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Who won Claim to Fame season 2? And does it need a better endgame?

Who won Claim to Fame season 2? And does it need a better endgame?
Kevin Jonas and Frankie Jonas during the final challenge of Claim to Fame season 2, which revealed everyone's relatives and the winner (Photo by John Fleenor/ABC)

ABC’s celebrity relative guessing game Claim to Fame season two has its $100,000 winner, and all of its celebrity relatives have been revealed. They’re an impressive group—the relatives, that is, including Tom Hanks, Lil Nas X, Dolly Parton, Alicia Keys, Jimmy Carter, and Neil deGrasse Tyson.

The players have been fun to watch, though the game they’ve played never quite reached the level of season one’s game.

Perhaps that’s because season one was new; perhaps it’s because the season-two players got stuck on some guesses and created a kind of stasis; perhaps that’s because alliances prevented dramatic blindsides, though that first one was still epic!

Of the final four, Chris, Monay, and Gabriel went into the final two episodes feeling protected, while Karsyn felt vulnerable since everyone knew her relative.

The challenges played a key role, though, and Gabriel continued to dominate in challenges, winning five of the last six challenges, including the most-important final challenge, giving him an incredible amount of power.

I don’t have a better idea for Claim to Fame’s endgame, but my one hope for season three would be a revised finale.

After two seasons of this format, I do appreciate the brevity: we go from three to a winner very quickly. But I’m convinced Claim to Fame needs something other than just two guess-offs controlled by one person.

That’s especially true if the producers are going to 1) bring everyone back and 2) make the clues even so obvious in the final challenge. There was literally an image of Chris’s relative on the final clue, as if the producers just gave up: Okay, fine, you can’t figure out these obvious clues? Here’s a cartoon version of him!

With this format, the final challenge winner controls the entire game. Of course, they could bungle that, but that’s too much power—especially with a final challenge that was so dependent on random chance.

Even with this format, I have thoroughly enjoyed season two, in no small part because of how much the production has improved from season one’s hilarious bargain-basement production. From the locations to the challenges, the visuals to the editing, the production stepped up and/or got a lot more money.

The biggest change, though, was in the editing, which did not give us the answers, so we could play along.

That made Claim to Fame’s second season a far more enjoyable viewing experience for me. Of course, we have access to the Internet, so it’s likely viewers will come up with answers before the players, but leaving a bit of mystery adds fun tension.

Right up to the end, the editing resisted revealing who Chris, Monay, and Gabriel were related to, even when the correct names were floated. Allowing the mysteries to remain makes the show more thrilling, or just makes it more fun to scream “DONNY OSMOND COME ON” at the television.

Let’s dive into the final two episodes.

Episode 9: ‘Disco Balls and Clue Walls’

A person pointing to a vertical column of tiles with writing on them
Franklin hosts the penultimate challenge on Claim to Fame season 2 (Photo by John Fleenor/ABC)

As the penultimate episode opened, Gabriel and Monay were trying to figure out Chris’s relative. “We have information. It’s just not giving us anything,” Monay said.

Monay suggested a role-playing exercise, closing their eyes and imagining they were in the 1970s, and the editors joined in the fun, adding a disco ball, lights, and music to the footage.

This exercise led Gabriel to a hilariously dumb guess: Little Richard. Monay had to remind him, “We’re looking for a white teen idol in the 1970s.”

And then! Gabriel just said, out of nowhere, “The Osmonds. Donny Osmond.” Monay said: “That’s not a bad one!” Still, Monay was shaken by their three incorrect guesses, and they moved on to other names, such as Ozzy Osbourne.

Meanwhile, Chris and Karsyn talked about Gabriel, throwing out athletes. Karsyn knew she was the most-obvious guess in the house, so she needed a correct answer and a challenge win.

At the challenge, we learned Kevin Jonas didn’t bother to show up yet again, or someone did a bad job scheduling this season.

However, Franklin Jonas is great as a solo host, and it’d be fitting to just have him host, since he’s the less-famous brother, and the house is full of less-famous relatives.

The final four participated in a repeat of a challenge from last year. They had a chance to get up to 12 clues about their fellow players. Each had five minutes to place clues into four categories for each of the other three players, and could check twice to see if they were right or wrong.

This was a great challenge for verifying clues. Maybe even more valuable than getting clues confirmed, however, was learning things that were wrong. For example, Chris confirmed Monay’s relative was not Steve Harvey by placing a ‘Family Feud’ card on the board.

Karsyn put ‘sports’ for Gabe’s professional field, and answered similarly for the other three categories, and all were wrong on her first check. “Gabe’s been lying this whole entire time,” she said, which is something the others also realized.

Franklin said no one would win immunity, and the losers would not be in a bottom two. Instead, all four players could be voted into the guess-off. The winner, however, had the ability to break a guess-off vote tie.

Karsyn and Gabriel each got seven right, Monay six, and Chris four. Gabriel won yet again, having locked in sooner than Karsyn.

Despite Gabriel’s win, he also realized that he’d been exposed. His sports lie, he said, has “run its course,” and “I think that’s going to sink me.” Later, he said, “One game just flushed all my work.”

That is the one uncontrollable variable in the game: the clues offered by producers, and how you navigate those.

Monay figured out who Gabriel is related to based on The Masked Singer, but tried to encourage Chris and Karsyn toward guessing T-Pain. Despite thinking of T-Pain initially, Chris, wasn’t confident, worried that T-Pain was not best known for TV or film. He and Karsyn suspected they’d been played.

“This literally feels like the most perfect game of chess, y’all, and I am lining myself up for checkmate,” Monay said. Of the final four players, Monay certainly was playing the most strategically, even if it didn’t pay off.

Without immunity or a bottom two, it seemed like people wanted to be the guesser so they’d have the power to choose. Karsyn definitely wanted that role since she felt the most exposed—but she also figured out who Gabriel’s relative is.

The four met in various configurations to try to figure each other’s clues out.

One thing that’s been consistent this season is players getting basic facts wrong. Chris, for example, said, “America’s Got Talent has a microphone in the logo,” and Gabriel agreed. Alas, it does not. Maybe they were thinking of The Voice’s logo?

The vote led to a tie between Gabriel and Karsyn. Gabriel’s tiebreaker basically meant he had two votes, and he chose himself as the guesser.

Then Gabriel chose Karsyn, and guessed Dale Earnhardt Jr, which was correct. The NASCAR driver is Karsyn’s uncle, as everyone knew. But Karsyn would be back.

Episode 10: ‘Needle In a Haystack’

Two people in party attire sitting on a pool lounger, holding cocktails
Shayne and JR returned along with the other Claim to Fame season 2 eliminated players (Photo by John Fleenor/ABC)

In the final Claim to Fame 2 episode, the final three arrived to a poolside party with all the eliminated players, who’d returned along with co-host Kevin Jonas.

The other players, we learned, had been sequestered without phone or Internet access, so they weren’t coming with new information.

I thought that chatting with the other players would immediately clear things up, considering all the clues that’d been revealed, but the final three got very little from those conversations.

Jane, however, was convinced she knew who Chris was. “Like I said from day one, who’s my biggest threat? It’s Jane.” Jane told Chris she wasn’t planning on telling others.

“You can change this whole game. Tell me who Chris is,” Gabriel told Jane. “I came up with a name for Chris—Donny Osmond—I just need confirmation.”

The show cut to a commercial instead of revealing if Jane did, in fact, spill, and when we returned, she told Gabriel a name: Frankie Valli. So is she just totally wrong?

Two people walking across a dirty field covered in large star-shaped tiles
Chris and Gabriel at the Claim to Fame 2 episode 8 challenge, before they made up after their fight (Photo by John Fleenor/ABC)

Shayne whispered to J.R. who she thought Monay was related to, but we didn’t get to hear. “You look just like him. That forehead,” J.R. told Monay, and she seemed to think that he knew the answer.

Shayne told Gabriel that she knew both his and Monay’s relatives, but would not reveal them.

Before this information could be put into play, there was one final challenge. Its winner received the ability to choose the first guesser and target, and then choose their role in the final guess-off: a ridiculous amount of power.

The final challenge was a team challenge, and the final three picked previous players to help them dig through the hay—and figure out the clues. The teams:

  • Gabriel: Travis, Cole, and Hugo
  • Chris: Olivia, Jane, and Karsyn
  • Monay: Carly, Shayne, and J.R.

They all dug through literally haystacks to find objects that were clues, and then had to place those in order of the players’ elimination.

The lunchbox for Chris was a rather revealing clue: cartoon images of Donny and Marie Osmond. It was so obvious! Then again, so have previous clues, like Nick Cannon producing more than 10 children.

Both Gabe and Chris screwed up by revealing they knew their own clues, with Gabe putting the turban on a mannequin head right up on the “my clue” pedestal, leading Chris to finally think of The Masked Singer’s host, Nick Cannon.

In the haystacks, which made my allergies flare up just by looking at those clouds of dust, Jane found Monay’s clue and told Chris it represented J.B. Smoove.

It seems like a stereotype to imagine the son of Donny Osmond did not know J.B. Smoove, but Chris did not. It sounded like he’d never even heard the name, saying “Jamie Smooth” back to Jane, who ultimately repeated the correct name three times, ugh.

Later, Karsyn revealed she also had no idea who J.B. Smoove is, referring to “J.B. Whatever” and “J.B. Cool or J.B. Something.”

Carly floated another possibility: Last Comic Standing’s Jay Pharoah. You may recall Carly’s meltdown over her lack of camera time, and I hope she was satiated by getting screen time to be publicly wrong. (More on how wrong she was later.)

Meanwhile, Monay was confident the challenge gave her what she needed to guess both Chris and Gabriel’s relatives.

The win went to Gabriel, who found the final clue first, beating Chris, who’d been tied with him. And that means Gabriel was not only in the final two, but had all the power in both of the final two guess-offs.

A person in a suit smiling and pointing with his left hand; he's standing outside at night in front of flowering bushes
Gabriel during the Claim to Fame season 2 finale (Photo by John Fleenor/ABC)

Monay and Gabriel met, and Monay told Gabriel that it was Marie and Donnie Osmond on the lunch box. “Let me take Chris out,” Monay said.

Gabriel said, “I would expect Monay to be playing me.” She was not playing him about Donny Osmond—but also hoping to get to the end with Gabriel since she thought he did not know her relative. This is again great strategy from Monay, trying to use Gabriel’s power position to her advantage.

Gabriel did indeed choose Monay as the guesser, so Chris was the target. Would the fourth guess be wrong, too? Or would “invincible” Chris go home?

Monay guessed Donny Osmond, which of course was accurate—though the photo of Donny Osmond, a screenshot from his video message, looked terrible. Chris, who’s Donny’s son (of course!), was emotional. “My dad is my hero,” he said, rattling off Donny’s achievements and then joked, “he’s an old man, but he looks really good.”

Two people wearing in formal clothes, embracing while standing outside at night in front of flowering bushes
Claim to Fame season 2 runners-up Monay and Chris during the final Guess-Off (Photo by John Fleenor/ABC)

Chris also delivered Claim to Fame’s thesis: “I’ve dealt with this my whole life, being in the shadow of someone else.” Chris said he’s now “created my own identity.”

For the final, winner-takes-all guess, Gabriel decided he would guess Monay’s relative, and went with J.B. Smoove.

Monay was indeed revealed to be J.B. Smoove’s daughter, whose full name is Jerrica Monay Brooks.

A nice montage showed us how Gabriel figured that out, and earned himself $100,000.

Two people wearing in formal clothes, embracing while standing outside at night in front of flowering bushes, illuminated by a shower of sparks
Gabriel wins Claim to Fame season 2 and hugs runner-up Monay (Photo by John Fleenor/ABC)

Gabriel figuring out both Donny Osmond and J.B. Smoove on his own was reason enough for him to win, but he also did exceptionally well all season keeping people away from his own relative’s identity, and keeping himself in a strong position with all his challenge wins and the clues he won.

Not that anyone took Carly seriously during her episode-one meltdown, but it’s fun to think back to the season starting with Carly screaming, “even Gabriel found that out, he’s not even smart,” to him winning it all because of his smarts.

Finally, Gabriel revealed that Nick Cannon is his older brother. “It’s an honor to be here with all of you all,” Gabriel said, “and just to represent everything he did and has done and continues to do.”

Well, we know what Nick Cannon continues to do, and after this season, I hope ABC continues to pump out Claim to Fame seasons at least as often as Nick Cannon pumps out successful sperm.

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Tuesday 29th of August 2023

A small correction: it's Little Richard, not Lil' Richard.

Andy Dehnart

Wednesday 30th of August 2023

Thanks, Keith. I wrote it that way because that's what it sounded like he said, but then I didn't put it in quotes! I'll correct it. Thanks again!

Jeff Metzner

Tuesday 29th of August 2023

I do agree that it's a fine idea for Franklin to host on his own, though he and Kevin are fun together. The look on Franklin's face when Kevin said "never give money to family" was priceless.