Welcome back to a fresh batch of Power Rankings! We’re coming off the heels of a battle of the rookies of the year, and what a show they put on. Hopefully, the mysterious hooded figures approaching the Zone when we left off can fill their shoes. Inside this edition: Amber forgets to record Chauncey’s favorite show, Jay turns me into Josh Baskin, we have a brand new number one, and much much more…
34) Sam (Eliminated)
33) Kailah (E)
32) Emmy (E)
31) Nam (E)
30) Timmy Try Hard (E)
29) Tamara (E)
28) Icarus (Last Week: 16)
Many a burgeoning fake famous person has signed a contract to be on The Challenge. And outside of their physical presence, that about ended their contributions to the larger Challenge world. If you’re not a psycho like me and care way too much about these people, sixty percent of names that pass through this turnstile are lost to the ether mere moments after their final appearance. Others stick around, etch their names in the history books, and become deities who exist perpetually beyond their reality television expiration date.
I don’t know where Johnny will ultimately fall on that list. In seven years, we might be talking about Johnny the same way we talk about Landon. Probably not, but it’s almost always impossible to tell lasting only three episodes on your rookie season. We might never see or hear from him again.
But at least he can lay his head on his pillow at the end of the night and be able to say that he gave it everything he had. I can respect that. He played the game, and the game played him. But at least he played.
27) Ravyn (LW: 15)
Sometimes when Challenge people say things like “the game is 90% mental” it comes off a bit self-aggrandizing. No one has any incentive (Tyson is probably the only person EVER to go against this ethos) to say that this is an easy game. It illegitimizes their accomplishments. It’s always a battle I have in my head trying to put myself in these situations.
For Ravyn, though, The Challenge was more like 120% mental.
Expectation management is the key to happiness, and I can’t speak on exactly what her expectations heading into this game were, especially when it comes to her partner, but I most definitely feel comfortable speaking on how those expectations made her feel at the end.
Her face said it all. Rare do you see someone that is as ready for a plane ride home as she was after that elimination round ended. Which leads me towards being extremely interested in seeing her come back. Someone willing to be vulnerable enough to welcome the gnarly teeth of The Challenge to clamp down on her is something we desperately need more of.
26–25) Darrell & Veronica (LW: Getting Tired Of The Argentinian Four Seasons They’ve Been Trapped In, Especially Now That Aneesa Isn’t Paying For Breakfast)
Or….maybe? Maybe not? Maybe go fuck ourselves?
Aneesa and Jordan were given an unbelievably cool two minutes of television for their grand introduction. Latto’s Big Dick Energy, which could not have been a more apt song title for both of them, scored the slow-motion entrance. The lyrics “I’m the one you bitches hate but can’t get past, pretty face no waist and a big ole ass” drop as Aneesa takes off her hood…I really don’t know if it could have been more perfect. The editors immediately did a Hall Brawl against each other just to get the surge of adrenaline out of their systems.
So, that being said, what song are Darrell and Veronica gonna get? I hope they give them some real gutter shit like March Madness by Future or something like that. But I’ve always been bad with the aux cord. DJing, like baking, is a skill that’s better served without my input involved. But this is MTV, the DJ of our youth. It’ll probably be perfect, so I’ll keep my suggestions to myself.
24) Tommy (LW: 23)
23) Analyse (LW: 24)
Sometimes I feel like the Big Brother stigma, the stigma that led the entire house standing on the podium to nod in agreement when Devin said “Big Brother behavior” is a little unfair.
They can definitely be a little cliquey, and other than Da’Vonne there hasn’t been a single one of them that currently has an overwhelmingly positive approval rating, but their dealings overall haven’t been that shady. To paraphrase the great Lil Wayne, the worst aspect of their game is that they move through the house silently like the G in lasagna.
It’s a shady game, they’re all playing in shady ways, at least the ones serious about winning are, but we all know that person in high school who somehow got an ill-fated nickname freshman year that stuck all the way until graduation day. Unfortunately for them, The Challenge house oftentimes resembles a high school cafeteria, so it’s almost lose-lose either way.
In all reality, though, what else were they supposed to do? They are clearly fully aware of their place in the pecking order, and if the dagger luck were to have gone another way, they were the most glaringly obvious choice to make.
Throw everything at the wall. Even the kitchen sink. Empty the playbook. That really was the only strategy for their (short-term) safety. Unfortunately for them, though, The Challenge is a funny game and in a twist of poetic irony pulling the safe dagger was the most dangerous outcome possible.
We only have the edit to go off, but based on Oliva and Horacio’s reactions, they were down with the get down and fully planned on saying Kim and Colleen’s names if they pulled the safe dagger. And I’m pretty sure Kim and Colleen are just gonna ride whatever wave breaks their way, so I’d have to guess they were in as well.
So, to recap, if Olivia and Horacio pull it, they’re safe. If Colleen and Kim pull it, they’re safe. Then, regardless of the outcome, there’s no reason for either team to spill the beans on the deal, considering it might compromise something else they had in the works.
Tommy and Analyse were on the verge of getting away with their hands clean. Now? Well, Devin, what do you think?
22) Kenny (LW: 17)
Why do I feel like Kenny won that Jenga game? Wait a minute…can you win Jenga? Or do you simply not lose? Or does everyone lose, because you have to clean up the mess no matter what? These are the kind of questions one has when one avoids playing a stupid game like Jenga for most of one’s life.
Well, knowing who his sister is, he probably won an unwinnable game. I have no details, observations, or clever insights to back that up. I simply needed something to type in this space on the computer screen.
21) Chauncey B. (LW: 22)
“I wish you never would have told me that you forgot to set the DVR to record The Masked Singer before we left. You know how much I love The Masked Singer, Amber. We’ll talk about this when we get home.”
20) Jakk with two K’s (LW: 20)
“Laurel! Laurel! Can we get ice cream?”
“Jakk, we’re currently lost in the jungle. Give me a second to read this ancient map I found in the wall of that cave. When we make it out of here alive, and finally escape the group of natives currently hunting us with spears and poisonous arrows, and locate the buried treasure we came here to find two weeks ago, then we can go get ice cream.”
19) Kim (LW: 19)
Watching Kim sort of float above the house on a dragon this season has been incredible. Even the deal he made with Tommy and Analyse only happened because they approached him. He is the avatar for a fly on the wall in the Challenge house we’ve all wanted to be over the years. He’s the amalgam of all of the passive viewers at home scrolling through TikTok while the episode plays in the background.
And he is also so gosh dang German it makes me so happy. An absolutely wunderbar performance by Kim so far.
18) Colleen(LW: 18)
I can appreciate anyone I come across in my travels who wanders through life as if existence is an inside joke that only they can understand. And Colleen is absolutely one of those people.
17) Nurys (LW: 21)
She’s free from her shackles. Ravyn and Johnny are out of the house. Nurys can officially let her freak flag fly.
I have no idea what that might entail (maybe go after a vet like Laurel? Hop on the Faysal Fitness program? Banana is singular in more ways than one…). I’m just happy, actually, though I’m pretty sure she’s much happier than I am, that she doesn’t have to pretend to like Johnny anymore.
16) Moriah (LW: 25)
One of the most difficult aspects to predict for any rookie in this game is how they’re going to handle that moment when The Challenge nudges you slightly beyond comfortable during any demanding physical challenge. You’d never look at someone like Sarah Rice and someone like Ty Ruff and correctly surmise which of them is willing to keep going when their body says stop. Everyone, including the two of them, gets that wrong.
Moriah passed that test with flying colors this week. Fessy’s got himself a great partner this season. A workhorse to raise his game to another level. The perfect yin to his yang. They’ll go as far as the Challenge Gods allow them to. But if they do fail to capture victory, we can all rest assured, Fessy will definitely blame her.
15) Jay (LW: 11)
At this point in Jay’s Challenge career, I’m officially Josh Baskin. I don’t get it.
I bet Jay’s a blast to hang out with. He seems genuinely sweet, which stands out even more on a show full of scoundrels like this one. I have no doubt that not only would have he some interesting stories to tell, but he’d deliver them well on top of that. Hitting him up for tacos and margs would be a fun Saturday afternoon, totally worth the effort of putting on actual jeans. I can guarantee that. Hell, he might even pick up the check.
But, as far as being a Challenge person, yeah, I don’t get it.
14) Michele (LW: 10)
Michele is definitely a Cab Sauv girl. California Cabs for sure. She’ll drink anything red at dinner when someone else is choosing. And she definitely crushes “dry rose” during summer patio sessions. I don’t take her for a particularly picky wine drinker. But when she’s cruising Target making her selections for the “Buy Four Bottles of Wine, Get 10% Off” deal, I am beyond certain she skips the Pinot Noir’s and chooses four full-bodied, sugary-as-hell, California Cabs.
13) Aneesa (LW: Searching For The Asshole Who’s Been Charging Breakfast To Her Hotel Room)
Anyone who has thoughts like “ugh, not Aneesa again, she’s never going to win” conjure in their head when she appears is totally missing the point.
Just think about how strange it is for a regular ass person named Aneesa from Philadelphia to be as semi-famous as she is, without even really trying. All she did was agree to go on The Real World in the year 2001 and now here we are. There are an infinite number of try-hards that have passed through The Challenge universe. Over the years, their phoniness has built the framework which only elevates Aneesa’s perpetual realness.
She’s led one of the more interesting lives of any living human her age. Her story is truly a modern American fable. Improbable in its origins, and equally impossible to replicate.
With no signs of ending, either. Her original sin was simply being herself. Something that is clearly evident throughout any re-watch of the last twenty-plus seasons. And yet she weathered through it all. Through the ignorance of her fellow cast members. Through the rise of social media allowing negativity about almost every aspect of her reality to creep in. Through the over arching toxicity of this life she’s chosen to live.
Is she going to win The Challenge: Ride or Dies? No, she’s probably not. But winning isn’t everything, especially on this particular show. Aneesa, or rather, the idea of Aneesa, for over two decades, has represented the intangibles hiding in the margins which makes this the greatest show in the world.
Aneesa is an American institution and should be celebrated as such.
12) Nelson (LW: 9)
This section is going to be interactive. Let’s all put our heads together for a minute and collaborate for a bit. And remember, no bad ideas in a brainstorm…
What would the format of the daily challenge realistically have to be for Nelson to finally get a victory?
The obvious answer would be something purely physical, where Nelson can exist as more of a worker-bee than an active participant. But he’s gotten those types plenty of times during the Losing Streak From Hell. Many times, Nelson’s only task was to be athletic, and he performed with aplomb. No, it can’t be that simple.
The most important variable he needs, as it is in real life, is a little luck. Chance, whether we want to admit it or not, is by far the largest driving factor in all of our lives. The Challenge is no different.
Well, you can’t manufacture luck. Good or bad. No gym visit is going to bring good fortune to you. The best anyone can hope for is to spread out the luck. Thin the balance of chance so far that chance is neutered as much as possible.
Naturally, this leads to some sort of random team draw and a daily challenge that involves a well-rounded set of skills so Nelson can fit his square body into a square hole and allow the rest of the group to pick up the pieces.
This season he’s partnered with Nurys, who doesn’t seem incompetent but also doesn’t seem as though she’s going to propel Nelson’s skills to another level. But maybe she doesn’t have to propel his skills. Maybe she just has to fill in his gaps (phrasing?).
If Nelson’s best shot is to be as inactive of a participant as possible, then he needs a partner who’s going to be as active as possible. Someone intelligent and aggressive like Amanda immediately comes to mind as the perfect partner for Nelson. Can Nurys be an Amanda? I really don’t know. It’s been impossible to tell so far, considering the nature of the three daily challenges we’ve seen.
Let’s rewind and take a closer look at the last time Nelson won a daily Challenge. This was all the way back on Vendettas, and it’s a challenge more known for nearly genuinely killing Leroy and potentially being the least thought-out and most dangerous game the Challenge Gods have ever invented.
It involved heights over water, real cars made of steel and glass, and a fuck ton of KY Jelly covering every inch of these elevated death machines. Oh, and because fuck it why not, they also had sprinklers hovering above to make the cars even more slippery. For some reason. The goal was to hop from car to car and reach the other end of the hanging apparatus.
He was on a four-person team along with Cara Maria, Natalie, and Johnny. Who also happened to go first. Pretty much everyone failed to complete this, and the cuts and bruises added up as quickly as they all fell into the water one-by-one. By the time the last few teams went, most of them didn’t even try, because when you watch your peers almost die, that’s as good of a time as any to bow out. So the level of fearlessness needed to complete this was at a supremely high level.
To recap, the main components of his last victory were an even distribution of luck, athleticism, and an ability to put fear aside and your brain off until TJ blows his air horn.
So if it’s something purely physical, while Nelson can excel, there has always been (and probably will be) a former collegiate pass catcher like Zach or Fessy who are simply more athletic than he is. If it’s something based on sharp, quick thinking, well, then that goes without saying. Luck is impossible to predict, so that’s not a real data point.
Does that leave…trivia?
That might seem insane, and maybe it is. But don’t forget, Jenna and Club Rat Jay once won a trivia challenge against some of the best players to ever play on Exes 2. Maybe trivia is the one game where chance is the most evenly distributed. The wrong people get the wrong questions, and he lucks into a few that he knows due to some specific life experience, Slumdog Millionaire style. Maybe Nurys is a Jeopardy obsessive and knows every fun fact imaginable, and carries Nelson to a victory.
Part of me never wants this to end. It’s one of the most charming aspects of any Challenge person. So many of them would anguish over it, and make their entire personality dedicated to ending it. Nelson, honestly, doesn’t seem to care. At least internally. I’m sure he’s sick of hearing about it, especially now that the producers are broadcasting it to the masses, but it doesn’t seem as though he’s chewing on his pillow at night unable to sleep because of it.
But when (if) he finally does do it? We party. And we party hard. Inhibitions out the window, old testament vibes. Ancient greek bath-house style orgies up and down the streets. Kid Cudi Pursuit of Happiness Steve Aoki remix, bombastic, Adam Royer in Las Vegas type shit.
11) Jordan (LW: 12)
Jordan has always had something to prove. It’s how he’s lived his life. Young Jordan on The Real World: Portland was the ultimate example. And nothing changed once he arrived on The Challenge. If anything, that chip on his shoulder grew even heavier.
Call it maturing, call it aging, call it whatever you want. But when Jordan returned on All-Stars 3, that chip on his shoulder was gone. I can’t speak on him in real life, but Jordan on The Challenge has nothing left to prove. Not to anyone else, or even more importantly, to himself.
Young Jordan wasn’t confident, he was insecure. This version of Jordan, though, is what true confidence looks like. I’d say being partners with Aneesa and understanding deep down that once it gets to gut-check time, he’s not going to win this season definitely helps that. He’s not going to let that impossible-to-clear hurdle impact his own self-worth, something he never would’ve been able accomplish when he set sail on his Challenge journey all those years ago.
Will it last? If I had to guess, definitely not. Jordan, even Mature Jordan, isn’t going to be okay with losing a lot. It goes against everything he believes in. How those two things will come to a head once they bang against each other one too many times will be fascinating to watch.
10) Amber (LW: 6)
If The Challenge was merely about crushing slow-motion dance montages and throwin’ that thang back in mostly empty bars, then there would be no greater Challenger than Amber. The cream of the crop. The Challenge sun would rise and set with her. I bet she was an elite homecoming date. Once The Black Eyed Peas started up? My Humps? Please. It’s a wrap.
9) Horacio (LW: 13)
Every time he’s awesome at something, which is occurring at an alarming rate, the longer the list of reasons gets for these old farts to shake in their Under Armor boots. It didn’t take long, but they want nothing to do with this kid. And who could blame them?
Johnny, Jordan, Darrell once he arrives, Devin, maybe even Faysal if he lets his guard down for a second. Any of the vets searching for a win for one reason or another, have no interest in this uber-athlete with soccer player endurance, a killer smile, and fresh legs not beaten down from years of scaling mountains on reality television hanging around and accidentally finding himself in the Final.
And beyond that, he’s too nice. Being too nice, in this game, is an open invitation to the feast. At the end of the day (shout out Nany), everyone there is a human being. And any human being, especially a reality TV human being, naturally wants to be liked. The less comfortable your life is going to be if you say a name, naturally the less likely you are to say it.
So if the only social resistance one is going to feel is an aw-shucks from him possibly followed by a wobbly retort from his partner, even the timidest risk-averse Challengers are going to jump all over that. Brick by brick, they’re unwittingly laying out the path of least resistance, a straight and narrow path toward their plane ride home. It almost doesn’t matter who wins, they’re going to be pulling daggers out of stone for the rest of the season.
Which, I guess, is a long-winded way of saying he’s fucked.
8) Olivia (LW: 14)
The likable, spunky underdog rookie who’s a little over their head but goes on a total heater in elimination rounds, only to finally succumb to the preternatural relentlessness of The Challenge Gods in an emotional defeat at the hands of a wile veteran who looks afterward as if they just narrowly escaped a house fire is a classic Challenge trope. And a great place to be.
For a few seasons now, rookies sometimes come onto this show as if they were drawn by the internet. Everything from looks to personality doesn’t belong to them. Their lives belong to the likes. That’s the box I ignorantly threw Olivia in at first glance. And it would be unfair to say she broke out of that box, because she was never in it in the first place.
The lesson, as always, I’m an idiot.
7) Mature Nany (LW: 8)
So what you’re saying, Nany, is that soon enough you’ll be dating Analyse and regularly going on vacation with Tommy. Copy that.
6) Laurel (LW: 2)
I know they’re friends, but at what point does the competitive Laurel come out and become frustrated by the lack of success she’s having with Jakk as her partner?
She’s going to battle the same internal demons as Jordan will this season. I don’t expect her to go Big Easy in the Hot Tub levels or anywhere near that. You are who you are, though, and in a game where she’s used to dominating being tolerant of finishing at the bottom at some point is going to clash with her competitive fire.
5) Banana (LW: 5)
“Oh, I’m sorry, Johnny, that I shop at Payless Shoes and not Saks Fifth Avenue. Some of us are on a budget.”
4) Devin (LW: 4)
I might be overreacting and being slightly dramatic (Me? Dramatic? No. That would be as ridiculous as accusing my articles of being self-involved. That’s insane, but while we’re here, let me tell you a story from my formative years that will vaguely relate to The Challenge…), but I am worried that Devin accidentally finding himself in the opening elimination round of the season is going to cause him to shell up as far as game-related antics are concerned.
Before they knew they were going to be partners, Devin and Tori both had a high level of confidence as far as their social standing goes coming into this season. Once they were announced as partners, if anything (and this still might be the case in reality), they walked into the house under the assumption that they were running the game.
If you want to make the Challenge Gods laugh, tell them your plans.
Devin was confronted with his Challenge mortality before he even unpacked his bags. That kind of jump-start is the type of thing to get anyone in line. The last thing we need, considering this is a television show, after all, is for Devin to have learned all of the wrong (right?) lessons watching CT run away with the money for the last two seasons.
3) Tori (LW: 3)
For years in this space, I’ve been begging and pleading for the real Tori to stand up. Even on a reality television show, her personality was so over-the-top that any morsel of genuine human emotion was sanded down and rubbed raw.
This season, I think, for the first time, we’re seeing the actual Tori. She feels no need to be anything but herself. It’s one of the beauties of being a fan of The Challenge. Tori has, in many ways, allowed us to bear witness to her adult life playing out. The ups and the downs. I think that’s pretty incredible.
She’s shed the insecurities that were being masked by turning her personality up to 11 Spinal Tap style and is finally comfortable just existing in this world she’s made her own.
How can you not be romantic about The Challenge?
2) Kaycee (LW: 1)
This ranking is a bit irrational but similar to the guy who jumped her for #1, it’s important to remember just how good at this shit Kaycee is.
Maybe Kenny will hold her back. Maybe her priority is getting Nany the win, and laying out from decision-making is the best way to play in her mind. I just have to feel as though she’s gonna start rattling off victories at some point. She always does, and always has.
I’ll lower her ranking as soon as she’s in even a modicum of danger of being eliminated and sent home. And considering that has never happened once in three full seasons, I don’t expect it any time soon.
1) Faysal (LW: 7)
(If you’re here for the review of Fessy’s Fortitude Episode 2, then come back next week, I actually have something to say about him this week. Never thought I’d ever find him interesting enough, and yet here we are. Life comes at you fast.)
The volume surrounding Faysal’s Challenge life is somehow always on high. He’s surrounded by enough noise to wake a Snorlax. Most of it is self-inflicted, and some of it is one of those phenomena where the mere mention of his name gets fans riled up in one way or another.
But something that gets lost in the Faysal orbit is that physically, he is no joke. Last week’s daily challenge proved it more than anything. He’s simply on another level, especially with this particular cast, purely athletically than anyone else in the house.
And another thing we learned during that daily challenge victory is that he’s got a partner that can keep up. If the two of them fall backwards into a Final, at this point, that’s where my money would be.
Thanks for reading! Be sure to check back after Episode 4 for my Winners & Losers. And until then, as always, Happy Challenge Watching!!!