The Challenge USA Season 2 Episode 5 Recap — Winners & Losers

Brian Batty
21 min readAug 27, 2023

Welcome back to a fresh (and extremely late, whoops) batch of Winners and Losers to recap The Challenge USA Season 2 Episode 5. Unsurprisingly a bunch of strangers who were once on the same show during different seasons are crumbling in front of our eyes. So let’s get right into it. Inside this week: Chris brags about losing, Michaela warns us all against building the monorail, TJ hosts a live podcast, and much much more…

Winner: This Week, On Hey Arnold…

…Tyler and Monte guest star as two ne’er-do-well kids from a few blocks over who show up to Arnold’s neighborhood to generally cause trouble and bully a random classmate named Chris. Which then forces Arnold, Phoebe, Gerald, Helga, Stinky, and the rest of the gang to work together in order to kick these bullies out and send them back to where they came from.

No but in all seriousness, and this might be the deepest, most important question I’ve ever asked on this blog’s illustrious history, why are they standing like that? They look like the lamest possible version of the Acolyte Protection Agency.

Loser: Identifying and Defining Humans And Their Actions Based On Which Show They Happened To Appear On In Order To Get To Here In The First Place

Can we please, please, please, put an immediate moratorium on references to Survivor or Big Brother? Pretty fucking please.

What does that mean, Chris? What does saying “this is not Big Brother” even mean? Technically, you are correct. This is not Big Brother. This is the The Challenge. It says so right there on your shirt.

But what does it really mean?

Nothing.

It’s a totally empty statement. To be fair, that observation could potentially be meaningful within certain contexts. But this ain’t one of them.

Great question Monte!

Now, the edit cut to an empty confessional immediately after he asked this fantastic question. So we don’t see exactly how Chris responded to this. Meaning that it’s entirely possible he orated a detailed and nuanced explanation of why their specific game tactics resemble the form of Big Brother specific game tactics. And how by acting in this fashion, they are henceforth playing a game more resembling Big Brother than he deemed appropriate for their current setting.

More likely he said some derivative of “whatever bro” and walked away to shower and get the sand out of his socks.

Winner: Humble Bragging

There is a lot to unpack here…

1 — Let’s start with the part where he said he read articles written about him…Bragging about your own press clippings is somehow only the second worst brag within this confessional. Secondly, if 2+2=6, then ipso de facto, hes probably reading this now.

And if so, Hey Chris! I think you’re doing a great job, keep up the good work!

2 — Let’s skip ahead to the ending. What I’ve loved about Chris so far, is that he has the Challenge platitudes down to almost perfection. And I’m not even sure he’s trying that hard to do so. Saying things like “if you vote me in, you better buckle up, because I’m here to win this game” is some impressive Kaycee level empty-speak. There’s still some work to do there though, as he hasn’t quite reached Cory/Tori God-tier level of Challenge platitudes. Not totally his fault, few ever have. His progress in that arena will be something to keep your eye on moving forward.

3 — Okay, so admittedly having never seen Survivor, maybe I’m way off base here and am missing some nuances. Idk though, maybe it’s just me, but the brag of I won Survivor by losing Survivor isn’t a great look. Maybe that’s one of those times where one should humbly respond by saying “the cards happened to fall my way, I was real fortunate.”

No but seriously, Chris. You’re killin’ it. I know I’m no TJ Lavin, so those words don’t mean as much coming from me. But they’re from the heart, which is what matters more than anything else.

Winner: Aunt Cassidy

Losing a family member fucking sucks. Like super sucks. Kinda only sucks more as time goes on. Time heals all wounds Need Not Apply type of thing. I guess I’m new to this, and talking about it (especially after a few glasses of wine, which we’ll get to in a minute) super duper helps. But I know I would be melting inside like Josh hanging off a pole over a Croatian body of water if it were me having this conversation.

Also, the idea of being vulnerable about it on reality television sounds wild to me, but from my side of the TV screen a strange phenomenon occurs in that seeing others grieving the loss of a family member is almost comforting? Makes things less lonely.

Which makes me grateful for Cassidy’s willingness to be vulnerable. A task which has transformed into one of Herculean proportions by the relentless negativity of the Reply Guys & Gals invading these people’s psyche’s one iPhone notification at a time.

Winner: A Happy Compromise

The overall Blood Alcohol Content of the last few years of The Challenge has been about a .02. Which is significantly less than the 3.9 that the Challenge of old would have blown.

By all accounts, they still get hammered at the house. Though that is about as useless to the viewers at home not privy to their debaucherous evenings as mesh toilet paper. We can’t know what they don’t show, ya know?

Though, I have noticed an uptick this season. Even without the house parties or club scenes themselves (and oh boy did we get a club scene this week), as far as pure level of drunk they seem to be, there have been slightly more slurred words than the #NewNormal.

Except it’s subtle. And that’s because they seem to be supplying them with only wine. And as much wine as they want. Because there’s nothing threatening about getting these people wine drunk. Other than 15 year old girls, nobody gets angry when they’re wine drunk. It’s only really sappy and sad and sleepy after a certain point.

Back in they day, when they were drinking enough vodka to make Anton Chekhov blush, that’s when the true shenanigans began. If you’re partying on wine, not just sipping it over five hours like a true wino does, you truly can only last so long.

Whichever Challenge God came up with that idea made so many Viacom lawyers feel pure and utter joy. Which is heartwarming. Nothing provides me with more pure and utter joy than the idea of wealthy, corporate parasite lawyers getting their way.

America, amirite?

Winner: The Others

Are they on the island from Lost? Does this not look exactly like that?

I understand that Croatia is a whole ass country and likely has multiple natural ecosystems and landscapes. But Spies, Lies & Allies (boy I’ll tell you what, whoever came up with that dumbass name really did not take into consideration those like me who now have to waste our time typing it out in full while we’re already wasting our time writing a Challenge blog) gave Croatia a whole different feel. I’d guess that season they were more coastal where as this time around they’re more inland.

Hell fuckin yeah. Nature and Geography talk. The illest of ill shit.

Loser: The Intoxicating Yet Deceiving Scent of Hope

The worst part of every episode of The Challenge is the challenge itself. That’s true of I’d say about 80% of all episodes of this show’s history. And even then I’m being super-duper generous. If we only included the last five or six seasons, that percentage would be closer to 99% of episodes.

Yet last week’s was a lot of fun. It’s always better when they compete against each other rather than adjacent to each other. Which is what we got in the previous episode, plus some additional intrigue and physical gameplay.

Which made me hopeful for this week. Keep the momentum going. Give us something fresh and exciting. Let them go at it in something.

Anything, ANYTHING, beyond something that’s “Go from Point A to Point B while doing a task and complete a puzzle along the way”. Please for the love of God, enough of those.

So, TJ, tell me, what’s it gonna be this week?

Wow.

This time they even drew a map on the screen. An actual map, with little triangle mountains and grass and stuff, showing how to get from Point A to Point B and the locations of the puzzles to solve in between.

Just, wow. Can’t make this stuff up.

Loser: Grand Achievements Rendered Meaningless Centuries Later

Wait a minute what’s that hanging around his neck? Didn’t Frodo take care of that thing like hundreds of years ago?

It’s a Harry Potter joke, for those of you that don’t get the reference.

Winner: Survivor

You know how when you say a word so many times that it loses all meaning?

Like for instance, let’s do an experiment. Say the word ‘seal’ fifty times in a row.

….

……

………

Did you do it?

How did it feel? How long until the word seal ceased to exist as a word and devolve into complicated airflow? At which number did you begin to overthink where to place your tongue in your mouth to create the necessary sounds?

You know what the funniest part about this little side quest was? I totally forgot which show Michele was on before this. Huh. Too bad, she hardly ever mentions it looks like I may have just missed the boat on that one.

Winner: Fun Facts

With the combined efforts of the person behind the Challenge Stats page and myself over dozens of hours (seriously, we haven’t even taken a shit in several days), we were able to pinpoint the last time Wes did a confessional without talking about himself.

October 12th, 2006.

How’s that for fun facts?

Winner: Putting In The Work

A lot of people worked really hard during this grueling daily challenge. Green team especially displayed a lot of heart by enduring and coming out on top.

But nobody worked harder than the camera person and the editors to make this race seem like it was close. I don’t know shit about fuck when it comes to how they made this happen, but shout out to the camera guy for getting this shot at this angle to give the perspective that the blue team was closer than they appear.

Throw in the editors adding a cacophony of various shouts such as “Hurry!” “They’re close!”, etc. to trick us even further into thinking this was a close race.

Yet when you get to the part where Team Blue is actually pulling up to the finish line…

…it seems as though Team Green has already had a nap and a snack.

Winner: Challenge Legends

Three Challenge Legends doing what they do best, making deals while huddled up in a walk-in closet.

Within the modern, go-go 90’s we currently live in, it’s good to see something that hasn’t changed for decades still around and kickin’. These three have given us so much (What Challenge fan could forget the Dusty v. Wes Hall Brawl back on The Inferno 2? Or the infamous Bananas/Dusty/Nany bar spat during Free Agents?), it’s time to vocally appreciate them while we still can.

Loser: North Haverbrook

Do you remember the Monorail episode of The Simpsons?

If you don’t, basically during a town hall meeting about what to do with Springfield's money, a singing salesman shows up to suggest that the town use their cash to build a monorail. Marge, naturally, doesn’t trust this man. So after sneaking into his office and finding out he plans to swindle them and run-off, she visits North Haverbrook. A city that once took this man’s suggestion and built a monorail.

When she gets there, the town is in ruins. Totally desolate. And she meets somebody who lives there, the engineer who built the monorail. He warns Marge, begs her to stop this from happening to Springfield.

That’s who Michaela reminds me of. A citizen of North Haverbrook who will never trust a salesman ever again.

She was voted out a single time in a game where being voted out is a pre-requisite, and she now carries the weight of a thousand suns. And it is downright riveting to watch.

Winner: Steven Glansberg

I’d say that Cassidy and Chris reacted in the appropriate manner that any Challenge rookie could be expected to act in this situation.

But the making a plate and going to sit and eat alone is just *chef’s kiss* dawg. You’re killin it.

Winner: My Three Things

Laaammmmmeeeeee

Laaaammmeeeeee

Lmao the King of Kings, Faysal of House Fitness strikes again!

Chillllll bro.

The man’s a genius, I’ve always said that.

What are my three things you ask?

1 — I can reach things off of tall shelves

2 — I scream at the television while watching sports

3 — I’m an incredibly poor sleeper

Ladies, ladies, ladies, one at a time. Please. There’s plenty of me to go around.

Winner: Cassidy

She’s so right. Obviously Fessy is the winner. At least one of these scoundrels has some integrity to them.

Loser: The Implications Of The Security Camera

If you weren’t paying attention for just a second, say you got a text message or the doorbell rang with the Amazon package you forgot you ordered last night after your second bottle of wine, you may have thought that Josh and Cassidy kissed during this scene.

Au contraire my furry friend. Rather than kiss, they made some sort of pinky promise and kissed thumbs. AKA the way guys with no game (AKA me) got as close as they could to kissing a girl in middle school.

Yet we were shown this scene from the security camera footage. Implying the something going on between the two of them in the hot tub after a night out at the club could only be happening under the guise of privacy. As is customary in this medium since the dawn of time.

(Though I’m almost positive the first Real World Chicago, Aneesa’s season, was the pioneer of this technique. I don’t know how I know that, but it’s just sitting in my brain like a stinky turd right now.)

Except for he’s New, Cool Josh, so if anybody asks, the answer is an empathic no. He didn’t just kiss his own thumb while drunk in the hot tub with a woman. They kissed and they kissed real good. Because that’s what New, Cool Josh does.

Loser: Inefficiency

Bro just say you think she’s hot what in the fucking word salad hell just fell from your mouth?

Winner: Boredom

To be a modern person is to live a life void of boredom. Or at least being bored in the sense that you have nothing at all to do or read or look at. That feeling was eradicated from society the minute we all were basically forced to way overpay for iPhones.

Yet in place like The Challenge house, boredom can still exist. Staring at a wall with nary an escape outside of yet another set of deadlifts is a common occurrence within this setting.

Some say the greatest creativity stems from boredom. I’d say that what boredom really drives one to do is bring their bar for enticement extremely low.

Take for example Monte and Tyler and their actions during the voting process earlier on this episode. It would have taken a very long time and a lot of winning (and a lot of luck) for the jet ski crew to ever have gotten a strangle hold on the votes. The CBS Coalition could have just voted one in every single time and hardly felt the repercussions. Similar to the vet strategy that choked the life out of the game on Spies, Lies & Allies.

Except for they’re bored. Being stuck in idle until the jet-ski folk sort themselves out doesn’t seem like a very interesting way to spend your first Challenge season. So then Wes comes to them with a plan. By now they’ve lowered their bar for enticement to such a low level that any plan seems like something fun to participate in.

Remember being a teenager, and one of your friends would be like “I’m gonna go get some gum” and then two other people would immediately respond with “I WANNA COME WITH” just simply because it was something to do?

That’s a little what Tyler and Monte did. Wes said he was going to drive up to the gas station and both of them shouted out I WANNA COME WITH!

This Hat Trick plan is super similar, except a little more thought out. More like a trip to the mall two towns over than a run up to the Shell for Gatorade. Sometimes these people just want something to do.

Winner: Lying Cyclists

You guys should make rubber yellow bracelets about it then.

What a strange time in the world, where everyone just kind of wore a yellow rubber bracelet that said Livestrong on it as more of a status symbol than anything else. In season one of Friday Night Lights, Matt Saracen is wearing one basically the entire time. Then every unoriginal company and event and sports team started making rubber bracelets and so people would be wearing like four or five of these at a time.

And did those things start to smell bad or what? Holy shit. For anyone who wasn’t there, if you played sports or did anything that made you sweat even a little bit, those things started to smell like holy hell.

Being alive is so weird.

Winner: The Deeper Meaning

But also then he might go in and lose and therefore by far the biggest physical threat, and legitimate Final threat, is out of the game.

But yeah, no, chaos and confusion for sure for sure for sure.

Winner: Live Podcast Host TJ Lavin

Was that a question? Like was TJ legitimately asking if this was the same guy as last time?

We’ll get into these questions after the break. For now, a word from our long time sponsor, MailChimp!

Loser: Survivor And Big Brother

How did they fall apart so quickly?

There’s only four of them!!!

Three if you take Cory out of the equation! THREE!!!

I never want to hear a Survivor and Big Brother person come onto The Challenge ever again and mention how they came from a more strategic and smarter show. Like this shit is embarrassing. The only four people you all decided to come together and vote in are four of the only people who didn’t get their balls placed into the ball sucker tonight.

How?

How Sway?

How weren’t Johnny and Tori the votes from the Green Team? How did Monte and Tyler manage to fall for Wes’s magic tricks? Magic tricks that are laid out and explained across hours and hours of content available on Paramount+ for $9.99 a month.

You guys are worried about the Survivor block on Blue? Who the hell cares? Do any of you think you’re gonna beat Wes or Tori or Johnny in a Final? Not to mention King Fessy just hanging around, chillin, eating grapes off the vine. Maybe they’re not focused on winning a Final, and are simply attempting to get as far as they can. But that’s exactly the mindset that’s led to the same people winning basically every opportunity they got.

I’m not there. I’m here. At home. Comfortable. Not bruised and paranoid and on edge playing a game for $250,000. So I get it. It’s very easy for me to criticize. It’s the easiest thing in the world. Much easier than The Challenge. But it would be irresponsible for me to fail to point out the level at which these people failed.

Loser: This Elimination Round

Do me a favor. Stop what you’re doing, stand up wherever you are, and fall down.

Just fall down.

Did you do it?

Likely you didn’t. You know why? Because it would hurt, duh. Falling down low-key sucks when you’re not a little kid made of rubber. Not only that, but sand is a low-key hard surface when it’s packed tight like that. Add a layer of grated steel to the mix and…yeah…fuck all that.

I’m sure the adrenaline got them through in the moment, but if it were me I’d have come down with a real bad case of whatever the hell it was that came over Anastasia during that one Rivals 2 elimination where she started shaking and pretending she was blind.

I couldn’t agree more.

Winner: Persistence Pays Off

This is about the fifteenth ‘literally’ Cassidy has hit me with during this episode and I just don’t know what to do anymore. I’m tired. I’ve been sleeping like shit all week. I’m two days late with this recap. I wash and dry over here, ya know?

Maybe I should just give in. Literally give in and literally just say literally all the time.

You know those music videos or scenes from movies where they show the singer/lead walking through a crowd of people wearing something that makes them stand out as well as somehow being exactly one and a half inches taller than everyone else. It’s supposed to signify something profound like they’re lonely even while surrounded by people because just nobody gets their ideas, man.

That’s how I feel. I’m walking down the street in slow motion wearing a trench coat while singing a Coldplay song surrounded by people except they’re not people they’re just the word literally.

Loser: This Generic CBS Music

Going from a Big Dick Energy music video featuring Jordan and Aneesa (Did I dream that happening? Typing that out and then reading all those words put together makes me feel like that’s just a dream I had at some point) to this generic GarageBand template #44 is quite the precipitous drop.

And even if this may have been a little too on the nose even for the Challenge Gods, missing out on playing the song Bullet With Butterfly Wings by The Smashing Pumpkins during this elimination round.

Because they’re literally rats in cages!

Get it!

It literally feels so much better to just give in and ride the wave with literally everyone else, man.

Winner: Talking Shit

You know what I would have loved to have been a part of?

If Alyssa was willing to be such a hater while living inside of the same house with these people, what sorts of haterific verbiage spewed from her mouth while she was at home watching with a glass of wine in her hand surrounded by friends?

Phew, she was probably talking some shitttttttttttt.

Wish I could have been there. Mostly so I could have just been at Alyssa’s house. Hope to see ya again soon! Literally!

Winner: The Unusually Unsettled Middle

Just like any actual episode of The Challenge, the middle is the worst part of any season of The Challenge.

Once we get to the middle, the game is usually settled. The alliances have shaken out, the game strategy has shaken out. Plus, they’re all so unsettled by the unknown yet most-certainly-upcoming twist in the game, making any strong moves unnecessarily can be a true detriment once the globe stops spinning on the twist.

Yet on this rare occasion, nothing is truly settled at all. The CBS Coalition still has a window to get re-organized and train their sights back onto the jet-ski crew. And the jet-ski crew has a chance to pounce on this disorganization and skate by. But their track record doesn’t exactly bode well for their own lack of implosion. Johnny and Wes have a bond hanging on by a thread, and when it comes to winning time they’re both just waiting for the other to make their first move. Cory’s lingering as a middle ground/swing vote issue later on. And then there’s King Faysal of House Fitness, the lingering problem that eventually someone is going to have to attempt to deal with. Tori can float a little bit and kind of go along with whatever Johnny and Wes want to do seeing as Jonna and Amanda already bit the dust. She’s happy to dock her boat in their marina.

That’s more game-related intrigue than we almost ever get at this point in the game. Add in the unpredictability of The Hopper and the directions where this season can go from here are almost endless.

Hope is one hell of a drug, literally, but for now I’m plenty content on taking as many hits as possible.

VIVA LA REAL WORLD!!!

Thanks for reading! See you back here soon for Episode 6! 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