The Challenge USA 2 is differentiating itself from its predecessor in several ways, including now by focusing on, and even slightly developing, its characters.
During the previous episode, it was a bit of attention to the growth of the player best known for his toxic masculinity, who talked about therapy and came out as bisexual.
This episode, it was Desi facing her “self-limiting beliefs,” first among her friends and then in the arena.
Meanwhile, the OG vets versus newer vets/CBSers took a new turn. Alas, this also meant the episode had way too much time with Josh and his mouth potatoes—and I mean that metaphorically and literally, as at one point he was eating and talking with his mouth full, yuck.
First, the cliffhanger was resolved: Bananas became the first player to switch teams, sending Cory to the red team to try to protect himself on the blue team.
Dusty told us, without a hint of irony or a slight wink, “I love you Bananas,” and promised “I’m never going to say your name.” Dusty even wrote Bananas a love letter that Bananas read to us, including the phrase “my time with you has meant a lot.” Bananas asked, “Are we in love?” I wondered: Did two more people just come out?!
The actual challenge took place on the side of two semi trucks, giving me flashbacks to Fear Factor, back when Joe Rogan was just a bell-end comedian instead of a misinformation–spreading, antisemitic, transphobic bell-end getting paid by Spotify to spray the world with bullshit instead of just supervising contestants eating cow parts.
The challenge: leap from one truck to another, placing circles with team colors on the other truck. Both trucks had a grid of circles, as four players at a time competed.
Ultimately, though, the win would go to the team with the highest cumulative total. Josh told us, “I feel like I’m doing really good in this challenge” as he dropped multiple tiles.
On the blue team, recognizing that 1) they were going to lose and 2) the green team would likely win, Chris proposed what Bananas called an “absolutely insane plan”: drop their discs and just play defense, preventing green from scoring to allow red to win the challenge.
Yes, Chris Underwood devised a strategy to win by not playing. Sounds familiar!
In the final round, Tori and Bananas dropped their each scored zero, but allowed Monte and Michaela to only score 3.
Thus, the red team won with 48 points to green’s 41.
Wes made sure we knew that this strategy was “brilliant—in fact, I was the inventor of this move almost a decade ago.” Yes, we know you’re old. (Oh, I kid Wes: 38 is so young!)
A shoutout to the camera operators: There were some beautiful shots of this challenge, my favorite of which was a drone zooming through the middle of the trucks, under the players. Stunning!
Before deliberations, Chanelle said “I will die on that sword” to vote in Wes and Amanada, and protect Desi and Michaela.
Josh, meanwhile, was gunning for Desi and Luis as the nominees. I’d say his words actually convinced people, but I think it was more of his temper-tantrum.
At first, Michele, Tiffany, and Chanelle seemed united. Chanelle tried to get Dusty to trade protection for Luis for protection for Desi, and Dusty said, “I’m not going to be fucking strong-armed by anybody.” Except Bananas, right, Dusty? wink wink
Josh stood up and pounded the table, mad that the women were making verbal arguments. “Let him think, though,” he said. “Stop getting in his ear. Let him think.” Yeah, it’s hard to do two things at once, huh, Josh?
Besides his physical actions, Josh used what words he has to tell us “I will go into a stalemate because I want Desi” and insisted “I don’t got nothing to fucking lose.” He also said, “Are we playing Survivor? Are we playing Survivor?” (no, because you’re on it) and said “you girls have to make up your mind because I’m not switching.”
By the way, Chanelle explained that a stalemate or tie vote from an immune team would mean that the entire team’s balls would go into the hopper, which is a great game mechanic.
Chanelle called Josh “unhinged”—but that strategy worked, and the red team chose exactly who Josh wanted: Luis and Desi. “A little bit of pressure got applied, they both folded,” she said.
Meanwhile, Chris’s strategy backfired in that he became a target.
In the arena, we learned that votes went to Tyler 3, Sebastian 1, Wes 2, Monte 2, Bananas 1, Chris 6, while for the women, it was Michaela 4, Cassidy 2, Amanda 9.
Amanda and Chris were randomly selected to go against Luis and Desi, with the odds not being in their favor. Desi, though, was thrilled because Amanda ended up in elimination. “Our plan ultimately worked out,” she said. I’m not so sure if that’s a plan working out, so much as that it’s the least-desirable path to a desirable outcome.
Their challenge was named “Evil Eye,” but that’s just a clever name for the get-the-thing-out-of-the-ring challenge. It’s the exact same challenge that Fight to Survive is using for its fights.
Desi said she was particularly ready for redemption “after the way I went out last season.” (If you don’t recall or didn’t watch, read my interview with Desi, in which she discussed everything from theft of players’ belongings to the rule that disqualified her.)
In their fight, Desi literally pulled Amanda across the sand, and though Amanda put up a good fight, Desi won, overcoming her self-doubt.
Meanwhile, Chris and Luis spent some time rolling around in the sand, bodies pressed up against one another, until Chris managed to get the thingy loose and over the rope.
Luis and Amanda exited, and then it was time for defections. Chris stayed with his blue team, and Desi designed to join him there, swapping with Alyssa S. Wes was left feeling blindsided by losing Amanda and then Desi as a teammate, leaving the
red green team in an even more dire situation.