When deciding who to write for the last and second to last female preview, it was tough. Cara Maria easily has more fans and more appearances on the Challenge, and pound for pound she’s easily one of the greatest all time female challenge competitors. On the other hand, Laurel in the eyes of many is the greatest female competitor of all time due to her 8–0 elimination record, and 3 second place final finishes in addition to her Free Agents title. I love both of the girls, and deep down in my heart, Cara is probably my favorite female competitor as she has always been an underdog, but objectively I know the Laurel gets the last one, the same way that Bananas does.
Where should we start with miss Cara Maria? Let’s go back to the beginning and give the whole history(skip to the analysis of her as a competitor if you don’t want her whole life). From Methuen, Massachusetts Cara Maria first showed up in front of as part of the meat on Fresh Meat 2. Cara the small girl with black hair showed off her speed and strength — being one of only two girls who was able to do a pull up and went on to do many more than the other girl, Laurel. Cara was rightfully the #1 pick based off of the Fresh Meat athletic skills contest. Unfortunately, she was paired with powerhouse Darrell who was targeted quickly by Wes and Kenny and thrown into the first elimination of the season. Cara did not have the best endurance and both of their inability to do puzzles killed their chances. They were the first pair sent home. Not being from the Real World or Road Rules and only showing up for one episode basically meant this would be the end of the Challenge road for her, right?
Well, Cara showed up next season for Cutthroat and ended up being on the same team as the only other girl that could do a pull up and runner up of Fresh Meat 2, Laurel. More importantly she also was on the team with Challenge legend Abram Boise where their kindred spirits met up immediately and they became a perfect pairing even hooking up on top of a piano. There was heavy animosity on their team that season between Laurel and Sarah Rice against Cara Maria, they thought she was dead weight who would kill them in the final. On the other side of things, Abram was leading the team to victories with his leadership and their romance was budding. In the end Abram got heat dehydration and maybe a concussion during the final while Cara and Laurel put things aside to finish second in the final. They then showed up on Rivals I as partners, and they had no doubts of making the final. Laurel and Cara went to two eliminations, dominated Jasmine and Jonna and then knocked out probably the 3rd best team in Camila and Theresa. The two of them finished second in the final against the most experienced veterans, Evelyn and Paula. In the end, they looked out for each other, Laurel savagely made Paula cry after she kept picking on Cara, and the Cara consoled Laurel after CT got eliminated. They took the loss, but looked strong for the future and became best friends.
On Exes 1 Cara had a weak follow up relying too much on Abram and forgetting the beast she was with Laurel on Rivals 1. On Battle of the Seasons, her and Camila should have been the power team with two of the best four female competitors, unfortunately their male partners were Brandon and Big Easy, two of the worst guys in the cast. Cara was not cast originally for Battle of the Rivals 2, except she was an alternate with Ayiiia(not a typo that’s how you spell her name) from RW Cancun. On Rivals 2 when Naomi left due to family trouble, they used some random twitter argument to force a partnership of Heather Cooke and Cara Maria. Cara not being everyone’s favorite person and Cooke being a rookie who was catching the attention of a lot of gentlemen led to them getting thrown into a couple of eliminations, taking out Jessica and Anastasia, and then Jonna and Nany. It looked like they would have to do one more with Paula/Emily and Diem/Aneesa going after them, but they clutched the final daily challenge and sent home Diem and Aneesa. In the Final they led the whole way through until the eating portion where Paula just housed it and they ran away with the rest of the final. Still, a second place finish for two people that had never met beforehand was very impressive. Especially impressive was that Cara Maria came in with the best shape of her Challenge career; her arms were bigger than ever, her calves were bigger, and she had the best cardio of her challenge career. This set the pace for her legacy run.
She proved to everyone on Free Agents that she was a legit threat and was not good only due to her partners(Laurel, Cooke, and Abram). Cara with her best friend Laurel dominated every individual physical challenge, and she trailed very closely behind Laurel, it was really a difference of inches all season. Cara Maria had trouble in the random elimination draw and saw 4 eliminations on the season unprecedentedly. She struggled for over an hour against Nia in Looper(the backpack type game with ropes and a bell at the end), a game about who is stronger, and Nia who had about 30 or 40 lbs on Cara went down. A true David vs Goliath story, except Cara was just much more impressive. After that she stomped on LaToya in Oppenheimer(the hall brawl of Free Agents); she tore it up on her way to top 6, and would have won the final 6 girl challenge if not paired with Jessica in CT Ball Hill game where Cara looked like she might have done better at a pair game by herself. She then got Jessica in Balls In for another elimination which she easily won, but broke her hand. Cara denied medical attention and decided to go forward on the show, and I feel that she could have finished the final and easily placed second. Too bad Johnny Bananas decided to send her with a broken hand to an elimination, and she ended up getting Laurel in the elimination from the draw, and to compound it even further she got Wall Climb where having two hands was more important than any other elimination. Bunim-Murray does some terrible stuff, but that was Cara’s season and if felt like they did everything to screw her over. One could argue that is how the game doesn’t play favorites, but it just felt ugly to watch Cara go home on a season where she really deserved a win. Gun to my head, I think she beats Laurel in the final. If Nany was within 10 minutes of Laurel, then Cara could have definitely beat her. That alters almost the complete Challenge history and all time female power rankings so much.
It’s fine though, because Cara did the fucking thing on Bloodlines. She brought her cousin Jamie with the wicked thick Boston accent and massive arms, they did well all season, winning a couple daily challenges and finishing near the top in most. At the end of the season their strength put a target on their backs and they saw the last three eliminations, beating Abram and Mike, all time champ Johnny Bananas, and demolished Aneesa in duel pole dance despite being way smaller. It was awesome to watch Cara destroy everyone who had held her back, despite the love between her and Abram(I know the elimination was Jamie and Mike, but still), she always relied on him too much when he was on Challenges. Bananas is her biggest rival and she took him out in the only guy-girl vs guy-guy elimination ever. Aneesa just likes to deride anyone that actually works hard, she is not good enough and never will be, so instead she will take shots at the insecurities about who do want to win and can. When she got to the final with a bunch of rookies she displayed what being a vet means and what doing 3 finals before can do, she never got tired, she might of been in pain from all the water in the stomach, but she wasn’t close to giving up. On the water sport she kayaked like a pro, stayed up all night easy, and ate the crazy food like it was dinner. I could talk about her relationship with Abram more, and all the little relationship stuff that happened with Cara and Thomas. There was too much slut shaming of a girl after she worked so hard to win a Challenge, it disgusts me that it was the focus of the reunion. They didn’t talk about her overcoming all her enemies, just her enemies poking at her life and insecurities. Cara does not deserve that.
That is the history of Cara Maria. Where does she go from here? She is on a season with Laurel who is her on again/off again, love/hate best friend. The current status from the last five months is that they are on a break and hate each other. Which I love, because if they are not on the Challenge, I do not care about their trips to the beach or dinner together. That’s cool. When they are on the show though, I love that two of the top five girls in the history of the Challenge hate each other and try to go after one another. The problem with the Challenge on the female side is that the rivalries never build up long enough to create actual long stemming tension. We might finally have a true good rivalry!! This could be the first Wes-Kenny except with two female competitors. You also add the subplot of Bananas trying to get revenge for her taking him out on Bloodlines to top on the longstanding hatred between them. We are going to have a good season.
Now here is my review of Cara Maria as a competitor:
Skills/Physical Strength: This is where she excels. In the last few years, Cara has continually pushed herself farther into the world of fitness and has devoted her life to it. She does Cross-Fit now, she lifts hard (bro), and teaches kick boxing lessons. Her stomach looks incredible, her core has always been good, but it looks like solid steel now. She continues to have the best arms of any women to ever go on the Challenge. Pound for pound, Cara is easily a better competitor than Laurel. Laurel just has about 25–30 pounds on her while being more than half a foot taller and more of a natural athlete. Size really matters, but Cara continues to close the gap between her and others as much as she can. While she still struggles a bit as a swimmer, she is the best doggie paddle swimmer ever. Not in the upper half, but she’s gotten good enough that it doesn’t harm her standing as much or finish dead last. On the ground she is completely elite, better cardio and better strength than the rest of the girls on the show. At this point she might be able to carry the same weights that the guys do during Challenges that involve carrying weighted bags. Cara might have some trouble with physicality this season as there are other girls that stack up with her in Laurel and Nicole. She coasted on Bloodlines as she was the strongest girl by miles, but now she will need to fight to win.
Mental Game/Politics: The biggest struggle for Cara Maria has always been her lacking ability to politic or make a stable alliance. She has gone to so many eliminations as she often finds herself as the low woman on the totem pole and get tossed in to do dirty work. We need to look at what she currently has in friends. Her relationship with Laurel is on the fritz so that is tough to be a target in her line of vision. Cara and Camila have been on a lot of Challenges, but their friendship and alliances have never been strong enough to support each other. CT is one of her best buddies with the Boston connection, she worked out with Zach a lot on Rivals 2 and Free Agents with CT, her Fresh Meat 1 partner is back in Darrell. Besides that it is really bare for her, she might be cool with Cory and Jenna, but looking at it she really only has the big strong guys as friends. That helps unless it’s a game where it’s about girl votes or girl power teams and selections. It would be crazy, but she may need to work with Bananas, but television is just better when people are against Bananas.
Eliminations: I heard Aneesa call herself the queen of eliminations, I scoffed and laughed. Aneesa is tied for the record with Cara Maria for going to 15 eliminations, where she has won 8 of them and lost 7. Cara Maria has won 11 eliminations and lost 4, and she has also beat Aneesa in a no holds bar who’s stronger elimination. There was no if’s, and’s, or but’s about it, Cara trashed her 2–0 and Aneesa will still talk shit, but Cara is the Queen of Eliminations. She’s had three seasons where she earned her way to the final by seeing eliminations to get there. Cara has earned everything, nothing was given to her and has not lost a full healthy elimination since Battle of the Seasons 2. I am terrified if she gets a puzzle as that is her weakness, though the competitors get dumber every year and she is beginning to trend towards average in puzzles after all the Challenges she has done.
Final Potential/Endurance: Cara has been on 8 seasons of the Challenge, and by doing so has become completely conditioned to do anything they throw at her. She has done more spartan runs in recent years and is seemingly always ready for a final. On top of that she spent time living in Montana, which means she is essentially a cowgirl who can conquer the world and mountains. In the Final, she has never finished worse than second and was close-ish on Rivals 2 and Rivals 1 to winning. If she believes in herself which she should, Cara could get her second challenge title. Making it to another final could put her ahead of Emily Schromm in some all time Challenge rankings, and winning another Challenge could make her #1 or #2. She currently sits as second all time in total earnings, let’s see if she can hold first after this season!
Final Score: 96/100