The Challenge: USA episode 9 had the things I definitely want from the CBS version of the MTV show: two decent challenges, along with interesting strategy and light drama. But once again, it lacked a satisfying outcome, as the players once again took the safest route.
Sure, it was great to see Danny McCray win a challenge and finally qualifying for the final and getting in his Kiki reference: “Kiki is going to shed so many tears—because she’s a TJ fan, and TJ is talking to me.” I mean, does Kiki know she’s married to a Survivor player who’s much cooler than TJ?
And the animosity between the “Fab Five”—Desi, Cashay, Cayla, Sarah, and Justine, who’ve apparently collectively not seen Queer Eye—and their nemeses Angela and Alyssa manifested in a funny way during the challenge.
Dancing on a boat, Cashay “to let loose,” and also to Sarah said “Here’s to the Fab Five”: Desi, Cashay, Cayla, Sarah, and Justine—not Angela and Alyssa, who are aligned with the four Survivor men.
Those alliances came into play during and after their challenge, “Collect Four.”
For it, the players went to a 60,000-seat football stadium, and searched for large tokens to play a giant version of Connect Four on the field. They could try to four in a row on their own board—or block others using their own tokens.
Overall, I think it offered a strong combination of athleticism, endurance, and strategy, though another challenge that the cinematography failed to capture
Angela’s goal: try to sabotage Sarah. Sarah’s goal: yell “they’re trying to block me!” and “Put it on Angela’s” at every person she could find, even Angela.
But everyone else was like: eh. Why would everyone suddenly play to help Sarah, instead of just looking the other way while trying to do their own board? It’s kind of a best-case scenario to have a group of people targeting one person, as long as that person isn’t you, because that keeps them all from advancing. “I ain’t gettin’ involved,” Enzo said.
Dom tried to block David to help Danny win. And Cayla did help Sarah, telling us that she wanted to to keep power. But what power is that, really?
Sarah wanted to go against Angela or Alyssa. “It’s not about the money, though,” she laughed. Desi seemed to support that, but Danny was trying to protect them, and argued for Cash instead.
While there was a lot of game talk, at the house and at a bar, and Desi seemed annoyed that there was a larger alliance she didn’t know about, she was ultimately like: eh. “For me it’s not worth pressing the issue,” Desi said, citing her relationship with Danny.
The challenge, “In A Roll,” involved two hamster wheels that wound up hundreds of feet of rope. Cashay couldn’t even get hers moving, and Sarah easily won the first round, and while the second round was more competitive, Sarah easily won that too.
Alyssa said, “I can’t wait to laugh in Sarah’s face,” but Sarah’s still around to laugh in her face.
A final note: Naming an episode that focused on Sarah Lacina—MAGA hat-wearing, Trump-supporting Republican—”Nevertheless, She Persisted” is quite a choice, because that phrase has become a feminist rallying cry after Mitch McConnell tried to silence noted liberal Elizabeth Warren. Then again, Wikipedia says “Its meaning has expanded to refer more broadly to women’s persistence in breaking barriers, despite being silenced or ignored,” so maybe that applies to a reality TV contestant winning a challenge?