The Challenge: Spies, Lies, & Allies Power Rankings — Week 1

Brian Batty
13 min readAug 8, 2021


It feels so good to be back!!! Welcome back to another edition, and another season of Power Rankings! As with last season, these rankings are based on…well nothing at all really. It’s mostly feel. Partly my favorites, partly who’s going to win, partly who matters at the time. But enough of the boring stuff!…

Inside this week: We re-litigate the New Hot Guy, Upper Manhattan celebrates, the champs return, and much much more…

35–17) Berna, Bettina, Corey, Emmanuel, Emy, Esther, Gabo, Hughie, Jeremiah, Kelz, Lauren, Logan, Michaela, Michele, Priscilla, Renan, Tacha, Tommy, Tracy

As with last season, I come in to this not knowing a single one of these people. I’m starting to get envious of Romanian citizens ability to have prior knowledge of the rookies. I would never judge a book by it’s cover (until I do exactly that in the Nam section), so I can’t really rank these people just quite yet.

I will say though, the first few hours of this season will be a bit of a whirlwind wrapping our brains around nineteen (!) new people. Which is fine, because we’re basically getting the same cast as last season (with one extremely exciting exception) so that is a-okay with me. The cast last season did their best to bore everyone, so I hope every single one of these rookies is much more Frank Sweeney and a lot less Joseph from America Can Sing or whatever.

16) Josh

You know, I’ve been going back and forth on this one. I don’t want to do another season of conspiracies in this space rather than actually talking about Josh. But I can’t really think of anything else.

Mini Bachelor/ette/Paradise review? Meh. Simultaneously watch a season of Are You The One and write about that each week? Way bigger meh. Just talk about different people named Josh that I know? Those ideas are terrible, and they’re the best I got.

So I made a wild decision. My slant on Josh this season? Positivity. I’m gonna be as Pro-Josh as I can be. I’m always going to take his side no matter what. He could leave the ranch dressing outside all night and spoil it, and I’ll lie and say Blue Cheese is superior. He can struggle with simple arithmetic in a heated argument and guess what? That’s not on him, that’s a bad third grade teacher! What’s that? He murdered Nany? Sounds like she shouldn’t have been standing there.

Luckily for me, I don’t have to do that for another entire week.

15) Aneesa

When people ask me what my favorite show is, I quickly reply with The Challenge. When they say, “that’s funny, no but seriously, what’s your favorite show?” I humor them and give them my second favorite, Lost.

For those of you not in the know, on the show Lost, the character Desmond has a consciousness that can jump around in time (don’t ask). And because of this, he requires something called his ‘constant’ to basically be able to keep his brain grounded so that it doesn’t splinter apart (don’t ask).

In the universe of this show, his ‘constant’ is his ex-fiance and future wife Penny.

In the universe of a Challenge fan tumbling through the galaxy on this God forsaken rock, our constant is Aneesa.

14) Big T

This is right around the time in the timeline of many Challengers lives that aren’t necessarily the biggest physical threat, but have the tentacles all over the game socially/politically, where they start working out.

Not Jenny levels of working out, but it starts to come time to get serious. By now Big T’s seen herself on three seasons of the show, and each time she’s seen her physical abilities, or lack there of, on full display. Anyone who gets the spotlight shined so brightly on our biggest flaws would be compelled to fix them.

So is that gonna be her move? Come in having been running and doing pull-ups for six months ready to prove something?

What am I talking about? Who cares? Big T rules.

13) Nam

Nam’s performance on Double Agents was a let down in many ways. But by far the most egregious, was his failure to capitalize on his reign as the New Hot Guy Championship Belt holder. This is a prestigious honor that, quite honestly, he did not take seriously enough.

Due to the newly dubbed ‘Lolo Corollary’ Nam has been extended a mulligan of sorts by the New Hot Guy Committee. Because of this, he defaults up to number one on the list heading into this season. His hold is tentative at best, and he can be usurped and forgotten in the New Hot Guy legacy just as quietly as he arrived.

So come with my on this journey and let’s get a couple of things accomplished here. Let’s re-litigate the New Hot Guy timeline (I got something important incorrect the first time) starting with Battle of the Seasons (it’s really bleak before that as far as stand-outs go. Shout out to Pete?) as well as get my pre-season predictions for this up coming season’s New Hot Guy.

Zach (Battle of the Seasons)

I’ve never met something I didn’t want to over describe, but words do no justice to all that.

Jordan (Rivals 2 — Battle of the Exes 2)

While I’m not a huge fan of his approach, Jordan’s New Hot Guy credentials are easy to spot. The original Bed Bug, Jordan hopped from bed to bed through his time as the New Hot Guy.

The reign may be artificially longer than it should have been, but his peers (for now) just didn’t have the juice. They just needed two of the greatest to show up at the same time and shake up everything we though the New Hot Guy could accomplish…

Tony (Bloodlines Episode 1)

Here’s where I screwed up last time. I gave Tony too much credit, and the next guy not nearly enough.

Tony spent the first 36 hours of Bloodlines tearing up any expectations one could have for a rookie guy and rewriting the rules all on his own.

Out of any on this list, Tony (at the time) is the one who would’ve cared most about holding this honor. It really is too bad he and the next guy on this list had their New Hot Guy campaigns overlap in the way that they did.

Cory (Bloodlines Episode 2 — Dirty 30)

The G.O.A.T. and it’s not even close. You know when you’re watching something amazing, like a mother lifting a car to save her child or a sweaty guy eating 100 hot wings at a bar so he can win a T-Shirt and impress absolutely nobody in the process.

That’s what Cory’s reign as the New Hot Guy was. He had to compete with Tony, debuting at the same time, who was more determined than anyone has ever been to be the New Hot Guy. But for Cory, it was natural. Just as it is for all the greats.

He filled up the stat sheet like no one ever has, ultimately flipping the New Hot Guy Championship Belt into money, fame, and a full blown career. Raise your glass to greatness folks, we all are lucky to have witnessed it.

Kyle (Vendettas — Final Reckoning)

Kyle’s reign explains what the New Hot Guy is better than anything else.

Here’s the deal, objectively, Joss is much hotter. He just is. We all have our types, and our quirks we find attractive. But, let’s just be real. Joss is a smokeshow.

And yet, during their start together, Kyle was ultimately the New Hot Guy. How does that happen? Let’s dig deeper.

Being the New Hot Guy requires being hot. That’s where it starts. But here’s the deal, they’re all hot. They cast hot people for the sake of being hot, it crosses the spectrum. But to be the New Hot Guy, you have to perform. You have to hook up. You have to cause drama that stems from the roots of the hook-ups. And ultimately (and this was Cory’s best skill) you had to double down on all of it.

Being the New Hot Guy is an energy more than anything. Joss did some hooking up and both the camera and the women on the cast did their fair share of thirsting after him, but Kyle snatched the New Hot Guy Championship Belt from the ridge lines of Joss’s six pack and claimed it as his own.

***Vacated*** (War of the Worlds — Double Agents)

There was a guy named after the football team in Chicago who held the title for awhile here. But turns out he’s a major asshole in real life, and we don’t celebrate genuine criminal charges here at the New Hot Guy Committee.

Which brings us all the way back around to Nam. Was it his fault Lolo ended up as his partner, ruining any chances he may have had of happiness and prosperity during his stay in Iceland? Who’s to say. I think they may have just happened to be standing next to each other when TJ ordered them to partner up.

Either way, he was completely neutered and encumbered on Double Agents, death to all prospective New Hot Guys, but now he’s back. No Olympic athletes to be seen. Good luck, Nam. The competition this season is a lot more formidable than Joseph and Mechie.

Spies, Lies & Allies New Hot Guy Pre-Season Predictions/Rankings Based On Cast Pictures

9) Hughie

8) Tommy

7) Gabo

6) Corey L.

5) Emmanuel

4) Renan

3) Kelz

2) Jeremiah

1) Logan

12) Nelson

0–35 is really not a good look.

The night Nelson finally wins another daily Challenge, I have a bottle of champagne on ice that I fully plan on spraying all over myself Theo style. Video proof on-coming……..hopefully.

11) Amanda

“Ooo you know we need ya, ooo you know we need ya/Right here is where we need ya, right here is where we need ya”

After the cast spent the majority of their stay in Iceland living la vida without the loca, I hope production brought some extra mops to Croatia because it’s about to get messy.

Welcome back, Amanda.

10) Mature Nany

I hope somebody gets her some vodka this season because all of her good decision making last season was so disheartening. I’ll write something fun in this section when she gives me something fun to write about. I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed.

Watching Double Agents left me feeling like Glenn Close to Nany’s Mila Kunis in Four Good Days.

9) Devin

Who provided more life to Double Agents than Devin?


Big T?


Even all three of those are a maybe at best.

He’s got 19 rookies to outwit, corral, and carry out his dirty work for him. But it always (unfortunately) comes back to the same deal. Can Devin get to a Final? Probably. Can he actually win one though?….I mean, probably not?

Are we doing this the correct way? We watch ~15 episodes of a game where someone like Devin or Big T or Aneesa can not only succeed in, but thrive in. Then when it comes time to get paid, well you know how that one goes. Sometimes I think to myself, while minding my own business enjoying an episode of The Challenge, none of this matters. Most of the time, it simply comes down to who’s the best runner left. What are we even talking about at this point?

He can run as many marathons as he wants, but if everyone else is running them too, at a certain point, the other guy is just faster.

8) Tori

If I were to have made this list purely based on my serotonin level when I read the cast list for the first time, Tori might be battling it out with the pop-up video ad for new golf balls I couldn’t click out of in the corner of my screen.

Look, Tori isn’t actively bringing down the show or anything. She gets what they’re trying to accomplish, she’s funny, not awful to look at, but I for one am over the exaggerated facial expressions and Challenge platitudes as a way of swallowing up camera time. I guess as far as the veteran women go, she’s got as good a chance to win as any, so we’ll have to see.

7) Kyle

I’ll tell you what, I am down for Kyle on this show the rest of my life. I really don’t have much more to add, he’ll give me plenty as we go along. Does he have a legitimate chance to win? Yeah, probably, but ultimately not important.

I wonder if he feels the same?

6) Fessy

“Hey what’s up guys, my name’s Fessy. I’m from Big Brother and I’m on my third season of The Challenge. On Total Madness it was way too snowy for me cause as you can see I’m a bigger guy. Much biggest than my cast mates. But I’m also way more athletic and super smart at puzzles so don’t think that’s why I always win so damn much. Oh and on Double Agents my partner or friend or whatever broke her knee after I dominated and carried her all the way to the Final. I forgave her after a few months for betraying me like that. Otherwise I’d be a two time champion by now and you all would have had to pay just to be here next time. I have time for one question. Yes, you in the green blazer…”

5) Cory

There is no one I want to win more than Cory. Period.

I bet he must want it to happen so, so bad. Cory’s enjoyed one hell of a ride on reality TV. His life has probably been pretty awesome from the moment he signed up for The Real World. Stressful at some points, I personally would lose my mind having my personal life exposed in the way he has, but ultimately an incredibly interesting and fulfilling life lived.

In the same way that I always wonder about All Time Great Athletes Who Never Won A Championship (next up on First Take!) who have lay their head on their pillow at the end of the night and reconcile with never quite being the best, I wonder that about Cory. He’s been an integral part of my favorite show for quite a long time, but ultimately has any of it mattered?

4) Kaycee

The idea that I have to find interesting ways to talk about her each week is giving me some high level anxiety. Just give me something about you that makes me think, just a little bit. Please. Pretty sure I saw her making out with Nany in the trailer, which is about as great a way to start your Redemption Season as possible.

Remember though, expectation management is the key to happiness.

3) Ashley

Nobody had more chances to win Double Agents then Ashley did. She was sent home in the first 24 hours of her stay in Iceland, returned after a few maladies to her peers, then roughly 24 hours later was sent home again.

Being a two-time champ swimming in a sea of newbies and eager veterans has been a recipe for disaster her last few appearances. Her buddy Amanda’s back in the fold now, and this time there’s no savvy Kam-like veteran woman with the active wherewithal (Maybe Kaycee? I could see them teaming up before they took opposite sides) to not only understand the implications of Ashley sticking around until the end but also carrying the political heft to squash those problems before they can even start. If Ashley can cultivate the right relationships she’s got a great shot at her third title.

2) Amber

So I know she’s not “on the cast” and we didn’t get an over-manipulated, over-edited cast picture of her to look slightly not like herself in, but she’s in like nineteen parts of the trailer so I’m not gonna pretend she’s not around.

After the shellacking Amber and the next guy on the list handed out on last season’s Final, the Champ returns to defend her crown. This time around, though, the radar detector will be going from floor to ceiling, and if she has any expectations to fly under it again she has another thing coming.

1) CT

Kam’s intelligent.

There was a reason she immediately hatched a plan to get CT out of the house week one. And it only had like ten percent to do with him spurning her during the Great Partner Scramble of 2020.

The other 90%? Her fuzzy, distant view of his back she had the entire time in the aforementioned Double Agents Final. And because of Dr. Emmett Brown and plutonium technology MTV was seemingly able to go back to Rivals 2 to cast this seasons version of everyone’s favorite ever evolving two lettered bright shining star.

The rest of the cast better figure it the fuck out.



Brian Batty

Writing about MTV’s The Challenge, one of America’s great institutions, from a fan’s perspective. Inquires: -Twitter: @TJsAirhorn