The Challenge USA Power Rankings — Weeks 3 & 4

Brian Batty
11 min readAug 2, 2022

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Welcome back to another batch of Power Rankings. After two more weeks of letting these people marinate, I’ve come to some brand new conclusions. Inside this edition: Dom discovers TikTok, Alyssa knocks on the door, Wes’s presence is missed, and much much more…

Group J: Gone And Probably Forgotten

— Tiffany, Cely, Cashel, Javonny —

Group I: You Kinda Sorta Played The Game!…But Not Really…

— Shan, Tasha, James, Xavier —

I touched on this a bit in my Winners & Losers Recap, but I want to expand a little bit here.

Heading into a season of The Challenge where I had no prior relationship to anyone on the cast, which probably hasn’t happened since I was six, my curiosity meter as to how this environment would affect them was at a billion. I wouldn’t say I’m even necessarily curious about gleaning something from the human condition from these 28 brand new reality television people I’ve decided to inject into my life.

But I am curious as to how 28 people who have never found themselves in The Challenge Blender would come out the other side once TJ Nutra-Ninja’d them into oblivion.

On one hand, it totally behooves someone like myself to totally exaggerate the effects that a reality game show that I think is the greatest thing ever has on a person’s psyche. But I truly believe that one of the most fascinating parts about The Challenge is how people react to getting thrust into this hyper-reality that, let’s face it, plenty of people have had serious issues turning off before they re-enter real life.

It’s allowed slightly problematic randos to take advantage of a problematic society and accumulate money and fame that they probably never deserved in the first place. But it’s also a zeitgeist that has ruined people mentally, physically, psychologically, emotionally, and financially…name whichever ‘ally’ you want. Inserting yourself into “The Challenge Machine” essentially, if you not only find yourself pulling the short straw, but also allow it to, is a long walk off a short plank.

Now I don’t know if this group was around long enough to feel those effects, nor do I think this particular version of The Challenge may end up lending itself to all that fancy bullshit I just typed out above, but what they all had in common with the reality television people who flew from Argentina to America in the previous weeks, was that they thought they had it all figured out.

Especially the Shan and Xavier side of the equation. Xavier, coming off a Big Brother win where he had to betray the rest of the house to get it done (his sentiment, not mine, I’m not even sure how one would ‘betray’ someone on Big Brother, my ignorance rues the day here) was certainly working towards the same goal. Shan played an incredibly sloppy game, without even realizing the mess she was leaving for the cleaning crew to take care of while they were out of the house.

The “Why and How?” of how someone finds themselves in Elimination are by far the two most fascinating questions that stem from any episode of this show. Usually, the answers to the why’s and the how’s exist in the subtext and are given years and seasons to sprout. I had assumed that the why’s and how’s this season would be entirely insulated within this specific game.

But boy was I wrong. Shan and Xavier found out that time is a flat circle everywhere but The Challenge house. Because in The Challenge house, it’s a straight fucking line.

Group H: What’s TikTok?

— Enzo, Domenick —

It’s been a long time since I saw two people less interested in participating in this farcical nonsense surrounded by these damn kids.

Enzo made a poop joke once and Domenick’s an asshole. That’s just about all I got with these two.

One thing I was hoping for when I heard about this whole spin-off idea is that they would cast younger. Young people are dumb. Young people are prone to emotional outbursts. Young people hear about a 500,000 dollar prize, and it has absolutely no meaning to them. That’s funny money.

It happens at different ages for different people, but at a certain point, you’re just simply not young anymore. You’re mature and wise. You walk away before the emotional outburst begins because you’ve learned your limits. And you’ve also gained enough life experience to know exactly how much $500,000 is. There’s nothing funny about it.

Being older means that you’re boring. It’s pretty simple. And I’d be surprised if Enzo was awake long enough to even read these last few paragraphs.

Group G: How Amazing Is That Race?

— Cayla, Leo —

Cayla only finds herself here because I’m lazy and didn’t want Leo to have his own category, so she got stuck here through osmosis (I’m not even sure what osmosis is, never paid any attention in science class, but I’ve found that most other people didn’t either, so if you ever need to use a scienc-y term to sound smart, use osmosis. It works like 70 percent of the time. And I’ve built up enough charm capital on people that I can just smile and laugh off the 30 percent who call me out). But I wanna talk about Leo for a second.

Did this man really get excited that he got a question about Catwoman?

I mean, I’m a huge dog lover, but I don’t think I would shoot my wad if TJ asked me a question about Air Bud.

Actually, who am I kidding? TJ asking me a trivia question about Air Bud would be the greatest thing that ever happened to me.

This one sure backfired, huh? Damn osmosis got me again.

Group F: “Where’s The Beach?!?!?!” — Snooki, 2011

— Cashay, Shannon —

I’ll let you in on a little secret…

…There are only two people from this cast that I have a high level of interest in seeing on the regular Challenge…but we have to do one thing first…

…we have to invent the time machine.

These two have been my favorite to watch so far this season. Their vibe is perfect. But not for whatever the 2022 version of The Challenge is. Not The Challenge that Kaycee dominates through boring everyone to death.

No, they belong in 2012. They belong on Free Agents. They belong on the other side of a verbal sparring match with Camila and Nany.

I’ve come around lamenting the lack of tequila-fueled poor decision-making on The Challenge these days. It is what it is. Reality TV has changed. It’s not worth it for these people to act that way. And it’s doubly not worth it for the producers to even show it at all when it does happen.

While I understand that transporting two burgeoning influencers back in time to watch the butterfly effect they would have on The Challenge is quite possibly the worst use of a time machine possible, it’s important to set goals in life.

Group E: “I Promise It’s Not You, I’m Just Nervous”

— Ben, Derek, David, Kyra, Azah—

This group leaves me flaccid.

I wouldn’t even say it’s their fault. But they’ve existed in the Challenge ecosystem for roughly 4 hours of meticulously edited TV time. Not a ton of time to around. And with certain people on this cast sucking a ton of energy towards their orbit, there’s only so much to go around.

Ben and Derek can talk about how they’ve never watched Batman together. David finally got his bag from the airport and moved in last Wednesday. And Kyra and Azah just haven’t moved the needle a ton since they showed up.

There’s still time, but ya just gotta show me something eventually. Since, ya know, that’s what they’re all doing this for. The approval of the third most popular independent Challenge blogger using Medium as their platform. Doesn’t get any better than that.

Group D: Knocking On The Door

— Alyssa, Justine —

As it is with real life, there is no greater determining factor as to your level of success than chance.

Hard work pays off, but only sometimes. Do you know how many incredible artists, musicians, and athletes that exist all over the world who worked harder than their peers who none of us have ever heard of?

This applies to The Challenge as well. Do you know how many Challenge titles Brad would have if he had a horseshoe lodged up his ass instead of a protein shaker?

Devin was completely unimpressive before going home in the first elimination of his first season. Then half the house left outside the parameters of the game, production was forced to scramble, and fast forward a few years and he just spent last season as the cerebral cortex from which all decision-making stemmed.

My point is, with a little luck, I could see a world in which the two of them are holding a trophy at the peak of a mountain in Argentina when this is all said and done.

Group C: “Imagine How Well You’d Do If You Just Applied Yourself”

— Cinco, Danny, Desi, Sarah —

In theory, all four of these people are as big of threats as anyone else to win at any given moment.

Danny was in the NFL, which takes some modicum of other-worldly athleticism to accomplish. Cinco is a smokin hot, compact, ball of muscle that also has arms, legs, and a mouth (I think) creating an actual human being. Desi is somehow even more ripped than Cinco is. And Sarah once said she ran twelve marathons in two hours on three planets or whatever, which seemingly could be helpful in a Final Challenge situation.

But The Challenge is a funny game. 90 percent of the time, being a freak athlete doesn’t matter that much. There’s a certain athleticism threshold that once you move beyond it, anything extra is just window dressing.

Then there’s that other 10 percent of the time, where being an uber-athlete is the only thing that matters. That’s the time where the four of them would most likely shine. And it just simply hasn’t come yet.

But I will say, absolutely sign me up for a Danny vs. Leo Hall Brawl right this second.

Group B: Driving The Bus

— Kyland, Angela —

Kyland made up for lighting himself on fire during the opening challenge by winning the last two straight up. Not only winning the last two but making smart moves as far as elimination decision-making goes, along the way. He’s built a solid foundation on which to build his shelter the rest of the way.

Angela is sort of benefiting from being on the right side of the positive-editing-pendulum. As well as being lucky enough to be partnered with the next guy on the list during the opening partner scramble. This created an organic alliance strong enough to potentially carry her to the end of the game.

As far as charisma goes, the two of them combined are roughly on the same level as the color beige, but that’s not that important at the moment. At the moment they’re proving to have fully adapted to the game, and seem to be in cruise control for the duration of their stay in Argentina.

Group A: The Boogeyman

— Tyson —

On All Stars 3, one of the greatest tricks Wes pulled on his path towards victory was deflecting his prowess and shining the light directly onto Jordan. Creating a Boogeyman for the rest of the guys to fear and strategize towards removing from the house.

On one hand, everything he was saying was true. They weren’t going to win a Final with Jordan around. Nobody does. He made it clear that removing Jordan from the game was of utmost importance for the rest of them to cash that fat check in a few months.

What he conveniently left out was that he was an equally scary boogeyman that they should have been equally concerned about running against in the Final. But when you tell the truth, and only part of the truth, it’s impossible for anyone to accuse you of lying.

On Spies, Lies & Allies, there was one clear favorite in the house. A guy that has been a problem for all other competitors for almost two decades at that point. A guy who has proven time and time again that he will beat you in whatever the game could be.

No, no, I’m not talking about Nam.

I’m, of course, talking about the now back-to-back champion, first-ballot Hall-of-Famer, possibly the best to ever do it, CT.

There was no one on Spies, Lies & Allies savvy enough to create The Boogeyman. The real Boogeyman was the veteran’s all being so afraid to do, well almost anything interesting at all, that they just shoved the Boogeyman back into the closet and decided to deal with it later.

Then later never came, and they all went to wonder how the hell they let that happen. CT had JUST WON the season before, so the ultimate result was simply a re-run. But without a strong mouthpiece like Wes there to craft the image of the scary monster coming to devour them all, the group-think became just do anything you could to befriend the monster.

It was a strategy that almost any savvy Challenge fan watching at home thought was intergalactically stupid. I called it out in every article I wrote and every podcast I appeared on during that season.

With CT there, I argued over and over again, nothing else mattered.

So we now reach our third Challenge season in a row where The Boogeyman is on the cast, and yet is being almost completely ignored. It’s a combination of green behavior, naivety, and the lack of someone like Wes around to sound the alarms.

CT won Spies, Lies & Allies. Jordan would have won All-Stars 3 (probably, although Wes was pretty dominant during that Final) and if things don’t change Tyson is going to win The Challenge: USA.

Final challenges, despite the show being about a million other things along the way, almost always come down to who can run the fastest for the longest. It’s an endurance race. With some bizarre tasks to complete along the way, sure. But being able to run really fast really far is essentially the only attribute that matters at the end of the day (shout out Nany).

I’m not going to go as far as to say that if Tyson is still around, nothing else matters (yet). But I’m certainly going to go as far as to say that if Tyson is still around, nothing else probably matters.

Thanks for reading! See you after Episode 5 for some new 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