For a period of time, Survivor made it easy to tell who was at risk of elimination: they were the players who were suddenly given focus by the editing.
More-recent seasons are better about not so obviously telegraphing who’s at risk, though sometimes at the expense of coherence.
The Challenge USA 2’s editing this season has seemed as similarly blunt as those Survivor seasons—though it has already blindsided me once!
So at the start of episode 9, when Cassidy said the Survivor alliance members “haven’t lost a single member yet,” I thought: Okay, which Survivor is going to lose this week?
Michaela then told us—and I love how much of a narrator Michaela has become, as she can really cut through the bullshit—that Chris Underwood is “making people very skeptical.”
As an example, Chris reassured Michaela he was with the Survivor alliance by saying, “I play with people I like.” There’s that strategic prowess that got him voted out of Survivor third.
Sebastian also said he was “100 percent focused,” and though he meant on the game, it seems maybe more about his showmance. (That is no more: Sebastian and Tori hang out in Miami, but “we’re not dating, we’re not a relationship,” Sebastian told EW.)
But I forgot about what Sebastian said as the episode progressed because of how much Chris focus there was.
We saw Chris calling his wife and talking about his future, and also telling us, “a lot of people think that I don’t know how to play a strategic game.”
Yep, he’s done! And that was only the start of the relentless focus on him, though. The editing continuously mocked Chris and his terrible social game.
First came the challenge: “Speed Jumps,” which was all about trampolines. For stage one, the players jumped on height-adjusted trampolines to look over a wall at a panel of numbers, which they had to add together.
The fastest three men and three women went on to stage two, where they jumped on a trampoline on a semi truck, jumping for flags that earned points.
From a distance, it didn’t look like they were attached to the truck in any way, but up close revealed they had safety lines linked to a belt, keeping them from flying off the truck. It didn’t stop Sebastian from slamming onto his hip, or Tori slamming down onto her back. Ouch.
The final scores: Fessy 18, Sebastian 9, Tori 6, Josh 5, Michele 2, Chanelle 1.
Fessy and Tori didn’t want to nominate their allies or people they were close to, such as the people who shared their rooms, but they basically ran out of options and ended up nominating their roommates: Chris and Cassidy.
“Let the shitshow begin,” Fessy said. The shitshow was Chris scrambling, and the editing kicking into overdrive to kick Chris repeatedly.
Chris was sad Fessy nominated him (“he did promise”) and tried to dig himself out of his nomination hole with side conversations that we saw in flashback.
I’m less clear about what Chris was saying to people than what people thought of this:
- “I told Chris, whatever you think you’re doing, stop,” Michaela said. “Did he listen? No.”
- “I’m watching Chris light himself on fire,” Bananas said. “He is in this position by his own doing.”
- “You really dug yourself into a hole,” Josh told him to his face. “You have lied on a lot of people.”
I don’t know what “lied on” means but when even Josh is calling you out, you’re in trouble.
Chris’s approach was familiar, though: Sebastian told Michaela, “He did that shit on Survivor.” (Sebastian also admitted to using Chris as a shield for his own plans.)
All of this culminated with Chris making a visit to the dungeon to talk to Wes and Bananas, trying to convince them to vote for a woman so that he’d be safe. Cue Michele walking in immediately.
Chris tried desperately to claw his way out of the hole he kept digging, and failing. Bananas was laughing so hard he has his face behind his pillow, glancing at Wes as Chris flailed.
Chris was like a turtle on his back at this point, and when Wes said, “it’s almost sad to watch,” I agreed. I just wanted to flip him over, so he could scurry off.
But The Challenge USA gods had other plans. All of this focus was a big set-up to make the outcome seem obvious.
At the elimination arena, votes went to Sebastian 6, Tyler 5, Alyssa S. 1, Bananas 1.
Sebastian’s ball came up, naturally, so he and Chris faced off in “Trick, Trick, Boom.”
They had to each align three small, flat platforms so that, while standing on a tower, they could bounce a ball off each platform and land it in a barrel: a trick shot.
After successfully landing a ball, they had to add two more platforms, both of which were at angles.
Yet another great challenge for The Challenge USA 2, one that allowed us to see everything going on all at once, and watch as balls just barely missed their barrels. And it involves some physical prowess but a lot of mental strategy, too.
They each hit the first three platforms, and were both working on the second stage at the same time. Sebastian almost landed a ball—and then decided to rearrange all his platforms. Meanwhile, Chris made micro adjustments.
And then Chris landed his second ball, winning the challenge, and at least upsetting my expectation that this episode had been screaming CHRIS IS GOING HOME BYE CHRIS BYE.
So Big Brother and the OG Challenge vets got their wish of a Survivor player going home. The overlapping alliances and relationships have prevented Survivor and Big Brother from banding together to keep purging the house of those vets, even if some of them want to.
As Fessy said, Wes and Bananas make friends and “then they win and go run their mouth all over the fucking world about how great they are, and we still let ’em slide every fucking season.”
Wes told us, “we as Challengers know how to play dominoes.” Will other Survivors fall now? Or will they band together (with Big Brother?) to ensure The Challenge USA 2 won’t be like every other fucking season?