The Challenge: USA — Episode 7 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.
Leo Abandoning His Businesses For a Slim Chance at Less than a Quarter of a Million Dollars
The algorithm once again does its thing and we are quickly introduced to the new teams. Two teams in particular get highlighted. The first is Tyson and Sarah: rivals now forced into partnership. While the two do the typical Survivor political thing and act like they are committed to working together this week, both Tyson and Sarah have little intention of any sort of partnership beyond this week. Sarah is even considering throwing the challenge or volunteering for elimination, partially to get her final running money and partially to make Tyson sweat a bit in the arena.
The other pair that is the focus post-algorithm is Leo and Alyssa. Alyssa is not excited at all to be paired with Leo, who right now is seen as the weakest guy in the house. But Leo has his mind on other things right now: apparently his bar business is going under while he is taking time to do the challenge? We see a call between Leo and his girlfriend, where Leo’s GF essentially tells him his business is in shambles and they’ve lost 43,000 dollars last weekend and no one knows what to do and Leo gets told to leave The Challenge behind and fix the mess. Leo is packed and on his way out the door before his reluctant partner Alyssa realizes what’s happened and tries to convince him to stay. It apparently worked, meaning Alyssa is the most persuasive person on Earth or the Leo situation wasn’t as bad as it was made out to be.
While dropping out of the game at this point seems like an awful idea with the final on the horizon. You gotta go for the money at this point or else why even go in the first place? However, the idea of just missing the final and then getting home to find out your real-world life is screwed doesn’t sound too great either. I’m gonna chalk it down to the whole business falling apart problem being hyperbole and Leo later learning it can be solved with a few phone conversations.
On a separate note: the fact that Leo’s business subordinates seem unable to run a bar without him doesn’t seem like a good sign for his entrepreneurial future. Maybe he should hire more competent people.
The Daily Challenge: Bumper Cars
Leo doesn’t quit and we head to the challenge, which is essentially a demolition derby. Partners are put into vehicles and told to drive into each other, popping exercise balls on the back of the opponent’s vehicles. If all your balls or popped, or your car crashes and can’t drive, you are out. Last team standing wins. The big twist to the challenge is the team member driving the car is blindfolded, and the person in the passenger seat has to be their eyes. So the challenge comes down to which pair can communicate the best and avoid a deadly crash.
It was visually a fun challenge to watch: who doesn’t like watching people try to crash cars into each other? The challenge was also stimulating because it was interesting to see how the pairs worked together and how quickly they figured out the best communication strategy. Alyssa and Leo, fresh off of Leo’s near quit, were doing well at the start but after missing the smash on another vehicle they drove headfirst into the dirt wall, getting the car stuck and sending them straight into elimination. The pesky dirt boundary wall got a lot of teams into trouble when they got zealous for collisions and were driving too fast to turn, disqualifying many of the early teams.
There were also barrels strewn about the middle of the ring, and a bad turn into the barrels would also leave the cars stuck in place. The only team who was knocked out from losing all their balloons was second place team Danny/Justine, but by the end of the demo derby their car had taken too many hits and was barely moving, allowing for Dom/Cayla to cruise to victory. The Dom/Cayla pair did a great job: Cayla gave really good direction and Dom responded to direction with solid driving that avoided every unnecessary collision.
Also, you know the Challenge producers had to throw in a random car exploding at the end of the daily challenge. That actually had me dying. They haven’t dug into their explosives budget enough this season.
Kiki-Watch: Did Danny Mention HIs Wife Kiki?
Yes, at 9:16 PM EST. Danny does the driving for the two of them.
Time to Take a Big Shot
Dom and Cayla are hell-bent on making waves and throwing in one of the three highest performing players of the season in elimination: Tyson, Angela, or Kyland. All three are favorites to win the final, have a lot of money, and haven’t really made efforts to work alongside Dom or Cayla. With Leo and Alyssa open to go against whoever, Dom and Cayla are given full autonomy to take their shot.
Angela offers a deal where if she avoids elimination this week and gets a position of power in the future, then she will not put either of them into elimination, regardless if they get a penniless partner asking for it. While the deal seems good, neither Dom or Cayla have any love for Angela who has not talked game with either of them all season. Tyson has made it clear that he doesn’t want elimination and that he is protecting people who have final money, but Sarah has gone to Dom already and asked to be put into elimination regardless of what Tyson says. And Kyland approaches the power pair with a similar, but more vague, offer that Angela gave.
The Elimination: A Physically Demanding Trivia Elimination
Dom and Cayla kept their thoughts on elimination a secret until they entered the arena and chose to throw in Kyland/Kyra, taking a shot at one of the best male competitors so far this season. The two didn’t believe Tyson/Sarah would lose to Leo/Alyssa, and agreed that throwing in Kyland was better than throwing in Angela, since Kyland has talked zero game with Cayla all season and his exit would benefit Dom more than Angela’s
The elimination is a funky trivia challenge. Trivia questions are accessed on top of a large wall that requires one partner to be lifted onto the shoulders of another partner. The numerical answers to the trivia questions are located in a mess of 20-pound medicine balls, which must be placed on top of the large wall. There are six questions in total and you win if you get all six questions right. A lot of factors are going into this elimination: obviously luck is involved in knowing the answers to random trivia. But what became obvious once the elimination started is that these medicine balls are really heavy, and that wall is really tall, and challengers would have to dig deep to finish the elimination. Physical strength and partner lifting strategy are now key pieces to winning the elimination, but more than anything is having the drive to overcome the physical pain of the task, because if one partner gives out and can’t lift their partner or the medicine ball you are dead and gone.
It was an exciting, evolving, back and forth elimination. Leo and Alyssa get an early lead because Kyland and Kyra are slow to figure out the proper strategy to lift the medicine ball. As the elimination goes on however, Alyssa/Leo slow down as fatigue sets in and their size becomes more of a disadvantage against the larger Kyland/Kyra. Regardless, they were definitely impressing their crowd of competitors with their grit: I think they overperformed compared to the physical abilities we figured they had. Kyra and Kyland finish first but they are unsure of how many marriages Madonna, a culturally irrelevant singer for Gen Zers, had. Alyssa and Leo then finish but don’t know how many albums Adele dropped. In the end, Adele wins out over Madonna and Alyssa/Leo pull out the upset over Kyland/Kyra. I think in most eliminations Kyland/Kyra would be returning but the Challenge gods blessed Alyssa/Leo with the randomness of trivia, and you have to give credit to the underdog pair for how they left it all on the line. This leaves Tyson as the clear frontrunner among the guys remaining, so he will have to continue winning the next few challenges to avoid being thrown into an elimination that doesn’t suit his strengths (like a hall brawl that we know is coming). Alyssa and Leo also showed their mental toughness in this elimination, and it might have competitors thinking a little bit longer before throwing them into another arena duel.
We leave with a cliffhanger as the algorithm is seemingly retired for the rest of the show and we are given a taste of how the rest of the season could play out with a mid-season trailer. If I had to bet my money on what this twist will be, I’d be going all in on the game going individual. It makes sense at this point in the season. Regardless of what’s in store, I’m excited to enter the home-stretch of this Challenge USA season. It looks like there are some cool daily challenges in our future.