The Challenge USA Season 2 Episode 4 Recap — Winners & Losers

Brian Batty
24 min readAug 22, 2023

Welcome back to Winners and Losers for Episode 4 of The Challenge USA Season 2! Things are getting testy in the house and it turns out for a majority of them, blue is their favorite color. Inside this week: Snooki tries to be a good friend, Josh eats a lemon Warhead, the Challenge sound effects person flexes their muscles, and much much more…

Winner: Getting To Know Someone

TJ’s clearly reached the “I’ve heard a Johnny Bananas speech so many times that I have no choice but to laugh about them” stage of their relationship.

Winner: Being Slightly Less Smart Than You Let On — Or Getting To Know Someone On An Even Deeper Level Then TJ

There are at least two people in front of Johnny right now who know exactly what’s coming, they just don’t know which word is going to be last.

One of them, Wesley Bergmann, knew it the minute Johnny opened his mouth and said TJ’s name. He can‘t even stand on his own two feet he’s so positive that Johnny’s about to switch places with him.

Which is perfectly Wes. He’s spot on in his read of the situation, he just happened to miss a crucial detail.

Winner: Being Slightly Smarter Than You Let On — Or Getting To Know Someone On An Even Deeper Level Than TJ (Part 2)

While Wes definitely knew Johnny was about to grab his ladle and stir the soup, Cory was just as confident. Amanda probably had a good idea he was going to do it from the same “I know how this dude operates” standpoint. It’s always impossible to tell if Tori’s ever being genuine, so the shock on her face either stems from a natural impulse for dramatics or from being off in the same way Wes was off and assuming he’d go to Green.

This is a sharp batch of rookies, so I’m positive some or most of them had an inkling. But they don’t know Johnny the way Wes and Cory (and Tori, Amanda, Michele, and Josh to a lesser extent) know Johnny.

Cory’s not a smart dude in the sense of handing him a scantron and asking him to fill in all the correct bubbles. But as much as we’ve watched Cory on television, you’d be lying to yourself if you didn’t think he was people smart. Situational smart.

You don’t think of Cory as some competition beast, or elimination monster, or really anything else like that. Except he’s been to like a hundred Finals. So last week at the beginning of Johnny’s tirade across the house when he accused Cory of not knowing how to play the game, and claiming that’s the reason he hasn’t won, he was totally misguided.

Cory’s never won for the same reason all the third best teams in any given sport in any given year don’t win. There’s just somebody better. That’s okay. That’s how any competition is. It’s not his fault he’s spent a majority of those Finals staring at Johnny or CT’s backsides and he trudges up the same path from several yards behind.

I guess I just have a soft spot for Cory. He’s given us so much over the years, and his reputation is so skewed compared to what he’s accomplished, that I sometimes feel compelled to defend him when the opportunity arises.

Which is exactly how people get usually get pregnant around him, so maybe I should rethink this strategy.

Loser: Room Temp Haterade

Honestly, I find Alyssa so attractive (and her general bad attitude is helping rather than hurting), and it’s difficult to come up with very many actions she could take which would cause me to think otherwise.

But what in the world did those that have ever been on The Challenge before do to her? Alyssa’s been drowning in a pool of haterade she the moment she arrived in Croatia. Johnny sucks. Tori sucks. Cory sucks.

It’s as if her only relationship to the show prior to being on it is through reading Twitter replies underneath an Allan Aguirre article.

Winner: Reaching For The Stars And Accidentally Grabbing One

The thing is, if there were even a morsel of irony to any of this strange super-fan bit that Dusty’s doing right now it wouldn’t work at all. The sincerity is too strong. It oozes from the screen.

Dusty is living out the same dream that a six year old has of meeting the shortstop for their favorite baseball team. Except for he’s a grown ass adult. Yet this love comes off the same way it would come off from the six year old kid. It’s fucking adorable it what it is.

Winner: Challenge Exclusives

I can’t say how I did it, or who I got it from, but I have an exclusive photo of the exact note Dusty wrote to Bananas. Plz plz plz don’t save it to your computers I don’t wanna get in trouble.

Winner: Extras

So if they already had a blue Bananas jersey ready to go, that must mean they have different colors for everyone. Most of which likely went unused. The blue Paulie one or the red Ameerah ones certainly have.

Where are they? Why can’t we have them? We not auction them off for charity? It’s not like they’re 1998 NBA Champion Utah Jazz shirts that would just be inaccurate. They’re just blue, likely cheaply made, athletic shirts with random names (sometimes even random nouns) pressed onto them.

What’s more likely is they’re just sitting in a warehouse somewhere collecting dust. Does that mean that across multiple countries in multiple continents around the word, there are boxes of unused Challenge paraphernalia just lying around?

Think about it this way, in thousands of years from now, some other species (probably much like humans, but less fragile) is going to come to earth to study our ancient civilization. They’re obviously going to find some wild shit, but there’s a chance that they encounter enough relics and artifacts that say “The Challenge” and “Bananas” on them, that they might think he was our God. Or whatever God-like figure they would equate him to.

Let that marinate for a bit.

Winner: New, Cool Josh

That’s right. Because you’re Cool Josh now. You wear sweater vests without anything underneath. You have sick braids now. You don’t get all riled up like you used to. You’re Cool Josh, and don’t you forget it.

Loser: Not Capping Your Shit

This is ridiculous. Put lids back on your shit, it’s like the easiest thing to do in the entire world. I’d argue that walking from the kitchen to the table with your breakfast is a more difficult task overall than screwing the lid to the Tobasco sauce back on.

I mean, there’s a whole ass ‘nother lid next to the Tobasco sauce from a totally unrelated sauce that is also just sitting open.

And it’s not like they’re all single mothers with three kids and are too busy to care. Basically none of them have any responsibilities at the moment. None. Their sole responsibility is to wake up in the morning. And even that can be questionable. Dario once didn’t wake up for an entire season!

Also shout out to the production assistant who had the job of putting tape over the Tobasco label so they don’t give out free advertising but also forgetting to cover the neck of the bottle where it says TOBASCO in big bold letters.

Winner: Cool Josh

I feel like I could go play strong safety for the Philadelphia Eagles right now.

Loser: Going To A Bar Long After It Stopped Being Cool And Thinking You’re Cool For Being There

Bro that was nothin. You shoulda seen Old, Uncool Josh. This one time, on Double Agents, he lost his shit over basic arithmetic. I know, crazy right?

Winner: Time

In the past, what, like fifteen minutes? You guys just met.

Winner: Fessy

The King of Kings.

Where did that cat come from? Doesn’t matter. King Faysal of House Fitness requested a cat for his mid afternoon weight room nap, therefore the King shall have a cat.

Winner: Desi

This confessional was impactful especially coming from someone who is so gorgeous and put together and seems to walk on glass. The feeling of doubting yourself is so relatable it hurts. And I can’t be the only one out there feeling this way while watching this scene.

Sometimes I’ll read comments under these recaps that are so goddamn nice and I sit and think to myself ‘all I do is make fart jokes and point out when reality tv people use the word literally incorrectly why do people even like these?’. And those of you reading this I’m sure have the metaphorical fart joke you use in your career or hobby or anything else you allow to define a slice of your self-worth.

And all that’s nice and good, but all this confessional really did was make me miss The Real World.

These are the types of confessionals that allow you to know the unknowable, to glean something from the human condition, to see that even someone like Desi who seems to have it all can still be unsure of their sense of self, which would litter every season of The Real World.

Getting to know people on that level is part of the reason The Challenge Gods unleashed their creation on the world in the first place. Because everybody wanted to see more of their favorite Real World people. And part of that is because moments of vulnerability, usually fueled by much much much much more vodka than this one, allowed us to feel as though we knew them.

Even all these years later I still don’t feel like I really know Michele. Or Fessy. Or Josh. Or Jay. Or any of the non-MTV people simply as people because I’ve only ever seen them be Challenge people. Now, could I solve that issue by watching Survivor or Big Brother? Well I sure as shit could. But it’s way easier to just pontificate (some would call it whine and complain) on here than to actually put in the work.

Life is too short for ragrets and self-doubt, so let’s get on with the chlorophyll and all agree that this is all somehow Enzo’s fault.

Loser: Circulation

Clearly you’ve never had a leg cramp from sitting on the toilet too long in the middle of your longest Temple Run round ever. Talk about stress.

Loser: The Challenge

The Challenge sounds fucking miserable why would anyone actively sign up for that? They didn’t get their fill of those exact feelings in high school like the rest of us?

Loser: The Non-Existence Of Even The Slimmest Modicum Of Fear

This is quite possibly the least intimidating group of Challenge people I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

Loser: Extreme Candy

Do you all remember Warheads? I think Josh just ate his first Warhead. At least that’s how I remember it looking.

I’ve never understood foods that are so extreme in one way or another. Being able to eat a Warhead was almost a skill. I mean they were so sour it was uncomfortable. I never understood who those were for. Or like when you go to a store and see “XXXXXXXXX Hot Sauce!!!! This might kill you!!!!” and then it’s $12.99. I mean who uses that shit? What could it possibly be good for?

As a kid there was a rumor that if you ate more than one of the yellow Warheads at once you might die. That was a legit thing. I was genuinely terrified to eat more than one of those. And yet somehow they were always around. Being a kid is weird.

Anywho, thanks for sticking through that with me. I just had to comment on Josh’s face here. I mean what a guy, right?

Winner: Flying Poop

Could you imagine though, especially with this challenge in particular, if they all really were shitting their pants?

They’d be swinging from truck to truck and shit would be just flying around everywhere.

That’d be pretty gross, huh?

Winner: Dressing For The Occasion

Was we wearing double of the same necklace on purpose when he said this? It’s storytelling through fashion. Like in The Breakfast Club.

Okay now this is actually a legitimate question and if you could actually reply and not just tweet it to Fessy that would be great…Do you think Cory has seen The Breakfast Club?

I say no.

Winner: The Sound Effects Person

I’ve been having a lot of fun with this season so far. I’d like to think you have too. This Challenge looked like a lot of fun too do. Everybody’s having fun.

But there is no one in the world having more fun this season than whoever it is adding sound effect in post-production. Listen to how many different sound effect there are in just this one little clip alone.

I counted six. Tremendous stuff.

Winner: Saving Some For Later

Hey Wes dude I’m pretty sure they’ll just give you another bag of Cheetos if you ask.

Winner: The Challenge — Where Everything Kind Of Makes Sense But Nothing Totally Makes Sense

There is nothing more “Challenge” than Johnny switching from the Red Team to the Blue Team in order to have a better chance at winning a daily challenge, and then the very next daily challenge he is forced into a situation where his best strategy is to actively lose in order for his former team to win.

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

Winner: Watching The Best Challenge People Actually Play The Challenge

Maybe I’m in the minority, but I am absolutely LOVING watching Tori and Johnny flop their dicks onto the table in the way they have been so far. How long it can last is hard to know. All it takes is one small Challenge Bullshit shaped banana peel for them to slip up. But after years and years of the best players being able to basically sit the game out due to their social standing or flaws in the game structure, this has made the early going so rewarding. Regardless of future results.

Winner: The Dissolution Of Truth

If I’ve learned anything in recent years is that it’s totally okay to just claim whatever the hell you wants. Facts are facts as long as you say they’re facts. Especially if there’s no way to truly fact check them.

The truth is irrelevant. All that matters is how people feel about whatever truth you present to them.

What’s the truth anyway? Who needs it? To be a modern person is to be able to basically just say whatever the hell you want.

Which is a move I invented almost a decade ago.

Loser: Meager Offers

There’s a lot to unpack here…

1 — If we’re ever living together and I make hunger claims, don’t you dare offer me a single piece of broccoli. Wars have been started for less disrespectful acts.

2 — Clearly Michele feels the same, and since we follow the Rules of Watching Reality TV around these parts, Michele rudely answering “Uh, no” to her friends offer of the final piece of soggy broccoli might not have happened at all. But if it did, and this interaction was unedited, then Jesus H Christmas Michele, chill out.

You longed for food, Chanelle offered some. “Uh, no.” Sure, broccoli definitely sucks. I think we can all agree there. But if wars have been started over the offering of broccoli, wars have definitely been started over the pure scoffing at said offer as well.

Basically, Michele, you’re about to start an actual war. I don’t think society can handle that atm. Tread lightly.

3 — Okay, so spoiler alert, but I write these recaps after already having watched the episode. But this has to be mentioned…

WE NEVER SAW MICHELE EAT!

Why put this scene in there if you aren’t ultimately going to pay it off? Why put this in here if there weren’t some kind of eating challenge Michele was participating in later on in the evening? Or some kitchen-related incident like she made herself the last frozen pizza when Fessy called it like six hours earlier?

Chekhov’s gun is a thing for a reason. You do not introduce something into the story if it has no reason for being there later on. Like in Game of Thrones, at the beginning when they’re talking about the wall every conversation is “boy this puppy sure ain’t fallin down, huh? Nope, sturdy as steel. Right as rain. C’mon, let’s head down to Molestown and get loaded, whattya say?”

It’s like, welp, I guess that Wall’s comin’ down eventually. And it sure as shit did.

They could’ve just shown one shot of Michele eating. Anything, really. A spoonful of cereal. Hell, the shot of her munching on a piece of broccoli towards the end of the episode would have been an incredible ending to a fun episode. Yet now I’m just left wondering how hungry Michele is, and whether or not she’s ever going to satisfy that hunger.

The devil’s in the details, people.

Winner: Amanda Picking Michele Up Off The Ground And Placing Her In Elimination

Just when this show was starting to frustrate me, ten seconds later they pull me right back in. We’re back baby!

Winner: Sustenance

Maybe you should eat something.

Winner: Wardrobe Changes Mid-Party

Did Cory bring that dope red hat with him, or has that been acquired since he switched teams?

Also, why do I feel like if anyone on the cast was able to work the ability to go shopping locally whenever they wanted, that it would be Cory?

Winner: The King

Outside of his turns during the daily challenge, through the first half of this episode, we’ve only seen King Faysal of House Fitness twice.

In the first sighting, as I pointed out earlier, he was lounging in the weight-room taking a mid day nap while a cat rested idly on his chest. And now the second sighting of Fessy is him in a hot tub wearing all of his gold jewelry. Like any proper Royalty should be doing while the rest of the paupers scatter and scurry for their bread.

All hail the King of Kings, Ruler of the Banana Republic, His Grace, King Faysal of House Fitness.

Winner: Dusty

Lmao, Dusty fucking rules. He’s carrying the weight of being a long time veteran despite barely even being involved three and a half episodes into his rookie season. This is simply due to the fact that I’m almost positive he’s watched this show more than just about any human who’s ever lived. It’s as if he’s dying of a rare disease and his final wish was to play a season with Johnny Bananas.

Has anyone done you wrong? Has anyone done you right? No one’s done anything to you.

Neither Amanda or Desi have done me wrong either. We sit in solidarity there, brother. We’re all Dusty. Dusty is all of us. I hope Dusty wins. I hope Dusty is on every season for all eternity. Dusty Rules. Save Dusty.

Winner: New, Cool Josh — May My Apologies For Past Behavior Be Forgiven In Full

Winner: Chanelle

Ole girl came to play. Holy shit.

Rookies are almost always like Dusty. Subservient, slightly awkward, usually willing to speak up but the substance is almost never there to back it up. But Chanelle instead went into this deliberation like a seasoned vet. Like she’s done this a hundred times and knew how and when to take control of the situation.

Did she eventually get steamrolled by the end? Sure. She sure did. But that wasn’t her fault. Michele and Tiffany were the ones who buckled under Cool Josh’s pressure. Michele at least had data to back up her fumble, or at least a fumble in the minds of the Secret Garden CBS Coalition. Tiffany on the other hand, I’m not exactly sure what happened there. It’s possible she just wanted Josh to shut up or she had a pot pie in the oven she had to get back to or something. I have no idea.

The point is, Chanelle not only came with the guns, but she brought bullets as well. Once her co-conspirators folded, there wasn’t much she could do, and now in the minds of many at that table she’s the one who kinda looks like an asshole. Still, rookies hardly ever remember to even pack a lunch when they go out into the Challenge Wilderness. Chanelle on the other hand, went into those woods to hunt.

Loser: Expectation Management

Lmao yeah true, what a shocker.

Loser: New Friends

Maybe I’m the crazy one, but I cannot believe that a group of people who hardly know one another were unable to get on the same page and didn’t do everything they could to ensure the safety of the others.

Flabbergasted. I am flabbergasted.

Winner: The King

Still no votes for Fessy, huh?

Super smart he’s usually so terrible at all of this stuff I’m sure that’ll work out for you all at the end. Keep up the good work. I’m sure Fessy’s presence has nothing to do with the Blue team kicking everyone’s ass at everything. He’s so clumsy and nonathletic. Let’s make sure to get rid of this Chris guy though.

Loser: Sticking A New Label On An Old Product

Just call it a Pole Wrestle? We all know what this is, why are they pretending it’s something totally different?

Just because the object isn’t a pole, doesn’t mean the game isn’t Pole Wrestle. The Big Ten hasn’t had ten teams in a long, long time. We all get it. Don’t let the four idiots in the Instagram replies who say “thats not a pole lol stupid” be the compass by which you guide your decisions.

I just have a feeling that this was called Evil Eye because someone who lives and works in New York City forced them to do it over a Zoom call. Ya know? Is there nothing worse than being at work and having upper-upper management force you to do something that makes no sense in practice, and is only being forced upon you to justify their inflated salary?

But also, like, ya know, who cares? So there’s that.

Loser: Pomp Without The Circumstance

It would be difficult to find a less interesting elimination match-up ever played in the long history of this show.

This is yet another hole in my game because I don’t watch either of their feeder shows. So maybe if I were a Survivor/Amazing Race fan, I’d care more than I do now. Which is absolute zero.

Because from a Challenge perspective, after how juicy the journey into eliminations were the first three rounds, this one is pretty much a total dud. The worst course at the tasting menu. Not even an amuse-bouche. I’m talking just a bland, uninspired seafood dish where the smoked lemon just didn’t quite come through like the chef had hoped.

Winner: Having A Real, Respectable Job Which Adds Tangible Value To Society

Being a firefighter is such a dope job. I am way too much of a coward to ever do it myself, but ever since I was a kid, the idea of wearing all the gear and shooting water into a raging inferno with a big ass hose is like the epitome of heroism to the elementary, dudes-loving-destruction, boyish portion of my brain.

That being said, I’m sorry dude, but there is nothing about fighting fires that has anything to do with a Pole Wrestle. Yes, sure, the muscles you build doing that job are also muscles you use in this game, but you can build those muscles almost anywhere doing almost any job.

Aneesa’s job as a data analyst prepared her to create the algorithm for last season of Challenge USA. That’s an example of the thing you’re talking about.

Except I’m sitting comfortably at my desk in my air conditioned apartment. So who the hell am I to say anything at all? If I had a job that was as awesome as firefighter, I’d want to slip it into every conversation possible too. So ultimately I get it.

Jesus Christ. Fine. Say whatever you want.

Winner: Partying

Sounds like me last Saturday night. Baybay!

Loser: The Challenge USA Season 1

Can we talk about what the hell happened with the casting for that show?

This elimination match-up had more physicality, more effort, more heart, than anything that happened on that entire season. Do you remember the Enzo vs. David (not my Dad) Balls In? I do. I’ll never forget it. That was the moment I lost faith in humanity.

So where were Chris and Luis back then? Why did you give us Enzo and Domenick and Leo and all those other scrubs? Like, what are we doing here? I’m sure these two, or the equivalent of these two, were sitting around on the CBS roster somewhere.

Part of me thinks that propping up Tyson was 80% of the reason Challenge USA even happened and about 98% of the reasoning behind the male casting decisions. Danny and Cinco were thrown in there just to keep things honest.

Don’t forget to tune in to my next recap where I’ll assuredly find yet another avenue to complain about USA Season One!

Loser: The Schedule Makers

This is now twice that Amanda’s had to go against the person in the house with the biggest biceps in a pole wrestle variation. First on Invasion against Nicole and now all these years later against Desi.

Yikes. Tough draw.

Winner: A Free Ride When You’ve Already Paid

And now twice in two tries against the person with the largest biceps, she gets absolutely dragged through the sand like a little kid who refuses to go home from the beach. Look at this valley created by the futile attempts at digging her elbow in.

This is the game Tori needed to be in. We’ve seen Tori go against a physical equal one time in Jenny on War of the Worlds 2. The outcome was a little strange (did Jenny just want to go home?) but she demolished her in a Hall Brawl.

Since then she’s only beat up women half her size the few times she’s had to earn it. Desi is that match-up she needs and that we all want. Josh may have been right to try and get her out, but idk man, it doesn’t look to me like Desi’s going anywhere.

Maybe she’s terrible at tangerine puzzles. She seems smart, but that’s like a specific kind of smart. We’ll see what happens. On her first go around, Desi was sort of shoved to the sidelines of safety until the worst of the worst type of Challenge Bullshit came down on her head like an Enzo-shaped anvil.

So if this was just a taste of what she’s capable of, then these crusty ass vets better strap it on, tell Fessy and his cat to take a walk, and get in the weight room.

Winner: Amanda

“Spaceships don’t come equipped with a rear view mirror”

— Andre 3000

Nothing in life is certain. Even death and taxes. If society collapses there won’t be taxes. And if some scientist invents a way to live forever, then poof, there goes death.

But if there is one thing I am absolutely certain of, is that this season is going to miss having Amanda around. Nothing will be the same. Maybe now everyone will get along. Who knows.

Some might say that Amanda leaning into the worst parts of her persona, and sometimes seemingly turning the dial up a few notches beyond reality, means she’ll never win. She’ll always be the target. Except the last two times we saw her, Spies, Lies & Allies and Final Reckoning her chances of winning were right up there with anyone else.

On SLA, if the right things broke the right way and she ended up in the Kaycee slot partnered with CT at the end, who’s to say they couldn’t have won? And it’s pretty common belief that if Amanda and Zach didn’t implode (something that was probably bound to happen eventually regardless) on Final Reckoning, they may have fucked around and won the whole thing.

Personally, I say who cares. Let Amanda be Amanda. In a world where there are a dozen Amanda’s running around, stirring the pot, causing trouble, then maybe I could see her shtick getting old. Except right now she’s the only one on that specific highway. The top’s down, the music’s loud, and she’s cruising one hundred and fifty miles an hour.

Loser: Kevin Durant

When Kevin Durant went to the Golden State Warriors in 2017, it totally broke the NBA. I’d argue it wasn’t until this year that it fully recovered internally, and we’re years and years away from the league recovering externally. The fan perception is worse than ever. I don’t blame KD for making that choice, but ignoring the unintended consequences is basically impossible for anyone who loves basketball.

Desi switching to Team Blue isn’t as high level as Durant joining the Warriors. I don’t think there even would be a direct 1–1 Challenge comparison for how silly that was. If this keeps happening though, and all the players who win the eliminations from Red and Green just switch out for the worst Blue player, then we’re in for a long and boring season.

After first considering the set-up of the game, I struggled to find a way to truly rig the system. To full-on Moneyball the fun out of everything. And this isn’t perfect, you’d still have to risk some Challenge Bullshit in an elimination round to make the move. Yet these people never cease to amaze me in their ability to discover loopholes in the rules.

The NBA had hundreds of games across multiple seasons to fix their talent conglomeration issue. The Challenge only has a few hours. My fingers are crossed.

VIVA LA REAL WORLD!!!

Thanks for reading! See you back here soon for Episode 5! 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, from a fan’s perspective. Inquires: WillaMediaManagement@gmail.com -Twitter: @TJsAirhorn