CT, Michele, Trishelle, & The Art of Challenge Fan Maintenance

Brian Batty
28 min readMar 25, 2024

On The Challenge, the result is the only thing that matters.

This is not how real life works.

My next statement is 100% about me and 0% about them.

Michele, Ravyn, and Kyland, individually and then collectively, at a certain point during Season 39, made me question the validity of my entire life.

I’m being as dramatic as I am truthful.

Their victories over first-ballot Hall of Famers Cara Maria, Laurel, Darrell and Brad jarred me. Had me wondering what was I doing all this for? Even worse, it had me wondering who I was doing all this for? Why do I care so much and think so much about a game and a group of people when everything that I learned and calcified in my mind about who these people are and what they’re capable of collapsed in a Croation house fire within a matter of three weeks?

How much time did I waste?

Should I have been learning to speak Mandarin and studying for the bar exam instead?

In this case, it would be like if I were to have spent years becoming fluent in Mandarin then the language becoming obsolete soon thereafter. Or going to college for thirteen years and going hundreds of thousands of dollars into debt in order become a lawyer and then afterwards decide to pursue professional bowling.

Let’s start in the middle.

As a fanbase, we have been anticipating the return of Cara Maria into this Petri dish since before any of us had heard the phrase “social distancing”.

AKA, a million bajillion years ago.

Since that time, Michele has seen her star within that Petri dish skyrocket. A new face of the show, like it or not. She’s elevated her profile into the go-to transitional and storytelling confessional person the way, oh I don’t know lemme think, someone like Cara Maria used to. That also happens to be the same point where the comparison between them begins and ends. But you can imagine how Michele’s rise coinciding with her own absence could be sandpaper to Cara’s soul while stuck on the bench at home.

Well, I guess there is one more variable Michele and Cara Maria share.

Laurel probably has a crush on them.

Speaking of Laurel, without Cara even being around, Michele unwittingly got sucked into their supremely complicated, aggressively bizarre, and intergalactically fascinating vortex when Cara arrived looking like a cross between Nitro from American Gladiators and Captain Barbossa. Except in this case Captain Barbossa is super hot and somehow, despite living in Montana, has as thick of a Boston accent as ever.

She played with her food and did her best to pretend that she was here to be a hero to two people she’d never met because the house was mean to her. Cara was only here for one reason though. The Chaos thingamajig was the only thingamajig she was ever going to pull from that sand bucket. Whether or not there were any of the thingamajigs that said anyone’s name or not doesn’t matter. Whatever you want to think, it’s the same either way.

The result is the result.

This kind of match-up, where newbies are shoehorned into existing storylines which then furthers and enhances them, is exactly what the Challenge Gods envisioned for this mercenary phase of the game. Although Cara and Michele may have never competed together before, their confrontation is an extension of a narrative we’ve been watching since 2006.

I have zero doubt in my mind that before we all knew what the game was while sitting at home watching, 99.9% of people assumed Cara would win. I mean, how couldn’t she?

This is Cara freaking Maria. Icon. Legend. Arguably, pound for pound, woman, or man, the best to ever do it. I wouldn’t make that case myself, but it wouldn’t take that many margaritas for you to get me to begin considering it.

But then Cara lost. And it wasn’t even that close. There was no unlucky break. There was no specific aspect of the game itself which favored Michele in a way where Cara didn’t have a chance.

Let’s not forget, though, that Michele had assistance. The crowd on the stage, teeming with friends and others who knew Cara Maria only as a television character, who also had financial incentive riding on one player defeating the other, played a crucial role in her victory. They enabled Michele to bypass the need for strategizing, allowing her to concentrate solely on moving the pieces as directed. But that’s part of the game. Has been since Eric Neis sailed the ocean blue and more than likely always will be.

Granted, there is something sweet in the poetry of Michele benefiting from the exact #ChallengeBullshit she suffered from and protested during and after Ride or Dies. But someone being a hypocrite, flip-flopping on their morals and peccadillos if it helps them in the current moment, feeling compelled to roll around in the mud and compromising themselves all in the name of winning a pile of cash is part of what makes this show great.

But most importantly, that compromise of integrity helps make Michele, a normally flat TV character, despite managing to weave her way into everything, a complex and interesting one for those of us who didn’t watch her on Survivor.

Michele is 1–0 head-to-head against Cara Maria in Elimination rounds.

That’s the result.

Not that this is the end all be all, but in five years, when Michele is being debated against Ravyn in the comments section of an Allan Aguirre article, one person is going to be able to say “Well, Michele beat Cara Maria and she’s the GOAT!” The other person is likely to have either forgotten or not even known the details; the crowd participation, the game itself, coming in cold after four years on the bench, in to order to be able to understand or effectively articulate that Cara was placed in an unwinnable situation.

Because that’s not what matters.

After that episode, I was left flaccid. What did we even learn? About Michele or Cara? What was any of that for? Why put a chink in the armor of one of THE totems in this game’s history in order to boost Michele, who likely is never going to win one of these things (though just saying that probably means she’s going to rattle off three in a row because if one thing is for sure any prediction I make is certain to sound moronic shortly after).

I tried shaking it off, because even if history wouldn’t understand the details, at least I would. And I could potentially write about it for the nineteen people who read my articles. (BTW, shout out to you all. The things people said after I returned with the last article were so nice I was blown away. You all rock. And roll.)

Except this was now three weeks in a row where a version of this scenario played out. Where I went to bed on Wednesday night with a shadow of a demon hanging over me. A demon trying to pull me down a path of doubt over the hours I’ve spent thinking about this show.

Darrell’s been losing a lot lately. In Finals. In Eliminations. And it sucks every time. It sucks because, as most of us do, I like Darrell and want him to succeed. The show is better when he’s around. It’s a funnier show when he’s around. He’s one of those players who needs to be accounted for by anyone serious about winning, meaning that his impact is felt even if he’s not necessarily actively impacting the proceedings.

Most of all, he is genuinely a good person. As well as relatable on a human level because at any given time he’s the only normal person in the room. So, in a game full of scoundrels and borderline sociopaths, his success doesn’t force us to think “well, the asshole wins again I guess” then cause us to wonder whether should be doing something better with our time.

When it was Darrell’s turn to be the mercenary, he showed up sporting a full beard rather than his usual Nick Nurse chin patch, which looked super sick paired with his clean dome, and then lost. To Kyland. Who’s fine. But, ya know, he’s not Darrell. The game itself was one that gave us zero added information on either Darrell or Kyland as people or competitors (are we sensing a theme yet or do I need to continue and be ham-fisted?) Just a weird, awkward game of balance.

Then Laurel comes next, who’s the opposite of Darrell in that within a room full of oddballs she oftentimes stands out as the oddest ball of them all. And she lost to Ravyn (who poetically enough equally opposes Kyland in that same way) in a game that again showed me nothing. More so than the previous week, though. It proved that Ravyn has that weird Challenger tick where she can turn her brain off and just perform a menial task quickly and relentlessly. Very Jenna-esque.

But that’s something you want to learn if she were to go against Colleen or Jujuy or whoever.

Laurel’s a headliner. She doesn’t do mid-card. And this game was just mid-card and dumb. Not dumb as in hard but dumb as is in none of us became more intelligent or added anything regarding our knowledge of either participant.

At this point, you might be asking, well, what games could they have played?

Honestly, I don’t know. Which is an excuse, for sure. Cara beating Michele in a pole wrestle wouldn’t have taught me anything either. I get that part. This is one of those times I feel a lot like Goldilocks in that I sound like a guy who broke into a middle-class family's home and stuck my dirty ass fingers in their dinner and slept in their bed with my shoes on, whining about it the entire time.

Yet as King Sweet Potato once said, I yam what I yam. Those three weeks left me empty inside. Darrell, Cara Maria and Laurel are names which will ring out across this game and on the fan's lips/fingertips for as long as the ecosystem exists. Those names are eternal.

Kyland, Ravyn, Michele?

Who?

I mean, it’s all recency bias on my part for sure, but if you had to guess, is any Challenge fan going to be talking about Ravyn in ten years? Five years?

Speaking of Kyland, when he beat Brad the following week, that’s when I broke. I had a full on crisis where I questioned the validity of my entire life.

This being my favorite show, me watching it so much, and thinking about it so much, and writing all these bullshit words I write on this blog…what was it all for?

What is the point of me understanding who Brad is; watching him get arrested like eleven times on his Real World season, understanding he loves motorcycles meaning I’m overly excited to watch him compete in a roller derby daily challenge where the winner gets a motorcycle on The Duel, watching him fall in love, get married, then fight with that person multiple times on national TV about very real life things such as engagements and money and having a stable job, to then watching him go through a televised post-divorce mid-life crisis while getting involved with a girl who’s an eleven out of ten on the trainwreck scale….

How am I supposed to reconcile the hours I’ve spent understanding a total stranger on that deep of a level if he can arrive presented as a legend of this game he helped build, a title he’s earned as much as anyone, and then lose to Kyland in a game that heavily favored the younger more nimbler competitor?

Do they think that long-time fans are stupid? Like we’re supposed to have watched four Hall of Famers lose to four (for now) forgettable cast members and be like “woah, ravyn must be good she beat laurel lol”.

Except here’s the deal…

Kyland beat Darrell in an elimination round.

Ravyn beat Laurel in an elimination round.

Michele beat Cara Maria in an elimination round.

Kyland beat Brad in an elimination round.

Those are the results.

I’m not gonna lie, this feeling didn’t go away the rest of the season. The broth was spoiled. The glass was shattered.

Those four Challenge luminaries losing harms their legacy. Even if it’s technically a mercenary elimination. Which is what I assumed I was upset about at first. I was under the impression that their legacies being harmed invalidated all the time I’ve spent understanding their place within the natural hierarchy of the Petri Dish.

I thought these episodes were betraying my nostalgia. It was worse though. More insidious.

It wasn’t just my nostalgia being betrayed. It was my entire life. Those warm feelings filling me with joy each time a mercenary would arrive, those feelings were stupid. I was duped by the one-way history I’ve constructed in my mind. A major part of my life turned out to be a major waste.

After Brad v. Kyland, the demon of self-doubt pulled me all the way into his vortex. The remainder of Season 39 happened as it happened, and because it was The Challenge, I enjoyed myself watching it for an hour a week. But I couldn’t help but be just bummed out the entire time. I was being irrational thinking that these people were somehow responsible for a sadness which was entirely constructed in my own mind.

Kyland, Ravyn, and Michele beat me in an elimination round.

Except unlike on The Challenge, in real life sometimes the results don’t matter at all.

Which brings us to The Traitors.

Like any Challenge fan, old or new, when the cast for The Traitors Season 2 was announced and I saw the names CT, Johnny Bananas, and Trishelle, I couldn’t have been more delighted.

If you’ve seen the show, I’m sure you have a good idea of where this is going. And if you haven’t seen it and still plan to or are in the middle of it and haven’t finished, I’m going to spell out the end of the show by the end of this article. So, click away now if you don’t want the ending spoiled. I promise I’ll understand.

And for those of you who haven’t seen Traitors, and don’t really care to, I promise what happens next is relevant.

A summary of what The Traitors is for the uninitiated: Twenty people are in a house. Two or three (this shifts throughout) of them are what are known as “traitors”. The rest of the house are the “faithful”. Only the traitors kno who the traitors are. Each day, they all compete in a mission to earn money for the final prize. Then they do a “roundtable” where they all try and guess who is a “traitor” and then vote someone out as a group. Then later that night, the “traitors” get together and decide to “murder” someone, sending them home in the middle of the night. Through this process, the group gets chipped away at until there are only a few remaining. This is when they must keep voting people out until they decide everyone there is a “faithful”. If that’s the case, they all split the money. But if they leave anyone who’s still a “traitor”, that person can then take all the money for themselves.

Got all that?

Let’s talk about the first episode, where it was clear from moment one that Challenge people are not normal humans. Even amongst their peers.

Number One: Johnny, Trishelle, and CT were the first ones there who found the bar.

One of the rooms in the castle they were staying in had a bar. And like moths to a light, the three of them instinctively made their way there. What does this say? I don’t know, but it says something. Whether it’s good or not is more a personal preference.

For any fan of The Challenge watching at home, this behavior was both expected and typical.

Number Two: Trishelle immediately began to bother everyone in the same way she’s been bothering people since 2002.

She floated from group to group getting into everyone’s business, the way one does during the first day in a Challenge house. And the rest of the self-important cast found this behavior to be very strange, and even off-putting.

For any fan of The Challenge watching at home, this behavior was both expected and typical.

Number Three: Johnny Bananas acted the only way Johnny Bananas was ever going to act and refused to pump the brakes on making jokes about the entire process.

Except he was just being himself. A freer, looser version of himself with the volume turned a bit higher than normal. But Johnny was just being the same Johnny we all know.

None of them knew how to handle it. Even the host of the show Alan Cummings, the most over-the-top-in-the-best-ways human being alive, thought Johnny was being a bit much. His star burned so fast and so bright, even if all of our eyes at home had been acclimated to it many years ago, that they “murdered” him night one. Gone. Just like that.

Johnny Bananas put on his Johnny Bananas costume and disrupted the proceedings.

For any fan of The Challenge watching at home, this behavior was both expected and typical.

Number Four: Everyone was afraid of CT

Not afraid of him because they thought he was going to be violent. But afraid of him in the way a picky eater would be afraid of eating an oyster for the first time. Or when you order an entertainment center from Ikea and it shows up in a million pieces and directions that only make sense if you have a master's degree in architecture.

It’s fear of the uncertainty surrounding the next step after you say to yourself, “What am I supposed to do with this?”

If you’re someone watching this show who didn’t know about The Challenge at all, or one of the other participants in the same camp, CT was probably unlike anyone they had ever known or seen before. He was a massive, mumbling, smelly snarling monster who, if they did kindasorta know of him, carried a reputation that was vaguely negative. You could see that he was nervous and paranoid about everyone surrounding him. But what must have been strangest for the rest of the people there was that he seemed to be the most paranoid and nervous about the two people he knew before the party started.

The guy that won’t shut up and the girl that won’t stop butting into everyone’s business.

But somehow he was supposed to be the worst/best of them all?

So, CT stayed quiet, mumbled even more, and shelled into himself as a defense mechanism. At least at first.

For any fan of The Challenge watching at home, this behavior was both expected and typical.

And this was all in episode one.

As I said, Johnny was the only one of the three who didn’t survive this initial migration. Knowing the ending that we got, and how nothing would have been the same had he stuck around, I’m happy about this result now. At the time, though, especially after the way those mercenary losses left me feeling, I was devastated.

Not that I’m some Bananas stan in any way, but just watching him interact within that environment with both CT and Trishelle would have been so much fun. Which led me to not dislike but also not love the show. It was fine. It wasn’t a priority, so episodes would build up and my girlfriend and I would binge when we could. Looking back, I was just being a sourpuss and allowing that one-way history I constructed from an entirely separate show to spoil yet another pot of broth.

For those that know me best, this behavior was both expected and typical.

But the show carried on. As did CT and Trishelle. They stuck around and stuck around for week after week. Doing so in expected and typical ways. Trishelle talked her way into and out of everything, while CT did the exact opposite by making friends with a few people and remaining friendly with everyone else. All while (shockingly) dominating the missions.

The two of them didn’t exactly work together though. Trishelle was pretty clearly on one side, and CT floated in and out of both. Dodging social and political arrows with the deftness us Challenge fans know so well. They kept each other at an arms distance knowing they could trust each other more than anyone else there. While also fully understanding the other one is the least trustworthy of them all.

When you become a Challenge person, your baggage follows you to every single season. Time is a flat circle everywhere but the Challenge house. What was so fascinating to watch though was that CT and Trishelle’s Challenge baggage was still there, on a different show, but only with each other. And only they could see it.

Like when Harry Potter can finally see the Thestrals. Which was confusing until of course Captain Exposition Luna Lovegood walks up to say she can see them too and explains that it’s because they’ve both seen someone die.

CT and Trishelle’s Challenge baggage was only able to be seen by them, because they both saw Ace and Mark Long murder that sophomore Delta Zeta from Mississippi State and bury her somewhere in Panama City Beach during Spring Break 2005.

Allegedly.

So, they circled each other like two hockey players deciding whether punching each other was worth the hassle and energy or whether they could just get away with pretending for a little bit without risking their tough-guy cred. And in this case, neither had any interest in doing so.

CT’s been doing his best to get as far away from his past as possible. The person he was, frankly, was a total piece of shit. Toxic and violent and so fucking captivating none of us could get enough and to look away was to risk missing out on witnessing something we had never seen before from a person none of us could believe existed.

The guy he is now is equally captivating for a million varied reasons. But toxic, violent, and “a total piece of shit” are not accurate descriptions for him anymore. The problem he faces is that he did most of it with a camera on him. So, it’s there. Accessible. Forever.

Outside of even the aspect of archives, the old CT lingers because he still chooses to re-enter the world where the sights and sounds of old CT will echo forever. His Challenge baggage still comes with him into each new Challenge house he enters. If I had to guess, this is why the CT we see now can only be found horizontally under a blanket in his bed between daily challenges and morning workouts. Only bothering to extract charisma during confessionals and when it’s necessary to further his place in the game.

Which is how he showed up to The Traitors. As a survival instinct more than anything. Slowly, though only accelerated due to Johnny leaving, he realized that no one else in the house had that tiny inkling in the back of their heads that CT might just try and smash their heads and eat them.

Pilot Pete, Phaedra, and John from the UK Parliament never once considered it. While Jay was brushing his teeth next to CT on Total Madness, at the very least 1% percent of him did.

Put yourself in that position. Imagine what it would be like to constantly meet people you don’t know, but who definitely know you, and who are also pre-scared of you. Regardless of whether that fear is justified within reality or not. Sounds awful, tbh. That’s what his life in a Challenge house is like. Every time he walks in.

The absence of this allowed him to open up and be just a little bit vulnerable. He wasn’t CT. He was just CT. He was just a guy. The version we saw of him on The Traitors after like episode four or five was closer to the person he is on a Tuesday going to the grocery store than any version of CT we’ve seen on The Challenge in a long time.

He was still sly and coy and playing a game of deception, which he excelled at to the surprise of no Challenge fan at all. But the wide-eyed paranoia we normally see mostly went away. He still mumbled and screamed like a crazy person during daily challenges. He was still CT.

Just loose. Relaxed. Calm.

To paraphrase an observation my girlfriend made at least once per episode, he has clearly done a lot of therapy.

Soon though, he would learn that no matter how far away from that past and that person he had gotten, it wouldn't be far enough. And that Trishelle could still see his Thestral Challenge baggage. No matter how badly she did not want to.

Fast forward all the way to the end of the season. The final scene of the show. There are four D and E list celebrities remaining in the game.

There’s MJ, standing next to CT in the screenshot above, from a show I’ve never heard of. There’s Kate, next to Trishelle, from a show I have heard of but have never seen a minute of. And then of course, CT and Trishelle.

Now, Kate’s a traitor. Which they all seem to know. So voting her out is the easy part. They say her name, she says she’s a traitor, they all get happy, and she walks off. All of us at home know that the remainder of them are “faithful”. While standing there, the three of them are all probably sure of the same thing. The easiest thing to do right now would be to end the game and all split the money together.

But Challenge fans all know something is coming that MJ obviously didn’t.

We knew MJ was a sitting duck. She was dead meat. To no fault of her own. She did nothing wrong. She played the game as well as CT and Trishelle did. She earned the money in the same way that they did. By surviving the game and making it to the end.

Except as soon as it was the three of them standing there, she wasn’t playing The Traitors anymore. She found herself involved in something that goes way beyond her. Just like Michele did when Cara Maria showed up as a mercenary.

So next, the three of them got to vote whether to continue the game. Whether they thought there was still a “traitor” left. MJ went first, and of course did the right thing. Voted to end the game. Voted for the right reasons. Because we did it. We won. We got out the “traitors”.

This is how someone who lives in the real world would think.

The following are the faces someone who lives in the real world makes when they realize they are no longer doing so…

CT and Trishelle of course voted to keep the game going. MJ was bamboozled. But we weren’t. Some of us probably saw it coming from the minute the episode started. I didn’t, but I caught it a lot quicker than MJ did, that’s for sure.

CT showed his vote, and it said MJ. Because of course it did. He and Trishelle were going to just railroad this poor woman whose only crime was to be the one standing there. And the two of them had this discussion without uttering a single word.

MJ was next, and curiously she seemed to think there still partially was a chance everything was going to work out. Like she was fighting herself against the realization that she spent all this time in Scotland for nothing.

Trishelle was MJ’s ultimate decision when choosing between two meaningless answers. I do think it’s important to note here that even until the bitter end, on an entirely different show, CT somehow manages to never get voted into anything.

Now it was Trishelle’s turn, and even if we felt bad about it, all of us Challenge fans were swelling with pride that our two unelected officials, representing the strange Reality TV swamplands that the Challenge calls home, were going to take home the crown.

And then Trishelle did something that shocked me. Floored me even. To the point where I thought she was joking. And would throw her tiny little chalkboard behind her and say just kidding or something like that.

My guess? She did this because before she went through with the plan, the last thing she saw was CT’s Thestral Challenge baggage sitting in an unappealing lump on the ground behind him.

CT, MJ, host Alan Cumming, your thoughts?

The two of them have only done two challenges together. The Inferno and Rivals 2. As far as we know, through the batch of heavily edited episodes of television available, their interactions were minimal and uneventful.

Yet the two of them both existed in the same reality TV fishbowl for years and years. There were likely countless times they were together at random shitty bars. And Spring Break. And whatever else MTV sponsored event they were invited to as two of THE reality TV icons of the time.

Think of the way CT acted back then when he was being filmed for a TV show. Now picture that during a Thursday night off campus bar appearance at Oklahoma State university along with Trishelle, Johanna, Amaya from The Real World Hawaii, Teck, and Syrus. Where they all were paid $350 dollars cash and got their bar tab comped.

Now imagine the shit that Trishelle has witnessed. And heard of second hand through the grapevine. Nights no one has evidence of because this all took place long before the public gave a shit enough to or had the means to record any of it.

This new, matured version of CT, the one who’s so far away from the guy who has done all the things they all collectively agreed to never tell anyone about, she hasn’t exactly spent a ton of time around him. Now that they’re both adults with regular adult lives, I doubt either of them have stepped foot on Oklahoma State’s campus in a very long time.

She was getting to know the new him during this experience just like anyone else. Except her third eye was open, even if she didn’t want it to be. The baggage was just too much. She couldn’t trust him. Because when she looked across from her, no matter what, the old CT was standing there.

Can you really blame her?

Think of the worst person you knew when you were 25. Would you trust that person, even if it were decades later?

In her mind, in this heightened atmosphere, the guy she made that mental unspoken agreement with is still the total piece of shit from back then. This game causes it’s participants to assume the worst about everyone else. And Trishelle didn’t have to assume the worst of CT, she knew it first hand.

CT’s face breaks my heart. Because his own heart is clearly broken as well. He’s not mad at Trishelle. Or upset this lay-up of a plan didn’t go through.

He’s heartbroken because the old CT he thought he had finally, maybe broken away from, in fact had not gone anywhere. After all this time, the idea of just being himself, and not himself as well as the other unfortunate versions of himself, was right there. In his grasp. A reality he’d been searching for was showing itself. And he was going to finally shed that outdated version of himself and enter this new reality along with one of the people he began this whole journey with.

Except his past decided instead to cling onto his ankles and hold him in place.

That’s pain right there. Not only is that pain, that’s an acceptance of pain. Which is even more depressing.

Back to the game, because the votes were at a stalemate, they went at it again. Just like TJ would make them do. CT and MJ kept their votes the same, meaning it was up to Trishelle to decide their fate.

There are countless people watching this show at this moment who have never seen The Challenge or heard of The Real World and are just recently learning that naming a human being Trishelle was even a possibility.

I am not one of those people.

How that group processed what has just happened and what’s going to happen next is the moon to me. I’m in way too deep. My relationship to these two human beings is beyond abnormal. As I imagine it is for a lot of you.

When it comes to CT and Trishelle, I can only be biased. It’s impossible for me to look at anything they do rationally. No matter how hard I try, I cannot remember a time in my life where I didn’t know who at least one of those people was.

Ultimately, Trishelle ignored the Thestral baggage and did the right thing. She voted for MJ. And of course, MJ wasn’t a traitor, but that’s beyond irrelevant. MJ stopped playing the Traitors a long time ago. For 99% of her journey there, that’s the game she was playing.

But for that last 1% she was participating in a story that’s been going on since 2002.

While also managing to inadvertently learn the number one rule of The Challenge…

It never is, MJ. It never is. You should talk to the cast of The Challenge USA Season One. At least you didn’t have to do a sudoku.

So now that CT from The Real World: Paris and Trishelle from The Real World: Las Vegas are standing alone, the final two players remaining, there is only one stone remained unturned.

Is CT a traitor? Was Trishelle right in her suspicion that the guy she watched run roughshod over America’s college bars, spring break pools, and Challenge houses across the world, was going to lie to her one final time and take all the money?

What do you think?

Just a few weeks before this happened Kyland, Ravyn, and Michele did their best, one result at a time, to get me questioning whether caring about something as stupid as The Challenge in the way that I do, in the way that any of us do, was the most moronic use of my existence. A huge waste of time.

But then CT and Trishelle, outside of a castle in Scotland, standing next to a stylish, fashion-forward British man, validated my entire life.

To those same people watching this show who had no previous relationship with CT and Trishelle, this was just the ending to a streaming show on Peacock which happened to have a few of your favorite Housewives on the cast. Nothing more, nothing less.

But to me? To you? To us who care about these people more than we probably should?

That ending justified it all. You can hold your head a little higher. You chose right. We fucking won. I don’t think it’s possible to quantify just how much more meaningful the end to The Traitors was for us than anyone else watching. We were flying, levitating above the earth’s surface, defying gravity with the help of a couple of kids who decided to go on The Real World a million years ago and chose to remain in our lives ever since.

Everyone else on this show thought they had it all figured out. That Big Brother and Survivor and Shahs of Sunset prepared them for a silly game they got paid 50,000 dollars to show up to play. How hard could it be?

But in all reality, they had no chance. They were playing one game, CT and Trishelle were playing something totally different. Something that went way beyond Pilot Pete, Parvati, MJ, or anyone else in that castle. Something understood fully by both of them, and by all of us Challenge fans at home.

And something that the rest of the people watching The Traitors never, ever could.

Which leaves me with only two questions…

Number one…

Michele who?

And second…

How can you not be romantic about The Challenge?

VIVA LA REAL WORLD!!!

Thanks for reading! See you all back here soon!!! And, as always, Happy Challenge Watching!!!

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Brian Batty

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