. This is a great test for challengers to see who can make the swim and who can’t, and this is especially important information since Challenge finals often involve a swimming portion.
It becomes very clear right from the start who can swim, and who absolutely can’t. Four challengers were very bad swimmers: Enzo and Leo for the guys, Azah and Cashay for the girls. Pretty much every pair who had one of these challengers were floundering at the bottom. But…. Cashay was paired with Tyson, and Tyson put together one of the most spectacular challenge performances I’ve seen in a very long time. Because Cashay can’t swim, Tyson had her float on her back and kick while Tyson held onto her life jacket and dragged her along the water. Things took a turn for the worst when Cashay messed up and opened the wrong barrel, garnering a penalty and pushing them near the back of the pack. But as better swimmers were starting to get fatigued and slow down, Tyson was completely unfazed and his endurance was so high, that he started passing people in the second leg to get to the puzzle in fourth or fifth place. It seems Tyson practiced his tangrams before coming on the challenge because he flies through the puzzle, winning the challenge despite having to drag along one of the worst swimmers in the game the ENTIRE challenge. If the rest of the guy challengers aren’t on high alert already, they HAVE to be now. Tyson’s sheer endurance in this challenge was mind-blowing, and if he gets to the final I don’t see how anyone can keep up with him in any running or swimming portions.
Some other groups looked good during this challenge, and realistically if one of the frontrunning teams just knew how to do a tangram then Tyson and Cashay would not have won. Derek X and Cayla were killing the swimming portion of this challenge and it looked like they were going to win the challenge with a wire-to-wire victory: instead they took second place. Ben and Justine also put together a good performance and finished right behind Derek/Cayla and Tyson/Cashay.
With the good swimmers out of the way, it came down to which bad swimmer would tank their pair enough to get last. Today it was Azah and Cinco, who didn’t have enough time to do the tangram to finish ahead of Leo and Sarah, who needed Leo to ride on Sarah’s back during the swimming to finish in second to last. Enzo’s embarrassing swimming performance was at the very least faster than Leo and Azah, he seemed to get more tired than Leo but Leo’s swimming form just a crappy doggie paddle.
Cashay and Cinco: Relationship Rehashed at Deliberation
Because of the pairs involved, the deliberation ends up being an awkward stand-off between exes Cinco and Cashay. They’ve kinda but not really talked about their relationship but the baggage from it still very much lingers. It’s been a bit confusing to get to the root of why there is so much tension other than that their dating relationship was messy but they still kinda like eachother but they know getting back together is not an option. Cinco went with a weird strategy where he chose to not give the power couple a name to send into elimination, forcing Cashay and Tyson to make their own decision and get more on their hands. In retrospect it wasn’t a good strategy because the Cinco/Azah pair was one of the weakest in the house and probably needed to just say who they think is next weakest to Tyson and Cashay and hope the two oblige.
Kiki-Watch: Did Danny Mention HIs Wife Kiki?
Yes — at 9:16 PM EST
The Elimination: A Dark Turn
Cashay and Tyson have to call out a team on their own, and they put together two reasons to send in Leo and Sarah by blindside. For Cashay, she wanted to Leo in to avoid being paired with him later on, especially after Sarah has gone through the entire house to complain about how Leo is crap at challenges and not taking this seriously. For Tyson, he is doing this to take the first shot before he takes the first bullet. Cayla, who is nervous she will get called in, tells Tyson that she had been hearing Ben talking about how he wants to put Tyson into elimination. We don’t actually see video proof of Ben doing this, so this may be a smart play by Cayla to get Tyson to turn against his Survivor comrades. But for Tyson, comrades is strong word to describe how he feels about Ben and Sarah and he is cool with throwing in Sarah to hurt Ben’s power in the game.
The elimination involves a dark room with a stack of various film reels that the pairs have to recreate outside. And right from the get go, it becomes clear that Leo and Sarah are going to win. While Azah and Cinco just dive into the dark room, Leo and Sarah take the time to familiarize themselves with the different sizes of film reels. This pays huge dividends as they breeze through the film reel puzzle when Azah and Cinco stumble around like chickens with their heads cut off. Sarah and Leo are reentering the house angry at Tyson, with Leo asking him why he betrayed his “little brother” that he’s known for a week, and Sarah making threatening gang signs/ eating a turkey leg at Tyson.
Winners at War Revisited: Tyson’s First Misstep?
The animosity between Tyson and the duo of Sarah and Ben are now heating up, as a continuation of some bad blood from the actions of Winners at War, where the rivals were at odds the whole season. While Survivor Strong was the mantra of the season so far, the show line has officially broken with this big shot that Tyson missed. I’m personally not worried about Leo having an impact on the game, because he still sits at the bottom of the male power rankings. But Sarah is a cold, calculating, and intimidating player, both in personality and in gameplay. Sarah will absolutely hold a grudge against Tyson and if she ever gets in power, she will be going after Tyson with it. The big question becomes: will Sarah be able to find allies to help her oppose Tyson? We know through Tyson’s victories he has amassed allies like Angela, Justine, and Kyland. We don’t really know who Sarah has as an ally beyond Ben. She should definitely be looking on the male side for more allies to take shots at Tyson, because after this week and Tyson’s third daily challenge win every guy should be looking to throw Tyson into an elimination. Let’s see how the lines are redrawn next week.