The Nelson Streak (Continued): 0–51 — Real or Unlucky?

…You can read up on losses 1–35 here…

Doing anything 51 times in a row is a lot. But losing something that many times in a row is a different animal entirely.

From 2007 to 2009, the Detroit Lions lost 19 games in a row.

In 1961, the Philadelphia Phillies lost 23 games in a row.

The early Process Philadelphia 76ers once lost 26 games in a row, accidentally won one, then went on to lose 12 more games in a row.

All of those are separately but equally miserable. But none of them are 51.

That’s where Nelson’s at at the time of this writing. 51 (!) in a row! 51! It’s hard to even conceptualize in my head the pits of sadness I would be trapped in if I lost anything 51 times in a row.

And yet here we are. Examining how we got here with our hero Nelson. It’s not like he’s bad at things. It’s not like he doesn’t try. Hell, he even has genuinely more fun than anyone else (still!) doing these silly games that they do. But this is a competition for life changing money, and to someone as deeply invested as Nelson, it really matters.

So without further adieu, let’s dig in…

Loss #36

Compromised

To begin the next chapter in our hero’s journey, he and the rest of the Americans begin chained up to a stack of cinder blocks. From then, they have to wait for the eager group of hot international reality television stars to come and unlock them from these shackles.

Priscilla, who would eventually be Nelson’s partner on this doomed journey, was actually looking for Cory first, and when Bettina managed to snag him Priscilla had to settle on Nelson. One could ask themselves, “what’s the difference to someone like Priscilla?”. Well, even though Cory’s not exactly Bill Belichick, he certainly hasn’t lost 35 times in a row.

Once, Nelson has been freed, their task is to carry a safe down to a puzzle to eventually unlock said safe. If you’re wondering how that went for these two…

Verdict: Real Loss. Everyone was basically at the safe at the same time, but not everyone spent most of their time shouting at it.

Loss #37

Heli Heist

The set of of today’s challenge is elaborate, yet simple. One team member (in this case Priscilla) is stationed in a helicopter and has to drop bags to their partner (Nelly T on MTV) waiting below hanging from the sunroof of an SUV like a group of girls turning 21 together in Vegas. Once the person below gets to the end of the track, they have to bust out and run to the finish line while an unnecessary explosion (new band name I call it) goes off behind them.

They really yada yada’d Nelson turn, but based off the numbers they showed, he did just as well as anybody else.

Verdict: Real Loss. Sometimes, other people just simply perform better. Fessy and Esther take this one adding to a long line of former college football pass catchers (Zach, Aneesa, now Fessy) beating him at stuff.

Loss #38

Sea Cave Recon

Lotta moving parts on this one, but essentially today’s task was to jump into a water, swim into a cave, grab some active (they weren’t active) bombs, swim to a jet ski, get dropped off and then swim some more until you arrive (or in Tommy’s case, wash up) on shore. Surprisingly this group of knuckleheads didn’t let a single one of these active (they weren’t active) bombs explode.

Verdict: Real Loss. Another turn yada yada’d by the editing, but this was one that was impossible to tell who beat who. And who knows, maybe Nelson and Priscilla actually had the fastest time! Yeah, probably not.

Loss #39

Undercover Comms

Today, our hero had to hang upside down, communicate a puzzle key to Priscilla waiting on the beach, who then had to run around a large rock pile and decode it. Once decoded, each team had the decision to sabotage another team and release them into the water.

Nelson and Priscilla went in the first group which included a handful of his friends. Maybe this is his big chance!

Eh, not really. Ashley decided pretty quickly to drop Nelson and did it on the first chance she got.

Verdict: Real Loss. In a game where other people have a direct impact on how long you last, Nelson’s personal baggage became just a bit too heavy to remain hanging there.

Loss #40

Mindfield

For this challenge, each partner has to run a separate obstacle course, before coming together to solve a puzzle. Man I’ll tell you what. If it weren’t for all these puzzles and other people, Nelson would win every single one of these.

Verdict: Real Loss. It was going great for my guy until this whole math and puzzle bullshit got involved.

Loss #41

Turning Agents

Not that he’s doing much better, thus far, but I wonder whether it was right around now that Priscilla regretted not trying harder to get Cory during that opening challenge. Oh well. You live and you learn…

Today, they all get strapped to the top of a car like a forgotten fast food fountain drink and get spun around a bunch of times. While this is happening they have to look at a puzzle key and solve a lock box (Why was this season so obsessed with unlocking things?) This was a pretty silly and hard to follow challenge that I’m pretty sure existed solely to be able to cut into the pre-season trailer. Anywho, in an outcome many of you may have already guessed, he loses in his own heat to Fessy yet again.

Verdict: Real Loss. Death, Taxes, Nelson being bad at puzzles.

Loss #42

Another box to unlock, another puzzle to do. Oh what’s that? Swimming too?

Verdict: Real Loss. “When one’s weaknesses are the skills necessary to win a daily challenge, what chance does one even have” — Sun Tzu, The Art of War.

Loss #43

Priscilla did everything in her power to rid herself of her partner, and now Nelson is attached to Big T. Change is good, and maybe this shake-up is what Nelson needed to finally get over the hump. With nary a puzzle in sight, this might finally be Nelson’s day in the Croatian sun.

What we have is our first purely physical challenge of the season. Basically, the idea is to run into the mud put, grab your designated soccer ball (they called them bombs because they can’t help themselves, but they’re very clearly spray painted soccer balls) and bring it back to your bin. And then finally go retrieve the ultra-ball (think the snitch in Quidditch) and that’s how you win your round.

This is our time folks. No games, no math, no gimmicks. Just go retrieve the ball. This is our time! This is why we played with that rope in the backyard every day. This is why we went to Nelly T’s Boot Camp. We’re here baby!

After advancing to the Final round, Nelson and Big T find themselves one silver soccer ball away from victory. With just Agent Ed blocking them. My balls are in my stomach.

Logan swiftly joins the fray and before they know it, these gentleman collapse on top of each other causing a stalemate.

Immediately, the deal making starts to fly. Logan says if they let him win they’ll all be safe. Agent Ed is ready to accept, but our hero remains reluctant. He wants to win. He even says so himself, meekly replying to Logan’s deal with “but I want to win”.

The smart move, of course, is to take the deal. Keep yourself safe, guarantee the chance to fight another day. But after losing 42 times in a row, the smart safe decision doesn’t seem so smart and safe. Nelson wants, nope, needs to get a victory eventually. Not even for game purposes, but merely for his own psyche. Agent Ed and Logan can only dream of having an opportunity to lose that many challenges in a row.

If you ask me, Nelson should have stood his ground and fought here. I could tell he wanted to, deep down. But ultimately, the better game move won out, and loss #43 is officially in the books.

Verdict: Real Loss. This was the first time in this whole streak he actively chose to lose. I don’t know who wants a win more at this point, Nelson or me.

Loss #44

Diamond Dash

The gang arrives to today’s opportunity (when mired in a cycle of losing like this, positive thinking is important. So from here on I’m going to refer to daily challenges as opportunities. Language matters.) and receives a shocking twist. As if this game wasn’t convoluted enough, we not have no more partners! Nelly’s out on his own, finally…Well, kind of. But more on that in a bit.

This one begins as a choose-your-own-adventure style game with three different tasks to complete. After completing one, you get a code to unlock a safe (!) and retrieve an oversized rubber diamond. Nelly went with option #2, where you had to find the right size box to fit through the right sized hole, then climb over.

And he does it! Over everyone else there, in an entirely individual challenge, Nelson reigns supreme (Is it just me or does that word make you crave Taco Bell. Just me? Okay moving on.).

Well, turns out that was only part one of today’s opportunity. There’s a universe where a typhoon overtakes the beach they’re all standing on and the episode ends right then and there with Nelson finally grabbing a victory and breaking up this cursed streak.

But that’s not our universe. Our universe is an unrelenting shit storm threatening to swallow up anyone paying attention to the seedy underbelly of existence from which there is no escape.

I digress.

One by one the rest of the gang arrives at the platforms and see that Nelson has chosen the blue, and they begin filling out the rest of the teams. For very obvious reasons (such as, oh I don’t know, the previous 43 challenges), Nelson’s one of the last girls picked to dance.

But once the music stops and the teams are set, Nelson’s squad forms into a solid bunch full of athletes, former champions, and Bettina. There’s not a ton of fat to trim left on the cast anyways, but on paper it really couldn’t have worked out better for our hero. Surely that elusive victory is in his future.

Their first venture as a team is an opportunity where the object of to smash some cinder blocks (seriously, what is with the abundance of cinder blocks MTV had available to them in Croatia?) and put them into a bin to ultimately lower the other end of the monkey bars. Like a physics equation brought to life.

The Emerald Cell wins (get used to that) in a pretty tight finish. But assuredly being on this team for the rest of the game (lol) will lead to something good happening for Nelson…

Verdict: Bad Luck. Look, he finished the part where all things are equal first by quite a bit. The team portion of this was a toss-up. This was his day to win, and it was so damn close.

Loss #45

Satalite Sabotage

Here we have a real old school type opportunity (sponsored by P3 Protein!) with heights over water, and an enormous structure they had to jump on. Real classic TJ bullshit. Well, outside of CT, nobody on his team did anything but fall into the water, including and especially Nelson.

Verdict: Real Loss. Here’s the time where luck can definitely start to play a factor, but Nelson did nothing to help himself or his team.

Loss #46

The previous night’s elimination saw Kyle sending Agent Ed packing, then subsequently stealing Nelson’s spot and exiling him out to the Ruby team. While the Ruby team is by far the weakest at the time, at least he’s stranded in the same desert as his best bud Cory.

This is also the 500th episode of The Challenge, which means if my calculations are correct (they’re probably not), according to the calculator app on my iPhone, this God forsaken streak has covered almost ten percent of all episodes of a show that’s been on since 1998. That amount of losing is just insane.

Today’s opportunity to end this article early is a “good ole fashioned headbanger” that’s a mix between rugby and Red Rover on the set of a low budget war movie where you gotta take some bags from one end of the field to the other while another team sits back and plays defense. Emerald has six players, and the other two teams did not. Guess who won?

Verdict: Real Loss. I mean, It’s not like he lost today, he just didn’t win. Some people would say there’s no difference. I say those people are no fun at parties.

Loss #47

By now Nelson’s teammates have deteriorated from an intelligent squad full of athletes, championship hardware, and Bettina to a motley crew consisting of him, Cory, Amanda, Big T, and Logan. Not what you want.

The opportunity ahead of them today is a silly nonsense rope untangling under water game where they ultimately were tasked with pulling the rope out of the water and dragging a safe (lol) attached to one end all the way to the shore.

Nelson and his team actually did really well in this one, but ultimately (you guessed it) lost out to the Emerald Cell.

Verdict: Real Loss. But yet again, Emerald maybe was better that day, but it’s no coincidence the team with an extra set of hands to pull the rope was ultimately victorious.

Loss #48

Submerged

Today Nelson and his band of misfits cosplay as Goose and Maverick for really no reason at all. Each team piles into a plane, gets dunked into the water, and has to escape to eventually collect puzzle pieces and yeah yeah yeah, you get the idea.

Nelson and co. decide to stick Amanda on land, making her responsible for putting together the puzzle they were describing to her and predictably it didn’t go super awesome.

Verdict: Real Loss. They were easily the worst team there and even if Nelson got hit in the head and was suddenly amazing at solving puzzles, I doubt even then he would’ve been able to wash his stink off the entire team.

Loss #49

Boom Raiders

Heading into this opportunity, Tori, Nelson’s new teammate, cuts a deal with CT to help her win and take Team Emerald down a peg. Her winning would mean Nelson winning, and that would be weird. But who knows, weirder things have happened.

So upon arrival, Nelson’s chances of this hellscape ending are supremely high. The game is basically just that elimination at the end of Rivals 1 that Adam may or may not have thrown but just blown out to accommodate three teams. Which is perfect for our hero. Between the lack of puzzles, and Tori’s back-door deal, this is it. This is our time! Get the champagne on ice baby, nothing can go wrong!

Well, pretty much everything went wrong.

Nobody could get the plan straight and Kyle went so far as to go directly against it. This put the spotlight squarely on the Ruby team which is just about the exact opposite what they were trying to accomplish. Want to make the Challenge Gods laugh? Tell them your plans.

Verdict: Bad Luck. This game was lost when Tori tried making a deal and Kyle went rogue. Nelson was just collateral damage.

Loss #50

Each team has a giant safe (lol) filled with a mountain of fake cash that they have to transfer into the trunk of a mid-sized SUV parked about a half mile away. A pretty evenly matched game, where despite one team having extra people, stayed relatively close throughout. The only real hazard here is the astronomical amount of paper cuts they must have had essentially laminating their hands by the end, but that’s neither here nor there.

Verdcit: Bad Luck. As if it were any surprise, the team with the most players was yet again victorious. But I’ll say one thing, Nelson was easily the MVP of the group this time around. By the end he was exhausted. But, alas, the streak continues.

Loss #51

By now we’re so close to the Final, I can taste it from this side of my laptop. Thus far this season, Nelson has won zero daily challenges and participated in the same amount of eliminations as you and me combined. In fact, I don’t think he was ever even in danger of being voted in at any point. Nelson’s role on Spies, Lies & Allies was to be goofy wallpaper.

Today’s final opportunity to get off the schnied forever was an old school run across a platform suspended above the water while other hot reality TV stars do everything they can to make you fall in. Grace? Agility? Heights over water? If I didn’t already slap the label “Loss #51” up there, you’d still have had no problem predicting the outcome for our hero on this one.

Verdict: Real Loss. Nelson fell off the platform like he couldn’t wait to get wet.

Final Tally

Real Loss = 33

Bad Luck =18

This season ended with Nelson ultimately making the Final and losing an elimination to Kyle about half way through, still left to search far and wide for that elusive victory.

To even participate in fifty one daily challenges, let alone lose every single one of them, requires a myriad of factors to converge simultaneously. Most of the time, people come on this show, lose a bunch, and we never see them again.

But that’s not Nelson.

Somehow he’s turned losing into an art. It’s not always his fault, but a lot of the time it is. We all have strengths and weaknesses. That’s part of being a human. But for most of us, those weaknesses we do everything we can to hide aren’t exposed on MTV once a week. Most of us aren’t asked to do things we simply aren’t capable of doing in the midst of a competition for money.

But Nelson is. And he actively chooses to be. This streak dates back to 2018 and I don’t even have the words to describe how much different almost literally everything about daily life is since then. So maybe that’s why Nelson’s doing all this losing. Maybe he’s doing it for us. Maybe we, as a society, need him to continue losing to be able to keep our collective grip on reality.

Or maybe he just needs to practice doing puzzles.

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Writing about MTV’s The Challenge, one of America’s great institutions, from a fan’s perspective. For inquires: brianbatty14@gmail.com

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Brian Batty

Brian Batty

Writing about MTV’s The Challenge, one of America’s great institutions, from a fan’s perspective. For inquires: brianbatty14@gmail.com

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