The Challenge: Ride or Dies Power Rankings Week 9

Brian Batty
16 min readDec 4, 2022

Welcome back to a fresh batch of Power Rankings! Now that you and everyone else is done pretending to care about soccer, why don’t you kick back and enjoy a seemingly never-ending onslaught of terrible jokes, soon to be incorrect predictions, and analysis that resembles the ramblings of a crazy person. Inside this edition: We attempt to solve the mystery of ‘Lg’, Amber and Chauncey get into their first fight, Olivia passes yet another Challenge milstone, and much much more…

24) Kim (Eliminated)

23) Colleen (E)

22) Jakk (E)

21) Laurel (E)

20) Veronica (E)

19) Darrell (E)

18) Jay (Last Week: 9)

You know what Jay should do next time he comes back? He should reach out to whoever the biggest name there is (Johnny, CT, etc.) and say the following,

“Hey (insert Hall of Famer here), it’s me, Jay! So look, I hear that you’re gonna be on the next season, and so am I! I have a proposal, me and you, secret under the table deal. This is the last time either of us speak on it. You keep me out of harms way, I’ll do the same. No one will see it coming, because why would we be working together? We might even be able to make this a multi-season thing. But let’s start with one for now, and see where it goes.”

I know what you’re thinking, why would anyone fall for that? Having under the table agreements is one of the best ways to navigate this game. Some things are better left unsaid. Jay’s capable, and having one less target is always a positive for the bigger names who become a target by merely showing up.

And then on Jay’s end, if he’s working with the best players, it’ll be like saving himself from himself. A lock keeping an honest man honest. He can’t fuck up and piss off the best in the house if he decided pre-game that he wouldn’t.

Yeah, you’re right. That’s some pretty low level Challenge poppycock. I just don’t see how this exact result, basically the same result as last time Jay was here, isn’t just going to continue being the result for him unless he starts making friends in high places.

17) Michele (LW: 8)

It’s interesting to me that a more successful, more prestigious, frankly more important show in Survivor has lobbed, by now, a half dozen of their competitors over to the Challenge shores, and all we really have to show for it is the last guy and then of course, Michele.

I’ve never seen an episode of Survivor in my life. From what I understand it’s a show about…surviving? There’s some challenges along the way, but they’re not as wackadoodle as the daily challenges over here. It’s also not a show about drinking or hooking up, from what I gathered. But you win or lose based on the people that you vote out not being upset that you voted them out.

Honestly, it sounds like a complicated minefield to step around. Not to mention how fucking hungry I would be. In a way, Survivor seems much more difficult to exist in than The Challenge is.

Amber had the most correct and succinct read on the situation a few weeks ago.

But ultimately, isn’t that the best way to play Survivor? To make the rest of the hungry people think you’re working with them?

On The Challenge, having too many friends can be both a benefit and a weakness. Many prospective Challengers have ran into that problem before. Michele attempted this strategy without the crucial aspect of this game that so many new-ish players can’t totally grasp until they’re at that same spot.

You need sweat equity to make this shit work.

To paraphrase Johnny Bananas, you need to bleed the same blood in the same mud for at least a little while until you can give the “I’m friends with everybody” strategy a try. And Michele just simply didn’t understand that.

Not her fault, that’s how this game goes. She’s not the first she won’t be the last.

There have been a ton of comparisons to past Challengers thrown around about Michele, but the one I think is most accurate is that she has the potential to be a Paula Remix. She can saddle up to a shaky-at-the-beginning-but-grows-over-time-alliance with the strong guys, and then she can play the “I’m friends with everyone” card with the rest of the house. This got Paula right to the edge multiple times until it eventually spilled over into two championships.

It’s a great move if “winning the Challenge” is important to you, but a long road to hoe either way. Does she have it in her? Will the temptation of returning to this show over and over again be too luring? Or will she go the way of the buffalo and eventually find a real life apart from this madness, existing as merely a late stage footnote on The Challenge timelines?

16) Kenny (LW: 18)

I picked the blurriest screenshot of Kenny from last week that I had in my Screenshots folder because I felt that it accurately represented his presence this season.

So last week in this space I told the story of an old Italian mother nagging her son Kenny the pizza maker and at the end mentioned that he’s the only Kenny I knew so that I’d have to get creative. So I did just that, I got creative.

I scanned my phone contacts, and lo and behold, there it was. I have someone named Kenny saved in my phone. Who is it? I’m honestly not sure. But the area code is the same as mine, so he’s probably someone I knew in high school or even college. Also in the ‘Notes’ section are the letters “Lg”

What does ‘Lg’ stand for? That’s a mystery which may never find a conclusion. A riddle trapped in an enigma.

The important thing to note here, though, is the fact that the ‘Lg’ mystery is somehow intergalactically more interesting than anything Kenny has contributed to a television program which he has been a part of for two months of our lives now. How that’s possible,I truly have no idea.

15) Kaycee (LW: 17)

If a Kaycee falls in the forest, and a broken clock is right twice a day, does a bear still shit in the woods?

14) Moriah (LW: 15)

Despite how it may look, this picture isn’t from last week’s Challenge episode.

It’s actually a photo of the exact moment that Moriah grabbed the last piece of garlic bread at the Chinese Buffet they all went to for Nelson’s birthday after filming.

13) Chauncey B. (LW: 12)

12) Amber (LW: 11)

What are we, as Challenge fans, supposed to do with Amber’s Double Agents championship?

Each individual Challenge person’s timeline is, unlike real life, not a flat circle, it’s a straight line. And not only that, each of those straight lines are overlapping and exist one top of each other like girls sitting on the shoulders of dudes who don’t know any better at concerts. Uncomfortably.

So no matter how little she matters to the overall game, no matter how arbitrary almost all of her conflicts may seem, Amber winning Double Agents matters. It matters within every fiber of her existence in this game.

Normally these championship are easy to parse. Simple to explain. No matter how long the timeline, any astute challenge fan is able to recreate the building blocks leading to each championship both won and lost.

But I don’t believe that to be true with Amber. I am of the belief that Amber’s title will exists as an enigma in the Challenge world. Especially considering that list of luminaries that have yet to reach the pinnacle Amber was able to touch, even briefly.

But what does any of that mean if all this time later, Amber as a Challenge character carries none of that weight. There have always been duds along the list of Challenge champs. But for the most part they existed in a time when winning didn’t involve staying up for three days and eating cow dick on top of a mountain.

Amber won Double Agents. Throw whatever qualifier you want on it. But the results are the results. She’s a champ as much as anyone else is a champ.

So why doesn’t anyone; her, her peers, the fans, hold her in that illustrious regard? I mean, I write thousands of words a week about this show and I don’t either. I’m as guilty as all of those I’m calling out. What is it?

Maybe we’ll never know. Maybe Amber will win again this season and sail off into the distance with Chauncey and never touch the Challenge franchise again. Die as she lived. A specter floating between the seams of an extremely specific hyper-reality for a few years, culminating as a smoking hot rumor living on through the eons as an idea more than something that actually happened.

Would you rather be underpaid or overrated?

11) Nurys (LW: 7)

It’s a small moment, but Nurys relinquishing whatever decision making sway she may have possessed was a sneaky savvy veteren-esque move.

Nelson was always going to carry the burden of this decision, but vocally laying out keeps her already dry hands even dryer.

10) Nelson (LW: 6)

I guess it all depends. If I need help moving, I’m calling Fessy. If I want to go to brunch, I’m calling Olivia. If I need a podcast host, I’m not calling Fessy that’s for sure.

I could go all day with this one, but I’ve already wasted enough of your time today. Go call a loved one. Go turn your phone off and take in some nature. Go cook a delicious meal. Do it for Nelson. That’s what he’d want from you today.

Don’t look at me like that.

9) Aneesa (LW: 16)

“Men lie, women lie, numbers don’t”

— Jay Z, Reminder

On paper, it’s going to say that Aneesa won last week’s daily challenge. Another tally mark for the back of her baseball card. She hopped into that car last week with 30 wins under her belt. And she hopped off with 31.

This is why I sometimes push back on getting too into the weeds with stats on The Challenge. At least as far as comparison shopping between two competitors goes. Championships are one thing, those generally don’t lie. You can’t win this game, the modern version at least, without earning it.

But Aneesa has 31 daily challenge wins after last week. You and me both know that number 31 probably shouldn’t count. Because, ya know, she didn’t do anything. Not her fault, that’s the set-up of the game. In five years though, that won’t matter. That will be her 31st win, no matter what.

Men lie, women lie, Challenge numbers lie all the fucking time.

8) Horacio (LW: 14)

What do you mean somebody lost the soccer ball?

7) Olivia (LW: 13)

Real Challenge fans know, there is nothing more important to your Challenge bonafides than having TJ Lavin say that “you killed it.”

Olivia has accomplished plenty of milestones this season, broken stereotypes, and overall impressed a normally cynical fan base. This, though, is the pinnacle.

6) Mature Nany (LW: 4)

Did anyone else order a purple robe as a Christmas gift to themselves or was that just me?

5) Banana (LW: 5)

In honor of Johnny’s televised milestone birthday, let’s take a minute to get a little warm and cozy.

It’s pretty strange to say, but in a way, Johnny Bananas has been narrating portions of my adult life.

The Challenge is my comfort blanket. Always has been. It’s soundtracked many laundry folds, house cleans, and stationary bike rides. It’s been a lullaby of sorts plenty of times playing softly in the background while I drift off to sleep. It’s gotten me through hard days, distracted me from the sometimes relentless bludgeoning of real life. I got emotional and misty eyed when the Total Madness trailer dropped in the beginning of Covid lock-downs, when I was possibly the most stressed I’ve ever been in my life, because it was just such a bright light that at least for 42 minutes every Wednesday for the next few months life would seem normal.

Johnny’s voice has been in the background for most of my adult life. Despite whatever reservations you have about him as a person, it’s pretty cool that he’s dedicated to much of his own adult life so that someone like me or you might be able to forget about our problems and be entertained 42 minutes at a time. He’s gotten fame and fortune from that dedication, so let’s not act as if he’s some civil servant working for the better of the populous. But still, if you think about it, it’s pretty cool.

How can you not be romantic about The Challenge?

4) Faysal (LW: 2)

I don’t know what the actual numbers on this would be, but what are the chances of a pair of competitors going until Week 8 before being one of FOUR nominees to go in?

That sentence may have been long winded, but you know what I mean. Faysal and Moriah have been invisible within a game where essentially everyone participates through osmosis. There’s only so many teams and so many names to say.

Yet, Faysal was able to float above the atmosphere for what will probably amount to almost half the game. All this, despite having a cavalier approach towards conquering the Herculean feat of juggling multiple (plural multiple) hookups within a single household. All this, despite what his doubters may want to think, existing as by far the biggest physical threat remaining in the game. All this, despite having a partner that not only can physically hang (based on what we’ve seen) but is polidickly attached to major social tentacles keeping Fessy’s blindside (shout out to Amber) safe without any effort on his part.

Look, we can all have our opinions about Fessy’s roller coaster Challenge career. A career that is built upon the foundation of others opining to fill in his personality gaps. It’s an archetype we’ve rarely seen on this show.

Fessy exists, similar to Amber, as more of an idea than a person. Except that person is enormous and more functionally athletic than basically all of his peers. It’s a wild dichotomy that somehow keeps a grasp upon Challenge fans (and Challenge women) until we have nothing let to give.

If The Challenge is still a thing in thirty years, I bet Fessy’s stat line is going to look insane and make all of our children and children’s children question why Fessy wasn’t the best to ever do this thing.

Could you imagine? You’re 85 years old, everything fucking hurts, and you have to go to a birthday party where you have to pretend to care about like thirty family members and whatever the fuck bullshit school play they’re in. At least some of them still watch The Challenge, though, so eventually you can at least connect on that level. But then they ask about Fessy and Kaycee. And how amazing it must have been to watch them be so dominant in what is now America’s second most popular sport after the fall of baseball and basketball (don’t ask).

All you can do is roll your eyes and say something saccharine because that’s what you are now. The docile old person who needs to be positive because otherwise what’s the point.

So you say say, “yeah, watching Kaycee win seven championships in a row and never having to see a real elimination was crazy to watch. Reminded me of Lebron, but more successful.”

Then your grand kids say, “what about five time champion Faysal? He must have been awesome.”

Which is when you respond “why don’t you snot-nosed brats go ahead and tweet @fessyfitness and ask him directly.”

3) Devin (LW: 3)

Another week of eliminations, another set of street clothes not sponsored by Under Armor on Devin’s back.

The question of “who is in charge?” could be answered last season pretty easily. Devin was the central information hub on Spies, Lies, & Allies. Before the season, I figured it would be similar this time around, if for no reason other than Devin actively pursuing that mantle. But this game has shaken out in a way that deincentivizes both winning and being the face of decision making.

And yet here we are, roughly halfway through this season and as each week passes by, more and more we’re seeing the firm grip Devin has on the more atmospheric aspects of the game.

2) Tori (LW: 2)

A ton has been made about Devin’s game, both in these Power Rankings and on screen, but can we all just pause a moment to appreciate Tori’s under the radar game this season?

Even with the previews for next week spoiling her pot boiling over when it comes to living with number one in these rankings (because duh), I still can’t figure out any way that Tori’s name gets mentioned for elimination.

Look, TJ said it at the end of this episode, but also you had to know that eventually the numbers weren’t going to add up, but the game is about to change. And my best guess is that the aspect of this game ripe for change at the moment is the voting system.

And if I were forced to predict what that change might be, I’d say we’re looking at some sort of winners choose who goes in vs. last place in the daily situation. Or at the minimum, the saying four names concept is getting thrown out the window. I say all that to say this…..Think of a single scenario where Devin and Tori, if the game narrows the number of teams in danger, would find themselves as someones direct target.

Now I haven’t totally worked it out with everyone, because ya know, I’m lazy. But at first glance I can’t see a way that they’re ever in trouble from here on out. Tori’s probably got the biggest dick in the house right now, like it or not.

1) Jordan (LW: 10)

Why can’t I quit you?

That’s the question I’ve been faced with for eight weeks plus those sweet summer nights I spent with him on All Stars 3.

One of the worst parts of getting older is that the romantic aspect of sports gets eroded away little by little as the years go on. You learn more about the true business underbelly of sports, become a little more cynical, exist as a fan of sports owners and leagues that continuously say “Fuck You” to the fans because they know there is no honest to goodness repercussions, really.

Anyone who’s a fan of Major League Baseball reading along feels me in this. No other league has said Fuck You to their fans more than baseball has in the last few years. Which is perfect because new baseball fans are sprouting up everywhere constantly like weeds and I hope my sarcasm is dripping from your monitors because honestly fuck all thirty baseball owners.

Big shout out to Tom Ricketts for turning Wrigleyville into one of the best sports experiences on the planet into a sterile strip mall. When I’m bouncing my kids on my lap telling them about 2016 I’ll be sure to mention how tight-assed of a miser you wound up being. Which unfortunately will mean nothing to you when you sell the franchise, stadium, and entire neighborhood for 10 billion dollars in like five years. Serving as yet another reminder that when shit hits the fan, to be sure to eat the rich first.

Anywho….

It’s all those reasons I inefficiently listed above that creates the ‘why’ when it relates to watching Jordan compete. In a world where the romantic side of being a sports fan is being chipped away one DraftKings commercial and Gambling Addiction Hotline PSA at a time, being able to watch something as pure as Jordan reminds me why I’m able to be romantic about a competition in the first place.

The answer to why we’re all ten years deep into watching a randomly chosen one handed, hot, recovering-ego-maniac from Oklahoma, and enjoying it more than ever can never be answered in earnest. No one represents the romantic side of competition better than Jordan does. Even if it’s just watching him crawl over a series of moving cars, for those thirty seconds, that’s the purest form of bliss that a fan of sport can acheive.

There was no Jordan before he arrived and there never will be another Jordan once he leaves. I see no reason to do anything other than bask in whatever glory the Challenge Gods are able to cast onto our horizons.

Thanks for reading! See you soon for Australia Winners & Losers! And, as always, Happy Challenge Watching!!!

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Brian Batty

Writing about MTV’s The Challenge, one of America’s great institutions, from a fan’s perspective.