The Challenge USA Season 2 Episode 2 Recap — Winners & Losers

Brian Batty
14 min readAug 16, 2023

Welcome back to another edition of Winners & Losers! We’re here to recap Episode 2 of The Challenge USA Season 2, and what an episode it was. We said goodbye to a champ, and Tori’s honey attracted yet another bee who cuts their own hair. Let’s get to it! Inside this week: Olivia shuts me up, Cassidy is like an 11th century author, Michele’s as excited for pumpkin spice latte’s as the rest of us, and much much more….

Loser: Sharp Objects

I understand that they’re adding the sound of a sword being drawn from it’s sheath in post, but I can’t help but cringe every time they show a way-too-close shot of TJ fiddling with that contraption.

Because we all know nobody is more safe and secure with their contraptions than The Challenge. Olivia, your thoughts?

Okay, moving on…

Winner: Fessy

If we didn’t already know it, this episode, and the subsequent events taking place in the first third of it, solidifies Fessy as one of the greatest Stick Men to ever don a Challenge uniform.

You can’t deny greatness.

Winner: Applying Your Accomplishments To Anything, Even If There’s No Correlation Between The Accomplishment And What You’re Applying It To: A.K.A The Wes Bergmann

I don’t watch Survivor, and I’m already overdoing it one and one sixteenth episodes into this season being nitpicky with Michele, but what is she talking about?

What does being a human teabag have to do with winning Survivor? Is this exact thing Survivor’s version of the Final?

Why wouldn’t she just say something Challenge generic like, “I’ve been in a few eliminations now, so I know what to expect.” Idk, I’m definitely being harsh on Michele. I don’t dislike her, her presence is both necessary from a game standpoint and anyone willing to grab the ladle and even give the soup a slow stir these days is an asset to this friendly-ass show. So the longer Michele’s around the better. But the strong reaction she elicits from Survivor fans who’ve migrated this direction is honestly a bit puzzling to me.

But that sort of gets at part of the nature of The Challenge. Survivor fans who watched Michele for however long she was on that show grew to love her, and attach themselves to her, the same way I feel about former Real World people I love.

I won’t speak a negative word about Nany, for the exact reason I laid out in the paragraph above, but Lord only knows there’s plenty of people who will. In a sense, I’m just being that asshole who doesn’t like or understand why anyone likes Nany, or Leroy, or Aneesa, or any of the other countless former Real Worlders I harbor an affection for.

You live and you learn.

Loser: Unintended Consequences

There was no way for Amanda to know this information beforehand, but maybe getting the person you want to lose all riled up and spiking their adrenaline right before they do an elimination round where whoever was moving the fastest was going to win wasn’t such a hot idea.

Have you ever gotten into a verbal sparring match with someone like Amanda? Depending on the type of person you are, it can either be the most exhausting experience of your life, or it can feel like mainlining a can of Red Bull. I’ve known an Amanda or two in my time, and being on the business end of their wrath is unpleasant. It’s a never-ending, only gaining in volume with longevity, barrage of flaming arrows.

If you’re an introvert, and you expend energy in social settings, being shouted at by Amanda could cure insomnia. On the other hand, if you’re the type of person that absorbs energy from social situations, like I would surmise that Michele is, all Amanda was accomplishing with her tirade was revving up her engines.

But Amanda’s all gas no brakes, she knows no other way. Her game-plan, most egregiously and notably effecting her during Final Reckoning, is like the Falcons second half game plan against the Patriots in that Super Bowl. Who gives a fuck about running out the clock with a 25 point lead. Let’s fuckin chuck it baby! All gas, no brakes.

The Atlanta Amandas

Winner: The Challenge Gods

Ya know, part of me hates the Challenge conspiracy theorists out there. The ones that claim anything and everything is rigged. Sometimes I wonder how people end up with tickets to ride certain trains of thought.

But I’ll tell ya what, it wouldn’t take very many cocktails to convince me that Ameerah wasn’t only playing against Michele that night. I’m just saying, outside of gravity, only the Challenge Gods are undefeated.

Winner: The Vikings

Last night I was watching the latest episode of Secret Base’s latest long-form documentary on the Minnesota Vikings, and this scene from popped into my head.

At one point in the documentary, the narrator is discussing the actual Vikings from the 8th to 11th centuries and how they raided the ports of Europe and caused hell everywhere they went.

Then they got to the Caspian Sea, around where modern day Iran is, to trade their wares and a local writer documented spending time with them. In the book, Mission to the Volga, the author talks about how disgusting the Vikings were. How they just pissed and shit everywhere. How they all used the same exact water basin to wash themselves, which by the end was filled with snot and all sorts of bodily fluids.

Basically the author was like, ya’ll nasty.

The looks on the faces of the non-Challenge people watch a B minus version of a Challenge argument reminds me a lot of how that writer must have felt watching yet another Viking take a shit on the deck of their ship.

Well, except for one guy, who probably thinks the Vikings were the coolest…

Winner: Dusty

I’ve never seen myself so clearly represented on the screen before. It must be what alcoholic wine moms felt like when they watched Cersei sip from her chalice.

Being able, to paraphrase Dusty, to see these people live in action, a fight inside of the four enormous walls of the Challenge house, would be one of the peaks of my life.

Winner: The King of Kings

BOW DOWN TO THE…BOW DOWN TO THE KING!!!

Winner: Just Sayin’ Shit Cause Fuck It Why Not

……uh…what?

Winner: Pumpkin Spice

That’s me the minute the calendar flips to September.

Winner: Pettiness

I can only hope to only day be able to reach the heights of petty that Amanda’s able to reach with such little effort.

Winner: Supa Hot Fire

Winner: Leopards, For Never Changing Their Stripes

Winner: Taste

I see that Sebastian likes his women the same way I like my Cabernet’s.

Loser: Personal Space

Alright first, sure you are Sebastian.

Secondly, just go lay somewhere else? Good god they have to sleep close to each other that room probably smells so bad. Also, having to hear shit like that while I’m trying to sleep would be in the top four worst parts about living in a Challenge house.

I was made very, very, very, very, very, very, very uncomfortable by this scene.

Loser: A Higher Collective IQ

There have been plenty of intelligent, rational thinking people to appear on The Challenge along the years. But that number may as well be zero as it is dwarfed by the deluge of complete morons along that same timeline.

I don’t blame Wes for assuming he could outwit a group of wide-eyed newbies and use words like ‘cycle’ and ‘data’ to make them think he’s working on a higher level than them. But they don’t make rookies like they used to. And Wes isn’t going to out-think his opposition any longer.

Adam Kuhn isn’t walking through that door.

Michaela, Desi, Tiffany, all these women are sharp as a tack. And while this crop of rookie men are leaving plenty to be desired, they seem savvy enough to follow their leaders.

“Yes mother” — The Rookie Guys

Will Wes adjust his game? Or are he and his veteran brethren too cornered to do anything but fight the waves as they crash along their shores for as long as they can?

Winner: Tiny Yellow Balls With Your Name On Them

Do they get the option to keep their personalized tiny yellow ball?

Otherwise, is there just a bin somewhere in the bowels of a Croatian warehouse collecting dust full of tiny yellow balls with Challenge people names written on them? Can I buy one? Can I get the Fessy one for my desk?

Also, while we’re here, if I were one of the Challenge Gods and we showed up for set design actualization day, the first thing I’d do is ask who the dickhead was who printed their names in 8 font instead of 18. Or maybe they’re doing some mass near-sighted test using Challengers as their subjects paid for by the fat pockets of the glasses industry.

And it’s definitely not the second one, so who fucked up?

Loser: Coming On Strong

Sea Bass you gotta chill brother.

Winner: Bishop to Rook 3

Immediately after this immaculate chess board is shown, they cut to a conversation between Wes and Johnny about big picture game stuff. How Wes observed that the vibe was less bifurcated between Big Brother and Survivor than the two of them may have suspected, and the whole group has sort of formed against the six roommates who arrived to the party on jet skis.

Because this game’s like chess.

Get it?

Chess.

I know I wouldn’t have if they didn’t hit me in the face with a frying pan by showing a chess board before that conversation.

Can’t get shit over my head, Challenge editing room. Try me. Challenge accepted.

Get it?

Challenge accepted.

Like the show.

Thanks to anyone who stuck this section out with me as long as you have. I truly just wanted to use the word bifurcated in a sentence, and I accomplished that awhile ago. But sometimes you gotta live like the balloon a now-crying baby irresponsibly let go of at the zoo. Just gotta float baby. Drift off until you get sucked into an airplane’s turbine engine or explode from the pressure of the atmosphere.

Loser: Gruel

Winner: The King of Kings

Can we talk about two of the names not on that list real quick? Both partially not on this list of tiny names written on tiny yellow balls placed in the ball sucker in the ball sucker room for the same reason, but one makes much more sense than the other.

Josh and Fessy are two of the handful of people in the center of the Venn Diagram clearly drawn within the social and political framework so far this season. The degrees to which they’re benefiting from that cushy landing spot clearly do vary though.

Michaela’s only barely in there, so she doesn’t count for any of the negatives. But, in the sense that she saw how this all works even for just like thirty seconds, her words and presence carry like 5% more weight which makes all the difference.

Michele didn’t benefit from it because her baggage weighed her down and, let’s all just be honest with ourselves, the patriarchy works hard in these situations.

Paulie’s caught a few strays so far. But as Chris explained, this might have more to do with the idea that he could actually beat Johnny than anything else.

The two main ones though, are Josh and Fessy. Josh seems to be semi running the show. He’s the conduit between all parties. His tentacles are everywhere, and his distance has made the hearts of not only the viewers grow stronger, but his peers as well. But also with Josh, at the end of the day (shout out Nany), they also are fully aware that he’s bound to screw it all up. And if not, he’s a delicious meal on the opposite end of an elimination round somewhere along the line.

Josh’s placement on the social totem pole makes total sense to me. And so does Fessy’s. But for him, it’s much more inexplicable.

Let me just describe a challenger and their situation and pretend you don’t already know I’m talking about Fessy…

We have a guy who’s as high-level an athlete who’s ever played the game; who is hungry after four straight seasons where he, with a little bit of luck, could be a multiple time champion; who is focused on winning over everything else; who has women shouting at each other, causing a general ruckus, over hooking up with him many months before; who has as much experience in Finals as everyone besides three people; who is playing a game where new players are determined to get more experienced veterans players out of the game….

Didn’t I just describe the exact player the CBS coalition wants out? And a guy who Challenge people have voted out since the dawn of time?

And yet, there he remains, the King of Kings, unscathed. Being fed grapes in his chambers. Only appearing when necessary. A true American hero.

Winner: The Departed

The Departed is my fourth favorite movie ever. I could watch it once a week for the rest of my life and not get sick of it. One of the countless aspects of that movie that I love is how wild some of the attempts at a Boston accent are. And the funniest one of them all, by far, is Vera Farmiga.

Somewhere along the way, she just dropped it entirely and started talking like a normal person. Which is what she should have done before the cameras even turned on but that movie was so off the rails I don’t think anyone was even paying attention And it won Best Picture! What a world.

As soon as TJ explained the rules to this game, we all knew it was a wrap. Tori’s core is so thick and sturdy, and Jonna’s just like a regular ass person, it’s like this game was made for her.

So just like Vera Farmiga, the editors dropped any pretense that this was a close contest halfway through. Just as suddenly and just and violently as she did.

Winner: Jonna

For the first time since 2015, Jonna was eliminated from The Challenge.

What a world.

Does anyone think that Jonna wanted to go home?

I didn’t talk about her voting for Michele last week because I wasn’t sure how it would play out. It’s hard to know until the elimination cycle is fully over which direction the cards fall. But clearly, it backfired, and her sneaky ways boomeranged all the way back around and hit her in the head.

But idk, didn’t she show that she was too slick for a stumble like that during her All Stars run? I wonder if her heart wasn’t in it, but the appearance fee was nice enough that she couldn’t say no. And then when she got there, and the fact that she’d have to fight no matter what was staring her in the face, she just kinda decided to mentally quit. But then she can’t set a bad example for her kids and just leave, not to mention the social stigma that would cause within this game’s structure.

My guess is Jonna decided to make a subtle game-related mistake that would eventually tank her chances. I mean, why wouldn’t she have gone to that team meeting where they were discussing that exact thing? Was she just not invited? If that’s the case, then she made it even more obvious than it cam across on TV.

It’s also possible (probable) that I’m giving her wayyyyyyyy too much credit and she just regular schmegular fucked up. Either way, down goes a vet. Clocks still tickin on the rest of them.

VIVA LA REAL WORLD!!!

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Brian Batty

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