10 of the Smartest Political Moves in Challenge History

Allan Aguirre
12 min readNov 19, 2019


It’s Tuesday, and last week I wrote about 10 of the Dumbest Political Moves in Challenge History. This week, I decided to write about 10 of the smartest.

Let me tell you this: being able to criticize certain moves in the Challenge is much easier as there is an abundance of dumb moves and a dearth of smart moves. It is also difficult to decipher between the social game to political moves to pre-game alliances.

Creating a big strong alliance like the Mobs during the JEK era of the Challenge is a smart move, but it’s hard to give them credit as one main move. Most of these moves are going to be small ingenious plays that either displayed an exceptional understanding of the game or were the moves that pushed a player towards success.

10 Shane’s side deal with Nicole on Invasion

I think Shane made many brilliant moves during his season of the show. One of the most ingenious steps was making a side deal with Nicole Z on Invasion, where if he won the daily Challenge, he would not throw her into elimination, and she would do the same for him. With five girls left on The Underdogs, and his top 3 being his Lavender Ladies, it meant Shane would only have to throw in Jenna, and that 4 out of 5 girls are not on his radar. Nelson was pissed when Nicole threw him in over Shane, but part of this list is learning the essential thing in the Challenge is getting ahead of a problem, instead of reacting to different scenarios.

Another significant move was baiting Cory into taking Theo into elimination. Cory stated he wanted to face either Shane or Theo, so Shane talked up the small rivalry between the two. Shane is aware he’s good at daily challenges and bad at eliminations. He won the next daily Challenge and came very damn close to making the final and potentially winning the entire game out of nowhere.

9 Kam’s big play from Final Reckoning

On Final Reckoning, Kam orchestrated a move where once she won the daily Challenge, she scared the entire house into exchanging votes 1 to 1 with other teams as they were fearful of accidentally ending up in elimination. It allowed Kam and Kayleigh to have total power as their SuperVote gave them the ability to vote anyone into elimination. Kam was able to do so by creating an extravagant scene where she told the entire house she would be throwing in Joss/Sylvia and Kyle/Brad, two of the teams they felt closest to. However, she had told Sylvia and Kyle beforehand, so each played it up.

Unfortunately, this move got wasted on creating a Faith/Angela vs. DaVonne/Jozea elimination. Kam figured she would instead use this move as a flex. She’d rather protect her friends than throw in a top player like Bananas or Zach. Then again, it was still very early in a game where they knew there was a Redemption House. If Kam had decided to go for a big target, then it would rank near the top. Instead, it is in the lower half of the top 10.

8 Kenny and Laurel giving Pete and Jill the daily challenge win on Fresh Meat 2

Kenny and Laurel won 4 of the first five daily challenges of Fresh Meat 2 to guarantee themselves safety. The one time they did not win, they went into elimination as they were the most significant threat in the game. When Kenny and Laurel earned themselves a 1 on 1 shot at immunity against their #1 allies in Jill and Pete, they chose to throw them a win because Jill and Pete had already seen two eliminations, and because they wanted to ensure trust within their alliance and prove to the other teams, they were a team you could work with reliably. In the end, this is the move that decided the rest of the game.

Wes and Evelyn created this massive alliance with all these little side deals, but they only had their interests at heart. They stretched themselves too thin and kept cutting off the members at the bottom of the totem pole. Eventually, Wes and Evelyn would allow their strongest allies, Landon/Carley and CJ/Sydney, to go in against one each other. It resulted in Wes and Ev facing each later on, and the demise of each team. To have a successful alliance, you have to give and take. Wes and Ev wanted a pyramid scheme, and in doing so, they found themselves on the bottom in the end.

Kenny’s move was symbolic of the fantastic game he and Laurel played all season.

7 Wes creating a deal with the rookies on Day 1 of Exes 2

During Exes 2, Wes used a small temporary power to set up the board for a long-term game strategy. He brokered a deal with Thomas and Jay to create an alliance with the big group of rookies. Wes was investing his money in low-risk low-priced stocks that could potentially pay out lavishly. When Jay and Jenna won a trivia challenge out of nowhere, they threw in Wes’ #1 target Leroy, putting a target on their backs while doing Wes’ dirty work.

Wes also made sure to maintain these relationships as he and Theresa could easily beat them in an elimination or a final. Again, it is a proactive move. Putting in a strong player will put a target on your back, but you would much rather face a weak player later in the game than a strong player. Unfortunately, Wes was not able to cash-in on his final lay-up due to the Redemption House twist, but Sarah/Jordan got to.

I do not include Wes convincing Leroy to throw in Zach/Jonna, mostly because it is a baffling move on Leroy’s part.

6 Evelyn bargaining for a spot on Kenny’s Boat during the Island

I think Evelyn did an incredible job of fighting against the Mob (consisting of Kenny, Johnny, Dunbar, Derrick, Paula, and Johanna) on The Island. In a game decided by numbers, Evelyn consistently outperformed men and women to gain a key twice on The Island and had to overcome weak-minded players being content with staying in the game, rather than attempt to go against the Mob. Sometimes you are simply in shit creek without a paddle.

When Evelyn had the choice to steal a key, she could have picked her nemesis Johnny Bananas/ key, or she could take Dunbar’s key in exchange for a spot in Kenny’s boat. Evelyn had to decide whether she could let Johnny Bananas win. Ultimately, Evelyn decided that if she didn’t take his key, she’d still be watching people she hated win the final. In a game where she had to pick between the lesser of two evils, she at least walked away with $75,000 and a second Challenge win. Unfortunately, this put Johnny Bananas on the Champions team for the Ruins and in many ways, drastically altered his entire life and the Challenge itself.

5 Laurel makes a list on Free Agents

When Devyn Simone won the trivia daily Challenge on Free Agents, she planned to make a big move by voting in Laurel. Laurel found out, and she decided to make an ordered hit list and give it to Devyn. She explains to Devyn that she is an incredibly strong player who has a good shot of coming back, and if Devyn were to allow her to stay, she would never consider putting Devyn in as many girls were higher on Laurel’s hit-list. Devyn sees this list and realizes that Laurel is more straight-up than Theresa, the girl she was allied with. In contrast, Theresa did not vote Laurel into elimination and rallied the troops to do so to avoid getting blood on her hands.

Laurel did the same thing Cory did on Dirty 30, except she executed in the smartest way possible. She went to Devyn 1 to 1, she explained herself, and created a game-plan of sorts. In doing so, Laurel created a new ally in Devyn; she got her enemy Theresa in elimination and, most importantly, avoided elimination herself. Laurel wins almost any elimination, but as we saw in the Cara/Jess elimination, anything can happen. A freak accident could end your game.

4 Susie’s Mist on Inferno 3

On the Inferno 3, Tonya and Susie had this incredible rivalry with one another. Tonya’s sole goal was to have Susie eliminated. They were two girls on the opposite ends of the spectrum when it came to how they conducted themselves on the show. Tonya was in the best shape of her life on Inferno 3 and was a near-elite competitor during that season. Seriously, watch those daily challenges, and Tonya is more competent on Inferno than someone like Cara is now, it is wild to watch. However, Tonya was also calling her husband on the phone to see if it was okay if she could have sex with Davis (who is Gay by the way). Yet, Susie, on the other hand, was bullying Tonya by creating the “I Hate Tonya” game.

Susie vs. Tonya is my favorite underrated rivalry in Challenge history. Mostly because if their rivalry happened in 2019 on Twitter, people on both sides of the battle would be popping off. I love both women honestly, they both created great reality TV, and I don’t think either gets the respect they deserve as competitors. Now, what did Susie actually do? Well, the Bad Asses team kept putting Susie in elimination. Susie kept winning the life-shield, partly because she was a good player, and partly because she convinced her female teammates that they needed her, so they would throw the missions so she could win it. Imagine being on a team where you only have five females, to begin with, and yet the other four are bending over to save you when it means they’ll likely go into elimination?

Susie is a monster in the best way possible. Even with no power, she can issue her stubbornness, a harsh look, and her words to cut her teammates into caving in to her desires. Susie is a 115 pound CT. She intimidates her opponents and allies in a way we’ve never seen. Susie never trained for the show, she showed up infrequently on seasons and wasn’t even a person hooking up all the time. Susie had gravity to her, and I wish she didn’t drop out of Free Agents as it would have been amazing to watch her navigate that type of game, especially with someone like Laurel around.

Honorable Mention to Veronica for getting her team to throw her the life shield on Inferno 1.

3 Bananas flips the Aneesa vote on Bloodlines

On Battle of the Bloodlines, there was a concerted effort to attack Bananas and the major veteran alliance. Cory assumed that by hooking up with Aneesa and Mitch hooking up with Rianna, their votes would be safely on the younger side. While their dicks worked hard, the Banana man worked harder. Bananas assured Aneesa safety and came through when he threw his partner and ex from the previous season (Nany) under the bus to make right on the deal. The game is cutthroat sometimes, but you have to be proactive instead of reactive. I don’t like the current version of Johnny Bananas, mostly because he does not put forth the effort that he did in the past. He dominated the 2010–2015 era of the show because he cared infinitely more than everyone else, and it showed.

He also mucked up Cara’s relationship, strong-armed Jenna at the final six vote, and was pretty close to coming up with a win despite his cousin failing at every point in the game. The following season, Bananas played pretty flawlessly alongside Sarah as well.

2 Mark Long makes Money Moves, especially on Exes 1

The best social game in Challenge history is probably Mark Long. He is everyone’s best friend in the house, and he kills the daily challenges with ease. Mark is in great shape, and he is freakishly large. People like his company, and they fear facing him one on one physically. What Mark is most notorious for is creating side deals where he will give up his spot in exchange for money or a share of the final. He first did this on Battle of the Sexes 2, where he gave up his place in the final, and his three alliance members shared the winnings with him four ways. On Duel 2, he made a deal with Brad and Evan, where they agreed to split the final winnings three ways, so even though he finished in third, he still walked away with 50k.

During Mark’s final appearance, he cut a deal with Johnny to throw the final in exchange for money. In retrospect, it is somewhat ridiculous. Yes, Mark would probably beat Johnny in elimination one on one, but Camila beats Robin 10/10 times, and if it goes to a tiebreaker, then it’s a coinflip. Just the fact that Mark was able to walk away with some First Place money in a game where Robin Hibbard was his partner is bonkers. Mark overachieved so much with Robin, and I can’t imagine her succeeding in the final, which Bananas and Camila won. Robin in 2011 was not Gauntlet 2 Robin, and they tried to make it seem like Robin was having a resurgence when, in reality, it was just Mark Long being her partner.

I also want to give a shoutout to Dario cutting a deal with Bananas on Rivals 3. A lot of people made fun of him at the time for seemingly playing for third place, but when you and your partner are both not top players, getting an assured finals paycheck seems like a great deal.

1 Sarah throwing in Johnny Bananas on Exes 2

1 Sarah throwing in Johnny Bananas on Exes 2

I’m sorry if you wanted something better, but the most natural move on paper is sometimes the best.

The best part of Sarah making this move after the final daily Challenge on Exes 2, is that she was planning from Day 1. She had her notebook with Jordan, where she outlined the alliances in the game, and she chose to straddle the middle of the Wes and Bananas alliance, where both players thought she was their #1 or #2. Sarah knew that once the dick measuring contest between Bananas and Wes was over and the dust settled, she would be in the perfect position to cut the winner off from the head. She knew to attack once the opponents’ guard was down.

It is, in many ways, the easiest and smartest move. There is a long Challenge history of people letting Johnny Bananas slide to wins, especially once they feel they owe him or something. And some people want to beat him themselves. Jordan did not want to make a move because he wanted the validation of beating Bananas in a final. Sarah made the right move, and it got her the win.

Unfortunately, it resulted in one of the funniest/saddest/oversaturated moments in Challenge history, which was Bananas stealing the money from her. Still, I think Sarah ultimately wouldn’t give up the Exes 2 win, if it meant the money stealing moment never happens.



Allan Aguirre

27 years old. I blog about MTV's the Challenge and will dabble into other subjects occasionally. Follow me on Twitter for the occasional bad joke.