Welcome to the final recap for The Challenge: Ride or Dies!!! It’s been one hell of a season, and I’ve enjoyed sticking with you all since October. So with that being said, lets get right into it, shall we? Inside this week: The Blair Witch Project turned us all into morons, Nany and Johnny wouldn’t last long in North Carolina, the list of Challenge Champions grows a little bit longer, and so much more….
Winner: Something New
I see that from minute one we’re already changing things up. I was beginning to get concerned there would be no running at all in this Final.
Winner: TJ Lavin’s Job
It’s been a long season for everyone. TJ Lavin included.
On the morning of the third day of filming for the Final, TJ Lavin woke up in his suite at the Argentinian Four Seasons. He got changed, did a light jog, then went to a local bean dispensary and grabbed some coffee. Argentinian coffee kinda sucks, and by now he’s pretty sick of it. Not only that, between sips, he realizes that he cannot wait for a break from having to pretend to think Johnny Bananas is funny.
“One more day,” he repeated to himself. “One more day.”
He hopped in the back of the SUV pulling into the hotel valet area to take him on site. Arriving for the morning production meeting, TJ was dragging a bit. Not even the coffee could get him juiced for this. ‘How’s Aneesa’s ankle doing?” he heal-heartedly joked to Janet the Prodcution Assistant who’s been assigned to him this season. She’s been okay, he misses Peter from the Challenge: USA. Peter just always knew the right jacket for him to wear. Janet’s style just never meshed with his.
Nonetheless, he can’t quit. Not this close to the end. Not this close to finally being able to sleep in his own bed. So TJ got himself locked in. He played the track “Smile Like You Mean It” by The Killers into his AirPods while he sat around waiting. He was as fake locked in as he could possibly be.
The Challenge Gods could see this as well. All these spin-off shows have been grinding down their host. They could see his interest waning. His vim and vigor diminishing with each phony guffaw at an incorrect trivia answer. So they thew him a bone.
TJ recieved his script. As he has every morning for the last two straight years of Challenge spin-offs. And in massive, bold letters, right near the top of Page One, is the funniest thing TJ’s ever seen.
What a legend.
Winner: One Last Billy Madison Clip For Old Times Sake
We all have our talents in life.
Laurel’s great at elimination rounds. Michaelangelo was great at painting chapels. Michael Jordan was great at making donations to various casinos one blackjack hand at a time.
It took me starting a blog to realize that what I’m great at is being able to relate almost anything Challenge related to a clip from Billy Madison.
Winner: Johnny Bananas, Being Unable To Help Himself, Even While Battling Exhaustion
Loser: The D.A.R.E. Program
In either a former or future life, Devin is going to be an amazing center fielder.
He has this incredible instinct when it comes to judging angles. Not only that, but he has the confidence to trust that instinct. Between this silly helicopter game and how transcendent of a slingshot artist he is, that might be the most impressive accomplishment by anyone this season. He would get such great jumps on fly balls and take the best route to get there every single time. He’s basically the Challenge’s Willie Mays.
That’s right kids, Willie Mays was a baseball player.
Winner: Growing From Your Past Mistakes
Remember that challenge on Total Madness when Jordan was terrible at telling his teammates when to drop crates out of a helicopter on Total Madness(or the damn pilot was driving like an animal during their turn and they weren’t really given a fair chance but that’s a different podcast for a different day)?
Jordan took that one activity he performed poorly at and raised his rating to a solid slightly average.
Growth, people. Growth.
Winner: Metaphoric Cutlery
“When you come to a fork in the road, take it”
— Yogi Berra
Both the teams of Devin/Tori as well as Johnny/Nany took a left here, while Jordan and Aneesa took a right.
There’s something to be said for that. I don’t know what it is. I guess Jordan and Aneesa are two people who forge their own paths while the other four are more the type to conform to societies norms. Maybe that’s what there is to be said. I’m just glad somebody said something.
Winner: What The Cool Kids Listen To
omg yay I love Daft Punk
All heil Fuhrer Lavin.
I’ll tell you what, if I were them, hungry and tired and sore and achy and smelly, and TJ started shouting at me all God-like from the middle of a cornfield, I’d really start to question some shit.
Winner: Simpler Times
Remember how stupid we all were when The Blair Witch Project was released and none of us were sure whether it was real or not?
It’s hard to remember now, but for those of us that were there, The Blair Witch Project was a total mystery when it came out. The idea of a found footage movie was brand new, and I remember being nine or ten and being so terrified of those trailers. I was like “Dad, is that movie real?” and he honestly didn’t know how to answer that question.
Genius marketing scheme aside, we were all a bunch of morons.
If that movie was actual found footage from a supernatural phenomenon which left multiple people murdered in the woods, it would likely be one of the most important modern events to ever occur. There would have been so many government agencies involved, the idea of that being released into movie theaters where you could go see it on a Tuesday afternoon is absolute insanity.
Simpler times. Better times.
Winner: This Show
How can you not be romantic about The Challenge?
Maybe I’m the asshole, but my friendships tend to skew more towards the Johnny/Nany side of communication. If we’re not snapping at each other, do we really even care?
I’m currently in North Carolina staying with my parents for a little while and helping them out. Now, being from Chicago, it’s not like we’re assholes to each other on the street or anything, but I cannot tell you how stark the difference is between home and here when it comes to interactions in public.
At the grocery store the other day, thrice I almost bumped into someone with my cart or generally got in their way. Each time I gave them “whoops, I’m sorry” and kept my head down to move along. And each time I was met with a “oh that’s okay, how’s your day going?”
How’s my day going??? I’m grocery shopping. I have no idea how it’s going. Apples were on sale, so that was nice I guess.
I couldn’t imagine a stranger at any grocery store in Chicago ever asking me how my day was. And if they did, security would likely be called immediately.
Watching Nany and Johnny interact, and seeing a reflection of how my friends and I act, and then spending time in North Carolina, the apparent Capital of Nice, is slowly making me realize that it’s quite possible that I am an enormous shithead and need to be kinder to everyone.
Growth. It’s called growth, ya filthy animal.
This season, in my mind, has been The Challenge: Nihilism for awhile now. The lack of incentive to win brought an air of “who really gives a shit” to most of the episodes along this journey.
On the front end, Tori and Devin being safe from this elimination round during hour 80 of the Final is enough of reward to justify the hard work they just did. After all, the only way to guarantee safety in an elimination round is to not participate in it.
That being said…what was the point of all of that? What was the point of any of that running around? And those nights out camping? None of it really mattered at the end of the day (shout out Nany). The only real goal they needed to accomplish was to avoid getting hit in the face with a golf ball.
So, since they managed to accomplish that feat, and climb their way to Final Mountain, here they all stand, on flat land, in some dude’s farm, while his crops are in their off-season and he’s with his family at their winter home, one Balls In round away from being one step closer to victory.
Maybe they’ll even get to do a little more running. Who knows. Stay tuned.
Winner: Tackling Form
Earlier in this Final, I thought watching Nany snap at Johnny and call him an idiot while peddling a Peloton in the woods was the most attracted I’ve ever been to her.
Then I watched her house a plate of spaghetti large enough to feed an entire Italian infantry battalion, and I realized it was actually then that I was the most attracted to Nany that I’ve ever been.
But then I watched Nany practice almost perfect tacking form and technique while taking down Aneesa in a Balls In elimination at the precipice of winning a million dollars, and I realized that watching her eat that pasta is still, by far, the most attracted to Nany I’ve ever been.
Gimme one more for old times sake…Warning NSFW…
That’s the good stuff right there.
Loser: Being Loud Wrong
Are you sure it’s not called Balls Out?
Loser: Non-Contact Injuries
Any sports fan will tell you, when you see somebody go down like that without any contact, especially in football, that’s bad news bears. That’s an ACL or an achilles injury Aneesa just suffered, there is no doubt in my mind.
She looked like every other wide receiver or defensive back who is writhing on the turf in pain before a replay shows they went down un-touched. You know what follows that image later that day almost every single time? A tweet from Adam Schefter.
“Aneesa has suffered a torn ACL. She is out for the remainder of the season.”
What’s that song? “The knee bone’s connected to the, hip bone…”? She’s spent the last 80 hours running around the forest like a hobbit on a bum ankle overcompensating on the rest of her leg. All it took was one Barry Sanders juke from Nany to pop that ACL that I’m sure was screaming at her the entire time and ignored due to some combination of adrenaline and Jordan being annoying.
Winner: Murdered Out Air Horns
Who knew they even sold all-black mono colored air horns? TJ’s such a badass for that. Swaggy jean jacket and a murdered out air horn? If I found a genie in a magic lamp, one of my wishes would be to have drip like this man.
Winner: Punching Bags Taking Yet Another Punch
There is something to be said for Aneesa knowing how injured she actually is and telling the producers off screen “check ball”. Nobody gets more shit than Aneesa, and while the culture around quitting in the show she helped to build bears partial responsibility, but this was unequivocally a high level display of badasserey by everyone’s favorite Challenge punching bag.
Reminds me so much of the time Russell Westbrook (every NBA fans favorite punching bag) broke his face, to the point where there was a visible indentation in his skull, and said the same thing that Aneesa did. Check fucking ball.
As someone who is admittedly softer than even Fessy, I admire Aneesa playing that final round a ton. Most of us; me, you, modern NBA players, everyone else on that stage besides Jordan, would have thrown in the towel. And who could blame us?
That moment I just talked about above, Aneesa’s Russell Westbrook moment, is all Jordan ever wanted out of her.
When Aneesa tossed aside all of the excuses, of which at that point there were many, and said check fucking ball and clocked in, Jordan’s work was done. It was never about Aneesa moving slowly. It was never about Aneesa’s inabilities.
I was about Aneesa not making excuses and instead giving her 110%. Whatever that 110% is, that’s all Jordan wanted. And he never felt like he got it. The entire Final. He let it all out on day one, dialed it back and internalized his frustrations on day two, then on day three he watched Aneesa finally eradicate her poor attitude and shed anything else besides Check Fucking Ball.
If you allow yourself let loose of your own cynical body armor for a moment and search hard enough, this show can be so beautiful sometimes.
From the minute Big Energy played and Jordan jogged into the elimination arena, beginning his time on Ride or Dies, he could not win.
He couldn’t win this season no matter how hard he tried. He arrived tied to an anchor, and left just the same.
It was a bizarre experience watching Jordan this season. Seeing someone you know is the best be fully aware of his inability to win, yet stubbornly bang his head against it for months was an interesting ride. There were many times along this journey that he was able to break free, spread his wings, and soar away from the shackles, and play a game of his own volition. But he always had to come back home. To the comfortable, losing nest.
His external battle living with his ex-fiance was one thing, but you could almost see the strain on his forehead build over time stemming from his own internal battle as well. Jordan doesn’t appear on this show to lose. He only knows how to win. He only knows one way. He’s very Ricky Bobby in that sense. If you’re not first, you’re last.
Yet he arrived playing for third. And he knew it. His partner knew it. His peers knew it. We knew it.
He could have thrown in the towel early. Cashed his appearance check and gone on vacation somewhere. That’s probably what I would have done. It’s probably what most people would have done. But Jordan’s not most people.
The partnership between Aneesa and Jordan sometimes made me uncomfortable. In the sense that we all knew how this was going to go if they ultimately made it as far as they did. And then we were all proven correct. It was sort of a giant bummer.
But the more I look back, the more I reminisce, this is probably my favorite Jordan season of all time. Free Agents brought out the bombast, Dirty 30 brought out the winning gene, War of the Worlds 2 brought out his super powers. But Ride or Dies brought out something different. Something we haven’t really seen out of him before. This season he levitated. He was humbled. He was all things at once.
There was nothing perfect about Aneesa and Jordan as a pair this season. But I wouldn’t say it was imperfect either. They were two work acquaintances paired up in a theme built around the closeness of the different pairs. There was nothing Ride or Die about them. They were two sides of this show’s spectrum. Yin and Yang.
They’re different in every single way you could think of. Except for one. They both have been playing life on hard mode. They’ve both had to deal with certain aspects of living that I personally could not comprehend. All of my appendages are fully in tact and I am so pumped full of societal privilege that I wouldn’t even know where to start if I tried to make a list. I couldn’t comprehend living my life as either Jordan or Aneesa for so many ways.
So here we are, at the end of their road. All that hard work. All those hours of mental drain in the house. All of those injuries. And they ended at the exact place we all knew they would. But with full hindsight, I’d venture to guess that they both enjoyed the ride more than they thought they would. I know I sure did.
Check fucking ball.
When the cast list was released, there was little to no doubt that these were the two best teams.
Upsets can be fun, but only to a point. By the end of any sports season, ideally, the two best teams will be left standing at the end. It sometimes happens in baseball, usually happens in football, and almost always happens in basketball.
But on The Challenge? Happens (nearly) every single time. Faysal and Moriah might have a case, but there is no doubt that Tori/Devin and Nany/Johnny were the cream of the crop this time around. And here we are, the two most accomplished duos left to duke it out.
Loser: Off Camera Mysteries
Holy shit! What happened to Olivia’s face?!?!
Winner: Chekhov’s Cinder Block
Now kids, this is what we call foreshadowing. A literary technique used to give the reader an advanced notice of what is to come in the story.
Okay class, now open your Reading Is Fun books to page sixty-nine.
Loser: Side Seat Driving
Easy for you to say, Horacio, considering you’re showered and well rested and properly nourished…actually who am I kidding, you can say whatever you want you beautiful bastard. Anybody else wanna watch him pedal a stationary bike?
That’s the good stuff right there.
Let’s take a trip back to the summer of 1996.
Michael Jordan recently lost his father. This propelled him to return to basketball and give us all one of the greatest seasons of basketball ever played, leading his team to a record setting 72–10 regular season record. They blew past everyone in the playoffs on their way to a Finals appearance. Once there, against the formidable Seattle Supersonics, Michael Jordan and his Chicago Bulls brought themselves to a Game 6 ahead 3–2 in a best of seven series. Game 6 also happened to be on Father’s Day. The perfect storybook ending to a storybook season.
And then Michael Jordan played like shit.
He bricked jumper after jumper. He turned the ball over. He wasn’t Michael Jordan. He was human.
But his teammates picked him up, the Chicago Bulls won the championship, and then Michael Jordan sobbed in the locker room while holding the trophy.
Is this a perfect metaphor? Not at all. It’s extremely flawed. Michael Jordan and Nany have nothing to do with each other. One was a perennial winner, the other is a perennial loser. One was the most feared person in their sport, the other is Nany.
But they both suffered from the same disease during these two particular championship runs.
Their burning desire for a victory hamstrung their performance.
Nany almost blew it for her and Johnny during Balls In vs. Aneesa. Twice, with a free and open goal, she botched the lay-up. Twice she failed to place the ball, unhindered, into the goal. The same issue again sprung up during the final cinder block puzzle. Her body was again moving too fast for her brain. Panic set in and absorbed any ability she had, leading to their fatal mistake.
Most of us cannot completely understand what it was like for Nany to participate in this season after the loss of her mom. Or what it was like for Michael Jordan to carry the burden of playing basketball without his father around to watch.
To be right there, so close to the one thing you wanted more than anything else. The one thing you’ve worked so hard to achieve, with the emotional weight of a thousand suns on your shoulders, was likely the most difficult thing she’s ever done.
All season long I’ve expected this to be the last time we saw Nany on The Challenge. Win or lose. Maybe the All Stars check will have enough zero’s in it one day for her to return. But this has always felt like the end of the road for her in this game. Nobody knows better than her that this was her best shot. And it just didn’t happen. As it always has been for her, there was just somebody better.
Sick of her as you may be, don’t forget all she’s given us over the years. I know I sure won’t. You’re gonna miss her when she’s gone, I can promise you that.
Loser: Not Losing, But Who You’re Losing To
There is no doubt in my mind that even beyond not being able to win for Nany, beyond not padding his all time championship lead, beyond not cashing a fat check, the part that hurts Johnny the most deep down is who he lost this Final to.
He’ll be back, and he’ll be playing for himself next time. For their own sake, the rest of the cast better not let him skate by again.
This almost never happened.
Let’s rewind all the way back to the beginning. On their way into the house, there was no one with more social capital, political heft, hunger to win, or better understanding of what it would take to get to this point than Tori and Devin.
They spent the season prior either being the cerebral center through which all game decisions were filtered or a dominant physical force who couldn’t be touched by any of their peers. Then they both ran into their own personal Challenge bugaboos. Devin’s lack of athleticism and failure to rid himself from CT and Tori’s ability to get the worst luck at the worst times showed up and they were resigned to watching someone else win yet again.
But Devin was smart enough to change all of that. I have to imagine the time between filming seasons was filled with nothing but running on Devin’s side. If he could keep up with athletically, he knew that it would be difficult for anyone else their to match his wit and confidence.
So upon entering the house, seeing the landscape of pairs, they both must have had an equal sense of safety. How could anything go wrong? As long as they played their cards right, they’d cruise to the end.
You wanna make the Challenge Gods laugh? Tell them your plans.
So they did, and then they did.
And they found themselves facing the prospect of going home right off the bat. Somehow they were in the opening elimination round. Playing a janky game that could’ve gone either way. Kailah was always going to screw that up, though, because it’s her favorite thing to do. And it’s possible that the prospect of Jordan and Tori living in the same house was too great and if Kailah and her husband would’ve won, The Challenge Gods might have taken them out back and shot them pretending none of it ever happened.
But it didn’t matter. The Dave’s took care of business and were back in the house. Maybe that was the jolt of energy they needed. Maybe the game would’ve gone totally different had they not almost had the initial rug pulled out from underneath their feet before they even got moving.
Their journey’s to get the this point, while tethered together, couldn’t have gone more differently. Tori spent the entire season shouting at her ex-fiance and Devin spent that same time playing pool, ripping heaters, and crushing cans of beer. Yet here they are. Dave and Dave.
VIVA LA DAVE!!!!
Thanks for reading! It’s been a fun season! I appreciate any of you who allowed my nonsense ramblings to infiltrate your life for a few minutes a week. It means a lot. See you back here soon for the World Championships. And until then, as always, Happy Challenge Watching!!!