Among long-time “Challenge” viewers, many openly admit to tuning out during the physical challenges. The rules for whatever wild task they have to complete can get so bizarrely complicated that it’s okay to kick back until host TJ Lavin announces who won. The MTV series has retained its cult group of fans over its 29 seasons not because we care about the physical challenges, but because we care about the veteran players, the in-house drama, and the sneaky alliances that form each cycle.
RELATED: The Champs finally invade ‘The Challenge’ & it’s the Underdogs ‘worst nightmare’
But on Tuesday (Feb. 28), “The Challenge” Underdogs finally take on The Champs — and for the first time in a very long time, the face-off isn’t just worthy of a watch — our eyes, at least, were glued to the screen. Playing a muddied up, rugby-like version of basketball, the competition’s balance lies in giving the Underdogs six players, against the Champs’ four. In a team challenge like this, it’s nearly impossible to win if you’re under-manned. The women put up a fierce battle, but the Underdog females eventually win 3-0.
And then the men take the field: CT, Johnny Bananas, Zach, and Darrell all looking like monster beasts who missed dinner. The cameras thankfully go into slo-mo mode — the amount of insane physical prowess the Champs display is worth appreciating. Outnumbered four to six just like the women, and with full grown men tackling them from each direction, Zach is able to perfectly toss the ball to Bananas, who’s then able to drop the ball in the bucket while another guy hangs on his back… There’s a reason these guys are called the Champs.
It’s truly as exciting to watch as any professional sport, in this case. The Underdogs end up eking it out, but it’s not that gleeful of a victory celebration. With two extra men, they should’ve easily walked away with the W. The Underdogs are looking at quite an uphill battle moving forward.
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Now that the Champs are officially in the competition, Lavin explains the newly tweaked rules. From now on, every challenge will be a team effort, with the victors earning money toward their team bank account. Regardless of whom comes out on top, the Underdogs and Champs will rotate weekly regarding who must compete in the elimination: This week, it’s the Underdogs.
Similar to before, a female must nominate a male teammate, and vice versa. The top performers in the challenge get to make the first pick, but that honor doesn’t come with the relief of being safe. Tony and Sylvia are chosen for the elimination round, and then it comes down to a group vote to decide who’ll be joining them.
Bananas eavesdrops on the Underdogs’ team meeting, and can barely contain his laughter: They have no strategy to speak of. The veteran player moonwalks away backwards, grabs a beer and heads back into the pool: As of right now, the Champs can just sit back. Their competitors can self-destruct all on their own.
It says something that we’ve spent this long discussing the episode and still haven’t gotten to how Kailah gets so drunk that she blacks out and pees the bed: That’s how entertaining the physical competition was to watch this week. It was like the MTV Super Bowl version of “The Challenge.”
But, poor Kailah. The stress of the competition has clearly gotten to her. At first, she was cool being the most hated player, but the Champs’ arrival has her feeding those nerves with a bottle of vodka. The embarrassment of this happening on national TV is bad enough — but then Cory, who’s been trying to get in her pants since Day 1, has to go make everything worse. Within earshot, he brags to Amanda that he was never into her in the first place — he’s done.
Okay, Cory. We understand not wanting to hook-up or associate with someone because they aren’t mature enough to control their alcohol — but the way you’re acting is mean, childish, and not a good color on you. A private conversation with Kailah, a simple “let’s just be friends” chat, would’ve sufficed. But that’s why Cory is still an Underdog, after all. His inability to instinctively make the right strategic move while not in competition mode — especially then — remains his Achilles heel.
“The Challenge” airs on Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. ET/PT on MTV.
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