Two minutes… That’s how close Nelson was to beating CT in the final on Invasion of the Champions. One half step is what Amanda was away from sending home Nicole and going to the final, and Dario was a white cork away from a final on Rivals 3. AYTO has had interesting history so far on the Challenge, one where they have had the targets on their back from day one, and are still struggling with being the minority on the show.
Let’s begin where it all started:
CHAPTER ONE — Exes 2: Adam Kuhn/Brittany Baldassari, John Jacobs/Simone Kelly
It is rumored that Jasmine Reynaud & Brandon Swift were cast for Battle of the Exes 2, as were Danny Jamieson & Melinda Stolp. Each of the couples dropped out a couple weeks before filming, and cast members have stated that these dropouts led to the casting of Are You The One cast members on the Challenge. Consider the previous RW was “Ex”Plosion, and AYTO is a dating show, it led in well for Battle of the Exes 2.
MTV wanted Adam & Brittany as they found their dysfunctional relationship amazing. They had the quick connection, split up as Adam was not feeling it, then still hooked up a ton throughout their time in the house. Brittany is an interesting and fun personality with good little quotes. Adam is a good looking 6'3 guy with an ego, massive arms, weirdly small hands, and a great athlete. Perfect pair to add to the show.
Originally, MTV wanted Shanley McIntee & Chris Tolleson as they were the most interesting couple. After having found his perfect match, Chris would escape the honeymoon suite to go hook up with Shanley back at the house. Shanley accepted the call, while Chris denied it. Disappointing as Shanley proved to be a physical beast on AYTO Second Chances. Chris T. prevented us from having an elite physical female on the show.
With Jasmine quitting, MTV viewed Simone as their answer. During the still somewhat prime of BGC, MTV took Simone and viewed her as the heir apparent to Jasmine. A short girl full of drama that will get crazy and be all over the place. Simone brought that, except she none of the little things that made Jasmine likable. She also only had one true “ex” on AYTO, John Jacobs. JJ was hilarious on AYTO and later Exes 2, but he gave the AYTO kids a bad image as competitors. Great personality, however, he was a scrawny kid who was not an athlete at all.
How did they do? Thank goodness for Wes giving the AYTO kids some legs to stand on. He was not into the idea of making small moves by sending in the AYTO kids to every elimination like most would, he focused on using the minorities of the game under his wing, and taking advantage of this market failure. Adam & Brittany were terrible as a pair from a chemistry standpoint. Most of the daily missions involved working together, which they could not do. During the eliminations, Adam took the lead and was key to them winning 3 straight eliminations until a misstep and stumble in their fourth got them a loss. Winning four eliminations would have put them in a historical category only done by: LeRoy, Derrick K, Laurel, Wes (5), Casey (5), and Sarah G. (5).
JJ & Simone did not fair as well as Adam & Brittany, due to physical limitations. From the get-go Adam/Brittany were put behind the 8 ball, getting as far they did was pretty impressive. Hell, Adam/Brittany lasted longer than Bananas/Nany in the “regular game”. In their Pole Wrestle match-up in exile, Adam put up a good fight against Bananas and lost due to lack of experience. For their first showing with only one real athlete, AYTO did fine.
AYTO 1 People who should have been cast: Wes Buckles, Dre McCoy, Shanley McIntee, Jessica Perez
CHAPTER TWO — Battle of the Bloodlines: Dario Medrano, Christina LeBlanc
For Bloodlines, they decided to only bring in two AYTO cast members. One was Dario Medrano, a great guy who was not only a player in the AYTO house, but overall well-liked, good looking, and fun with a swagger. He was perfect for this format as they also wanted his brother for AYTO, and decided last minute to not cast him.
Christina was a last minute grab. There’s not a lot of appeal for her. Except maybe she was an alternate demographic for them. If you wanted a personality, grab Ellie Puckett, she has personality.
How did they do? Okay, so at the time, Dario was viewed as annoying for the way he acted on Bloodlines. However, when re-watching the season, he actually brings drama, good comebacks, and excitement to the show. He and his brother were idiots with stupid swagger. Then you account for the fact that he was leading a rookie guys alliance of them, Mitch/Cory, and Thomas/Stephen. It was a smart choice by them, and through hookups, they had some power. Aneesa turning on them flipped the script and proved that Cory’s dick game on Bloodlines was weak.
Christina lost the first elimination to Jenna. Ironically, they killed the first challenge of the season. Dario prevented any success for his duo by knocking over his brother during his elimination against Mitch.
AYTO 2 People who should have been cast: Briana LaCuesta, Anthony Bartolotte, Garland Brown, Jenni Knapmiller
CHAPTER THREE — Rivals 3: Dario Medrano, Christina LeBlanc/Nate Siebenmark, Briana LaCuesta/Brandon Tindel, Devin Walker/Cheyenne Floyd, Simone Kelly, Nelson Thomas/Amanda Garcia
This is a mixed group. Nelson and Amanda originally were not on the cast, and were only on brought in as alternates due to Brandon quitting, and LeRoy getting injured.
Of the original eight people that were cast, there are a ton of question marks. MTV literally picked the two scrawniest guys from AYTO 2 in Brandon and Nate, two emotional boys who cry way too much. Devastating when Layton and Anthony B were giant physical creatures who were hookup kings. Christina was another flop, Briana was an interesting casting who was connected to Brandon.
Devin and Cheyenne were great AYTO personalities, except Cheyenne isn’t a Challenge person, and Devin is not an athlete. Simone was generally annoying again. The addition of Nelson and Amanda was one of the best additions for the future by accident.
How did they do? The first elimination, two AYTO teams were sent to the jungle to pull skulls. Devin/Cheyenne faced Reilly/Jessica and lost. The second elimination, two AYTO teams were there again, and this time Nelson/Amanda beat Reilly/Jessica. Third elimination, two AYTO teams, and Nelson/Amanda losing to Jamie/KellyAnne. At that point, Simone had quit with Thomas, Brandon and Briana had quit, Nate and Christina were in the game except treated like a complete lay-up, and the first team eliminated (Devin & Cheyenne), was still in the game. They literally had to pull white skulls the whole way to make it to the final.
Dario played a strong low-key, as he never went into the jungle to pull skulls the whole way. Was one of the few couples to win a daily challenge, also won an elimination, and were a white cork away from making the final.
AYTO 3 People who should have been cast: Connor Smith, Hunter Barfield, Melanie Velez, Britni Thornton, Kiki Cooper
CHAPTER FOUR — Invasion of the Champions: Anthony Bartolotte, Hunter Barfield, Nelson Thomas, Dario Medrano, Amanda Garcia
While there were only 5 AYTO people on the cast, their presence was made apparent by its strongst appearance to date. Instead of casting weak competitors, MTV decided to finally cast good players. Nelson was brought back, Hunter got to premiere, Dario was brought back, Anthony finally got to be on the show after a two season delay, and Amanda came back.
How did they do? There were 9 Underdog males on Invasion, 4 AYTO, 4 Real World, 1 Road Rules. With the game only being Underdogs until the final, they were able to escape the AYTO stigma that vets put on them, and actually dominated the game. Of the final 5 Underdog males, only 1 was Real World. Of the 3 AYTO competitors eliminated, Nelson eliminated two of them, and the other was Hunter who died during the mental bloodbath.
Amanda finished in 3rd place for the female Underdogs, 5th overall, and was a half inch on her step out of the ring during her elimination with Nicole from winning the elimination 2–0. Had she been in the same slot that Ashley was in the final, maybe she wins that final, maybe she finishes in second.
The first time the AYTO kids were given a fair shot against their peers, they rose to the top. Did they beat the Champs? No, but they definitely out performed the modern Real Worlder, at least from the guy side (considering there was only one female AYTOer on Invasion). Nelson was 2 minutes away from winning the season, winning would have given AYTO so much legitimacy.
AYTO 4 People who should have been cast: Tori Deal, John Humphrey, Prosper Muna, Stephen McHugh
CHAPTER FIVE — Dirty 30: Nelson Thomas, Hunter Barfield, Devin Walker, Dario Medrano, Derrick Henry, Tori Deal, Amanda Garcia, Simone Kelly, Britni Thorton, Briana LaCuesta*
It’s a big step forward for AYTO to have 9/30 and technically 10/31 spots on the cast. However, they are the still the minority in the predominately veteran game. The sheep of the younger generations also follow the babble of throwing in AYTO early in order to save themselves from going to elimination sooner. For an AYTO competitor to make the final and win, they will need to run the gauntlet, winning daily missions and eliminations just to get there.
If you had to pick some favorites from AYTO to one day win, they’re Hunter and Tori. Hunter was the only Underdog who was consistently competitive with the Champs last season on Invasion. He seems ready to ascend to the elite. The problem is that he tore some ligaments in his wrist either after the season or during this season. Another problem is that he is not a puzzle person. He won’t be on Challenge 31, and maybe not Challenge 32.
Tori has the strength, size, athleticism, and likability to succeed on the Challenge. She is so magnetic that people will be quick to forget that she was on AYTO.
It’s probably not going to be this season, but you can feel the tide turning, and AYTO is going to start doing well on this show. AYTO did not have the edge of Fresh Meat where they were given a veteran mentor that would protect them. They came in with less respect into a program that had 25 seasons of history and treated like the inferior kind. Now that MTV understands better on who to cast for the show, we could be getting an AYTO champion, and if they are stacking for an eventual team challenge, AYTO could theoretically hold its own if they cast their best.
AYTO’s darkest days on these shows have past, and it’s only going to get better.