Welcome back for another season of the Challenge! Episode 1 of Double Agents is in the books. You probably have some thoughts, so let’s compare. Instead of giving a simple summary, I decided to focus on the 10 Biggest moments/takeaways from the first episode. These will be integral storylines that the first episode focused on, and I’ll breakdown why they matter for the season.
If you prefer the traditional recap format, my Podcast partner and I broke down the entire episode and talked through each pair in way more detail. Here is the Spotify Player, and a link to our Buzzsprout website where you can find the Apple/Overcast players. In the middle of this article, there is also a YouTube option with video where in the bottom right-hand corner, the subject we are talking about will be located. So if you want to hear about your favorite players, skip around.
Caffeine Confessionals: Challenge Double Agents Episode 1 Recap: A Feast of Champions on Apple…
Nikki and Allan break down Episode 1 of the Challenge Double Agents. We talk about the first daily challenge…
- Awesome Soundtrack (I’m a huge Smiths fan)
- The Old Young Bucks Being Hilarious
- Big T being awesome
- Darrell is back and hilarious as always
CHEATING EXTRA 11th Takeaway:
11 Why was the Declassified Episode Not Episode 1?
The Declassified Episode was so critical to this season, gave you insight to why some of the partnerships on Episode 1 formed, and introduced you to the personalities of many of the rookies. They jumped straight into the game on Episode 1 and if you didn’t watch Episode 0, you might be scratching your head about certain decisions. Tonight should have been a 2.5 hour premiere, or at least they should have marketed the Declassified Episode better.
10 ANEESA COMING IN BIG
In a season with one of the most stacked female casts ever, Aneesa comes out on top for all 30 players in the first challenge, including the men. Statistically, this is quite literally Aneesa’s most impressive daily challenge performance ever, and she did it eighteen years into her Challenge career and on her 14th season. For reference, when Aneesa debuted, George Bush was still in his first term, Shrek 2 hadn’t come out, and I was losing a tooth jumping off the top of a slide and onto my face to avoid getting caught in a game of Freeze Tag. Aneesa made a smart pick with Fessy as a partner since nobody will want to face him in elimination, and the guy is an absolute unit. I also wanted to note that I’ve seen many people say that Fessy is all-talk until he sees a puzzle. Well, he beat fourteen other guys in a memory competition. He’s definitely in the upper-half of intelligence for men on this cast.
You also have to compliment the fact that Aneesa was willing to pull the trigger on the Wes/Natalie vs. CT/Ashley elimination. Do I think it was premature? No, because you don’t take an empty shot at CT/Ashley; it has to be a loaded shotgun. CT has also been Aneesa’s biggest hater over the years and has often called her weak. It’s awesome to see her get one back at the elder statesmen.
9 Teams Of Interest: Aneesa/Fessy, Wes/Natalie, CT/Ashley
I’m going to power rank these pairs throughout the article, except for three here: the Power Couple (Aneesa/Fessy), and the two teams who got voted into elimination: Wes/Natalie and CT/Ashley. Fessy was not happy to have Aneesa as his partner, and for a fair reason. She’s played 13 previous times and never won due to her inabilities on this show. At the same time, he needs to have a more positive attitude and see Aneesa for what she’s good at; he easily could have gotten some worse. His relationship with her strengthens his connections with the Old Young Bucks while also allowing him to freestyle more with his Big Brother group.
Wes and Natalie are easily the most dangerous pair in a final because they can run, swim, do puzzles, etc. For Survivor fans, Wes is probably the closest thing to Tyson Apostol on the Challenge. Natalie and Tyson had such an extraordinary bond on that show that you hope these two come together similarly. Meanwhile, CT and Ashley’s theoretical pair is excellent as they have the most wins between them. On paper, they are the two strongest teams in the game. As a fan of this television show, it hurt knowing one would be off the show after the first episode. However, as a critic of the game, this is how the game should get played, especially for the rookies/floaters. You want these big dogs up against each other from the jump. Part of me does think that once production found out the two teams voted into elimination, they decided it would be a “girls day.” While CT vs. Wes would be an infamous moment, no way in hell were they losing one of the two highest-paid cast members on episode one.
8 Bottom Tier Pairs: Joseph/Big T, Mechie/Liv, Gabby/Lio
I felt so bad for Big T. When she’s trying to politic, her partner is sleeping while everyone is partying. Joseph, buddy, I know you probably watched CT sleep through this show the past few years, but that’s not how you’re supposed to play the game as a rookie. Big T’s number one ally in this game was Ashley, as Ashley tried to help her in the daily challenge, and Big T was one of the only people not to vote CT/Ashley into elimination. Once the big targets are out, people are going to see their duo as a Gold Skull. Gabby and Lio are a duo I want to root for because they are the shortest guy and girl on this cast, yet, remarkably fit and could surprise us. They remind me a bit of Natalie and Paulie on Final Reckoning. Their size could come in handy in some of the challenges.
Liv and Mechie will have a lot to prove. Mechie impressed me as he was the first guy up the hill in the daily challenge. The guy has some athleticism to him. I like Liv’s personality; I’m just not sold on her as a competitor at all.
7 Lower Middle Tier: Nelson/Amber M, Devin/Nicole, Darrell/Amber B
Nelson is fantastic at eliminations, and he has some friends in the house (Cory, Fessy, Jay). I do not think he has the skill-set to elevate a partner. Thus, Amber needs to complement Nelson and be good at what he lacks: puzzles, swimming, heights, and grammar. That’s a tall order for a small girl. Devin views himself as a genius, and if he can solve some puzzles this time around, he complements Nicole’s physical abilities in this game. If not, they will be Tweedledumb and Tweedledumber.
Amber B is a mixed bag for Darrell. We have no clue what Amber’s physical or mental ability on this show is because she didn’t get to compete much on Big Brother 16, and that show was 6 years ago. The positive is, she’s snuck in with the Big Brother crew and fills the one weakness in Darrell’s game, the lack of connections/social game. They have the potential to go far if Amber can keep up with Darrell physically, or at least 70–80%.
6 Upper Middle Tier: Cory/Tori, Josh/Kam, Leroy/Kaycee
All the best players wanted Tori as a partner, which should mean that I view this as a top team. Yet, I’m not inspired by this Cory/Tori duo. They both very much feel like B+ players. There’s something complacent about this duo that I don’t like. I feel like Tori would almost do better with a worse partner, where she would give 110% to compensate for their weaknesses, and the same goes for Cory. They’re both players who might coast because they assume their combined talent will win out. At least their names rhyme.
Josh/Kaycee and Leroy/Kam hit the jackpot by pairing up with each other’s friends. The Kamroy alliance merging with the Big Brother alliance potentially creates a big conglomerate to control five teams: Josh/Kam, Leroy/Kaycee, Darrell/Amber, Kyle/Nany, and Fessy/Aneesa. If that sticks together, they can run the game, as long as Fessy stays loyal to the Big Brother side, and also, Wes/CT don’t go on a stretch of daily challenge victories. As pairs, Kam/Josh and Leroy/Kaycee are solid. In terms of running a final, Kam would do better with Leroy, and Kaycee would do better with Josh. For the games’ sake, spreading themselves out politically is better for their self-preservation.
5 Top Tier: Kyle/Nany, Jay/Theresa, Nam/Lolo
Kyle and Nany are set up for a long-run this season. Not sure if they are making the final, but I know they are making it to Episode 12–14 at least. They have many social connections, are very likable people, a decent amount of potential in daily challenges, can go under the radar, yet, aren’t weak enough to get targeted as a lay-up either.
Nam and Lolo are two physical specimens who should physically kill this game. I was shocked how much they let Nam talk in this time-limited episode, and it makes me think he might be a contender this season based on the fact that they’re allowing this guy whose first language isn’t English to talk freely. I wasn’t a fan of Turbo confessionals because it felt like they were at times making a joke of his English sentence construction. I’m glad we’re not getting that with Nam. Jay is Theresa’s perfect partner because he has many of the strengths and body that Wes had on Exes 2, and they dominated together. He needs to work his way into the Big Brother alliance. We know he is friends with those players; it’s more or less that he needs to win a challenge and establish himself as a number within them.
4 The 10 Gold Skull Twist
This season the skulls will operate in the same way that keys worked on the Island. Thus, the option for volunteering for an early elimination gets minimized because even if you get your skull, people later in the game will try to take it from you. There is less chance it happens if you are a player like Darrell or Fessy, but there is still a chance. Hell, if they have a skull and you do as well, you should be terrified because people will gun for your skull. Due to this format twist, I wish they reincorporated the relic twist from War of the Worlds 1. You shouldn’t be eligible for back-to-back eliminations if we are going to value these skulls so highly. The 10 Skull Twist is a real hit or miss format choice, and we might have to find out the hard way whether it’s a miss.
3 The Political Landscape and the Power of the Players in the Middle
Huge congrats to Joseph/Big T, Mechie/Liv, and Gabby/Lio for all avoiding the first elimination. They are three pairs, which in a typical season would all be seeing the initial eliminations. Instead, they took advantage of the game’s momentum and voted for the most prominent threats once given the opportunity. Kam and Leroy are already playing a highly political game and pulled off on CT/Wes what Wes did to Darrell back on Fresh Meat 2. They are playing his game and are using rookies to their advantage. CT must regret not picking Kam as a partner. His choice got Ashley targeted and merged two pre-existing alliances against him.
What happens after today is where the game gets interesting. Those three rookie pairs I mentioned above, they control their fates in the game as voting blocks. The smart play would be to flip to Wes and CT’s side next vote and gun for Kam/Leroy, and then the following week flip back and forth and so on. It’s lucky for them that Kam/Leroy shot first at Wes/CT, and now they could straddle the line to whatever benefits them. However, I don’t even know if they understand their position in the game. If they play into one sides’ demands, they will eventually get picked off, only at a delayed timing compared to the natural life-span of rookie competitors.
2 Au Revoir Ashley
It’s surreal to think that if CT accepted Kam asking his partner, Ashley might have avoided elimination. Natalie and Ashley played one of the more intense physical eliminations ever. The hog-tie elimination requires so much leg, core, and upper body strength. It’s a total full-body workout. Considering Natalie’s physical performances on Survivor, I expected a blowout and was a little disappointed by her at first. Once she got into the groove of it all, she killed it. Simultaneously, I felt Ashley’s long limbs would have made this elimination difficult, and she did much better than I expected. It was a quality win for Natalie and a quality loss for Ashley.
It sucks to see Ashley go out early again this season. I do find it a little weird that she makes fun of people for not winning after all their attempts when she’s creeping up on the top career appearances by a female and is almost in the top ten already, and will be the next time she comes on. Regardless of this loss, Ashley is still a Challenge legend. Not an elimination queen, though.
1 The Cliffhanger
Natalie got a legend as a partner who in most seasons would make them the top team. Under this format with this cast, he is one giant bullseye for existing. Now she is left with the choice of switching partners. If I were Natalie, I would take Leroy as my partner because that would shake up the game like crazy. Aligning with the boyfriend of the girl who targeted you and then taking that Big Brother alliance (Kaycee) and attaching it to either Wes or CT would fuck this game up like crazy and is what we need. Staying with Wes or switching to CT would lead to a predictable game where they get targeted repeatedly, especially with the house vote element involved. She could remain aligned with Wes and protect them more-so by forcing the Kamroy/Big Brother alliance’s hands.
It is a make or break decision, where if Natalie makes a big move, we get a much more exciting game.