The Challenge: USA — Episode 8+9 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. Yes, I skipped last week because I was busy, and I almost skipped this week because I was lazy (I really just need Survivor 43 to kick off again. Cast is out so there will be a cast impressions writeup before the season starts). I do have thoughts on episode 8 so I’ll condense them into 10 bullet points, then dive into episode 9.
A Ten Thoughts Rundown of Episode 8 (Because I Was Too Busy/Lazy to Write)
1. Four players left with no money: Ben, Danny, Enzo, and Sarah. They all probably need it soon cause there aren’t too many people left.
2. “Survivor Strong” seems to be back on the menu.
3. The Daily Challenge was fancy sprints — not very exciting. The most interesting part was Tyson and Dom making deals on the boat to clean the soap off Angela’s runway and help her win.
4. Cayla still feels like the weakest girl remaining (I did forget about Cashay), Enzo still feels like the weakest guy remaining (headbanger challenges not included, and I forgot about Leo).
5. Getting to hear Ben’s story was nice and I’m glad he got the win this week
6. Angela goes for an aggressive deal that clearly benefits her more than the Survivor guys — but the Survivor guys can coast on “accepting” it because their sheer numbers on the men’s side gives them a ton of power.
7. Sarah’s desire to go against a guy for elimination makes no sense without the post episode context (her small child was sick and distressed and as a mom she needed a reason to stay in the game without outright quitting). Just throw the next challenge because you automatically get to go against someone with money in elimination.
8. Leo somehow had negative leverage when making contact with Enzo in the lopsided hall brawl. It was like when you put magnets with the same polarity next to each other. He was literally repelling from Enzo.
9. Leo was an average competitor but did good things for the season. His post-show accusations of Ben’s daily win being rigged and later calling for the executive producer Justin Booth to be fired make me think he won’t be back for season two.
10. Challenge USA is in desperate need of some spice in the home stretch. The heavily challenge-focused episodes paired with minimal and seemingly context-lacking house storylines are starting to wear on my interest. Makes me yearn for the hour and a half episodes of the MTV flagship show (which should be returning soon btw).
The “Fab Five” vs. the “Big Brother Two”
We enter the episode on a not-so-lit boat day as the lines are drawn for us with the remaining girls heading into their elimination week. There’s the two girls from Big Brother Alyssa and Angela, both having strong seasons, and the newly dubbed “Fab Five” consisting of the rest of the girls and spearheaded the hardest by Sarah, who is hellbent on winning her money this week. These warring groups have no love lost for each other, especially for Angela who has made little effort to play the game with any of the remaining girls, favoring connections with the guys to move her forward in the game. We saw that in action last episode as she made a deal to align with the Survivor boys for protection. On the other hand, Sarah is leading the charge to take out the apparent favorite to win the final, but the outright aggression in her plan has distanced herself from the Survivor players she originally aligned with. Even Ben, who pretty much fell on his sword for her in Winners at War, is saying that he is all but done working with Sarah this season.
The Daily Challenge: Connect Four (Or, Sarah Begging People to Put Black Pieces on Angela’s Board)
The daily this week is a yearly tradition nowadays for the Challenge: the political clout challenge. The physical part of the challenge involves running into the seats of a soccer stadium to collect chips, which you put on your board in an effort to make four in a row (a la Connect Four). You can choose to go for a connect four on your board, but you can also go after other players and block with a black piece on their board. So while it is a pure endurance and speed challenge, there is the added variable of alliance-based strategy that can change things.
For the guys, the strategy is pretty simple: help Danny win his final money, as he was the last one without it. Danny was able to do it and win the challenge for the guys with some additional help from fellow Survivor ally Dom, who got involved and blocked David’s chances at connect four. For the girls, it was a bit more complicated and a lot more comical. Angela and Alyssa decided right from the start to try to mess up Sarah’s board and force her into last place. Sarah realized pretty quickly and ran around pleading with “allies” to help her out and put black pieces on Angela’s board. Despite asking literally everyone, apparently many times, no one chose to help her and instead played for their own connect four. It was comical and clearly this “fab five” alliance that was pitched to us didn’t really hold any weight, much to the enjoyment of Angela and Alyssa. Despite the incredible frustration from Sarah because she lost, she now gets to go into elimination and get her money so no big deal. Desi wins the challenge for the girls.
Kiki-Watch: Did Danny Mention HIs Wife Kiki?
Yes, at 15 minutes in the P+ episode. She’s a TJ fan!
Strategic Messiness Between Desi and the Survivor Guys
Danny and Desi are the power couple, and Sarah is going straight into elimination. Sarah makes it clear that she wants one of the two BB girls, preferably Angela. Desi is more than happy to throw in Angela because she is the strongest girl in the house and most likely to win the final. However, Danny is part of an alliance with Angela and can’t see her go in, so he ends up telling Desi that he can’t throw Angela in because there’s an alliance between Survivor and her, and Desi didn’t know that. Therefore Danny and Dom are tasked with persuading Angela that it is ok to keep her in the game and it’s not a big deal if Angela makes the final.
The Survivor guys have to deal with the collateral of their backroom deal with Angela: while they don’t really care what Sarah thinks or how she feels, they are more invested in keeping Desi happy and tight with them and make an effort to get back in her good graces. The other option that isn’t Angela or Alyssa going into elimination is Cashay, who has no ties strategically with the guys. While the move doesn’t hurt the guy’s games, Cashay going home makes the girls roster in the finals stronger and hurt Desi’s chances of winning the big money.
Danny looked to play the political power position this week a little sloppy, as he exacerbated passive tensions between himself, Desi, Dom, and the rest of the Survivor guys. Danny was a good strategist in Survivor 41 but he wasn’t particularly challenged to pull a big move, so this is really the first time we see Danny play politics in a competitive show. Could see some improvement from him.
The Elimination: Be Hamsters
In the end, Desi decides to take the strategic L and solidify her place in the finals by hopping onto the Survivor guys alliance and putting Cashay into elimination against Sarah. The elimination involves running in a hamster wheel. Making the hamster wheel rotate pulls on 300 feet of rope, and once the rope has been pulled it will tug on a ball in the center of the two challengers, signaling who finished first.
Sarah wins the best of three 2–0. The first round is a blowout after a bout of physical comedy from Cashay where she couldn’t figure out how to get the hamster wheel rotating. To be fair to her, it looked like it took a lot of energy to make the wheel move. In the second round Cashay had figured out the trick and kept it close with Sarah, but Sarah was slightly faster. It’s Sarah’s second elimination win but like the whole season so far, Sarah continues to not impress anyone. But now she has her money for the final, so mission accomplished. Cashay goes home just short of making the final and while she probably would have struggled greatly if she did make it, I can appreciate Cash’s energy and what she brought to the show. She would fit well in the MTV version.