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One of The Challenge: USA’s winners is targeted. Was it strategy and/or spite?

One of The Challenge: USA’s winners is targeted. Was it strategy and/or spite?
TJ Lavin stands in front of the glass-breaking elimination challenge on The Challenge: USA episode 4. (Photo by Laura Barisonzi/Paramount)

“Is this fun? Just answering questions?” TJ asked during The Challenge: USA’s challenge, which took place on the side of the same building as episode one, because why pay for two locations when you can reuse the same one?

TJ was certainly having fun, laughing diabolically with his mouth open and tongue waving every time a team dropped through a trap door into a brief free-fall.

I can see why people find his laughter and evil glee amusing; after all I laugh at people bouncing off things on Holey Moley, and laugh at Rob Riggle and Joe Tessitore laughing. But TJ’s exaggerated laugh triggers something in me that makes it disturbing. Like, maybe a bully laughed at me like that on the bus one day and now my brain recognizes it as a threat?

I did laugh when TJ announced the challenge’s title, “Falling off Knowledge,” i.e. know-ledge, and insisted, “I didn’t write that.”

Four teams at a time alternated listing items in a group, like Oscar-winning actresses and supporting actresses from the last 10 years, or the first 10 presidents, which is the question that gave Tyson his second loss.

He was partnered with Cayla this week, and after she suggested Eisenhower, he said Garfield, and they were dropped.

Those kinds of bad answers, and Leo’s glee at getting a Catwoman question (“I LOVE CATS! Bring it on!”) were fun.

Tyson Apostol loses his first Challenge: USA challenge, falling through a trap door with Cayla Platt
Tyson Apostol loses his first Challenge: USA challenge, falling through a trap door with Cayla Platt. (Photo by Laura Barisonzi/Paramount)

To answer TJ’s “Is this fun? Just answering questions?” question: Not really!

There are still so many players that these one-at-a-time challenges end up getting montaged, and become a bit of a blur rather than something with a beginning, middle, and end.

Who’s ahead and who’s behind? Eh. And watching the pairs drop quickly become all the same.

The challenge did give us Danny’s message to his wife this week: “I love you. If I die, everything’s yours. You can take it.”

And I also appreciated Cashay watching from the sidelines and realizing that “people are at, like, brunch right now,” and here they were being dropped off the side of the same building yet again.

The main challenges seem more tedious than tense; last week’s was definitely the best so far, but it was just fine.

As is now usual with The Challenge: USA, the real drama picked up after that challenge is over.

The house seems to be Big Brother versus Survivor, with Love Island pledging to join Survivor, and the two remaining Amazing Race players fitting in somewhere.

Shan pointed out that targeting opposite alliances couldn’t last long. “After this week, it gets really hard to play that kind of game,” she said.

But with two Big Brother players, Kyland and Alyssa, winning the challenge, they could have. Instead, they considered shattering the Big Brother alliance by putting Xavier into the challenge because, as he admitted, “I backstabbed pretty much all of them.”

“Big Brother is now eating itself, which could not be more perfect for me,” Tyson said.

But Big Brother also decided to pin things on Survivor. “I think we blame everything on Shan,” Angela suggested, #feminism.

Xavier Prather and Shan Smith before being dropped through a trap door on The Challenge: USA's fourth challenge
Xavier Prather and Shan Smith before being dropped through a trap door on The Challenge: USA’s fourth challenge (Photo by Laura Barisonzi/Paramount)

Alyssa ran with this rationale when she and Kyland surprised everyone (or did they?) by announcing Xavier and Shan would go into the challenge.

“He was partnered with someone that multiple people said we should be concerned about,” Alyssa said.

Shan clocked this immediately: “I definitely feel like I’m the scapegoat for their issues with Xavier. They should just grow a pair and say, We’re petty.”

Xavier was, shall we say, a little more bitter. “You’re still stuck on BB23,” he said in a confessional. “Are you playing to win, or are you playing to get even?”

It turns out: Both.

They faced off against Justine (who thought she would just sit and wait for the finale) and David (who has been as invisible this season as he has on his Big Brother appearances).

By the way, as soon as Derek saw the puzzle, he tried to signal no to Alyssa about sending Xavier in, thinking that was Xavier’s strength.

For the elimination challenge—which, as is usual, was much more interesting to watch—the pairs had to break their way through panes of glass in a tunnel, and then retrieve puzzle pieces.

Each player had their own panes to break; breaking the wrong pane resulted in a 5-second penalty.

Xavier and Shan’s strategy was to take the penalty by letting Xavier smash through all the glass immediately, and earned a 50-second penalty. David and Justine had a 10-second penalty. Ultimately, though, David and Justine just had a 25-second lead.

I’m not sure they needed it, as they finished their puzzle first.

David celebrated his first impressive victory, and impressively gave the credit elsewhere. “You did that!” he said to Justine, and told the camera, “Justine is a beast. Listen, she’s won a challenge, she’s won an elimination. There’s been people playing MTV’s The Challenge for 20 years that doesn’t have her resume. We’re only four challenges in—check her out!”

Xavier was similarly gracious with his loss. “They’re all petty little bitches,” he said in his exit confessional. “I’m still rich, y’all are broke, and y’all are stupid.”

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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!


Thursday 28th of July 2022

OMG! I really liked Danny on Survivor, but I'm SO tired of him talking about his wife.

I thought this challenge was kind of fun, at least I could play along.


Monday 1st of August 2022

@Melissa, Really? I think that is a funny through line. I honestly think we'll get a line about his wife every episode he's in the game


Thursday 28th of July 2022

“Tyson Apostol loses his first Challenge”

This isn’t accurate… Tyson didn’t win the challenge last week either…


Monday 1st of August 2022

@Andy Dehnart, no worries! For the men Tyson won the first two weeks, and now Kyland has won the last two weeks. Only repeat winner for the women is Angela (weeks 1 and 3)

Andy Dehnart

Thursday 28th of July 2022

Oops, thanks! Fixed it.