The Challenge USA Episode 8 Recap — Winners & Losers

Brian Batty
14 min readAug 27, 2022

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Welcome back to a belated edition of Winners & Losers! Now that the game is individual, the movers and shakers and who truly has power in this game really began to show. Inside this week: Will Smith saves the world, Leo makes a crucial first date mistake, we find out exactly what it would feel like to live inside of your television, and much much more…

Loser: The Aliens

We’re gonna start this podcast off a little differently today, and get extremely off topic.

Independence Day is my second favorite movie ever made.

What’s first you ask? That would be Dumb and Dumber.

Okay fine, I’ll give you my Top Five Favorite Movies That Will Never Change Of All Time

5) Happy Gilmore

4) The Departed

3) Billy Madison

2) Independence Day

1) Dumb and Dumber

A few notes. You can clearly narrow down the years I was born, considering the short window in which four of the five movies were released (The Departed snuck in there because it fucking rules) and how often I watched all of them on VHS during my formative years. Shout out to all my Elder Millennials out there. We’re the last ones to remember what the world was like before cell phones and their baked in evils eroded collective happiness from the world.

Anywho, I could talk about Independence Day for hours and hours. In fact, I might just fuck around and make this blog entirely about that movie and eschew The Challenge altogether. Don’t threaten me with a good time.

But this is a serious space for serious analysis and under no circumstances will I type anything else off topic from here on out. Just because they named the episode after my second favorite movie ever made, as well as the e-mail I got from Aneesa (now that the Algorithm is over she’s just helping them with some small stuff around the office) that they did it specifically for me, doesn’t mean I have to fall into temptation.

We’re buttoning this thing up early. Get your shit together everybody.

Winner: Aneesa

When I heard that Aneesa was the one who created this algorithm they used to set the partners every week, I was skeptical. For one, Aneesa got a 12 on the math portion of her ACT’s. And secondly, the last person I saw make an algorithm was Zuckerberg in The Social Network writing it on his dorm window. And that’s how Facebook was created. And Facebook is one of the most insidious creations ever produced.

Overall, I’m just psyched she pulled it off. Haters gonna hate and playas are gonna play, ballas gonna ball, and shotcallers is gonna call, but TJ said it himself, the algorithm is perfect, let’s not get it twisted. Shout out Aneesa.

Winner: Phrasing

What?

Winner: Gut Feelings

When Brad said his favorite color was green on All Stars 3, I reacted as if it was a major shock to me. This was despite having never considered what Brad’s favorite color may possibly be. And upon finding out said information, I was somehow surprised. It was an uncomfortable phenomenon that I probably shouldn’t have given a second thought to. And yet, here we are.

I feel the exact opposite about seeing Tyson eating plain Lays potato chips. That seems like the exact potato chip Tyson would like. If the choices are Original Lays, Doritos, Fritos, Cheetos, etc. I deep down knew I would have guessed that Tyson would go for the Lays. I’ve never considered Tyson’s preferred chip before, but as soon as I saw him eating it, I knew deep in my heart that that’s the type of chip I knew he liked the most.

It’s either that or it was the only bag available. Either way.

Loser: Whoever That Is

Okay seriously, who’s sleeping outside? This is the second time we’ve been shown that night-to-day transition. Was it just re-used? Or is there someone who’s genuinely sleeping outside?

This is crucial for me to learn, otherwise, I’m sleeping outside tonight.

Winner: Ben

Take any real feelings about the Military Industrial Complex and all of the complicated, problematic variables that come with it, put those aside, and understand that regardless of what civilians who live cushy lives like me may think, shit’s real out there. Being deployed is no joke.

I was at a funeral service the other day for a man who was in the Air Force during the Korean War. He had the honor guard there at the grave site, they played Taps, and folded the flag. The whole kit and caboodle. And it made me realize that if I died tomorrow, my funeral would be pretty lame relative to all that pomp and circumstance. So for a split second, I was like, “I should be a Marine!”

Then I snapped out of it, realized I’m soft as Charmin, and thought about all the shit like what Ben’s going through, what my brother-in-law goes through, and what so many others go through. If there are any veterans in your life, thank them every once in a while.

Loser: Taj Mowry

You know what? The strategy of not spraying anyone, and clearing off soap for anyone you want to do well is super smart. Super smart by everybody. Everybody is so smart and smart-like. Smart Guy. Great show. They’re all Smart Guy. So smart. I’m super entertained by how smart everyone is. Just so smart.

Now that all of these people record everything they do, the concept of filming a TV show and what they’re actually attempting to accomplish is entirely vaporized and we’re left with risk-averse reality robots.

Loser: Ben

Seriously? One of your goals was to not make friends? Why? Why not? Not even one? I mean I understand not coming away from this with friends, and keeping this experience compartmentalized, but to board the plane with that in mind is so bizarre.

Not one? Not one new friend? Did Ben hear that Drake song and take it literally? What a weird thing to say. My questions know no bounds, I could go all day, but I’ll spare you. You’re busy.

Winner: Danny’s Wife Kiki

Kiki Kount: 11

Loser: Everyone Missing The Most Obvious Joke Of All Time

Cats always land on their feet!

I found that joke on www.duh.com

Loser: Dustin

Coming off of the greatest season of The Real World of all time, Las Vegas 2 (@fessyfitness on all social media platforms if you disagree), Dustin entered the Exes house with his ex Heather (even though I’m almost positive they were actually dating at the time but I mean honestly who gives a shit) to set off on their maiden Challenge voyage, and represent their season as well as Leroy, Adam Royer the GOAT and Mike Mike did the season prior by having an undefeated daily challenge record, getting kicked off the show within 18 hours of being there, reaching the Final as a rookie, or some combination of all the above.

Any grand plans dancing around their minds were thwarted rather quickly when Dustin cut his knee open while running on a slippery deck in the backyard. This abruptly ended his time on Exes and Heather’s Challenge career altogether before it even started.

Now I’m no doctor, but a friend of mine did binge-watch the entirety of ER like two years ago so I’m pretty close, and maybe stitch technology has come a long way since 2012, but I have to imagine if Dustin is sitting somewhere watching this, he’s gotta be throwing his hands in the air incredulous that he had to leave and this dopey Enzo dude gets to stick around.

When was the last time you thought about Dustin? Maybe that’s your problem. You’re so damn caught up in your own bullshit that you haven’t even considered the feelings of Dustin from The Real World Las Vegas while going about your day.

Time to get it together, honestly.

Loser: Angela

You know, when Justine didn’t high five David during the trivia challenge earlier this season, it totally made sense. That wasn’t the first guy Justine has cold-shouldered in her life, and that wasn’t the first woman to cold-shoulder David in his life. You could just tell.

On the other hand, Enzo’s complete fist bump denial of Angela was much more fascinating. Initially, when Ben stood as Enzo was getting up to leave, it caught Angela by surprise. So she hesitated, saw Ben and Enzo begin the fist bump process, and realized that pleasantries were about to be exchanged. This prompted her to stand up, but by the time she did, the fist bump was already completed between her male counterparts.

Then before she knew it, Enzo was off to do whatever the hell it is that Enzo does with his day in that house.

This might have been the first time a man has ever denied pleasantries with her in her life. Take a moment to bask in the poetry of Angela wearing camo Army pants as fashion while sitting next to Ben who just bared his soul to America and cried after winning a Challenge because it was on the anniversary of when his friend died while they were in the military together.

Once you’ve let that wash over you, just look at her face.

Just incredible stuff.

Loser: Contradictions (But Also Probably Me, Because If I Put As Much Energy As I Put Into Challenge Minutia Into Something Productive Like Curing The Common Cold Nobody Would Ever Cough Again)

Hold up, let’s rewind…

This was from earlier in the episode…

Well which one is it?!?!?! Huh, Ben?!?!? HUH?!?!?!?!??!

Loser: Tact

When you’re a single guy out here gettin after it, among many mistakes you can make while walking the tight-rope of first dates, is revealing that you take all your dates to the bar/restaurant/coffee shop you’re currently sitting in.

Nobody wants to hear that shit. Nothing makes a person feel less special than finding out that in your mind they’re just like everybody else.

That same principle applies to the social game on The Challenge. No one wants to feel like they’re just another number for you. You gotta make them feel special.

Leo, my guy, when you let it slip that you’ve already used the “name a cat after you” line on Alyssa, and then tell Angela that she’s next up on the Naming Cats After Girls list, you’re just simply not gonna get a second date. No matter how many sick red beanies you wear.

Loser: All Other Women Who Have Ever Been On The Challenge

You hear that ladies? You’ve never stepped up and gone against a guy! Buncha weaklings! Now that Sarah’s on the show…

…what’s that?…

…it’s happened before?….

…you mean the first ever head to head elimination in the history of this show was a woman vs. a man?…

…and she won?…

…and she beat the Come On Be My Baby Tonight guy?…

…and her name was Sarah too?…

…so that means that not only would she not be the first woman to do such a thing, she wouldn’t even be the first Sarah to do such a thing?…

No shit.

Winner: Unintended Multi Layered Movie References

There’s layers to this shit.

Loser: All Of Us

When I initially saw the gang walk two-by-two out of the compound not ensconced in Under Armor’s 2022 Fall Collection, but rather their Friday Night ‘Fits, I was elated.

Finally! Club Night! If they’re showing this, something Club Night-esque must go down! Huzzah!

And yet what we got was a toast to a fallen soldier, a cat trying to claw his way up from the bottom rung of the social ladder, and a cop misunderstanding the structure of the game and regurgitating incorrect Challenge fun facts to whoever would listen.

Nany, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.

Winner: Versatility

When you need to be ready to hang with Jon Brennan, serve tables at a mid-tier steak house, and change a sump pump all in the same night.

Winner: ikiK efiW s’ynnaD

Kiki Kount: 12

Winner: Living Inside Your TV

“It’s cool ’cause I can’t see yo ass from this side of the TV, motherfucker!”

— Big Sean, 2010

“The television, that insidious beast, that Medusa which freezes a billion people to stone every night, staring fixedly, that Siren which called and sang and promised so much and gave, after all, so little.”

— Ray Bradbury, 2006

“Television! Teacher, mother, secret lover.”

— Homer Simpson, 1989

Multiple people made it abundantly clear on this episode that they were fans of The Challenge prior to falling ass-backward into that very same ecosystem. This leads one to wonder what it would be like to actually be living out something that only existed on the rectangle you have mounted on the wall in your living room.

What would it feel like, essentially, to feel like you’re living inside of a television?

I’ve always held the belief that everyone (at least partially) lives their lives as if they were the star of their own movie. But what if that was actually the case? And you all of a sudden were the star of your favorite show?

I guess maybe the sensation isn’t quite the same when CT or Aneesa or whoever isn’t around. Like you’re 99% of the way there, but you can’t quite close the loop. But when something as ingrained into the Challenge zeitgeist as a Hall Brawl pops up, that loop temporarily closes.

Cashay described it as Fangirling and Danny conjured memories of Wednesday nights on the couch under a blanket with his wife. But it’s possible that what they were truly feeling is the sensation of being transported inside of those same TV’s used to watch episodes of The Challenge. They all remarked upon watching something that normally exists within a cheaply made, expensive, rectangle in their homes. They were watching it happen in real life. They were actually experiencing it. Yet they still felt as though they were watching TV.

Has television, or screens in general, become so pervasive in our psyches, that the only way to envision anything anymore is by picturing it on a television screen?

Or the producers just asked leading questions and got them to answer in a way that elevates their product and the sense of the moment and everything I just said was nonsense.

Winner: Leo

The Challenge’s first-ever Animorph certainly put his claw marks on the game during his stay in Argentina.

There hasn’t been someone that my opinion has vacillated on week to week, moment to moment, cat joke to cat joke, as much as it has with Leo in a long time. He was seemingly always involved, between bothering all the women who dreaded the experience of possibly being partnered with him, and swerving into the cat bit with such ferocity that it boomeranged all the way back to being charming, Leo’s paw marks were everywhere for eight episodes.

Winner: Clarification

Ya know, it’s so funny, just the other day Fessy and I were at lunch and the topic of the World Tournament or whatever came up and neither of us could remember which streaming service it was going to be showing on.

We Googled it (well, Fessy Googled it, he does all the admin work between us. I’m the ideas guy. I cook, he cleans, yaknowwhatimsayin?) and still uncovered no answers.

Thank God TJ mentioned it this week. It was driving Fess nuts, to to be frank I was sick of hearing about it. I’m kinda getting sick of Fessy too, but that’s a different podcast for a different day.

Viva la Real World!

Thanks for reading! Apologies for the delay this week! See you back here soon, and until then, as always, Happy Challenge Watching!!!

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Brian Batty

Writing about MTV’s The Challenge, one of America’s great institutions