How To Be A Rookie: Parts 1–6

Brian Batty
11 min readAug 5, 2021

The Challenge is difficult.

This statement may seem one part obvious and two parts sophomoric, but neither of those adjectives do justice to the truth. And the truth is, The Challenge is difficult. Beyond the physicality, beyond the camera’s, beyond the high schoolesque delicate balance of a social structure. Beyond all of it, The Challenge is incredibly difficult.

On his way out of Double Agents, losing in a speed and athleticism based elimination to Cory, the same guy who’s consistently kept his second act as a Challenger at a sputter, Darrell remarked that “these Challenges are a lot harder than they used to be”. Last I checked, Darrell’s not one for hyperbole.

Now imagine you’re a rookie. Imagine it’s your first time participating in this somewhat mythical, slightly dirty secret in your reality TV social circles.

Sure, you’ve been on a reality TV show in the past, but even that mostly involved drinking and sitting around focusing on being attractive. Which is a huge part of The Challenge, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not the only part. And when partying and boredom are both separate yet equal ingredients in this once a week cocktail, their impact extends beyond what they can provide on their own. Boredom is nothing more than another game to be played. Another tool in the tool belt patiently awaiting deployment weeks, months, even seasons down the line by wily vets like Cory or Amanda.

That’s because boredom is where you slip. Boredom is when you say things you may not have thought to say with a fully focused mind.

This is where rookies get into trouble. A lot of time, it’s because they physically just are not ready for the level of effort given on a day to day basis. But most of the time, rookies are done in by the little things. Knowing when to shut up, knowing when to speak up, and knowing who to sit with during meal time.

Sure The Challenge is just a realty competition featuring attractive people, semi-trucks, and a life changing amount of money. But were you so inclined, what you can discover is a game where every action causes a reaction. A game where any action is ultimately defined by those who perceive it. A game where nothing is real, because said perception is the only reality that matters. A game where rules only exist as guidelines, governed by no one the The Challenge Gods themselves. Now imagine having to internalize all of that wisdom on your first try.

Time is a flat circle everywhere but The Challenge house.

How To Be Rookie Pt. 1

The Big T Way

How do you go from nothing, to exactly what you want to be?

After three seasons, Big T is the quintessential fan favorite. Just imagine any Challenge fan saying “I fucking hate Big T. She’s the worst.” You’d question your entire relationship with this person.

Why is that? That’s something I guess some overzealous burpee enthusiast could have said that after her first season, War of the Worlds 2. But it’s something that no one would ever say now. How does this happen?

Turn back the clock, and the only memorable moment that consistently comes to mind for me about Big T had in her entirety of existence as a rookie was her buddy Sean meekly imploring her to win the money so that “they can spend it” on his way out.

Just a quick aside, Sean is a bad friend.

“Hey Big T, go win that money so you can safely invest in heavily diversified ETF’s and rock solid real estate, guaranteeing you a high level dividend based income for the rest of your life.”

THAT is what a good friend says, Sean, you greedy fuck.

Fast forward to the other side of Double Agents, and Big T is a central character with deep ties to everyone from CT to the newbie bottom feeders. The biggest reason this happened comes down to second chances. On Total Madness, while not quite playing the social fulcrum role that she currently maintains, she received multiple co-signs from vets all over the house. Something that A) Doesn’t come easy and B) Means a whole hell of a lot to her peers. She’s found herself sitting pretty, basking in the glow of the positive edit pendulum.

But before we knew any of that was going to happen, she was sent home to an almost muted standing ovation from the the rest of the cast, and we all doubted whether we’d ever see her again.

How To Be A Rookie Pt. 2

The Cara Maria Way.

This one’s complicated.

There is no one along The Challenge landscape more polarizing than Cara Maria. And the idea behind this section can (and fersure will) unfortunately be kneaded into whatever shape the reader wants. So with that in mind, I won’t make this long and I’ll do my best (lol) to get straight to the point.

Cara’s rookie season…she was a nobody. In fact, by any single metric you can apply, she was a net negative overall. Competitively couldn’t hack it, socially couldn’t hack it, and to be frank? She was just a huge bummer.

She was defeated before the game even began.

It’s jarring to go from the image of her eroding Darrell’s desire to do The Challenge with every huff and puff of their opening elimination round to what she’s become now. A Challenge monolith who now exists to lob grenades at the show from the peripheries of social media.

The idea of “Cara Maria” has calcified into the fuse with which to light whichever spark the heart desires. A strong, self-made woman who’s built herself up physically and mentally through hard work and extreme dedication? Sure, why not? A self-centered, egotistical, cry baby? Sure, have at it.

It’s all true, and none of it’s real.

After it’s all said and done, Cara’s most impressive feat will always be proving that it’s possible to go from nothing to anything anybody wants you to be.

How To Be A Rookie Pt. 3

The Amber B. Way

What’s the saying? If a bear shits in the woods, and nobody’s there to hear it, is a broken clock still right twice a day?

Something like that.

If there’s one question that still lingers on my mind about Double Agents heading into next season, for me at least, it’s gotta be why did they keep Amber a secret all season?

Why did they choose to edit her that way? Essentially hiding her along the margins for the first half of the season, only allocating her time to cook through sheer body scarcity? Even with full knowledge of how it played out?

Now, some could argue that’s on her. They can only really show what you give them. Even if they have the ability to throw it in a Magic Bullet with some greens and Greek yogurt and mix her Television Character into whatever smoothie they want. Maybe she took after Darrell, the most low-key guy there, who was also her partner most of the time? Maybe she was intuitive enough to understand laying low was a solid strategy? Maybe she was just boring?

But maybe that’s the point. Maybe the point was to relate to the most normcore among us. Maybe those of us who to go parties and under no circumstance make our presence felt need our Amber B. to champion. Maybe her inconspicuous absence from the majority of Double Agents was the friends we made along the way.

So now she’s officially a Challenge Champion. Something Kyle, Nany, Aneesa, and so many other long time veterans cannot ever call themselves. And we still know nothing about her. But that’s okay.

Any of us who possess the ability to be the life of the party within the right crowd, but actively choose otherwise, this beer’s for you.

How To Be A Rookie Pt. 4

The Turbo Way

I cannot empathize with Turbo.

One of the greatest assets this show has going for it, by casting from a pool of “yoked up realty TV personalities” rather than just “regular ole yoked up folk” is that they get to cast people who the viewers can relate to. They get to cast from Love Island all around the globe. They get to cast from Survivor all around globe. They get to cast Nany.

But ideally they get to cast people with whom a certain sector of their viewers can say “hey, I’m like this person” or “hey I’ve known someone just like this person”. It’s alluring. It’s why a lot of us come back to the show over and over again now that we’re no longer tethered to the Real World minor leagues of yesteryear. If these things were unrelated and unimportant we would all just be watching Ultimate Beastmaster.

Amber B was relatable. Turbo?

Maybe he is. Maybe I’m way off on this one because I don’t strive to be the star of an anime. I really don’t know, and this might just be a hole in my game. But if I had to guess, I’d say I’m not alone. I’d venture to guess that most of us watching Turbo, while enjoyable, longed for a connection with the rookie winner of our favorite show.

How To Be A Rookie Pt. 5

The Nam Way

If I were Jay Bilas and this was the NBA Draft, I’d have waxed poetic about Nam’s potential endlessly.

The strength, the looks, the charm, the clear cut, easy to see New Hot Guy Aura. My mans had it all.

And we saw absolutely none of it.

Lolo (btw, this might be unpopular, but Lolo is invited back any time she wants to be if I’m the one making decisions) sapped his energy little by little until she eventually broke his back and he limped on home. We didn’t see him compete, like, at all. The closest we got to seeing what he could do was when he gave CT a run for his money that one time they wrestled around in the mud (thank you MTV).

It’s hard to even give him a mulligan though, because he lasted longer in the game than I remembered. But yet, he was still barely there. Barely given time to shine outside of objectification. It’s always possible he lacks any go-muscles underneath his show-muscles, but that seems unlikely.

Potential’s a dangerous thing. I wonder if Nam has been enjoying this summer’s Olympics?

How To Be A Rookie Pt. 6

The Tony Way

There has never been a Challenge prospect quite like Tony.

If you watched his season of The Real World, you know exactly what I’m talking about. For all the wrong reasons, including some personally destructive ones, being on a reality TV pressure cooker like The Challenge was not good for Tony the person.

But it was electrifying for anyone with a cable subscription.

The Real World Skeletons was the Zion Williamson high school mixtape of it’s time. In the same way Zion dunked on every high schooler more concerned with his homecoming date than this basketball game, Tony attempted to hook up with any woman in his general line of sight who were more concerned with being able to flex and say they met the cast of The Real World.

But the question was, how real was it? Could Zion actually play basketball? Or was he just more athletic than his peers? Could Tony truly find a way hook up with anyone at any time, or was he just more athletic than his peers?

So when he showed up for the first episode of Bloodlines with his brother Shane (we’ll get to him in a minute), you knew something magical was in the air. In honor of this momentous occasion, the prophet coming home, let’s dig a little deeper into this otherworldly performance…

  • After drinking for roughly twelve hours, Tony hooks up with Christina, a whirling dervish of anxious sexual energy, in a bathroom despite being in a relationship with the girl he met like eight months earlier on The Real World/soon to be mother of his child.
  • The next night, he makes the active decision to stick his head into a wasp nest. Camila and her sister catch wind of some comments Tony may or may not have made, who knows.
  • Then, if catching the wrath of Camila and her sister wasn’t enough, he decides to get Nany and her cousin Nicole involved too. That’s a bold strategy, Cotton. Tony’s face says it all “what the hell did I just get myself into”
  • All of this was merely the catalyst for the real fireworks. Anywhere from five minutes to five hours later he gets into a shouting match with his brother where Shane does some absolutely wild shit like scream that he’s “gonna dig in that pit, whip in that pit.” whatever that means. Along with walking through a road side sobriety test with Tony where they both attempted a straight line.
  • This then led directly to Tony choking and pushing Shane up against the wall, fists flying everywhere in a truly violent clash of family demons bubbling to the surface.
  • Then like ninety seconds later they were hugging and apologizing, because of course they were.

Look I’m all for keeping a level head around here, but are you kidding me?! In two whole ass seasons Kaycee has never and will never reach that level of production from a pure statistical standpoint. And Tony accomplished all of this in less than 36 hours.

We all secretly have that “would this person be good on The Challenge” thought in the back of our heads while watching other reality TV shoes. But so rarely does it pan out so perfectly.

Potential’s a funny thing. Can’t say for sure, but I have a feeling Tony has been fully enjoying this summer’s Olympics.

Thanks for reading! Be sure to check back on Sunday where I’ll debut my first batch of Power Rankings for the season!!! And as always, happy Challenge watching!



Brian Batty

Writing about MTV’s The Challenge, one of America’s great institutions, from a fan’s perspective.