The Challenge 39: Was It A Success? — & 7 Other Challenge Questions

Brian Batty
29 min readMar 19, 2024

Welcome back!!! My hiatus is over, and now that I’ve watched season 39 like everyone else, and with All Stars 4 and Season 40 on the horizon, I’m ready to see if I can still make sense of all of this.

So I decided to have a conversation with myself. Like any normal human would do.

So saddle up, pour a drink, and get ready to think about what we really just watched for the last few months, and which directed (if any) it’s propelling us towards…

Inside this week: I compare Taylor Swift to Camila, former roommates Dustin Zito and Mike Mike make cameo appearances, we try and determine which was more impactful for Jay during Total Madness; facing CT in elimination, or brushing his teeth in the same place every mornig, and much much more…

Question #1: Was The Challenge Season 39: Battle For A New Champion a success?

Simple question, complicated answer.

On one hand, the answer is as basic as the question itself. The idea of what makes any television program a success can be boiled down to basic enough level for anyone to comprehend.

Were you entertained?

Set aside all other ideas of a bigger picture within the Challenge zeitgeist itself. When you sat down for a little over an hour a week and watched an episode, were you entertained?

Not in a James becoming the third British man in this franchises history to shout the line “ARE YOU ENTERTAINED” from the Gladiator after winning an elimination round entertained sort of way.

(Quick note: One of the best ways to determine whether you’re on the right side of anything is to look around you. In this case James’s (Jami?) allies are convicted felon Bear and convicted weirdo Idris. Just something for him to think about.)

Rather, when you moved on with your evening once the episode concluded, did you think to yourself, ‘was that worth my time.’?

That’s an aspect that’s missed a lot, by me especially (but we’ll get to that), when it comes to this whole Challenge thing. It’s just a show. It’s only an hour of your week. You’re not required to consume anything outside of what you used your parent’s cable log-in in order to watch the episode. In fact, I’d argue this season was elevated having done exactly that myself.

So before you read any further, just ask yourself that simple question, and you have your answer. Life’s too short to watch a TV show for any other reason.

But if you’re a psycho like me who thinks about this stuff way too much, well then follow me into this stink-hole and let’s dig a little further. This season, from it’s theme to it’s cast, was all decided deliberately. This much is clear. But why? Where were all our favorites? Where was Devin? Where was Amanda? Where was Dusty?

Slow down. Who knows where Dusty is at any given moment in time? That’s why we all love Dusty. I mean he went on Challenge USA pretending we didn’t all recognize him from the Battle of the Sexes 2. That’s a wild move. But I digress. This isn’t about Dusty. Let’s get back to the chlorophyll.

Question #2: Why Did The Challenge Gods Feel Like This Was Necessary?

Well, whatever predicament they determined was predicamenting them, the one forcing them to manufacture new stars, they could have found the culprit by just checking a mirror. It’s kinda their own fault.

Nobody has gotten in their own way more than The Challenge Gods when it comes to this specific problem. I did the math on here once, and going into Challenge USA Season 2, there was something like a 16 percent retention rate among rookies. And this is coming off seasons that were extremely rookie heavy.

That’s insane.

That’s untenable.

The lifeblood of this show is the connective tissue between cast members, as well as seasons, playing out unpredictably over a long timeline. This was made very simple for the Challenge Gods to produce when there were one or two consistent feeder shows. Feeder shows that allowed for the audience to get to know the cast as people before they even stepped into a Challenge house.

The Real World and Road Rules were the prep cooks. Clocking in at 6 a.m. to cut onions and peel potatoes. The Challenge showed up at 3 in the afternoon, still hungover from the night before, cigarette breath from the heater they just flicked into the wall of the parking garage steaming from their mouth, food already prepped in order to begin dinner service.

Now though, unless you watch Big Brother live feeds on one TV and then Survivor and 12 Dates of Christmas on two others, while you power through Romanian Duolingo courses in order to properly scout the upcoming prospects on Love To The Third Degree: Romania, you just don’t know who anyone is. You’re firing tickets and the line cooks only have whole peppers and frozen prime rib.

So when X gets angry at Y for putting them in elimination against Z, all three of them just come off to us at home as unlikable. It’s a bunch of hot strangers whining about meaningless slights while your unpaid gas bill looms on the kitchen table behind you.

Which is exactly how it was a decade ago. You could write that exact same sentence to describe Dan calling Jodi a bitch for changing their team’s nomination in a manner he deemed uncouth on the Inferno 2.

Dan and Jodi were just hot strangers whining about meaningless slights while your unpaid gas bill loomed behind you. Except they weren’t really strangers. We had history, months and months worth if you were a fan of both Real World and Road Rules. Sure, we didn’t know them, but maybe we understood them. Their actions were rooted in a foundation earned through sitting our lazy asses on the couch and watching them live a dream life in various MTV sponsored settings.

When X, Y, and Z act like ridiculous reality TV people, what are the true chances of their being a crossover fan that has any foundation with them? I don’t know anyone who watches Survivor: Turkey, 12 Dates of Christmas, and Whatever Show James Was From. I’m sure there’s someone in the center of that Venn Diagram somewhere, but that’s not really the point.

To no fault of their own, though. They can’t control what anyone on the other side of the TV does. Yet, at the end of the day (shout out Nany), if X was Jordan and Y was Johnny and Z was Wes, any warm-blooded Challenge fan would be interested.

Which is slightly unfair to anyone ever cast on this show. The hypothetical X, Y, and Z cannot become Jordan, Johnny, and Wes over night. That would be impossible. No one is asking them to be.

The issue, the predicament, resides in the fact that over the last few seasons X, Y, and Z haven’t even become Shauvon, Jasmine, and Mandi.

Take away all accomplishments and eliminations wins and anything that’s quantitative. This show at the end of the day (shout out Nany(!)) thrives because we care about these people. They cause us to emote, regardless of direction.

We give a shit. But there’s a delicate balance between give and gave. One letter, in the parlance of our times, literally.

Apathy towards it’s participants from the fan base is worst case scenario.

Question #3: If Apathy=Death, Why Not Just Cast CT, Laurel & The Rest of our Favs Then?

Well, sometimes the quality that makes you great can also be your downfall. Because we care about these people, the returnees can suck a lot of oxygen out of the room.

Just think of anywhere you went to school. Or any job you’ve ever had. How difficult was it for you, as a freshman or in your first few months, to make any sort of impact. You’re (likely) not starting at varsity point guard. You’re (likely) not going to get to play Sandy in the upcoming rendition of Grease. You’re (likely) not going to be leading any big projects for the company.

The same goes for rookies on this show. It’s difficult to make an impact. You have to get lucky or be good, and usually both. By nature, the house is full of large personalities. Some, like CT for example, even seem to have their own gravitational pull.

Especially now that we’re reaching a point where newer cast members are arriving as self-proclaimed fans of The Challenge. It’s similar to what any 20 year old rookie in the NBA must feel like when Lebron James is just your teammate and changing his underwear (granted, I imagine Lebron wears some expensive ass underwear) twenty feet away from you.

Sure, Jay lived out a dream on Total Madness of defeating CT in an elimination round, but he also brushed his teeth next to him for a few days as well.

I’m sure for him, as it would be for many of us, those two events were equally as thrilling.

Question #5: But, If I Want To Know These People Better, Can’t I Just Follow Their Instagram? Why Do We Need A Totally Different TV Show For That?

I want to talk about two moments which stuck out to me from Season 39. One on the show and one off the show. Both of which pertain directly to that question.

First of all, Devyn and Da’Vonne did a phenomenal job this season interviewing people. It was clear they weren’t making any attempts to ingratiate themselves or be overly friendly. They asked plenty of questions I didn’t care about (whether or not Callum had a girlfriend and whether or not Michele knew is quite possibly the least interesting topic ever been discussed in the history of discussions) but what I was most fascinated by was how willing they were to keep digging when these professional liars and hypocrites (Not a criticism. I wouldn’t have them any other way. It’s why I love them all so much.) began lying and being hypocritical straight to their Zoom face.

Which brings us to the Olivia episode. Here’s the deal, I watched every episode this season at least twice and took notes during most of them for the podcast I participated in this season (more on that later), and I cannot remember what Olivia did wrong. Or what was perceived as wrong.

Why were we mad at Olivia? Because she wasn’t technically loyal to someone she’s known for 18 months? Was there more than that?

Anywho, the point is, while the temperature may have been running hot at the time, it’s all just a fugazi at this point. I mean at this moment, a whole entire new season is being filmed. Where entirely new betrayals of friends of less than two years will occur.

I say all to say that in the middle of this podcast interview, Olivia was so afraid to answer even the most innocuous questions beyond surface level marblemouthed syllables, that Da’Vonne had to stop the proceedings and basically tell her to quit worrying about what people are saying online and speak. How shook Olivia was, even just through the audio you can see the strain on her face, by the avalanche of internet bullshit was so tangible that Da’Vonne’s motherly instincts kicked in.

That’s scary. Being afraid to speak? What are we even doing, like as a society? Why are people just okay with that? “Oh it’s just the internet lolz” is a shitty answer.

Let’s say you’re thirteen. Your older sister loves The Challenge. And you love watching it with her. You’re also pretty athletic. You have a good grasp on being social. This show is your dream. Being able to compete and do all those cool things and meet all those cool people, and possibly win a bunch of money? What could be better?

Then you listen to that episode. You’re too young to understand it totally, but you’re certainly internalizing the feeling of fear so palpable that Da’Vonne couldn’t even sit in her own skin without addressing it. Hmmm, you’re thinking, maybe between almost having my skull caved in by a golf ball and being so afraid of the public misconstruing my words that I find it difficult to speak doesn’t sound so fun.

This is a fictional, hypothetical scenario that involves an extremely self aware and introspective pre-teen, but is it that farfetched to think that some version of this has played out over the last few years?

Part two involves a conversation between Berna and Melissa. The night before, after the two of them shockingly made a mountain out of a molehill and argued over nothing in that awkward narrow hallway adjacent to the bedrooms, the word ‘bully’ and it’s derivatives were thrown around. This was where the rubber met the road for both of them. That word was not to be used in such a cavalier fashion.

This show has a complicated history with that word. For the first half of it’s existence, bullying was the way to get to the top. Unfortunately watching back, if you committed the ultimate sin of being a woman, or just expressing femininity in general, that was the surest way to find yourself on the business end of said bullying. Later on, as society and The Challenge itself progressed at a glacial pace, anyone and everyone would be up for being bullied. I’d make the argument, an argument almost no single person on the planet wants to hear but I’m still going to make for the sake of emphasizing my point that anyone and everyone is up for bullying, that on Final Reckoning Johnny Bananas was bullied as harsh as anyone has been ‘round these parts in recent memory.

Although in that particular case, karma isn’t just a guy on the Chiefs.

Anywho, the next morning the two of them sat down and apologized to each other (kind of). Berna claimed loss of translation and Melissa expanded and explained her outburst by opening up about her difficulties being bullied as a child.

All well and good. Just another scene featuring a phony apology after a drunk argument in order to keep standing in line for breakfast a little less awkward. Those are a dime a dozen on this show

Up until the point that Berna turned to the camera and said “Guys, I don’t think she’s a bully.”

You know who she was talking to? The same people that scared Olivia into an inability to speak. The other side of the TV.

Acting out for the cameras, being aware of filming a TV show, that’s nothing new. That’s been around since the first episode of The Real World. Some get used to it, others don’t, but that part will always exist as long as reality television does.

But what’s new, a toxic sludge dragging down everything, is the awareness of us. Us on this side of the screen. More specifically, the worst of us.

Or, guilty as changed, people like me. Taking screen shots. Parsing every word. They all come from a fair and honest place. Never intentionally mean-spirited. I’m sure I cross the line a fair amount, but it’s not for the wrong reasons.

Not everyone is so discerning. In fact most aren’t.

I began this article saying that The Challenge Gods themselves are at fault for the lack of new star power. Except they did find one in Olivia. Or at least the seedlings of one. That part is undeniable regardless of your feelings towards her now. Maybe they didn’t find the next Cara Maria, but who knows, even Cara Maria wasn’t Cara Maria until her third or fourth season. I mean they were even calling her Cara Marie for awhile. Ya know?

But because of the underbelly of the other side of the TV, whatever potential star power exists within Olivia, is being shaded and dried out. It’s a dark cloud which compounds itself. The mentally unwell people/Russian bots sending out these hateful messages, whatever the words may be, are unavoidable. They do not stop. They do not go away. Even when the phone’s off. There they are. In the house. Keeping people quiet.

Our side of the TV screen should not exist anywhere else. Yet we’ve become a cast member unto ourselves. A peevish ghoul trailing them all. Unable to be eliminated, no matter how many votes they control.

When The Challenge was really cooking, when this show was at a peak we’re drifting further and further away from, the equivalent of Berna and Melissa arguing over total nonsense (another pillar of this show’s greatness) had zero, ZERO, awareness of the other side of the TV. They didn’t care. For those same mentally unwell people who existed back then, the mechanisms to access them directly were in their infancy. The ghoul remained in it’s den, muffled and muted, drowned out by the sound of Jemmye and Nany popping open yet another bottle of the cheapest red wine available for a production assistant to buy the morning before.

So, as you can see, the answer to your question is yes. You can just get to know these people by following them on Instagram. You’ll see them. And hear them sometimes. Shoot, you might even be able to tell them exactly what you think about them!

Which means that the presented solution to one problem is to become a spoke in the wheel of an entirely separate problem.

Maybe the true predicament we found along the way is modernity itself.

Sent from my iPhone.

Question #6: So, You’re Saying The Challenge Has A Star Problem?

Due to self inflicted wounds and uncontrollable outside factors, overall, yeah, I most certainly do.

Question #7: Well, That’s Stupid. Have You Seen The All Stars 4 Cast? Or The Season 40 Potential Cast Leaks? Wouldn’t You Say They Don’t Lack for “Star Power”?

First off, how dare you. Or how dare me. Having a conversation with myself is strange, and not at all how I planned this article to go, yet here we are.

Secondly, that’s a great point. All Stars 4 is a ridiculous cast in all the best ways. And I’ll have plenty more thoughts on that as we approach the season. As far as the Season 40 leaks go, I refuse to believe anything I read on the internet, and we’re at the point where I stop looking under the lid of the chili pot so I don’t spoil the dinner for myself. Meaning I don’t know if anything’s changed since the cast and theme mostly was “leaked” so this next statement may be based on outdated information…

I’m not going to give any details specifically, the info’s out there if you want to find it, but if the cast is real, and the theme is real, then anyone who’s spent their time watching and thinking about this show is going to have all of those hours validated and justified in a meaningful way.

AKA, shit looks dope.

Except between The Challenge Gods sometimes being unable to get out of their own way, and these people somehow always managing to discover a loophole in the rules which makes the game 15% less interesting for the fans at home, rather than the Grand Slam they’ve set themselves up with, they’re probably going to instead hit a two run double. Effective, but not game-breaking.

Expectation management is the key to happiness kids.

Though there is one glaring, intergallatically crucial detail which sticks out like a wrinkled, crooked thumb.

Average Age of All Stars 4 Cast: 39

That’s not old. 39 is young. Spry. There is so much life still to live and to give to the world at large when you’re 39. Except for your decision making. That part of you has more than likely only improved. And and it’s core, reality TV thrives on poor decision making. That’s when the medium is at it’s best.

You know what’s a poor decision?

Telling someone on a dating show, one in which they cannot see you, that you might look like Megan Fox when you in fact only kinda-sorta-from-the-right-angle-under-the-right-lighting-with-the-right-makeup look like Megan Fox. That’s a poor decision!

And anyone who knows what I’m talking about knows the heroin-like high we all collectively felt experiencing the magic in the fallout of Chelsea’s cursed decision. And she’s like 32! This number will be significant later. But for now, it means that poor decision makers at even 32 are still out there, just fewer and far between.

But by 39? You’ve made your poor decisions already. Life, more than likely, has put you through the spin cycle of poor decision making.

When these same 39 year olds were 21? 22? Well, if you have a Paramount+ subscription, or were old enough to remember it happening in real time, that poor decision making was thankfully filmed and archived by the wonderful folks at Bunim-Murray and broadcasted everywhere for the world to see on MTV.

I guess that’s why we have the main show right? All Stars is supposed to be the senior tour. That’s why we love it.

The age of 39 also doesn’t look that old when you compare it to this disheartening number…

Average Age of Season 39 Cast: 30.5

All Stars is a show that grants an opportunity for the reality stars of our youth to take a break from their now normal lives and re-live their glory days, and for the viewers at home to do the same.

And yet these “older” reality stars are less than a decade apart from the main show.

For reference, Darrell was 30 on Fresh Meat 2. Kaycee was 33 in her debut on Total Madness.

Darrell had lived an entire Challenge career by the time he was three years younger than Kaycee was during her debut. I was watching Cutthroat recently, and there’s an episode where they celebrate Dunbar’s 26th birthday. It’s presented in a way that suggests that 26 is old in Challenge years and it’s time for Dunbar to move on to real life. This was in 2010.

Again, this isn’t an age thing. This is a decision making thing.

Who knows how much fun 21 year old Kaycee was. If I had to guess, she was probably a menace. She’d have been hooking up with Jenn, Rachel, Johanna. Whoever. Kaycee would’ve been out here.

Instead, we have the Kaycee we have now. The Kaycee that shows up, says nothing, wins challenges. Oh and in her spare time she managed to tame the untamable, rid society of one of it’s greatest treasures, and domesticate Nany.

Except, at the end of the day (shout out Domesticated Nany) I get it. You know who is extremely unlikely to put the Challenge Gods in a bad spot?

Kaycee.

You know who’s a safe bet to keep their own personal insurance premiums low?

30.5 year olds.

20.5 year olds though? 21.5 year olds? Well, they’re unpredictable. Which used to be seen as a good thing. But since this show is just another line item on a major conglomerates long list of line items to consider against an overall budget, why would they give a shit? Unpredictable is expensive.

Think back to yourself at 20.5 years old. Would you even trust that person to do your dishes? 20.5 year old me was a total fucking dunce. I’ve now matured into a miniature dunce.

From the top, this all is going according to plan. Which is the worst part of it all.

“She had a marvelous time ruining everything”

— Taylor Swift

“YOU CHEATER, YOU’RE GONNA DIE!”

— Camila

Casting decisions used to embody that Ernest Hemingway-esque Taylor Swift song lyric. Which then led us directly to moments embodying the following Camila song lyric. Which then led directly to Camila walking into a swimming pool fully (kinda) clothed. like a posessed, racist, Brazillian Michael Myers.

Except, it also used to lead to people like Camila.

It also used to lead us to people like CT.

I’m being extreme on both ends on purpose. Those two names alone are likely to eclipse every word I typed previously.

But if I typed the name Moriah or Chauncey or Emanuel, do you feel anything?

Zara.

Kyland.

Michele.

Dustin Zito.

Bet you felt something there (phrasing). Dustin hasn’t been on the Challenge in a hundred years. But unless you’re a more recent fan (And if so, welcome! Happy to have you!), it wasn’t until I got to Dustin that you gave a shit at all. And you can picture so many Dustin moments in your head I’m sure. Most notably asking Frank the immortal question, “WANNA GET STREET? BITCH!” while punching himself in the face.

No one then, and no one since, has been able to understand what in the hell he was talking about.

(For those of you somehow still here who haven’t seen either of the last two moments I’ve referenced, the time Camila walked into a pool with her clothes on is somehow STILL more insane than the situation with Dustin and Frank I just described)

Average Age of The Inquirerer and Inquireree During The Discussion Regarding Whether Or Not They Would Enjoy Participating In The Act Of ‘Getting Street’: 24

Call me judgemental, but if you’re reading this, and are still in the business of punching yourself in the face while using phrases like ‘get street’ at 30.5 years old, you have some work to do on yourself.

I’ll tell you what though, if that is the case, I know the perfect place for you to go and work it all out.

Question #8: So You’ve Now Wasted All Of Our Time Identifying Why We Got Season 39, Thanks, By The Way, I’m Not Busy At All, Let’s Circle Back…Was Season 39 A Success?

“Success is counted sweetest by those who ne’er succeed”

— Emily Dickenson, American Poet

“My feet are soaked but my cuffs are bone dry. Everything’s comin’ up Milhouse!”

— Milhouse Van Houten, Bart Simpson’s Best Friend

At the end of Cutthroat, after completion of a long and grueling Final that saw two of their teammates be taken away in the back of an ambulance, delirious and genuinely only like three steps from actually dying, the Grey Team slowed to a stop along the runway as cheers from the Red Team’s victory a half a mile ahead echoed across the Czech Republic

Cara Maria and Laurel were two of the three members of the Grey team standing there (Luke was there too, but, well, ya know, who cares). One of them, after coming off a season in which they lasted all of 36 hours, was delighted with their second place finish. The other, after dominating their second season in two tries, was despondent due to their totally unacceptable second place finish.

Cara considered Cutthroat a success. Laurel very much did not.

Take that timeline back one step.

The previous season, Fresh Meat, ended similarly for Laurel. She arrived to her first try at The Challenge, won basically everything along the way, but then was ultimately bested by Landon pulling his best 2019 Kawhi Leonard impression and almost literally carrying his partner to a victory. While she would have preferred the win, Laurel was satisfied with second because well, heck, on your first go around, that’s pretty good. Her partner on the other hand, the seasoned veteran, multi-time champion Kenny, could not have been delighted to lose to directly to one of his contemporaries.

Boy I sure am cruising the third rail with my examples, huh?

Camila, Kenny…What’s next? I argue that Evan was one of Canada’s all-time great athletes?

Anywho, as you see above, on a personal level, success is determined by your ability to manage expectations.

Fresh Meat Laurel showed up hoping to win.

Cutthroat Laurel showed up expecting to win.

Each of those seasons ended the same. Yet one ended with shouts of glee the other ended with tears of dissatisfaction.

At the moment, Challenge fans are doing a dreadful job of managing their expectations. We’re all a bunch of Cutthroat Laurel’s at the moment. Part of the reason I didn’t write recaps for Season 39 was because I was so firmly entrenched in the Fresh Meat Laurel way of thinking, that the disconnect I was feeling when I would read and hear the discussions anywhere beyond real life, I just felt like I was shouting into a void.

Sometimes I wonder if what Challenge fans, specifically the online ones, really want is to watch The Inferno 2. I don’t doubt the magic of that era of The Challenge, but the idea that there was drunken debauchery or funny moments or anything that isn’t just a prehistoric version of what we have now at every second of every episode is a bit misguided.

Those old seasons have plenty of boring moments, shabby production, inauthentic cast members, and plenty of the other criticisms lobbed at the show now. Everyone whining about Puss and Boots must have been doing something else when the cast used to look at their T-Mobile sidekicks in order to see what the clue is for their upcoming mission sponsored by Chili’s.

Sure, the explosions are silly. And unnecessary. And are likely taking up time, money, and manpower which could be allocated to an area that would actually make the show itself better rather than insuring there are myriad options to choose from while cutting together the trailer.

But what if the first challenge for Season 39 involved two army guys showing up and screaming at them while they did push-ups, army crawls, and wheel-barrel partner walks on the beach? And that the way the were knocked out was a totally arbitrary measurement of toughness by the screaming army guys.

Ya know, like the first mission on Inferno 2.

The amount of think pieces about both how men shouldn’t be screaming at women and how the military industrial complex is responsible for all the evil in the world would be endless. I’d probably try and jump in the mix by writing a blog post about what Colleen and Emanuel winning that day means for United States Military’s presence in Eastern Europe going forward.

The same people who say “the challeng sux now it was way better back then lol” would fire off tweet after tweet about how stupid watching Corey and Moriah do bicycle kicks is.

Because, they’re right. That would be stupid. But even now, after spending two very (very) long seasons with the two of them, I don’t have any connection to them. None. I don’t dislike them in any way. To paraphrase the great Baltimore business man Stringer Bell, they’re just 40 degree days.

Yet I could watch Tonya doing those same bicycle kicks for hours on end. Because I know she’s doing that to prove to all the mean ass girls she deals with on these things that she’s not the joke they think she is. Yet we know how misplaced that aggression is. That no matter how well she does at any given mission, Veronica and Coral and all those girls were never going to let Tonya sit with them at lunch.

I know what those bicycle kicks mean. If Corey and Moriah were doing them, I would just think “oh they must do this all the time”.

Or even worse, I’d think they were doing them for the other side of the TV.

So Season 39 was never going to give you the feeling you get when you watch Inferno 2. Or Free Agents. Or whatever season is that totem of greatness in your mind. Which also might be whichever season aired when you were 18. But that feeling of being 18 again happens every season no matter how old you actually are. Because there’s a good chance someone who was cool when you were 18 is going to be around when the season starts. I mean, Veronica was just on Season 38.

That’s because The Challenge Gods took a risk and tried something different. They just decided to throw that feeling of being 18 again out the window (mostly). And fill the house with people we only kinda know. Definitely don’t really know. And definitely don’t care about.

If what I said earlier is true, and just brushing your teeth next to CT is memorable to some of these new people, remove that variable and this is what you get. So we were forced to board a spaceship full of strangers. Taking off to a familiar planet with the familiar captain TJ Lavin behind the wheel. But if you expected the same ride as always, it was never going to happen.

Any sports fan is familiar with the concept of rebuilding. Sure, losing sucks, but if the front office keeps their message cohesive and just say they have a plan, you just sort of have to accept it. You lose a bunch, get good young players, and hope they grow into solid contributors.

The 2013 and 2014 Chicago Cubs were dog shit. Stepped on, crusted over, dog shit. The sound of Len Kasper calling yet another two run double hit by the opposing team, followed closely by a groan from my father and a change of the channel was the soundtrack to two straight summers.

Yet those were successful seasons. We were a fan base full of Fresh Meat Laurel’s. The losing was expected. It was part of the plan. Then a few years later magic happened.

That’s all Season 39 was. A rebuilding year. This wasn’t a season where the goal was to compete. The goal was to give at-bats to young talent in the hopes of finding a few building blocks to then later on supplement with veterans in order to build a competitive roster.

Season 39 was more valuable to Season’s 42–45 then to itself.

Viewed through that lens, I had a blast. I took the pressure off myself. I decided not to write recaps, partially because I was a little burnt out at the end of Challenge USA Season 2 (Thursday night releases during that season wasn’t helping considering I wanted to, ya know, live my life on the weekends), but also because that would have done me no good to consume this particular season that way.

I almost looked at it as fiction. Not fiction in the sense that it’s scripted. I just wanted them to tell me a story. Show me these characters. I know CT will be back. I know Cara Maria’s coming soon. And I cannot wait to see all my friends again, believe me.

But show me who these new people are. Johnny Bananas is a million years old. CT is beginning to look more like a snarling monster than a human being.

The next wave of X, Y, and Z that I care about needs to come along. Because this is still my favorite show, and it’s success and continued airing on whatever the hell television network/streaming service it’s going to air on is important to me.

Moving forward, don’t let your inner Cutthroat Laurel take over. Be Fresh Meat Laurel forever.

Question 9: So If We’ve Established This Was A Rebuilding Year, And The Goal Was To Build Up Fresh Faces (Meat, lol), I’ll Ask Again, Was It A Success?

Now that we’re a few weeks out of the season, and it’s not very fresh, this is the perfect time to go back through the cast and one by one ask a very basic question…

Am I interested in seeing their story continue? Yes? No? Maybe?

No

— Chauncey…..We’re still unsure of whether or not he can even chew bubblegum and walk at the same time.

— Colleen…..Just isn’t working.

— Hughie…..Not the first time someone told him they were here for a good time not a long time, I’m sure.

— Jessica…..She was eliminated in the month of October. In the year 2023. The season just ended a few weeks ago. It’s March 19th.

— Moriah…..This one I could be talked out of. But I cannot emphasize enough how shockingly limited her vocabulary is. I’m not even trying to be an asshole when I say she needs to go read a few books just so her brain doesn’t atrophy any faster than it already is.

— Jujuy…..More fun as a hypothetical wedding date than a real Challenge person.

— Big T…..Love Big T. Big T’s great. Fresh cotton pads. All that fun stuff. But after a certain point of the party, it’s adults only.

Maybe

— Asaf….The guy is clearly willing to mix it up, and I’m sure he’s happy as a family man, but if Asaf’s not there to hook-up with people, does he make a sound when he falls in the woods?

— Callum…..Only if he whitens his teeth though. Enough is enough.

— Agent Ed…..I’m conflicted here. I like him in the sense that he’d be fun to watch in eliminations against some of the adults. But we come back to that 30.5 number and he’s here talking about how he’s doing it for his wife and step-son and all that stuff that doesn’t allow a story to take unpredictable turns. 21.5 year old Ed though? The guy was a menace, I have no doubts.

— James…..While I do think that James is a good demonstration of what actual unencumbered confidence looks like, he’s beyond the point of mixing it up and throwing a hypothetical drink in Laterrian’s face at some point.

— Melissa…..She gave her best shot at doing a Melissa impression this season, but none of it felt authentic.

Yes

— Berna…..Berna The Clown provided so much unintentional comedy this season I’ll fully admit this one’s totally personal. If it were up to me, Berna would be my first call every time. And if she couldn’t arrive until a certain date, then I’d shift the shooting schedule to accommodate her.

— Ciarran…..A total dart throw, but he flashed a ton of potential in the New Hot Guy realm during The Challenge: Australia. If you missed it, he had a whip cream fight in the kitchen with another woman, hooked up with her in the shower, his girlfriend back home called him and said she saw on spoiler sites that they had hooked up, he first lied about it, then admitted it, but said it’s all okay, because he was going to win and give her all of his money, which she was weary of at first and said she needed to think it through, but then later that episode called back and said that she would accept those terms. He came in second and didn’t win any money. You can’t teach that kind of potential. So, overall, who knows how that would translate to the big time, but at this point it’s worth the shot.

— Corey……His idgaf about making friends attitude was refreshing in a sea of people pleasers.

— Emanuel……I mean, I guess he did win. Any champ should get the opportunity to return and defend their title. Though maybe if you’re gonna hook up with half the house do it in the open so we can all enjoy the ensuing drama. Please.

— Horacio…..He’s so hot. The government should force him and Nurys to procreate in order to see just how good looking a person can possibly be.

— Jay…..Jay. Angry Jay. Angry little Jay. Little Jay On The Shelf. If he doesn’t move in the morning kids, that’s because you’ve been bad! By far the funniest rendition of the Big Bad Wolf I’ve ever seen in my life, was almost assuredly also seen by the much larger Challenge dudes sitting at home.

— Kyland…..Clearly good at the game, lost due to a healthy serving of Challenge Bullshit right before a Final he would have coasted through. His personality isn’t exactly dynamic, but he’s not exactly shy when it comes to perceived slights either.

— Michele…..Well, without the modern Paula around, how else is production going to get the exact confessional they need at any given moment?

— Nurys…..Watching her slowly get angrier and angrier at a bunch of vets taking shots at Horacio because they’re afraid of him can only lead to some interesting moments.

— Olivia…..For her own sake, I wish she wouldn’t. But if she’s going to actively allow this show to swallow her whole, I will happily watch from the safety of my living room.

— Ravyn…..Having people around on this show who find it difficult to make friends and are also a threat to win dailies and eliminations (even if sometimes it seems to be accidental) is always a positive thing.

— Zara…..This one’s more of a gut feeling than anything. I like when someone has a single skill, in this case her “blazing speed”, in which the reputation of that skill supersedes both the practical application as well as the truth of the skill itself. Like how on Rivals, all the guys were so stupid (and self aware of their stupidity) that Mike Mike’s hypothetical puzzle skills were so terrifying he and Leroy were kept safe because of it.

Bet you didn’t think I’d be able to successfully (debatable) compare Adam Royer’s roommate Mike from The Real World: Las Vegas 2 to Zara in this article did you?

You probably didn’t even think that was possible.

Did you?

Well, you forgot one thing…

Anything, even a random hot burgeoning social media influencer that you’ve never heard of before and are immediately jealous and resentful of because they’re living a dream life and your unpaid gas bill looms on the kitchen table, anything at all, even underwear, if you stay in your Fresh Meat Laurel mindset, can be a necklace.

Even underwear.

So congratulations son, you’re a meathead. But don’t ever touch my underwear again.

VIVA LA REAL WORLD!!!!

Happy to be back! See you soon, All Stars 4 is right around the corner!!!

--

--

Brian Batty

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