The Challenge USA Season 2 Episode 3 Recap — Winners & Losers

Brian Batty
20 min readAug 19, 2023

Welcome back to a fresh Winners & Losers! We’re here to recap The Challenge USA Season 2 Episode 3. We were served an almost lethal dose of potassium and still managed to make it out to the other side. Inside this week: We discuss the meaning of time, rock critics in 2003 were shortsighted morons, Tiffany’s on the right show, and much much more…

Loser: The Berenstein Bears and Nelson Mandela Walk Into A Bar…

Okay so when I paused, turned captions on, and screenshotted this exchange between Amanda and Tori, I was POSITIVE that there was a song called Fake Friends by Drake. And I fully planned on creating some bullshit connection between the lyrics and the interaction on the screen.

But it turns out there is no song by Drake called Fake Friends. Which is insane to me. How is that possible? Has he just said that phrase or alluded to that idea so many times that by Drake Osmosis a song with that title calcified in the oddly large space in my brain that stores useless song lyrics and information?

The first song my Spotify search function spit back at me when I searched for Fake Friends, was Real Friends by Kanye West from his Life of Pablo record and I know this has nothing to do with anything but I can still remember exactly where I was standing on the sidewalk at the corner of Randolph and Green in Chicago’s West Loop when I heard him say the lyric I’m a deadbeat cousin, I hate family reunions.

It’s rare to be seen and heard that clearly while consuming art. Especially considering that like sixty seconds later he tells the story of when his cousin stole his laptop full of self-made sex tapes and extorted him for $250,000 and you’re only left to wonder how in the hell that somebody just lives like that, and that occurrences such as being extorted by a family member for a quarter of a million dollars are just another throwaway story shoved into the middle of a hip-hop record.

Anywho, let’s get back to the chlorophyll…

Loser: Roommates

You ever look back on your life and where you’ve lived and who you’ve lived with and thought to yourself, “How in the absolute fuck did I ever live like that?”

I was blessed and privileged enough to have a stable childhood where the only time I moved was when I was one and a half. But as an adult I’ve moved around too many damn times to count. Genuinely there is no worse experience than moving, especially considering it only gets harder once you actually do all the moving. Partly because you’re broke after paying seven bajillion dollars for a couple of hungover dudes to show up three hours late and move your shit for you and can only afford to eat the crumbs left on the floor by the previous tenants. But also because unpacking is the worst.

How did we get here again?

Oh right, Alyssa facetiously celebrating her roomies shouting at each other over basically nothing. The point I was trying to make is that I cannot believe I ever lived with actual roommates. Being young really sucked sometimes.

I promise I’ll talk about The Challenge eventually. I clearly just need to let a lot of toxic sludge out of my system first. I was at a wedding last night and am super duper hungover. Turns out they don’t run out of tequila sodas with two limes no matter how many of them you order. I appreciate any and all of you who haven’t just scrolled down to the next section. Your loyalty is admirable considering I haven’t written an interesting word yet. So for that, you’ve earned a reward. Here’s Horacio shirtless and sweaty pedaling on a stationary bike in the woods.

Winner: Not Being Here To Make Friends

There’s something immediately endearing about a group of new people who aren’t really interested in being part of the Cool Kids Club. That was definitely an issue afflicting the last few seasons. There wasn’t anyone aggressively going against the grain. Everybody was mostly like, “yeah Kaycee and Tori and Devin and Fessy are the coolest i hope they let me be their friend”.

Not this group though. In fact the pendulum has swung in the total opposite direction, and now there is direct animosity towards that same Cool Kids Group. Though, one does have to wonder if the insane draw that Kaycee clearly carries would have mellowed things out a bit more. Everyone just seems to love Kaycee, which has almost worked as a shield for the Cool Kids Club over the years.

(They finally don’t cast Kaycee on a season, and then after whining for years about how difficult it is to write about her, here I am, writing about her. I’m nothing if not a total fucking hypocrite.)

Technically Sarah and Danny did this exact swerve on the World Championships. Except they had one glaring issue and that’s the fact that Sarah’s super unlikable. And Danny had no interest in being liked or disliked either way. He was clocked into work.

This Secret Garden CBS Coalition isn’t necessarily trying to be liked, they just happen to be likable. Which, on a show like this, the way you come off on screen to the normies at home makes all the difference in the world.

Winner: Time — A Social Construct

I’ve always been curious about the relationship to time while these people are playing this game. Is it like being in Vegas, where there are no clocks so ipso de facto time does not exist? You rarely actually see a clock anywhere on screen, and while I guess they sometimes do wear watches that hypothetically still work from when they left America, whatever psychological effect being that displaced from time has on you is fascinating.

I’ve checked what time it was like a hundred times already today. What would life be like to just not really know. The sun rises it’s day time, the sun sets it’s night time. Nature’s clock.

That little alarm clock thing next to Desi’s bed says that it’s almost 2 in the morning. And while you can never trust the timeline while watching reality television (The number two rule of watching reality tv. We’ll get to number one in a bit), this conversation seems to be happening after getting home from the Tori/Jonna elimination. If it were 2 am, I don’t care what I’ve just been doing, my ass is tired. No question about it. But they all just seem to be wide awake.

It’s 12:09 right now, btw. I just checked.

Loser: Personal Growth

Ughhhh. Sure, Paulie. Go and improve yourself. Grow as a person. Be more comfortable in your own skin, leading to a better life for you, your family, your loved ones, and all of those you interact with. If that’s what you wanna do, go ahead and do it. Be happy. Have a strong sense of self. Whatever bro.

But what about us? Jane and Joe TV watcher? Did you consider us before you bettered yourself?

No. Of course you didn’t. CT didn’t consult with us when he stopped trying to eat people. Tony didn’t consult with us when he stopped being cavalier about wielding his dick. Cory didn’t either. Nany left us out of it when she added Mature to her name too.

These Challenge people are so selfish. Considering themselves and their loved ones over those of us on the other side of the TV screen, and I’m sick of it. Enough is enough. If I’m a miserable person, then you all have to be too.

That’s why Fessy and I are proud to announce that rather than talking about, we’re gonna be about it. We’re starting a petition to officially disband any and all Challenge people from making good decisions and/or improving themselves. Tweet us @fessyfitness with the hashtag #Kony2012 to get on the mailing list where we plan to send out weekly information packets on how to get involved.

Winner: What The Past Can Learn From The Future

When The Strokes put out Room On Fire so close in proximity to their first record, and then the fact that it sounded so close to their first record, some of the initial reactions by the snobby music critics were like “uhhh this like totally sounds the same as the first one so I think it stupid”.

But in retrospect, because so many of their later records have been totally different styles, that exact criticism, while accurate in the sense that it certainly was similar to their first record, now has the exact opposite effect. Having Room on Fire around is nice in the sense that it almost works as bonus tracks for Is This It. That version of The Strokes is still my favorite, but I love having the groovier stuff around to switch up the vibe. And I’m sure it works the opposite for fans of later Strokes records.

If you didn’t want a discussion on twenty year old discourse on a rock record than you should’ve never clicked a link for a Challenge recap. Not to victim blame, but that one’s on you.

Loser: This Daily Challenge

Bro that water is probably so cold this challenge is insane. Amanda pretending she doesn’t know how to swim was such a savvy move on her part.

Loser: Memory, Endurance, and Swimming

Well luckily for Tiffany those three things basically never come up on this show.

Loser: Blatant Frankenbiting

Earlier, during the section about the clock next to Desi’s bed, we discussed the number two most important rule while watching reality television. Which is don’t ever trust the timeline. Any conversation or scene is likely to have happened at a different time than they’re displaying it. Just assume it’s all a lie.

But the number one, by far, crucial rule to keep in mind while watching a program like this, is that if you do not see the words coming directly from the person’s mouth, there is a chance they did not say those words. At least not at that time. They may have said the words in a throwaway confessional filmed eight years ago.

This daily challenge in particular was littered with spliced confessionals. Michele and Chanelle were both done real dirty with it. But this Fessy confessional might be one of the sloppiest and most egregious examples of what is commonly referred to as Frankenbiting that I have ever seen.

I mean, what the fuck is that?

That’s, what, potentially five or six different Fessy confessionals spliced into one? They didn’t even really show him saying anything. I guess we kinda saw the word swimming come from his mouth, but even then, they showed him turning away as he said it. At one point during his initial confessionals before Total Madness they probably asked him what he did for fun as a kid growing up in Florida, and in his answer he said the words “lots of swimming”.

Usually I’m just down to strap myself in and go along for the ride while watching this program, but that just floored me the first time seeing it. A true triumph of sound editing.

As well as a true triumph in basically lying to us.

Loser: Stretching Metaphors

Maybe it’s just me, but I’d say that’s a bit of a stretch. Which part of their boat sinking has anything to do with Titanic?

Loser: Losing Your Voice

I truly felt bad for Cory during this scene. As a notorious voice-loser myself, I feel the pain of trying to communicate while hardly able to muster a reply at any volume exceeding a whisper.

He sounds like the morning of the last day of a four-day bachelor party weekend. Which kinda bums me out, to be frank. The idea of Cory partying hard enough to lose his voice like that, and us not seeing a single frame of footage of said party really blows my buzz.

Winner: Cory

I’m on Cory’s side. He made the right call. The eventual demise of those that arrived via jetski is all but guaranteed at this point. Does that mean they’re going to go home or that none of them will be the winner at the end of this? Not at all. But there’s almost no way they all don’t end up in an elimination round by the end of this season.

Cory obviously knew it long before we did, but it hadn’t dawned on me until they showed that quick scene earlier of Johnny and Cory talking to Wes while he ran on the treadmill that Cory is permanently at the bottom of the vet totem pole. He almost has no way up.

So if the tide turns, and the adults wrangle control of the game back through elimination wins, Cory’s getting the shit end of the stick anyway. No matter what, he’s in a pretty shitty position. His only chance at elongating his safety is to sort of migrate towards the CBS Coalition. This is both obvious and yet still only available to Cory and Cory alone.

Johnny and Wes are both too high profile and their reputation as untrustworthy, whether an accurate representation of reality or not, would cause any deal-making to seem unscrupulous enough to dry it out from reality. Tori’s already taken the shots and is prime for some more. And Amanda’s too unstable.

This idea of being The Golden Vet in the eyes of the CBS kids would have only ever worked with Cory, and would have only ever worked for a small window of time. So good on him for being savvy enough to navigate it.

Loser: Outside Shoes

If the outside shoes can’t be inside, then where are they? Outside somewhere? Piled up in the corner of the gym stinking up the place?

Also, if you bring an outside shoe inside, doesn’t the shoe then cease to be an outside shoe and become an inside shoe? Same thing the other way. If you take an inside shoe outside, does it then become an outside shoe? When does an inside shoe become an outside shoe? What’s the inside/outside threshold?

Would this then mean that those same inside shoes that crossed that threshold are now outside shoes? This causes some issues in that this line of thinking essentially says you cannot ever wear shoes out to the clurrrb or you’ll have to keep them outside with the rest of the previously worn shoes.

Unless you’re under the belief that an outside shoe becomes an inside shoe the moment the shoe comes inside. Therefore, that sign would then become totally useless. Even more useless than it already is.

Idk man, that sign conjures some complicated issues. They should probably take it down.

Winner: His Grace

All hail the King of Kings, Faysal Fitness

To have a rabid banana come flying into your room off the top rope and call you a bitch, then have him ask what planet you’re on, and then you answer is ‘My own’?!?!

What a legend

My own.

And he’s right! It’s just like I talked about in my last recap. Somehow Fessy’s managed to slip through the cracks and end up on his very own planet. Johnny’s gonna do his best to call it out, but as is customary when Fessy argues, he’s only got facts to answer with. Sometimes those facts are skewed to favor whatever message he’s trying to get across. Other times those facts are totally irrelevant to the answer he’s attempting to give. Pobody’s Nerfect, ya know?

But this time, Fessy’s facts are right. Johnny’s upset because people are ganging up on him while Fessy’s laying in bed being fed grapes off the vine. And when he says to Johnny “this is how the game is played you know this” he’s one hundred percent right again. This is how the game is played. Fessy’s just doing an amazing job at it.

All hail the King.

Winner: Drinking Wine Out Of A Tall Glass

Stemware’s overrated. Johnny’s got the right idea here. It’s possible that they just didn’t put any stemware in the house, and that he’s drinking wine from that glass out of necessity.

But I’d like to think that he’s like me and noticed that in The Godfather they drink wine out of tall, thin glasses rather than traditional wine glasses and decided he was going to start doing that too.

Those were my thoughts while watching this episode the first time, and then moments later they began playing Godfather-esque music in the background.

The cracks in the simulation grow wider and wider every single day.

Winner: This Voting System

While it ultimately didn’t matter, I do love the idea that there really is no way to truly rig the voting. Even on a day like today where all parties sort of agree that it should be a dudes turn this week.

But with the way the system is set up where the balls in the ball sucking room are fair game for anyone, regardless of majority house decision, every elimination could possibly be a surprise match-up. Which is something this game has rarely, if ever, had.

Amanda would have been totally safe if not for one rogue asshole (probably Michele) who put a ball with a women’s name on it into the ball sucker. Obvious voting patterns is only surpassed by obvious outcomes on the “This kinda sucks to watch” scale. And so now this group of rogue assholes has incentive to act like a rogue asshole. Because you might just end up getting exactly what you want if you do.

Loser: What We Missed Out On

I gotta be honest, during this entire elimination all I could think about was how bad Josh would have been at it.

Winner: TJ Lavin

That look is pure love of the game right there. This man is incredible and I love him so much. The very game he has shepherded into the spread across multiple networks, essentially on year round behemoth it has become, is the same game still able to bring out the purest emotion in him just because some guy with bleach blond hair missed the target with a bean bag while he held a barrel of fish guts in place.

Don’t ever tell me this isn’t the greatest show in the world.

Winner: Time Well Spent

The first thing you’ll notice when you go back and watch super old seasons of The Challenge is the rampant, blatant, toxic misogyny seeping into almost every scene and interaction.

The second thing you’ll notice is the amount of plastic water bottles littering every single surface of the house. I’m not kidding when I say that Battle of the Sexes 2 and The Inferno might be singularly responsible for global warming.

The third thing you’ll notice is that almost every elimination round came down to one of two things. And sometimes even both. It either came down to who was the heaviest or who could do one single thing for the longest time.

There were your outliers for sure, but the amount of games that lasted for four plus hours were abundant. And the best part is the cast that wasn’t participating was drinking the entire time and after four hours of drinking, plus however many hours they were drinking before, they all basically ended the same.

Everyone would be so hammered that they’d basically be screaming at each other and whatever was going on during the actual competition was almost secondary. I’m pretty sure during one of the Inferno elimination round, it lasted so long, and they drank so much, that while she competed, Kendal and The Miz broke up and got back together like three different times.

We used to be a proper country.

But we don’t see the “do one thing for hours on end” eliminations as much any more. Which, for the most part, good riddance. But they could dip into that well just a tad more. I’d rather something like this than the six thousandth iteration of a tangerine puzzle.

Winner: The Real Hard Hitting Questions

So according to what TJ said before they got started, those barrels above them were filled with fish guts. Which means that Paulie just got covered with fish guts.

Here’s a question…where did they get two barrels of fish guts from? How does one acquire fish guts? Do you got to the fish market and ask them to package the guts for you for a few weeks? Like when you’re broke and moving and you go to the grocery store before garbage day and ask for the empty boxes their gonna throw out. Do field producers just call up a few Croatian fisheries and basically do that exact thing, only instead of cardboard it’s for fish guts?

What do they do with the barrel of unused fish guts above Johnny’s head? Do they send it back? Is buying fish guts a thing and I’m just an uncultured swine?

This is all just very perplexing to me. The procurement and disposal of these wild ass, gross ass, food stuffs that The Challenge uses. Like on Double Agents during one of the eating challenges they had to eat sheep face. Like the face of a sheep.

How did they go about getting edible faces from sheep, during a pandemic, in Iceland?

Who do you call for these things? Joe Exotic? The Icelandic Joe Exotic?

This is the stuff that keeps me up at night. Right now, if you stuck around, you might be saying to yourself, “boy, this guy needs to get a life.” And while hurtful, that is completely accurate. Yet here we are, lost in the wilderness of curiosity, day-dreaming about shipping costs on a freeze-dried package of sheep face.

Anywho, here’s that video of shirtless Horacio again just so the people who started scrolling down eleven paragraphs ago are forced to stop and read up to find out why I put this video in here again for any reason other than ya’ll thirsty as hell this video’s got like four times the amount of views as any other video I’ve ever put into one of these. Talkin’ bout how I need a life…

Go take a cold shower you hornballs.

Winner: Five Fingers, Seven Rings

This season’s going to shake down in one of two ways. Team Jet Ski has no choice but to win elimination rounds. It’s difficult to see a path anytime soon for them to flip the voting. Tori, Johnny, Wes, Cory and Amanda to a lesser extent, are going to have to prove why they got to take that jetski ride in the first place more than they have had to in a long, long time.

Which means that either they’re gonna punch back, go on some elimination heaters, and take the game back. Or the sheer volume of time spent in the sand eventually beats them down mentally and physically, or even more simpler, luck isn’t on their side one night, and they go home early. Which means that outside of Fessy, the Final will be full of people who have never run a Final before.

Whether intentional or not, the big winners here are going to be us. Watching Wes, Johnny, and Tori kick everyone’s ass is bound to be entertaining. That’s basically been the last twenty years of the show. But The Challenge as a whole is dyyyyiiingggg for new blood, and the best way to do that is get them out from the shadow of the mountainous legends and let them spread their wings. Let them make mistakes. Allow them the space to breathe without having the weight of those same legends keeping everyone else grounded.

Long story short: The fans are ultimately going to be the winners. Which seems simple enough, but to live in a modern world is to live in a world where the fans are always the losers when it comes down to it. And if you don’t think I’m right about that, just ask yourself how much you paid for a hot dog last time you went to a baseball game. Or how much you paid in fees in order to magically make a $50 ticket to that comedy show come out to $99.97 at checkout.

It’s just nice not to get fucked for once. Thank you, Challenge Gods. Thanks for thinking of us.

Winner: Paulie

Lackluster is just about the only word that springs to mind in attempts to describe Paulie's grand return to the game he impacted, and continues to impact to this day.

I joked earlier, but the idea of him going to therapy and putting in the work to better himself, then through that discovering the self-absurdness to finally be honest about his sexuality with not only the world but most importantly to himself, is super admirable.

Therapy is scary. It is. Not enough people say that about it. But fear (and lack of health insurance) is what drives a lot of people away from therapy. I’d argue even more than the stigma of it. It’s not going to cure you, but it is going to give you the tools to do what Paulie did and recognize and work on what he considered to be his bad qualities.

Plenty of problems in the world could be solved if more people followed Paulie’s lead in this realm. An actual inspiration with an uplifting, helpful message.

That being said…..Paulie the TV Character was magnetic, Paulie the Person not so much. He doesn’t owe any of us shit, but I hope next time he comes back, he safely and securely reach into himself and dig up some of that fuck-you energy again.

Just a little tickle on the pickle, ya know?

Speaking of tickle pickle, I’m no tease, and I feel bad about the fake out and forcing you to watch Nany eat pasta in the grossest way possible. So here ya go ya pervs…

VIVA LA REAL WORLD!!!

Thanks for reading! See you back here soon for Episode 4. 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