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A super-close finish in The Challenge: USA’s elimination drains away some of its life

A super-close finish in The Challenge: USA’s elimination drains away some of its life
James Wallington and Sarah Lacina running during The Challenge: USA's third challenge. (Photo by Laura Barisonzi/Paramount)

Let’s start at the end of The Challenge: USA episode three, with the elimination challenge. Once again, The Amazing Race’s James was automatically in elimination, after he and new partner Tasha lost the challenge.

They were put up against Survivor’s Domenick and Love Island’s Cashay by winners Kyland and Angela from Big Brother.

The challenge: to retrieve floating stone things from a water tank and then stack them. It went something like this:

  1. TJ: “If the water hits the line, the game is over.”
  2. Domenick: doesn’t stop water from draining while Cashay stacks
  3. Water: drains and hits the line
  4. TJ: “Cashay and Domenick win!”

When TJ blew his horn, I thought it was for DQing Cashay and Domenick, because the water appeared to be at the line.

Maybe it was just bad editing? I went back and paused the recording at the second Dom started celebrating, and the water level appeared to be at or just below the line both before and after the horn. Here’s what it looked like:

A composite image of two screenshots from The Challenge: USA: Domenick's water level just before (left) and just after (right) TJ blew the horn.
A composite image of two screenshots from The Challenge: USA: Domenick’s water level just before (left) and just after (right) TJ blew the horn.

In the pre-finish image on the left, the water that you can see is at the far side of the tank, so it already appears to have reached the tape at the front. And as the horn blows, the water is definitely at the line on the right.

Is this just a bad camera angle? Does “hits the line” mean something else, like “the bottom of the tape”?

I just realized this is why Double Dare usually had its contestants fill a container past the line. Of course, this is in reverse, so it’s harder to see.

Since, as TJ told them, “you barely won,” why not at least show us? Give us the producers’ angle, or show it in slow motion. Ugh, The Challenge!

I tweeted about this, and James replied: “I asked about this… after watching it tonight, I was confused myself… but they called check as it hit the line so it is what it is.”

Tasha Fox and James Wallington after losing The Challenge: USA's third elimination challenge
Tasha Fox and James Wallington after losing The Challenge: USA’s third elimination challenge. (Photo by Laura Barisonzi/Paramount)

I will miss James’ insight, and his strategizing and scrambling, which this episode at least included the possibility of going up against Leo, one of his fellow Amazing Race alum—though James also tweeted that, in the deliberations, they discuss every option, i.e. the editors can make it look like any of the players are being targeted. He also mentioned aligning with team Survivor, but we didn’t see any of that, and it obviously went nowhere.

Without his underdog fight, there’s was not a whole lot of game happening on The Challenge: USA, or at least we’re not seeing much.

Tyson articulated what appears to be the central, easy strategy: “always get rid of the weakest people right now … so we don’t have to be partners with them.”

Considering one of the perceived weakest people, James and Cayla, knocked out one of the perceived stronger teams, Cashel and Tiffany, I don’t quite understand.

Maybe they’re banking on a super-physical final challenge, which would certainly be in line with past Challenge finales.

Maybe they’re expecting that, any day now, the elimination challenge will finally be something called, say, “Road Roid Rage,” where the contestants have to pick up cars and carry them.

Angela Rummans and Kyland Young after winning The Challenge: USA's third challenge
Angela Rummans and Kyland Young after winning The Challenge: USA’s third challenge. (Photo by Laura Barisonzi/Paramount)

The Challenge: USA also needs to pick up its actual Challenge game. This week was another gather letters/run/spell challenge, with the addition of building a staircase, and one team member literally holding the weight of the team’s screw-ups.

While the backdrop was pretty terrific—a dilapidated, abandoned theme park—the visuals of the competition were not.

Why is this show so bad at showing us the actual challenges? The camera angles and editing just don’t capture the sense of everything happening at once, nor the distance and comparative progress between teams.

While The Challenge: USA may not be excelling on a challenge or strategy level at the moment, I am completely here for the contestants and the humor.

  • Sarah’s excitement to be partnered with Cinco: “so we can mess some people up”
  • Dom’s advice after his win: “Always remember to plug your hole.”
  • Shan’s insistence that “I don’t game that hard” followed by Survivor footage of her gaming hard—and humming her “evil” theme song
  • Danny’s confessionals about anxiety over his wife’s reaction to his game play made another appearance: “My wife Kiki’s going to ask me why I cannot stand on the perch for five minutes.”
  • Dom reminding us why he lost Survivor by saying he wanted to go into elimination, and his partner, Cash, reminding him: “We don’t want that.”

And then there was this exchange between teammates Tyson and Alyssa in an interview before the challenge, which involved lots of running:

Tyson: “I feel pretty confident, especially when I hear people in the house that are like, One time I biked 12 miles. Guess what? That’s not even a warm-up.”

Alyssa: “That was me, though.”

Tyson: “Oh fuck, that was you! Alyssa, that’s not even a warm-up.”

An Emmy for that, please!

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  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.

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Happy discussing!

Joe D.

Thursday 21st of July 2022

Great recap. I agree about the editing of the challenges. I had no idea who was winning or losing with the Wheel of Fortune game. The editors are trying to be so edgy with the quick cuts that you can’t even keep track of what’s going on. Obviously, with so many people competing it makes it even harder. That said, I’ll continue watching for the challenges aspect. It’s helping me get through the summer waiting for Survivor and The Amazing Race to return. Keep up the good work.

Melissa

Thursday 21st of July 2022

I thought this week's challenge was a little better than the previous two. I liked that they were all competing at the same time, instead of taking turns, makes it easier to see who's doing well and who isn't.

I'm confused though about the money in their accounts. I know that they have to have $5000 to get into the finals... is that it? I think it adds an interesting layer to the strategizing to consider putting people with more money in the elimination challenge so you get their money if they lose.

Melissa

Thursday 21st of July 2022

@BadMitten, Good info, thank you!

BadMitten

Thursday 21st of July 2022

@Melissa, You should check out Tyson's podcast. He said him and Angela agreed it made no sense for them to throw in another team with a large bank account, since they also had large accounts, basically they wanted to discourage big game hunting and get all the people with big bank accounts to stick together. I see the motivation for James wanting to face the team with the bigger bank account though.

BadMitten

Thursday 21st of July 2022

I would have preferred to see James stay too, so I'm not biased in saying this... Even in your screenshots I see water above the line, but to your point people being able to see it both ways proves they should have done once the water dipped below the line.

I am absolutely loving Tyson on this show, he's worth the price of admission alone

Andy Dehnart

Thursday 21st of July 2022

It definitely needed a clearer indication that the water had reached the DQ line!

EJ Jones

Thursday 21st of July 2022

So glad you’re recapping this. I know this is unlikely but you should reconsider tuning back into the MTV version. Sure there’s more debauchery and ridiculousness (pun not intended) on the MTV version but the show has gotten much better over the years… as has some of the accountability and consequences for serious transgressions that I know have historically been a problem.

About the lack of clarity around the strategizing and lack of details in portraying the challenges, I have a theory. It dawned on me last night that the CBS episodes are only an hour in length. The MTV episodes are often upward of 90 minutes so they inevitably show more strategy, game play and challenge footage. And so far 2/3 daily challenges had them competing in rounds instead of all at once so it’s hard to show who’s leading the pack, which they often do… sigh. Oh and I can’t forget that part of the aforementioned debauchery comes in the form of them going out to bars and clubs and drunkenly strategizing there. So it does pay off somewhat.

SN: I loved the reference Shan and Derrick made to the “winners edit” on survivor