The Challenge All Stars 4 Episode 8 Recap — Winners & Losers

Brian Batty
36 min readMay 27, 2024

Welcome back to a fresh batch of Winners and Losers! I’m already late to the party, so let’s not waste any more time! Inside this week: Club Rat Jay can’t escape his past, I give out a free idea for a screenplay, we learn lessons in securtiy cam footage, and the difference between the message and the messenger, and much much more…..

Winner: Last Week

Idk, I think I preferred the time when Nicole shouted at us and kissed an enormous photograph of herself.

So far my “Previously On” rankings go….

1) Steve massage gunning himself in the lawn

2) The aforementioned Nicole shouting at us and kissing herself

3) Leroy’s Workout Infomercial featuring Leg Tat Guy Production Assistant

And last place goes to Cara Maria for subverting all of our expectations of who she is as a person and choosing to do pushups.

Winner: This Group Of People

Given the option, the ultimate power to choose the cast, I doubt there’s a Challenge fan alive who would have chosen this specific group of people.

And yet, here we are, watching them on a sick boat, in a sick ass part of South Africa, doing nothing sick in particular, and I cannot stop smiling.

They just make me happy. It makes me happy that Tina and Club Rat Jay and Nicole and Adam Larson and Derek are all on a boat together doing The Challenge. It doesn’t really go much deeper than that. Something about the way this all shook out just worked.

The levels of je ne sais quoi happening right now are off the charts, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Winner: The Closed Captioning Person

Even if you listen closely, using the greatest headphones money can buy, while channeling the auditory powers of Rick Rubin, you could not say for certain that it was in fact Jay who said the words, “Drinks, please. Drinks.”

But, I mean, the closed captioned person gets it. Who else?

As the old saying goes…you can take the rat out the club, but you can’t take the club out the rat.

Winner: Making Up Words

Wow, what an incredible song. When you see the lyrics written out like that, the deeper message is really put into perspective.

Also, don’t think you can slip it past me, Challenge Gods, that you framed the shot of Nicole and Laurel lovingly enjoying their boat day while the lyrics “Don’t need to hateration” ring out.

That’s called foreshadowing, people.

You may have slipped a few chess metaphors by me (more on this later (FORESHADOWING!)), but playing Family Affair and putting all of my favorite people on a boat with the South African coastline in the background is only going to make me focus harder.

Gotta do better, Challenge Gods. I’m all over you.

Loser: Release Forms

Sup with that guy?

Too good to sign a release form?

Can’t show your face?

You get to party on a boat with Handjob Steve and Cara Maria, and you can’t even bother to show your face?

What an asshole. I’d give my left nut to party on a boat with Handjob Steve and Cara Maria. I’m like Stanley Tucci in Devil Wears Prada right now. Because this place, partying on a boat with Handjob Steve and Cara Maria, where so many people would die to be, he only deigns to be.

Loser: Abandoning Great Ideas For Seemingly No Reason

Or like when The Challenge, the show you’re currently filming, did that same thing on Total Madness, and then apparently got Covid fog brain and totally forgot about it.

It was pretty cool to see how Johnny, Wes, and Aneesa’s helmet’s were loaded with stickers from their plethora of accomplishments in their time on this show. Especially compared to those who were newer. The helmet stickers denoting elimination wins and championships was an incredible idea.

One that was extinguished faster than a New York City house fire while Nicole and Jay are on the clock.

Can we bring those back? We’ve even got enough spin-offs now where they can be show specific. Jonna’s regular Challenge helmet may not be very impressive, but there’s something to be said for the gravitas she might inherently receive by donning her All Stars helmet instead.

Or how interesting would it be for CT, whose helmet would be overflowing with stickers of all kinds, to appear on All Stars Season 10 with a totally clean helmet. Almost like being visually born again.

Alright, that’s enough of that. No more free ideas for you, Challenge Gods. I’m gonna get back to making fart jokes and fetching Billy Madison YouTube clips. You want free, you’ll get free.

Loser: Playing It Cool

These two are doing a straight up TERRIBLE job of keeping their alliance a secret. It just goes to show what the edit doesn’t show us (FORESHADOWING!). From what we saw, Ayanna only spoke about her information of this alliance to a few people. Yet the cavalier nature with which Leroy and Kam are going about it says to me that maybe Ayanna blew up their spot more than we even realize.

Oh well, I guess there’s worse people to be in an alliance with.

Loser: Me, Every Other Thursday Morning, Twenty Four Hours Before That Direct Deposit Hits

I got a problem with spendin’ before I get it

— Kanye West, describing modern problems

That’s a dangerous game, and I don’t want to see my friend Leroy get hurt. Let’s all just pump the breaks on running up our ChallengeBux credit card bills, okay?

Winner: Coming Home Drunk

If they were in real life, about five minutes after this, one of them is opening Door Dash and spending way too much money on food.

Loser: Exaggerating

Really?

Like what?

Name one thing.

Ohhhh, Cara Maria! I thought Laurel said Shauvon.

My bad.

Yeah, no, she’s right.

Winner: Security Cam Footage

While this cutaway to Nicole checking for food in the kitchen that’s definitely not taking place at the same time that Cara and Laurel are speaking outside may seem innocent, it’s intent is actually much more insidious.

If you’re a veteran of reality television, for years you’ve been groomed to understand the implications of the security cam footage. Seeing the action from this angle, an angle subconsciously telling us “we shouldn’t be seeing this”, makes us think of one thing and one thing only.

Sex.

Since our puritanical society dictates that we cannot see that sort of thing on television, somewhere along the line some reality tv editor came up with the idea of showing security cam footage instead. The shot is from a far enough distance and grainy enough to be able to show the act without showing it. The audience at home can fill in the blanks themselves. In fact, this trick is even more effective than actually showing these people having sex. Especially when used as a way to tell the audience that two cast members had sex, when in fact they did not.

Think back to Challenge USA 2. The trailer showed New Cool Josh in a hot tub with some woman (we later find out it’s Cassidy) through a security cam shot. Those of us watching at home are like, “Woah! Josh! Get after it!”. Then a few months later the episode aired, and that same hot tub scene was cut in a way that if you were looking down at your phone because Jimmy John’s just e-mailed you a 15% off coupon, you may have just assumed that Josh and Cassidy made-out. Except all they did was do the thumb kiss thing that guys with no game end up doing.

Did the second part matter as much as the first part?

Not at all.

Showing Nicole on the security camera, consuming food, while Laurel is talking about her complicated feelings surrounding re-engaging in having sex with her, that’s visual storytelling baby.

If you’ve seen Challengers yet, you know that while they never did show anyone having sex in that movie, they did show them playing tennis. Shot in the way you’d maybe shoot a sex scene. The implications were clear. Tennis=Sex

Nicole wearing work-out gear, scrounging for food, the hunter hunting while her prey breaks down and becomes vulnerable in another part of the house, shown from the angle our brains subconsciously attribute to the idea of sex…..

Don’t ever tell me this isn’t the greatest show in the world.

Loser: Security Cam Footage

Ya know, I’d love to do a full on break down of the spread here like I normally would, yet that same storytelling decision of using grainy security cam footage I just hyped up as the greatest thing in the entire world like an asshole is also causing my inability to tell what the hell is on any of those plates.

What a bummer. The clearest shot we’ve gotten of their meal-time options yet, and I can’t make out any of the details.

The Challenge Gods giveth and the Challenge Gods taketh away.

Winner: The Number One Rule Of Watching Reality TV

One thing this season has shown us, ESPECIALLY during the Nicole and Laurel parts, is that following the number one rule of watching reality TV is as important as it’s ever been.

This episode shows us the importance of this principal more than ever, so I’m not going to repeat myself each time it comes up, and instead am only going to say it once for those who haven’t heard me preach about this before.

The #1 Rule Of Watching Reality TV = Only the words you directly see coming from someone’s mouth can be taken as reality.

In other words, trust your eyes, not your ears. Reality television is edited in a way that’s almost always lying to you. It’s like walking in a Las Vegas casino. Each and every decision, from the pattern and color on the carpets, to the ambient sounds of slot machines paying out in some distant magical area of the room, is all on purpose. You’re playing defense against both the casino and yourself.

While watching reality television, you’re forced to do the same. You’re forced to play defense against all the little tricks the producers attempt to pull off in order to get you to feel the exact way you’re supposed to about something.

In that shot above, they used Cara’s words, yet they did not show her saying them. Instead we saw her knees and a shot of Laurel listening. Neither of those things are Cara’s mouth. Meaning those words could potentially have been said by Cara at basically almost any point from when she signed her first Bunim-Murray contract until now.

Just look alive, people. Funcle Brian cares about you. This episode is going to ask you to play defense against yourself quite a lot.

Winner: While Not Asking For Advice, Inadvertently Giving Great Advice

Dr. Laurel (more on that in a bit (FORESHADOWING!)) dishing out relationship advice for low price of $Free.99!

This deep understanding of the human condition will definitely serve her well when my dog steps on a rusty nail.

Loser: The Inner Realization And Harrowing Sorrow Brought Upon By The Encroachment Of Responsibilities And Adulthood Furthering The Fracturing And Fragmentation Of Your Inner Child

Winner: Some Lucky Ass Principal Somewhere

It just sort of dawned on me that some day Kingston is going to grow up and go to school and eventually that school will have some sort of parent-teacher conference (do they still do those?) meaning that some lucky ass teacher somewhere is going to be sitting there one day and then Kam and Leroy are going to walk in.

And they won’t even know how lucky they are! To that teacher, they’re just going to be two parents like any other parents.

Wow, must be nice to be that random teacher. A federal written-into-law base-level six-figure educator salary and they get to meet Kam and Leroy?! Some of us are just simply blessed.

What’s that?

There’s no law guaranteeing highly competitive wages for educators leading to talented, intelligent people entering the field in order to propel future citizens into prosperity?

Education budgets everywhere continue to be shredded into oblivion?

Huh. No shit. I must have missed all that.

Anywho, did you guys hear OJ died?

Winner: Tia Garrett

Let’s be sure to acknowledge the fact that she gets to have Kam as a sister-in-law. But this woman Tia gets to have Leroy as her brother!

I mean, talk about must be nice.

Also, naturally, it’s good to get actual confirmation that someone was watching Kingston and that there wasn’t any sort of Home Alone situation happening. Kevin McAllister only got out of that mess because he’s a total homicidal psychopath who, if the story were to have continued, almost certainly will creatively murder dozens of people later as a disenfranchised adult.

Knowing who his parents are, I highly doubt Kingston shares the same qualities which allowed Kevin to escape an attempted home invasion. That’s good, one less thing to worry about I guess.

Loser: Not Keeping Your Head On A Swivel

Ya know, if only Laurel would have turned around like six weeks ago, she would have seen the exact way to handle this Nicole situation written down on a strip of tape stuck onto one of the kitchen cabinets.

Winner: Never Allowing The Truth Get In The Way Of A Good Story

Uhhhh…..

Okay, first of all, Cara, please turn off the burner.

Secondly, spoiler alert?

Not to be that guy, but…

The screenshot above is from the end of the episode.

Look, I love Pulp Fiction as much as anybody else, but the editing choices already this episode are verrryyyyy blatant. Choices is exactly what they are. It’s all with purpose.

This may seem a little nit-picky. But I’m pointing all of these strange editing quirks out now because later on we’re going to see something pretty wild that we’ve been waiting to see for awhile, and don’t worry, I’m going to break it all down, but it’s important (for me at least) to establish this idea of the editing messing with you and presenting the information to us exactly the way they want to, regardless of the voracity of the information.

Loser: Your Best Friend’s First High School Girlfriend

The situation Cara just described above is one that we all can relate to on some level. We’ve all been at least one person within that triangle of immaturity. Whether it’s the one crying, being cried to, or being made out with.

You know why this show rules though, and why having any reaction other than laughter to this whole thing is pretty silly?

The three points of that Immaturity Triangle, one that most of us left in high school and never looked back on, in this particular situation, are as follows…

A Doctor in Animal Medicine, a Lieutenant for the New York City Fire Department, and Cara Maria, who I don’t think has had a real job since 2010.

Don’t ever tell me this isn’t the greatest show in the world.

Loser: Undertoasted Bread

Bruh, Cara, you gotta get a little more color on that toast. Those eggs are going to rip right through that bread!

Not totally her fault, as she had Nicole screaming in her face about ‘stahs’ and where she can take them from during the creation of this soon-to-be-sloppy-sandwich. I believe this could drive even the most patient souls among us to toasting impatience. Which means that a few minutes after this meeting of the minds, Cara went to take a bite of her egg sandwich and the bottom of it fell out, leading to a big mess, and her getting angry with Nicole all over again.

Yet as we already discussed, this scene actually takes place sometime around the beginning of next week’s episode. Meaning, for the remainder of our time here, one major subplot to keep in mind, is that each and every interaction between Cara and Nicole are small building blocks terraforming and leading towards the ruination of an egg sandwich.

Winner: Finding Your Muse

As I take in this information, my brain’s immediate reaction is to wonder whether taking three minutes to pee (if that) is a long time or a short time. How long does it take to actually pee? I’ve never really timed it before. It’s always been sort of a get in and get out Navy Seals sort of situation.

Yet, as always with great poets like Jay, the answer can truly be anything you want it to be.

Winner: Jim’s Dad

Winner: Fun Hypotheticals

Really? Is that really what you think Cara? You think that Kam would be willing to go into a Hall Brawl against Shaquille O’Neal?

Because I’d love to see it. If we can somehow set that up, I agree with you Cara, that would be beneficial for everyone.

Winner: Movie References That Aren’t Really Funny And Especially Aren’t Clever But If I Didn’t Make Them It Would Feel Like I Was Holding Back A Sneeze

Shout out to this guy for using his phone to record his television for seemingly no reason other than to get this one single movie line onto YouTube.

The real heroes are out there, in the shadows, quiet, unseen, taking no credit for their contributions to society. Mere humble stewards within a greater movement.

Winner: What’s Really Happening Here

Cara and Laurel is a complicated dynamic.

Laurel and Nicole is a complicated dynamic.

Cara, Laurel, and Nicole are a complicated dynamic.

But what Laurel just said is as simple as it gets.

That is really the answer to all of this. The answer to many of Cara’s problems within the greater Challenge universe. It kinda is that simple, man. Within an individual game, Cara’s very OBVIOUSLY the biggest threat.

I mean sincerely look at the names on the cast. And don’t project your own feelings towards them. I’m forcing you to put $10,000 on someone you think will win.

Who are you actually picking?

Jay? Adam? Handjob Steve?

I mean, come on. I feel like the owner of the Bamboo Lounge asking Paulie to be his partner. I mean, what the fuck are we talking about here?

Cara Maria is head and shoulders the favorite to win this show because she’s the only one there who’s accomplished what Cara Maria has accomplished on these shows.

There are a lot of complex personal dynamics at play with this whole thing, which we’ll see more of later, but if Cara was a 40 degree day, none of this would matter.

Cara’s not a 40 degree day though, she hasn’t been a 40 degree day since she walked into this world. Instead, Cara’s circulated between a 20 degree day and a 60 degree day season by season, sometimes even episode by episode, for her entire Challenge career.

This is a compliment.

Yet Cara’s never seen it that way.

The classic glass half empty glass half full scenario, yet instead of a glass of water, it’s her life.

Not totally her fault, as life goes. Cara is a living, breathing, open wound, and yet she continuously chooses to swim with the sharks.

Is that the shark’s fault or her fault?

She can’t stop the bleeding, and they can’t help that they like the taste of blood.

Somebody should write a song about that.

Winner: The Queen’s Gambit

Do you guys get it, or no?

Winner: Lolz

Do you guys get it, or no?

Loser: TJ Lavin

Quite the precipitous fall from the days of go-karting around South Africa.

Winner: What’s In This Guy’s Pocket

Free advice kids, if this guy ever approaches you and offers you drugs, first things first, you check the time and make sure it’s still before 10pm. Next, you double check that you definitely do not have anything important to do tomorrow. And if it’s all systems go, you then say “yes, absolutely I will buy your drugs”, give him a wink, head over to Joy District in River North, as for Carlos, and tell them Funcle Brian sent ya.

Loser: Not Saying How You Really Feel

I’m surprised Flora of all people would be the one to hold back.

Winner: Cara’s Strategy

Wow, what a selfish jerk. Why does Cara think that she should be the one to win when all these other people are also playing?

If only Cara could stop and just think about the fact that Nicole also wants to win, or that maybe Ryan wants to win, or Averey, or hell, even Veronica, she might realize that by desiring to protect her star in a game where that star is necessary in order to win a boatload of cash, what she’s actually doing is hurting the chances of everybody else I just named.

No, but seriously, all jokes aside, is Nicole listening to the words that are coming out of her mouth? Of course Cara wants to protect her star. Why wouldn’t she? What is this critique even trying to say?

“Of course, since it’s the morning and she’s hungry, Cara made breakfast today! How selfish of her! That’s all she thinks about, is eating her own breakfast. Where’s my oatmeal, Cara Maria?”

“It’s a little chilly now that the sun went down, so of course Cara would go put a sweatshirt on. How selfish! If you’re not cold, then how am I supposed to be warm?”

“She’s dehydrated, so of course Cara’s going to the kitchen to pour herself a glass of water. It never stops with her! That sort of behavior just rubs people the wrong way, and I don’t understand how she doesn’t see it.”

While I do understand that with years of evidence, we at home can deduce that Cara might just be a tough hang, and probably a tough roommate, none of those things are really that important in her mind when the goal (the only goal, honestly) is to win a whole bunch of money.

Yet that attitude manifests itself as a negative for her peers. Peers who are, apologies in advance for yelling, DOING THE EXACT SAME THING AND THINKING THE EXACT SAME WAYS, yet Cara is the only one who uses her body language and energy to say the quiet part out loud.

She shines the mirror back onto her cast mates, and in their reflection they see the most cynical aspects of why they chose to be here.

Combine that with all the high school cafeteria social hierarchy bullshit this game brings about, and what do you get?

Somehow, Nicole’s able to frame the idea that “Cara wants to win” as a negative personality trait. And somehow, within this world, that makes total sense.

Winner: Slight Of Hand

See what they did there? Remember what I taught you?

It’s possible that Adam did say “Cara Maria is playing a shady game”. I have no idea one way or the other. What I do know is that we never saw his mouth say the words “Cara Maria”, only “is playing a shady game”. So if we’re following our rules, the only confirmed words we know that Adam said were “is playing a shady game.”

Look alive.

Loser: NBA Fights

Winner: Jay

It’s 2024 and Jay is giving Nicole, who is now technically his boss, a disappointed speech about how silly it would be to go home for fighting.

Something something romantic about the challenge, amirite?!

Winner: The Results

Did they really?

Did they really win?

You and I know the details, that this win was circumstantial and only earned through some combination of attendance and participation.

What this really is though, is just another example of my argument for the results being the only thing that matters in this game. In six months, are you going to remember why Averey and Ace won this day? How about a year? Probably not, right?

Because whenever a debate arises about the merits of either one of these winners, this will count as a win just like any other win. The details will be remembered by few, and cared about by even fewer.

But seriously though, congrats on the dub you two.

Somebody gets it.

Winner: Anybody Who Still Hasn’t Picked Up On The Chess Metaphor Yet, Fear Not, For Your Opportunities To Do So Are Seemingly Infinite

Winner: Free Ideas

Title: The Losing Group

Tagline: This time, they’re going for the win.

Pitch: Four women, best friends from college who have lost themselves to various aspects of life, come together again for the funeral of of their fifth roommate. Like a drip from a leaky faucet, secrets between them begin to fall throughout the group as they realize just how similar their paths have been. But when one of them shares the answer to a question they’ve pondered for decades, what happens next is something none of them could have predicted.

A deadly tale of friendship, betrayal, sex, and the consequences of the truth, The Losing Group is the debut novel from the author Nam Vo, and will be available in bookstores and online this July! Pre-order your copy today, and don’t miss out on this summer hottest read!

Winner: Even More Free Ideas

Deadass, how intense would a Rubik’s Cube elimination be?

Not a ton of fun to film, watch, or participate in. But something about that level of frustration would lead to some fascinating reactions.

They do, though, run the risk of it being Nicole vs Flora or something and they just die because they don’t figure it out in time to get food or water.

Except that would be pretty dope too. Talk about not quitting.

Loser: Casual PDA, Except It’s With A Toxic Ex Girlfriend You’re Only Kissing Because You’re Trapped In An Emotional White Collar Prison Where Everything You Do And Say Effects Your Ability To Potentially Win Life Changing Money Meaning You’re Uncomfortable All The Time And Something That’s Comforting, Even If It’s Synthetic Comfort, Is Better Than Nothing

Of all the behavior both still to come and already behind them, this moment right here, mostly due to it’s casual nature, is their most out of pocket behavior by far.

Winner: Dumb and Dumber

-or, depending on your perspective-

Loser: Me

I’ve said “mmm, that sounds good, I’ll have that” at just about every dinner at a restaurant I’ve ever eaten, and not a single person has ever picked up on it.

It’s a sad, lonely life I lead.

Winner: This Scene, The Best Scene In The Episode By Far

I love this show so much. This should just be the whole show. Or they should do more of this and less Steve confessionals where he’s like “i gotta protect my star” or whatever.

I’m not going to complain anymore. I’ll take what I can get. Tina saying “I’m trying to find my loudness” as a reply to Ryan’s suggestion that she whisper like a normal person is everything I’ve ever wanted out of life.

Winner: The Future’s Constant Betrayal Of The Past

And it never will be!

Loser: AI

Great Q. The unfortunate A is that like all things one day that stationary bike is going to become not so stationary and will have a mind of it’s own. While ideally that doesn’t happen while you’re riding it, you just simply never know.

Winner: Hopefully We All Understand It By Now And If You Don’t Well Then I Am Truly Envious Of Your Bliss

It would be quite the chess move to convince Cara you don’t know how to play chess. Or was it a chess move that Cara knows that Laurel already knows how to play chess so she just went along with it.

See this is why I’m terrible at chess. I’m empathetic to all possibilities rendering each of them meaningless. So I just make moves with no foresight, while knowing full well that the only way to play chess is to make moves with foresight. Which makes no sense reading it back, but definitely explains why I don’t think I’ve ever won a game of chess in my life.

Anywho, this scene right here was straight out of a Black Mirror episode.

And I was riveted the entire time.

I once with to go see the movie The Exorcist of Emily Rose with a girl I had a crush on freshman year of high school. I don’t remember anything about the movie itself, what I do remember is afterwards the girl telling me how much her hand hurts because I was squeezing it as hard as I could from fear the entire time.

She wasn’t super into me after that.

This scene made me feel the same way. I was knuckle’s deep into my couch cushion. Nothing at all happened, and yet I couldn’t come up with a single scenario in my head that would have caused me to look away from the screen.

Loser: The Unknown

Many questions are incoming regarding everything that happens next. But one thing I’m dying to know is how much time passed between Cara and Laurel’s chess game and everything that happens next?

Was it an hour? Two hours? Ten minutes?

The answer to that sort of changes both how I feel about Laurel’s upcoming behavior and even more-so the idea of that chess scene in the first place.

Because where she was while pretending not to know how to play chess is a far cry from the frayed nerve ending she became almost immediately upon sitting down at that pool. Almost makes it seem like a horror movie or something. Like she was playing with her food before killing it.

Winner: The Footage Speaking For Itself

Well, we’re here. We’ve arrived at the moment they sold they entire season on. Rather than a normal step-by-step break down of the process with Winners and Losers, I think that sometimes like any great commentator, it’s important to let the footage speak for itself.

Instead, let’s try something different. One by one, I’m going to go through each of the five people involved, and try speak on their perspective of this whole thing.

Lets start with the fun ones first…

The Leroy Part

Right now, this Leroy has one child. Yet the Leroy watching at home has two. While he was sitting there listening to all of this happen, the regret towards his return which he felt earlier on this season was bubbling back to the surface, this was simply a bunch of morons he thought he was done living with acting the same way they’ve been acting for way too long.

Except now, in a way, he’s watching his future. One way to look at his family is that he has two children. Another way to look at it is that he has two siblings who will fight and bicker and, while the content of the messages will hopefully share no resemblance, the energy will likely be very similar.

The Adam Part

Whereas being a witness to this three car pileup may have caused Leroy to feel regret over his return to this world, my guess is that Adam’s same decision was fortified even further.

You just do not see shit like this in the real world. And if you do, it never by anyone this attractive. Or charismatic. Or being done with the understanding that no one is really going to get violent.

Where real life feelings are at stake for the three performers, Adam was merely an audience member who scored a free ticket last minute. It’s all gravy to him. He has no stake in any of this.

Not only that, but he gets to go back inside and flirt with Averey some more, so it’s like, ya know, if you were in his shoes, would any of this nonsense really matter?

The Nicole Part

If I were to have done a standard Winners and Losers set-up, Nicole would have absolutely come out of this a winner.

Strictly from a game perspective, the idea of Cara being replaced by a still-pumping-breast-milk-Kam in a normal Final challenge situation is a big win. For everyone involved really. While Cara’s plea to her that her star is probably next may have some truth to it (we’ll get there), that’s not really her concern at the moment.

On a human level?

Here’s what I’m not going to do from here until I finish the last section for the last person involved, I’m not going to try and get into the mind of Nicole.

I can’t do it. For so many reasons. We are different people. In so many ways. Outside of being attracted to women, and her time living in the same city as my, we are two ships passing in the night within this greater world.

But for the little I do know about her, the idea of Laurel and Cara Maria fighting over, for brevity’s sake I’ll keep it simple, her, has to make her feel like Popeye eating spinach. This is what she wants. She has full control over Laurel and is weaponizing her against both her biggest threat in the game and her biggest threat towards keeping that same control over Laurel.

For a situation this messy, no single third party is going to dip their toes into the water to fix it. Even those who care the most about Laurel, not in real life, but on these shows, wouldn’t really take the time to speak truth to power and show Laurel what her reflection in the mirror looks like right now.

More on that mirror later.

Which means that Nicole has all the power in this situation. And knowing the ending of the episode, that Kam wins and takes Cara’s star for herself, we understand that it’s all going to work out for her. At least for now. And so in retrospect, this scene is sort of gross to watch.

ESPECIALLY, given the even larger picture we all have regarding the outcome of this argument.

The Laurel Part

In the same way that I refuse to attempt to get into Nicole’s head, within this specific context, I refuse to do the same with Laurel. Sexuality is a spectrum, and some represent a much broader area of that spectrum than others. I’m privileged enough to never have been confused about my place on that spectrum. Which also happens to be the place where society gives me a comfortable, cushy landing spot.

Any attempts to understand Laurel’s emotions surrounding this behavior is futile. For all the reasons above, but add in by far the most important aspect, which is that we are given a tiny flake off a piece of the crust of this larger pie.

In actuality, we know nothing about what’s happening here. We can guess, we can comment, we can joke, but it’s very clear that where Laurel’s feelings are coming from, and what lead to one of the most guttural, raw sounding GOD DAMMIT’s I’ve ever heard in my life, are rooted deeper than any of us fans could dig into.

Okay, this is where I really do need to say one thing that’s not really relevant to any greater idea I’m trying to get across.

Laurel doing shoulder stretches before she went back outside after she left mid-argument might be one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen in my life. Since Fresh Meat II, I’ve lived my life at least 1% terrified of Laurel, even though we’ve never spent time in the same place. Terrified of what? I have no idea. She’s just kinda scary, man. I don’t know what to tell you.

Anywho, another point I want to make is the juxtaposition between what Laurel’s saying in her confessionals and what was happening on the screen.

Overlayed across this entire argument are Laurel confessionals where she’s telling the truth and saying the right thing. Except that truth and that correctness has nothing to do with what we’re actually watching. This whole scene, one layered in so much emotion and history that only this show can really give you out of any piece of entertainment out there, was not about the game.

I don’t care what words any of them were saying.

You know it. I know it. They know it too. They house definitely knows it. But in Laurel’s confessionals, she’s saying they need to get Cara out of the game because she’s the biggest threat.

As we’ve discussed, this is the truth. Except the truth has nothing to do with reality.

“Hey, what color is this marker?”

“The sky is blue.”

“YOU DONT KNOW ME”

“Cara Maria is the best competitor here”

None of it makes sense and all of it is correct.

This scene was a beautiful demonstration in how the message is always less important than the messenger

And then the next person demonstrates that sometimes, the message doesn’t matter at all.

The Cara Maria Part

If you asked me to put a pre-season bet on who would come out of this situation looking the best, I doubt I would have chosen Cara Maria.

And yet here we are, on the other side of the rainbow, and Cara is the only one who’s right about anything.

None of that matters, because Cara’s the one saying it. Especially with this audience.

Part of the strangeness of watching All Star 4 is knowing just how long ago the events occurred in reality. In this particular case, we’re watching three people talk about a situation where we already know the outcomes. We have over a years worth of information that the people on the other side of the television don’t have.

So anyone who’s got even a fraction of their thumb on the pulse of the Challenge world understand that when Cara Maria says “you’re going to look back on this and regret it”, we know she’s right. Even if we all probably could have guessed she’d be right, and the amount of timelines where she ends up incorrect are vastly inferior to the one’s we’re currently living in, the fact remains that the conclusion already happened like six months ago.

But as it always is with Cara, the open wound swimming in shark infested waters, the subtext is all that matters. The messenger is larger than the message. I’d argue in this case, the situation itself dwarfs any and all messages and messengers.

There’s another part of this though. A part that’s slightly different than what Cara was used to back when she ran the roost.

One of Cara’s greatest assets from about Bloodlines until she dissappeared, is that not a single woman on the cast wanted to end up in a situation where they find themselves facing off against Cara, and then when they arrive to the elimination round, there’s a single metal pole sitting in the middle of a large patch of sand.

None of them wanted those problems. This allowed Cara to coast through the game. Not the social side of it. Making friends has always been both difficult and circumstantial for her. But that fear kept her alive when most other Challenge people would have taken one too many arrows.

But Laurel and Nicole forming this anti-Cara alliance has one thing going for it that the Lavender Ladies or any of the other many silly anti-Cara factions that have sprung up over the years, Laurel and Nicole aren’t at all afraid of a single pole in the sand. Or a make-shift hallway. Or any of the other “the winner is the strongest and most fit” competitions they do.

Not only is that game-based fear gone, the web they’ve tangled themselves up in has brought them all close enough to where the fear has been masked by countless other emotions.

So, sure, Cara’s right about basically everything she says. But between the messenger and the audience, she may as well be speaking in Wingdings.

For a long time, Cara Maria has existed as a mirror which only reflects all the cynical reasons anyone would sign up to do this.

Brandon, I don’t talk to anyone, of course I haven’t talked to you in eight years. You’re just as insignificant as everyone else to me.

— Cara, earlier, kind of

One thing this season has demonstrated above all else is that once a person moves beyond their Challenge life, all of the “friendship” and “relationship building” aspect of this game, for the most part, is total fucking bullshit.

Eight years ago, if you had asked both Brandon and Cara if they would still be talking in eight years, they both would have at least said probably. Maybe even yes.

Cara has gotten a ton of money and fame out of this show, and not a lot of friends. Sooooo many others can only say the opposite.

Except for instead of embracing this existence as the walking representation of all that is cynical (this is a compliment, yet as we know, she wouldn’t see it that way, especially if anyone of her peers told it to her) about this game, she instead pretends to while fighting against it every step of the way.

This sort of chasm between message and messenger in addition to the actual reality of her as a major hurdle towards victory for every single person (again, a compliment, yet not one she would receive correctly (YOU INTERPRET THE WORLD WRONG)) is the bedrock which forms her combustible social game. Only exacerbated by the combination of her absence and audience.

Don’t ever tell me this isn’t the greatest show in the world.

Loser: Realizing That When This Season Finally Airs Your Screentime And Potential Storyline Is Going To Be Dwarfed By A Veterinarian, A Firefighter, And Whatever Cara Maria Is

Loser: The Actual Reason They All Gathered Around The Pool That Day

You may have missed it, but they did actually decide who was going to play in the elimination round that night.

I don’t know who it is, just like you I totally missed it. But I do in fact know that there was a decision made. There’s this podcaster who has close friendships with several cast members who told me about it.

Winner: Bars

Winner: Just Saying Stuff, It’s 2024, Who Gives A Shit

Lmaoooooo, what? No she does not.

Actually I guess so. Why not. I mean who cares.

Averey, you’re a Challenge Legend. Top five all time. Tweet us @fessyfitness if you disagree along with your top five challenge legends of all time.

Winner: Staying Safe And Dry

Okay, let’s all just be honest with each other. If they elimination game was a fifty question quiz only about Averey’s life, she would have said the same thing. There was nothing in the world beyond literal gravitational pull that would have gotten her into the sand that night.

And you know what? I respect it. She’s on vacation in South Africa, a hot older man is flirting with her, probably bringing her coffee in the morning, giving her massages. Things are going great. Why fuck that up for something stupid like a star?

Loser: Ageism

Which is relevant because that means Kam’s more likely to have been on a trampoline more recently than her.

Or whatever.

Something like that.

I’ll tell you what, this elimination round was gar-bage.

There was nothing, no one, nada that could have saved this. Jump straight up and down on a trampoline and solve some challenge bullshit puzzle.

Which is lucky for them, because by the time this elimination rolled around, most of us at home were pretty exhausted.

And I mean, what’s the point of following up on all of that anyway?

Kam won. Tina lost. Cara Maria got her star taken.

Which can only be good for us at home.

Except don’t forget one thing, we now know what led to Cara’s messy egg sandwich. The journey is always more fun than the destination.

VIVA LA FRESH MEAT II!!!

Sorry for the delay, was out enjoying my holiday weekend. Submissions for questions for my 200th article celebration are still pouring in! And you have plenty of time to get yours submitted. E-mail fessyfitness200@gmail.com. Can’t wait to hear from you all!

See you back here soon! And until then, as always, Happy Challenge Watching!!!

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Brian Batty

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