The Challenge: An Elimination Examination Vol. 2 — Jenna

Eliminations are a funny thing. No aspect of The Challenge is more random. One day you can show up with a game tailor made to your strengths, and the next you can arrive to a contest to see who can eat the most bowls of mayonnaise.

Either way, they’re an unavoidable hurdle, whether you participate directly or pull the puppet strings like a hot reality TV Geppetto. So to celebrate that fact, let’s take a deep dive into some of the most interesting competitors this game has seen, and go round by round, game by game, and really break down how they got there, why they got there, and what happened afterwards.

So for Elimination Examination number two, let’s deep dive into everyone’s favorite Barbie Beast, Jenna.

#1 — Bloodlines Episode 1 — End of My Rope

As it was in Volume 1, Jenna made it all the way to the Final on her rookie season without ever having to earn her stripes.

The variables were much different than with Kyle though, as she was brought along with her ex-boyfriend Club Rat Jay as the token lay-up card. Which proved to be a completely accurate prediction by the rest of the house in the Final when they fell apart faster than any credibility Shake had heading into the Love is Blind reunion.

So with a fresh season arriving, Jenna was attached to her cousin Brianna who was…well…like many of her fellow Bloodlines she just didn’t really belong in this environment. Which Jenna would soon find out in an explosive way, but more on that in a bit. One thing to Jenna’s credit that she never did last season with Club Rat Jay was come in last place. Their lay-up card remained valuable simply because they never put themselves in a position for it to get called.

But that changed quickly as Jenna and Brianna found themselves dead last on the previous daily challenge. This afforded Cohutta and his cousin Jill the opportunity to choose their opponents in the upcoming elimination.

Their thought process was to ensure that Jenna and her cousin stick around for the same exact lay-up card reasoning that kept her safe last time. And they had choices galore considering just how many perceivably shitty competitors scattered throughout the house. But the rules remained a bit foggy.

TJ mentioned after the prior daily Challenge that they must choose a team with at least one woman on it. But otherwise, this being the first elimination round of the season, things were up in the air. And it’s never a smart decision to shake things up without knowing all of the rules, something wily veteran Cohutta knew very well. So in the spirit of keeping things copacetic, their decision was to toss in fellow rookies Christina and her sister Emily.

Upon arrival, when TJ explained that only one member of each team would be participating, both of the reality TV veterans raised their hands. And what they found themselves staring down was a game straight out of Nelly-T’s boot camp.

Basically, you had to do a bunch of cross-fit rope workouts to eventually straighten your rope out just long enough to attach it to the pole behind you. And Christina, despite having arms just barely as thick as the rope they were pulling, put up a pretty good fight. But as we soon will learn, Jenna’s dormant competitive side is no joke, and she managed to outlast her opponent to secure her first ever victory and head back to the house.

  • 1–0

#2 — Bloodlines Episode 4 — Door Slammer

Prior to this elimination, one of the most influential moments in Challenge history happened. I won’t go into much detail here, considering I once wrote an entire blog post dedicated to it, but if you’re interested in way-too-specific family drama and learning the women’s hair preferences of some rando dude in Long Island, than you’re in for a treat.

But that’s enough self-flagellation for one afternoon. Back in Turkey, Jenna and Brianna are now on two separate teams, which I have to imagine Jenna is thrilled about. Jenna, your thoughts?

What she probably wasn’t thrilled about, was the fact that she’s still viewed as one of the weakest girls in the house. Which I totally get sitting 15,000 feet above the game. But if you’re Jenna, it’s gotta be getting pretty old.

While she’s no longer saddled with the chore of guiding Brianna through all of the game’s minutia that she barely even understands herself, her reputation leaves her game exposed making it impossible to continue playing the lay-up card. Regardless of how actively playing it she ever was in the first place.

Her team votes in Camila’s sister Larissa under the guise of “wanting Camila out” because “she’s a strong player”, instead of just coming out and saying they wanted to shed their worst players. Which the opposing team counters by voting in Jenna, with the PR spin of choice being “we want to Larissa to win so we can hold onto Camila”. Instead of the honest truth of “we want Brianna off our team”.

I smell rotten bologna from every possible angle here. But maybe my dog just farted. I’ve been wrong before.

What they arrived to was a game where Jenna and Larissa stand on opposite sides of the door and were tasked with closing it ninety degrees the opposite direction. In an unfair game conjured up by The Challenge Gods that was about physics more than anything else, the alarmingly short Larissa stood no chance. You can have “heart” and “you’ll never quit” and all that other nonsense Challengers spew to make themselves feel important, but sometimes in life the other person is just bigger than you.

  • 2–0

#3 — Bloodlines Episode 8 — Spun Out

After a daily challenge where Jenna’s team lost while the other team was actively trying to throw it, sights were yet again set squarely focused on Jenna. The pick-ins were slim now, the choices have been whittled down to Kellyanne, Aneesa, or of course, Jenna. And yet again her own team calls her number. Mostly it has to do with past relationships and the simple fact that she’s gotten voted in before. A phenomenon that happens to almost everyone that competes in this game. But Jenna is still just getting used to it.

Having now participated in three of the four women eliminations so far this season, Jenna’s more than made up for skating by to the Final on her rookie seasons. Her opponents in tonight’s battle is Kellyanne, who had just about the exact opposite experience on her rookie season, The Island, than Jenna did on hers.

The two of them played one of the more out of pocket eliminations the Challenge Gods have ever come up with. While sitting on a swing, Jenna and Kellyanne were spun around and around and around before facing two different tasks. And at the end, their times would be totaled up.

Part one involved running to a stump and standing on one leg for ten seconds. While the other involved running over to a bunch of smaller stumps and being asked to create a Leaning Tower of Stump.

But back to the spinning part for a second, what’s the last time you purposely spun yourself around a bunch of times and got dizzy? Looking back, being dizzy was a pillar of childhood. In the suburb I’m from every 4th of July week we had a carnival roll through town dubbed Oak Fest. Pretty much every rusty probably not up to code ride there existed for the sole purpose of making you dizzy. There were teacups that spun around in circles while the whole contraption spun around in circles. Like you were Earth traversing through the solar system. There was The Gravitron, which was a spaceship you went into the spun around so fast you got stuck to the walls. All the older kids would turn themselves upside down and defy gravity cause they were cool and fearless and I was a little scaretie cat dorkus malorkus.

Then I grew up into an even older kid and Oak Fest became more of a place to drink cheap bear and raspberry vodka. Even then we played Louisville Chugger all the time, which involved drinking and beer and spinning around with your head on the bat until you tried hitting a toss of your old beer can while dizzy as shit.

I never once hit it.

The point is, making yourself dizzy was always a thing, until one day it wasn’t. Or until you go on The Challenge and be forced to do some wild shit like this. What does this have to do with Jenna vs. Kellyanne?

Well, nothing really. But sometimes it’s important to reminisce about once your washed up like me. You’ll get there one day, I promise.

  • 3–0

#4 — Invasion Episode 3 — Who’s Got Balls

After going through yet again another entire season with a creepy guy partner (Vince and Club Rat Jay would definitely hang out, but only once. Neither of those things would be Jay’s choice), Jenna finds herself in a situation where going into elimination, for once, has it’s perks. Stuck in living quarters she definitely said “ew” about roughly a million times, winning an elimination or daily challenge is the only way to punch her ticket to the real Challenge house.

We also find ourselves watching full-on self-assured Jenna mode too. With three objectively successful seasons under her belt, Jenna has full confidence that she can take on anyone remaining in the house head-to-head. And she carries herself accordingly. She asks the winner of that day’s challenge, Hunter, to vote her directly into elimination not even concerned with who her opponent might be. She’s under the impression that this is finally her seasons to win, and after walking to the Final the season prior, she has all the reasons in the world to think that way.

Her opponent chosen by the house vote, was Anika. A person 6.25% responsible for finally murdering The Real World. Seriously, it’s hard to fathom how terrible that season was for everyone, mostly the viewers. But before I get on another tangent (and I could tangent about that miserable season all day), let’s refocus on the important matters.

Those important matters being the silliest, most manipulatable elimination round The Challenge has ever seen.

Before they even began, Jenna and Anika were forced to climb high up onto a mountain-ish type landmass. This alone could have been the elimination itself. So when they arrived at the top, TJ informs the gang that their goal today would be to climb even higher (honestly, this elimination can go to hell), grab five wicker balls from a basket, and bungee jump without dropping said balls.

And if both players held onto the balls (tough ask, Teej), it would come down to time. Now here’s where the clear manipulation comes in. The producers and the audience know a secret that Jenna and Anika do not. A bunch of veteran former champions are awaiting their arrival at the main house. These vets included some guy named Zach (more on him later), who Jenna just so happened to be exes with.

Now, look, I’m not saying that Anika had a slim chance to beat Jenna that day. I’m saying she had ZERO chance to beat Jenna that day. Do you think the Challenge Gods were going to pass up the opportunity to put Jenna and Zach in the same house again? I understand Jenna still needed to jump and hold onto the balls, which she easily did because unless you’re Theo (or me, tbh) this may have been the simplest task they’ve ever asked of someone.

I have a feeling that even if Jenna did drop one of the balls accidentally, that they probably would have just pushed Anika off the mountain and pretended she was never even on the show to begin with.

But, of course, they both completed this simple task so it all came down to time. According to TJ and no other verifiable sources whatsoever (the editing did a ton of work making it seem like Anika took her sweet ass time picking up the balls), Anika finished in ten seconds, while Jenna finished in eight. And maybe she did. Maybe Jenna used her veteran savvy to grab five wicker spheres two seconds quicker than her opponent. But the Challenge is a TV show after all, so because of that, Jenna moves on, Anika goes home, and nobody’s heard from her ever since.

  • 4–0

#5 — Invasion Episode 8 — Bell Ringer

We’re at the point in the game where two sides have formed on her team, and Jenna’s found herself on the wrong one. Two sides messier and more unorganized than your childhood bedroom, but two sides nonetheless. So it’s now a numbers game, and Jenna’s ticket is going to be called eventually. And luckily for her, it got called at the exact right time.

The shockingly competent Sylvia, a firm member of the side Jenna’s not on, was checked out. This isn’t something she admitted to,but it’s rare to see someone tie themselves to the railroad tracks quite like she did. So after Hunter yet again chose Jenna directly into elimination, Sylvia (off-camera) asked to be voted in by the rest of her team. This is something that came off as questionable decision making to not only us at home, but to Uncle T.J. himself. It’s not a rare thing for Teej to make somebody feel bad about themselves for not giving 100%, but it’s rare for him to be more flabbergasted than furious.

Even Johnny sniffed out Sylvia’s bullshit casserole and was incredulous as to why she would throw away this opportunity. Especially looking back and knows how it went for her just two seasons later on Final Reckoning, there’s a good chance Sylvia still partially regrets her decision to this day.

Upon arrival to The Fortress (quite the pretentious name for an elimination arena, but that’s another podcast for another day) Jenna, again, didn’t really have much of a chance to lose. But that’s one thing I learned about Jenna through this process. Underdog, favorite…it doesn’t much matter. There’s a competitive switch that she unknowingly turns on as soon as TJ blows his air horn. It’s probably a quality as a human she was unaware she possessed until the Challenge Gods forced her to find out. That happens a lot.

The two competitors, well one competitor and one future flight passenger, were tasked with standing under a bell and swinging a rope around to break sixteen cheaply made Thai idols, pouring colored chalk onto them as they went along.

Sylvia got dusted, literally and figuratively this night. Which kept Jenna’s undefeated streak alive at five straight. Up to this point, on paper Jenna’s resume is kind of ridiculous. Three and a half seasons, two Finals, two seasons without ever having to see an elimination round, and a 5–0 record in the times that she does.

Now, there are caveats to just about every square inch of that. And if you were so inclined, more nits to pick than a Star Wars superfan…..But, considering the era she did it in, that’s nothing to laugh at.

She doesn’t quite achieve that elusive championship during Invasion, she was purged a few episodes later, but things are looking up for this now seasoned vet. All in all, as far as starts to a career goes, things were looking great. That is, until they weren’t.

  • 5–0

#6 — Dirty 30 Episode 4 — The Great Escape

Before we get into this elimination, I want to talk about Ryan Atwood.

Ryan Atwood is a boy from Chino Hills, California that gets adopted by a wealthy, waspy family living in Seaside, California on the incredible early 2000’s television show The OC.

Ryan’s not a bad guy per se. He’s loyal, helpful in a fight, and totally hot. But you cannot argue that once he showed up, he made almost every main character’s life worse by the end. Maybe these were issues bubbling below the surface and Ryan’s presence shaking things up rolled them to a boil. But the line from one point to the other is clear as day. Ryan Atwood wasn’t directly accountable for those shortcomings, but it was indirectly responsible for all of them shaping into reality.

Seth started as a straight-A geek who probably would have gone on to create a billion dollar tech start-up, and ended up as a burn-out who never even went to college. Kirsten went from being the matriarch/bread winner of a not-so-perfect but totally together family, to an alcoholic with a dead dad and a stoner son. Summer went from a privileged rich girl with a best friend to simply just a privileged rich girl. And Marissa went from alive to dead. Only Sandy really made it out unscathed and probably benefited from having Ryan around.

I say all that to say that Kailah was Jenna’s Ryan Atwood.

Before Kailah arrived, Jenna was untouchable. She was the quiet, pretty lay-up that everyone liked having around for various (and sometimes nefarious) purposes. But once Kailah arrived, she became a tall, blonde target that needed to be taken down.

Nobody liked Kailah. It’s not that she was a bad person or anything. But she was pretty much universally disliked by her peers. I’ve met a thousand Kailah’s in my life through either school or work. She’s not an original character. Pretty and petty, she’s the type who finds it difficult to interact with others, and uses her looks to garner attention from the opposite sex. Something that rubs people the wrong way across the spectrum. And it’s not as though she was the only attractive girl on a show where being attractive is a pre-requisite. She was just so cocky and unapologetic about it, and so overtly thirsty for attention in any way she could grab it, that it rubbed many of her other cast mates the wrong way. In the social game of The Harbor School, she played the Atwood perfectly.

Couple all of that bullshit I just threw out there with how difficult it is to be a couple in The Challenge house in general, Jenna’s telegraphed attachment to someone who was disliked, but good enough to make getting her out tricky, made her place in the game shakier than it’s ever been.

Once the daily challenge was complete, and Jailah found themselves on the losing team, their relationship became a Capital R Reason to vote either of them in. During the winning team’s deliberation while the names of Kailah and Camila were being bandied about, a lightning bolt loudly crashed upon the horizon.

In a Great Gatsby-esque bit of not-so-subtle symbolism, the entire cast assumed that was Camila sending a message to them on a spiritual level. And look, I know she didn’t do that. I know that. That’s a silly thing to think.

But…I mean with Camila it’s probably like at a two percent chance? One percent? I’m just not ruling it out is all I’m saying.

So with all of that, Kailah was the unanimous house vote, and the rest of the losers were stuck heading down to the dreaded Double Cross. Where unlike Free Agents, where whoever flipped the kill card went directly in, this time around if you pulled the lucky X you got to choose the fate of one of your fellow losers.

Jemmye’s been dining out on this move ever since, when she chose Jenna and the editors blew their load and played fast and loose with the Final Cut Pro effects. Now seemingly, pitting besties against each other is a smart game move. So for that, Jemmye gets credit. But if you look at who her choices were, Jenna was actually the only choice she could have made.

Britni and Nicole? Jemmye needs people like that to potentially go against herself. Camila? They did go to a Final together, and in the Challenge world that means that at the bare minimum they had a conversation in the realm of “we’re not playing with each other, but we’re not playing against each other either”.

So Jenna was really the only choice here.

And to top if off, in a game that was basically the wall elimination from Free Agents, but instead of punching through the wall like neanderthals, they were tasked with stabbing it with pegs, Jenna got a bucket of mud dumped all over her in a losing effort.

I have to imagine the thing she was most upset about was getting muddy for nothing.

  • 5–1

#7 — War Of The Worlds Episode 8 — Push and Pole

After she took a much needed break for Vendettas, Jenna returned for Final Reckoning and lasted thirty seven seconds longer than you or I did. Back for more, with the goal to finally get off the schneid and win one of these things.

You can choose what to eat for lunch, and you can choose which Netflix show to rot away with on a Saturday afternoon, but sometimes in life you cannot choose your Challenge partner.

So when a dud of a competitor like Gus chooses Jenna to be his partner, it doesn’t exactly stir up the competitive drive inside someone. Mostly staying invisible in a house brimming with more attention seekers than usual, Jenna used her veteran status and prior relationships to cruise roughly halfway through the game before finally getting called directly in by an embattled Bear and Da’Vonne.

This good old fashioned headbanger was a pole wrestle that they for some reason didn’t just call a pole wrestle. With each pair going head to head solo, first to three points wins.

Gus and Bear split their two rounds, but the women’s side wasn’t quite as even. Da’Vonne won both rounds pretty easily against an already checked out Jenna. There was little to no animosity between the two of them, unlike their male counterparts, so the intensity never really even kicked up. And usually whoever wins pole wrestle is the one who’s closer to preferring death over losing.

  • 5–2

#8 — Total Madness Episode 7 — Dust to Dust

Balancing real life vs. The Challenge is a difficult thing to do.

Made especially difficult with someone like Zach on the other end of it. I’m not going to get into the messy details here, mostly because I know I wouldn’t want my relationship drama broadcasted out into the world (Editor’s Note: Brian, that’s what they signed up for you doofus). But what their bullshit is really doing is turning Jenna into a target for the entrepreneurial skull searchers out there.

Nany and Jordan, victorious in that day’s challenge, chose Jenna to go along for the Tribunal ride with them. The idea being that Nany would allow her friend a get-out-of-the-bunker-free card and Jordan would allow his then fiance Tori a shot at earning her skull against someone with one foot out the door.

But Jenna insisted that the rumors of her wanting to go home and tend to Zach were just that. Rumors. This lead to confusion throughout the house. Was Jenna checked out? Was she bluffing? If she wanted to leave, why not just quit? My theory is that Jenna really did want to go home, but didn’t want to commit the deadly sin of quitting/looking like she wanted to quit. In her mind she preferred to be beaten straight up, and after Tori politely asked and was granted the house vote, she had the perfect person to fulfill all of her fantasies of a first class ticket back to America.

There’s some cognitive dissonance in watching this elimination round unfold. For two straight episodes, the edit made you really believe that Jenna’s heart isn’t in it. And after Tori’s massive success the season before, and her high-and-mighty attitude in the bunker so far, it’s hard to really comprehend how this one ended up shaking out.

Basically the object of this particular game was to smash cinder blocks over a filter of sorts and into a wheel barrel underneath. Then once your wheel barrel is full, take the broken pieces and dump them into your container. Whoever goes over the red line first wins. Like an adult construction oriented Double Dare challenge.

Tori, who’s never been super awesome under pressure eventually succumbs to Jenna’s distant competitiveness that she simply does not know how to turn off. But in the same way Pavlov’s Pooches drooled at the sound of a bell, Jenna unwittingly turns her competitive nature on at the sound of TJ’s air horn.

Blindsided by Jenna’s effort, Tori heads home, and our hero heads back to the bunker. Exactly the place where she didn’t want to be.

  • 6–2

#9 — Total Madness Episode 9 — Bombs Out

By now, the push to acquire a skull is becoming much more serious. And Jenna, already having one of her own, is made even more conflicted by Zach continuing to strain her mental stability from thousands of miles away.

Facing down a double elimination, a rookie Kaycee volunteers herself for one and not-quite a rookie Aneesa the other. Yet again rendering the deliberation portion of the proceedings completely unnecessary. Jenna continues to deny any ideas that she may be already making dinner reservations back at home for this up coming weekend. But considering her shaky foundation in real life, and the extreme, miserable, smelly living conditions of her second life…how could she not want to leave? It seems like you’d need to be some sort of superhuman monk to want to stick it out all things considered.

Nany’s convinced Jenna has her foot sticking slightly further out of the bunker than she claims, which editorially speaking is one hundred percent correct. You know what the say about people who assume? They’re usually right.

But Jenna doesn’t exactly seem checked out of this current season. For awhile she’s seemed checked out of The Challenge in general. Ever since she reluctantly earned her red skull her disinterest in this entire process is more obvious than ever.

She’s voted in by the tribunal with Kailah Atwood, and is up against a motivated-to-tell-her-haters-to-suck-it Aneesa. Two opposite sides of the same coin in more ways than one. And what lies ahead of them is a game where they stand in a dumpster and toss medicine balls out of it before creating an explosion (because they just can’t help themselves).

One time we threw the younger brother of one of our friends into a dumpster in the parking lot of an apartment complex when he passed out drunk at a party. He slept in it all night.

Don’t judge me. I can feel your judgement from here. Don’t worry, just like Cheese, he got out.

In the fist match-up, Kailah loses to Kaycee, obviously because Kaycee, like never loses. And I feel like deep down, if Kailah were to have won that, Jenna would have been more motivated to stay. But seeing her friend lose and a likeable Aneesa standing on the other end of her own match-up, this is where Jenna finally booked those dinner reservations.

Not to take anything away from Aneesa, she won *Teddy KGB voice* straight up. But I don’t know. Something tells me that Jenna at full go wins this one going away. Maybe the producers genuinely felt bad for her and put less of their friend’s younger brothers in Aneesa dumpster to make sure she was able to finish faster. Maybe that dumpster was the friends we made along the way.

Smiling for the first time all season Jenna walked off of our television sets arm and arm with the bad boy from Chino, Ryan Atwood.

California, here I come.

  • Final Record: 6–3

Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed! If you have any suggestions for another Challenger you’d like to see an Elimination Examination of, be sure to comment below. And until next time, as always, Happy Challenge Watching!!!

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Writing about MTV’s The Challenge, one of America’s great institutions, from a fan’s perspective. For inquires: brianbatty14@gmail.com

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Brian Batty

Brian Batty

Writing about MTV’s The Challenge, one of America’s great institutions, from a fan’s perspective. For inquires: brianbatty14@gmail.com

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