0–35: The Nelson Streak — Real or Unlucky?

Brian Batty
18 min readJul 17, 2021

February 20th, 2018

A pretty light day in the news. The Queen of England made a surprise appearance at fashion week, Kurt Cobain would have turned 51, and Nelson won a daily challenge.

Why is that last one important? Because that’s the last time he’s tasted the sweet sensation of victory. Think of how long ago that actually was? The closest any of us ever got a global pandemic is the movie Contagian (Shout out to Minnesota Matt Damon)

In that span Nelson has participated in 35 (!) daily challenges and has lost every single one of them. How does one even do that? It is some impressive streak.

One could argue that it’s even more impressive than if he were just to have won a few along the way and simply owned a mediocre record, rather than a dreadful streak of defeats with no end in sight.

So that begs the question, how bad is he? How many of these are real losses? And how many times did he get unlucky? Well, with a fresh season quickly approaching, I did the work for you. So let’s take a look, challenge by challenge, and determine how real or unlucky this Bizarro DiMaggio Streak has been.

Loss #1

Kickin Ass

To open up this doomed run, the gang plays soccer on stilts while holding onto a large, clear orb. Would this not be a more entertaining way to play soccer? That’s not for me to decide, but I vote yes.

Nelson just really ended up on the wrong team. A.K.A. the team without Zach and Tony. A running theme through the entirety of Vendettas.

Verdict: Bad Luck — Could have just as easily just been on the other team. Something Nelson will learn all too well in the future.

Loss #2

This Land is My Land

Here we have a fun beach day where the groups split into three teams, chosen by Devin, where each member has a different job to stack wooden pallets and eventually raise a flag. Nelson was handpicked by Devin to be on the “strongest team”. Sounds great right?

Even his job was perfect. He and Brad just had to run back and forth carrying wooden pallets. That’s it. And between you and I, being a thoughtless worker bee is the perfect thing for Nelson to do.

And yet…it didn’t happen for them, coming in last place in fact. And Nelson just had to stand there in the sun and watch.

Verdict: Bad Luck

Loss #3

Spanish Treasure

Like I said, being chosen to the wrong team is something Nelson will learn all too well. And every time it happens, I’m going to chalk it up to bad luck. This one especially.

Sure, Nelson can’t swim, but on a Challenge where each member of the team has to swim from one spot to another, he’s put on a team where nobody else can swim either. Oh and Kyle couldn’t participate cause his ankles were tied together, and Cara had a time penalty, both from earlier grenades.

Verdict: Bad Luck — You can’t choose your family and you can’t choose your Challenge teams either.

Loss #4

Help Me, Rhonda

A mini-final type Challenge right near the end of the game, with the slowest guy/girl going directly home. Seems to me like it was designed to get the “lay-ups”, Jemmye and Devin, out of the game to raise the competition level. But what do I know? I’m just a guy with a blog.

Zach and Nicole ended up winning, and they didn’t tell us much besides first and last, but it seems like Nelly was as competitive as he could be on this one.

Verdict: Real Loss — Zach was just simply better.

Loss #5

Outside the Box

This one wasn’t great for Nelly T on MTV. He doesn’t possess a ton of grace, and this Challenge directly called for it. Nobody looked more lost and performed more poorly than Nelson did dangling alongside that semi-truck. It’s these types of performances that really show how Nelson found himself in this 0–35 stretch he’s in.

To make matters worse, the last place performer was sent directly home. Good night, sweet prince. See you soon.

Verdict: Big Time Real Loss

Loss #6

Opening Challenge

The opening of Final Reckoning found Nelson facing the prospect of digging up his partner from a coffin below the ground. Simply put, whoever did it fastest wins. Now, let’s make one thing clear, they all knew exactly who was under those coffins considering they all flew into South Africa together. So some people were fully aware of who was under the ground waiting for them.

Eventually, Nelson dug up Shane, which all things considered was potentially great news for him moving forward. Unfortunately Zach uncovered Amanda just a bit faster.

Verdict: Real Loss — He’s gotta be getting so sick of Zach being in front of him by now.

Loss #7

Wreck Yourself

The set-up here has a bunch of Sonic rings hanging in the air surrounded by a dozen or so platforms. One member of the team would push and direct the other who was hanging attempting to snatch the rings from the air. This time Shane was the dangler, which left Nelson a bit dusty and unused atop the podium. Shane eventually gets tangled up with Bananas leaving them both immobile sinking each of their chances to win.

Verdict: Bad Luck — This one’s a close call, but if Shane’s rope never got tangled who knows? Maybe it got tangled because of the way Nelson was pushing it, but it’s just impossible to tell.

Loss #8

Shark Bait

Another purge challenge, Nelson’s old nemesis. On top of that, winners get an extra advantage for next week, so this was crucial for our hero to get off the schnied. This time around, the gang had to jump from one dangling rubber steak to the next while hanging over “shark-infested waters” (Do you guys think the producers watched Jaws on the plane ride?). Some form of this daily challenge has been on every season since Columbus sailed the ocean blue, so Nelson has to be way more than used to it at this point.

But alas, Nelson was the first of his group to fall, crashing their chances of a win.

Verdict: Real Loss

Loss #9

Off the Rails

A mission straight out of Red Dead Redemption that would’ve made Tony Scott blush, this daily challenge was an obstacle course on a moving train. Attempting their best Denzel Washington impression, Nelson and Shane didn’t…do…well they didn’t do great. Tough to tell over the sound of them shouting at each other, but it seems as though their communication at this point is as healthy as a dead body.

Verdict: Bad Luck — This might be a stretch, but if he was alone here and didn’t have panicky Shane ramping up an already panicky Nelson, he would have had as good of a chance as anybody.

Loss #10

Dig Deep

A two team challenge, chosen on the spot by TJ, that actually pitted Nelson and Shane in the “stronger” group. This was a mix between an obstacle course and an escape room without the awkward team building aspect work outings such as this would usually entail. This was a bit of a janky game and truthfully there wasn’t much else he or anyone else could have done to switch up the outcome.

Verdict: Bad Luck

Loss #11

Don’t Push Me Around

This one was pretty much rugby but with two revolving doors in the middle of the field as the only way to get to the other side and score. This all seems great for Nelson, a pure speed and athletic competition, but much to his chagrin Shane comes up with a plan to throw the challenge for voting purposes. While he may have had the right intentions, this just didn’t sit right with Nelson who just wants to play sports with his friends.

Verdict: Bad Luck — Shane’s plan worked, leaving Nelson’s competitive side flaccid.

Loss #12

Dunking for Dinner

A sick, twisted version of Bobbing for Apples with an eating portion thrown in at the end just in case the viewers at home wanted to see some slow motion throw-up. Shane spent the entire first half screaming at Nelson about how awful he’s doing. The two of them still aren’t crushing it in the communication department. The eating challenges are always weird, and this one was no different.

Verdict: Real Loss

Loss #13

Sky Bridge

This one’s gonna be a big fuck-no from me Teej. Shane was so afraid he puked beforehand. We had a heights-over-fucking-everything challenge where you lay parallel with the earth and crawl across a rope-bridge you tie up as you go.

Fearless Nelly crushed it…until right at the end when he just couldn’t finish the job. A sentence I’m sure a few of his ex-girlfriends have said out loud as well.

Verdict: Real Loss

Loss #14

Caged In

One guy’s in a cage, one guys not, and they have to free the other person and eventually answer a few trivia questions. Easy enough, right? Even better, the answers to the questions were written on the wall of the cage! Nelson’s job here was to gather sticks so Shane could reach up and grab a key.

Nelson did a terrible job at this, and it makes me think that maybe I don’t want to go camping with him as much as I did before I wrote this.

(Do you guys not also think about which challengers you’d wanna go camping with? That’s just me? Cohutta is the clear favorite (I go Cohutta over Abram here just for safety’s sake), with Jessica and Josh in a hotly contested race for last place.)

Verdict: Real Loss — Zach got the branches fasted than everyone and Amanda knew all the answers. Are we sure Zach isn’t the best daily challenge player of all time?

Loss #15

What Goes Up Must Come Down

Another ridiculous heights challenge where after running up a bajillion flights of stairs, you had to repel down a building looking straight down which for me would be like making Jemmye dip her fries in ketchup. This was easily their best opportunity at a win, but they just weren’t “good enough”. You know what? Actually…

Verdict: Bad Luck — Look, this challenge like much of Final Reckoning, was bullshit. One of the ropes they repelled down was clearly much tighter than the other one. I’m not sure why the producers did that, but there was clearly a whiff of shithousery in the air.

Loss #16

Hit List

Another “shark infested waters” challenge. But this time? Trivia!

Shane and Nelson’s Abbreviated Question #1 — Who is Tori dating?

What show are we on?…

Shane and Nelson’s Abbreviated Question #2 — Name the mountain the two of you got dusted by Joss running up during the filming of Vendettas eight months ago?

Okay, let’s keep it easy for them, I like this…

Shane and Nelson’s Abbreviated Question #3 — What was the name of the elimination arena on Dirty 30?

To be fair to Nelson, he was only down there one time and then got kicked off for fighting so maybe he got that layup of a question incorrect because he blocked out most of his time on that season.

Verdict: Real Loss

Loss #17

Heads Will Roll

Purge challenge…uh-oh. I’d take my time explaining this one to you but within the first five seconds, Nelson just kind of slips and falls and it’s all over. Welp…

Verdict: Big Time Real Loss

Loss #18

Battle Lines

Basically this opening challenge for Total Madness was a long cross-fit rope work-out with a puzzle and math equation at the end. I’d tell you how Nelson did, but I barely even saw him out there.

Verdict: Real Loss

Loss #19

Airdrop Extraction

Here we have an over-the-top obstacle course across a two mile long stretch against the backdrop of dreary Czech Republic scenery. Ending in a plane ride where the gang gets to “drop bombs” on a landing zone. Nelson was paired with Tori and Kailah for this one, which like, okay fine. Not a terrible team. Not a ton of excitement here, as they went out quietly.

Verdict: Real Loss

Loss #20

Decode & Detonate

Big long run. Big complicated puzzle. Big unnecessary explosion. Don’t ask Ben Simmons to shoot, don’t ask a fish to climb a tree, and don’t ask Nelson to win a puzzle challenge

Verdict: Real Loss

Loss #21

Cold War

Here was a team challenge where you had to bring yourself to the brink of hypothermia and then solve a puzzle afterwards. Nelson spent most of his time this day shivering with a booger suspended from his right nostril, before ending up in the back of an ambulance for all his troubles

Verdict: Bad Luck — Every once in awhile The Challenge Gods try and murder you. This was one of those times.

Loss #22

Bomb Squad

Here was have a team based obstacle course rife with fun activities such as arithmetic, puzzles, sideways cars, running, and dynamite. Nelson’s job was the running part, which is only second easiest right behind “press a button to blow up dynamite” which they left for Nany.

Verdict: Bad Luck — There was literally nothing he could have done better or worse. His job was to run in a straight line.

Loss #23

Fast & Furious

For this one Nelson was paired with Aneesa which is just about worst case scenario as far as “partners you would want while hanging off the side of a moving semi-truck” goes. Fortunately for Nelson there was a puzzle they had to solve at the end, which Aneesa can do for him.

But unfortunately for him it was all for nothing as Aneesa dropped a puzzle piece pretty quickly, leaving Nelson with no other option but to shout at the Challenge Gods and question their motives.

Verdict: Bad Luck — Could have literally been paired with anyone else. Writing this is bumming me out.

Loss #24


On this day, the gang cosplayed as extra’s in the Chernobyl mini-series, ran inside a foam party I’m pretty sure I went to at Zero Gravity (an under 21 nightclub in Chicago marketed to high schoolers. BTW, The answers to all of your questions are “yes, they did” and “yes, there was”.) in 2006, and then had to memorize flashing lights and put together a puzzle.

To say this one isn’t in Nelson’s wheelhouse would be to speak the obvious, so I won’t harp on this one too much, but at one point, the cast was legitimately concerned he was lost.

Verdict: Real Loss

Loss #25

Tunnel Rats

This one was a team based challenge where you drop into a sewer, grab some puzzle pieces, avoid the Ninja Turtles, then run out to the open air and solve a puzzle. (Ya know, really breaking this down makes me realize that almost every daily challenge is the same, yet they’re all unique in their own way. Like trying to turn on somebody else’s TV.)

This time around, Nelson gets (on paper) by far the strongest team. Fessy, Kaycee, Jenny, and himself. Like what? He’s gotta get a win here, right?

Except for, well, much to the chagrin of everyone with a pulse, Fessy had to go back and basically drag Nelson to the finish line of the swimming portion. That and the puzzle acting as a speed bump, sunk their chances of having the best time. Ugh.

Verdict: Real Loss

Loss #26

Throne Off


Ya know, here’s the part where I would find some angle to talk about how Nelson did. But I’ll just let Nelson explain it for me…

To make matters even worse, this was a Burger King challenge. Ugh, timing is a motherfucker.

Verdict: Real Loss

Loss #27

Flag Down

In a situation we’ve all found ourselves in from time to time in life, today while hanging from the side of a moving tank, the gang is tasked with grabbing flags off the ground while some green smoke blows up in their faces.

Again, basically a Tuesday.

Hard to tell how Nelson did points-wise, but literally nobody on the cast took it in full stride and had more fun than he did.

Verdict: Real Loss

Loss #28


Today the gang gets to play “Garbage Man For A Day” and drag garbage from one side of the field to the other. Nelson’s partnered with Nany and Chris (I refuse to call a grown man Swaggy), forming a team that’s the opposite of intimidating. This tetanus inducing Challenge was close, and it’s not like Nelson lost it, but he obviously didn’t win either.

Verdict: Real Loss — Loss is a strong word for this one, because it looked miserable enough that everyone was a loser that day, but the streak continues.

Loss #29

Bloc’d In

On one of the “Brain Game” apps I have on my phone, this exact daily challenge is one of the games. I’m almost positive this is an app Challengers download for puzzle practice, so this should be cake. There were two teams, one winner. Nelson, as he is so talented at, just found himself on the wrong side of that equation.

Verdict: Bad Luck — It’s not like Nany, who was on the winning team, made anybody win or lose. Nelson could have easily just been in her spot. Oh well..

Loss #30

Running Out of Time

We’re on loss thirty now. Thirty! I’m not really that good at math, but that seems like a lot. Going into this day Nelson almost had to have had this thought floating around in his mind. Although, Nelson doesn’t strike me as someone who’s necessarily the most introspective person in the world.

This was a pretty simple Challenge, where you had to run back and forth from a pile of rock and what not to some barrels and drop the rocks and what not into somebody else’s designated barrel. Then you gotta hold them up. This seems great for Nelson. Its strength and endurance. Two of his biggest assets.

Except the one twist is you have to be back at the barrels before TJ blows the horn. Like being home for dinner before the street lights came on. Except for Nelson couldn’t quite make it back in time, his food went cold, and he DQ’ed himself.

Verdict: Real Loss

Loss #31

Crash Course

By now you’re probably wondering what’s wrong with Nelson. Why does this keep happening? Why does he keep performing so poorly?

Listen, as you can see. A lot of it is bad luck, bad teams, wrong place wrong time. But today? Today while doing as poorly as you can possibly do, he actually was the most impressive one there.

This challenge was about driving a car and pulling the e-brake real real hard to drift into your fellow Challengers standing on barrels. Some got a few, some got a lot, but Nelson? Nelson got nothing. Kyle also missed them all, but that’s because he stopped short.

Nelson managed to drive full speed at roughly 30 barrels, hard break, and slide right past all of them managing to completely avoid everything in a challenge where avoidance was the antithesis of the goal.

Verdict: Real Loss, but also Real Win

Loss #32


Nelson heads into Double Agents having gone completely 0-for the last two seasons while also making it to the brink of the Final. Gotta be a real cheese grater to the spirit situation. But look, new year, new Nelly. And this was his time.

We opened with an individual challenge based on memory with a bit of physicality thrown in the mix. Minus the memory/puzzle part of it, this one was made for Nelson. What’s that? The memory/puzzle part of it was the only thing that mattered? Ah, got it. Carry on.

Verdict: Real Loss

Loss #33

Ice Spy

Lazily stealing from myself on this one, but I now present a play in four acts…

Verdict: Real Loss

Loss #34

Road Kill

I think Nelson and Leroy wrestling on top of a moving semi-truck is a fever dream I had once in 2017. It was an extremely quick round, I’m pretty sure they only showed it for 15 seconds, but they both fell off together and Leroy won by a literal toe.

Verdict: Bad Luck

Loss #35

Drone Control

I haven’t hated a daily challenge in my life quite like this one. I’m normally on the side of “just enjoy it, it’s an episode of The Challenge”, but I was legitimately frustrated by this one. Nelson and Amber M. had just about no chance here, but neither did anybody else really.

Verdict: Bad Luck — Devin and Tori were the only ones who even completed it. How fun.

Final Score?

Real Loss — 20

Bad Luck — 15

So what did we learn? We learned that being on the right team is important, we learned that no matter how hard he tries Zach will always be ahead of him, and learned that Nelson has had a lot of bad luck during this time.

But another thing I learned, and it became glaring watching them all in a row without any other scenes of the show, that Nelson enjoys doing daily Challenges more then anybody. The joy and enthusiasm radiating off his face while TJ explains the rules and during his confessionals was magnetic while viewed through this lense.

Season 37, Spies, Lies, and Allies starts up soon. Will the streak continue? I sure hope not, but that’s only up to Nelson and the Challenge Gods at this point.



Brian Batty

Writing about MTV’s The Challenge, one of America’s great institutions