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Challenge USA’s Hall Brawl fails to kill someone after a Survivor volunteers as tribute

Challenge USA’s Hall Brawl fails to kill someone after a Survivor volunteers as tribute
Enzo and Ben: just two men and their hoses of dirty water on The Challenge: USA (Photo by Jonne Roriz/Paramount)

I was today years old when I realized all The Challenge: USA episode titles are plays on common United States of America phrases that connect to what’s happening on the CBS show: “Oh Say Can You See Tiffany,” “In Tyson We Trust,” and this week’s episode, “Independence Day,” named such because the players are no longer in teams but playing an individual game.

In another very American tradition, the episode began with some grade-A gaslighting. “The algorithm is perfect. Let’s not get it twisted,” TJ told them. “But I’m so tired of hearing you complain.” (Narrator: The algorithm was bullshit.)

On the one hand, I think switching to an individual game is a good call, since the game has been stagnant for a few weeks: building to something interesting, and then resetting to nothing.

Then again, I hate The Challenge’s typical men/women structure, with this being a “men’s elimination” day. That takes half the players out of the conversation, and also makes for far less-interesting elimination challenges, where pairs working together—or not!—provided a lot of entertainment.

The Challenge: USA cast learns that they're competing based on genitalia now. Pictured, (from left to right): Cayla Platt, Alyssa Lopez, Enzo Palumbo, Domenick Abbate, Sarah Lacina, Justine Ndiba, Angela Rummans, Ben Driebergen, and Cashay Proudfoot
The Challenge: USA cast learns that they’re competing based on genitalia now. Pictured, (from left to right): Cayla Platt, Alyssa Lopez, Enzo Palumbo, Domenick Abbate, Sarah Lacina, Justine Ndiba, Angela Rummans, Ben Driebergen, and Cashay Proudfoot. (Photo by Jonne Roriz/Paramount)

The episode focused a lot on Ben, who aligned with Danny, reconfirmed his alliance and friendship with Sarah, and mourned the loss of his friend, a fellow Marine who died the same day the first challenge took place.

“It’s just nice having a solid person: someone who I can trust, and someone who I have support from,” Ben said of Sarah.

I expected Sarah to then stab him in the back, but that did not happen.

The challenge brought the players back to the barges in the Río de la Plata’s cloudy water that, I learned from Twitter, is brown because it has runoff from “urban garbage, sewage, industrial chemical remains, treated and untreated.” Oh, also potentially “traces of oil spills from vessels that sail the Atlantic Sea,” according to La Nacion.

So that challenge was perfectly named “Having a Blast.” The players started on a Zodiac, jumped to a long, soapy runway being towed by a boat, and then went back and forth, retrieving four keys from one end and plugging them into the other end. They were also going to be blasted with a water cannon by other players.

At least, that was the idea, but I don’t think the producers thought that through. The two players spraying just switched places with the two runners, giving all four an incentive to help each other. Sarah, for example, sprayed the soap off to give Ben a better chance. Most of the players seemed to aim the hoses away from the players, kindly preventing them from getting a mouth full of “urban garbage, sewage, industrial chemical remains, treated and untreated.”

Before the challenge began, we learned that Danny has completely run out of Kiki anecdotes, so he just went with: “If Kiki were here, she’d tell me, Ain’t nothing more important than the moolah.”

Enzo jumped onto the platform and cut himself badly enough to need stitches, because of course The Challenge built a platform that had sharp things.

Cayla and Desi both slid off the platform and were immediately disqualified, but because this was a men’s elimination week, it did not matter.

Despite not being a pair, the fastest male and female player each won $5,000 and the ability to send a man into elimination with the slowest player.

Angela and an emotional Ben won, with Leo coming in second. Enzo was the slowest.

In a bar, Enzo was asked about his stitches, and said he’d gotten, “two, three stitches,” because there are too many to count that high. But there was a looming problem: “If I can’t move, how the fuck am I going to compete?” Enzo asked.

One of the people he was talking to was Sarah, who got an idea: Since she does not yet have enough money to qualify for the final, she’d volunteer as tribute and go into a men’s elimination. “How epic would it be?” she asked. “No female’s ever stepped up against a guy.”

“I know I’m a bad-ass. I know I can beat him,” she said. Call me cocky, but I think I, too, could probably beat someone who just told me his injuries mean he might not be able to compete.

In Hall Brawl, Enzo Palumbo slams into Leo Temory during The Challenge USA
In Hall Brawl, Enzo Palumbo slams into Leo Temory during The Challenge USA. (Photo by Jonne Roriz/Paramount)

I will give Sarah credit for trying to upend this separated-by-sex structure, but there was absolutely no way the producers were going to let her compete in this elimination. Ben and Angela chose Leo.

Sending Leo in as a sacrificial lamb was an easy play for a Big Brother and Survivor duo, since he’s the last Amazing Race man and there are no Love Island guys left.

The actual challenge was “Hall Brawl,” a regular feature of the MTV show which is TJ’s “all-time favorite game” that the producers brought back because it’s yet to kill someone, so they might as well use it again.

This was, to my eyes, both 1) stupidly dangerous, even though they were wearing what looked like football padding, since they’re not trained to know how to protect themselves while tackling or being tackled, and 2) completely boring.

They ran into each other, Enzo climbed over Leo, repeat, finish. What else is going to happen when players are not the same size or weight?

The most dramatic moment came when a producer asked Leo backstage if he was going to go out to say goodbye, and he replied, “I think it’s pointless.” Indeed.

The one high note at the end of the episode was on-screen text directing people “struggling with grief or loss” to, a website run by MTV Entertainment Group that has information on mental health challenges, and also directs people to the new national crisis line number, 988, which accepts calls or texts any time.

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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!


Tuesday 30th of August 2022

It's worth noting this was a tamed down version of Hall Brawl. In the MTV version they start back towards the bell and get a running start into the hall, whereas here they lined up right at the start of the hall, so I cant imagine there was much velocity in those collisions

jean rowe

Tuesday 13th of September 2022

@BadMitten, on MTV's The Challenge, they lined up at the beginning of the hall as well (I.e, Season 33 Episode 13 Kyle v Theo) the hall was a bit longer which enabled them to get a little more velocity - None of The Challenge Hall Brawls start at the bell - the bell is only there for the end of the brawl run - not the beginning. They would never put someone like Leo to go up against an Enzo. That one was just unfair from conception - another example of Queen Angela not caring what happens to other players (I.e., physical injury) & just shows how dirty and ugly she will play to get to the end. I WISH someone would knock her off her throne and send her packing. She plays dirty & ugly & walks around the same way Tyson does - like they're untouchable. If they are as good as they claim to b, they should stop running from the Arena and get down there & prove themselves. Leo in a hall brawl was a joke & they both knew it. Just like Angela & Alyssa ran scared when Sarah wanted one of them in the Arena. If ur that good Angela - get down there and prove it. Stop sending unmatched ppl down like a coward.


Friday 26th of August 2022

I read on EW that Leo didn't say good-bye because he was being treated for a concussion. I guess that was more brutal than it looked.


Thursday 25th of August 2022

I could be wrong but the hall looked considerably shorter than the MTV version. Maybe we should appaud the producers for reducing the broken neck factor for prime time. It was probably the least brutal version of Hall Brawl I've ever seen.

jean rowe

Tuesday 13th of September 2022

@Christopher, you are absolutely right. I looked at MTV's The Challenge Season 33 Episode 13 Kyle v Theo & the hall was relatively shorter. Which was really good bc Leo ended up with a concussion in that short hall. But yes - ur absolutely right. Someone else said MTV's started at the bell - this isn't true. They both started in the same place - the beginning of the hall, but the shorter the hall the less velocity one can gain & the less damage done. It was a very tame version that still resulted injury which I'm sure they were trying to avoid.


Thursday 25th of August 2022

The challengers don't remember when men and women could be nominated against each other. It happened on the Gauntlet (Sarah vs. The World) and on The Inferno, where Katie beat David in a smell/holding breath competition. I think they could do man vs women again, but they would have to tool it to endurance, puzzles, random luck (-_-), or skill (like accuracy). It would have to be an even playing field.

Andy Dehnart

Thursday 25th of August 2022

I'd forgotten about that too! I have appreciated how all of this season's elimination challenges, so far, have been a combo of physical and mental, and have not just been brute strength like so many on the MTV Challenge.