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