If you split the Challenge into two eras where it splits down the middle in total seasons, Darrell is the original all time great Challenge competitor. If you asked me today where he ranks, he would be somewhere between 2 and 5 if I had to do it all time now. I am not trying to completely disparage Darrell’s wins, but his wins came in a different era. In big team games it was important to just hold down a fort and keep your best players, while the individual and pair game was about creating alliances and establishing a stronghold on the game. Darrell has only won one of those type of seasons, that being the first one in Fresh Meat 1. Fresh Meat was the least political of all those seasons as it wasn’t until the end of the season did they diverge from the normal tradition of who goes into what type of elimination. On the Ruins, Darrell got put in twice and was promised that they would send in Bananas next time instead of him, a promise that probably wouldn’t have been fulfilled. On Fresh Meat 2, he understood how much politics mattered as Wes and Kenny came together to knock him out of the house in the first week.
That was the last we had ever saw of Darrell, but he always stated that he would make a comeback if it was an individual season, and that he would only be going to win again. While Shane is fresh off of a divorce and is there to have some fun, Darrell has a family at home and has the mind-set that the Challenge is not worth if he is not bringing back the money. It’s great to know you have someone who wants, and knows he needs to win. That type of mindset is missing in a decent amount of new age competitors. While Darrell is a bit far removed from the Challenge, he owns a gym and puts a ton of work into his body as his body is his career. He is in better shape than possibly any other guy on the show, his weakness might be dealing with the house, and I don’t know how good his long distance endurance is. Regardless it feels good to have a Road Rules cast member and a Challenge champion back on the show after such a long time, this may very well be his time on the Challenge, so let’s hope it is good.
Now here’s my review of Darrell as a competitor:
Skills/Physical Strength: This is the Darrell category, you do not want to face Darrell in a straight up physical match. We are talking about a guy who is decently tall and 200+ lbs of pure muscle and athleticism. He may be older, but he has the experience and ability to rip a younger cast member’s head straight off. We have seen Darrell obliterate others and in a dead sprint just be the fastest. It will be interesting to see how he does in the modern daily challenges, they involve a lot more balance and a lot less pure strength, focusing more on the core. Water has also been included way more into daily challenges, I do not remember whether or not Darrell is a strong swimmer as it has been a while. Darrell being a physical juggernaut will be a good twist, will people be too afraid to send him in order to save themselves from him in the future, or will they try to knock him out as soon as possible.
Mental Game/Politics: Puzzles will be fun, I am interested to see how well he can do in those. I believe Aviv was the one doing all the puzzles for them on Fresh Meat 1, and on Fresh Meat 2 they lost in part due to puzzles in his exile. Darrell was not able to keep his cool against Brad in the Ruins, but Brad completely instigated it intensely. Darrell would get hot headed if provoked though, and in the new wave style of Challenges where people try to start drama in every which way and you cannot leave the house either to blow off steam. Being around a bunch of punk kids who want to pump their chest might not go off well with an older man who deserves respect. In terms of politics, he’s best linking up with old guys and champs. I would expect him to be okay with Bananas, and I feel in a house of young guys who don’t like Bananas either, that it will be an optimal partnership. You need alliances to have a good chance of winning, unless you want to go into every elimination.
Eliminations: Darrell went almost four seasons without ever seeing an elimination until him and Aviv faced Derrick and Diem on the finale exile of Fresh Meat 1. On the Ruins he easily took out Danny Jamieson(who hasn’t?) and defeated king-slayer Cohutta. He just got outworked with Cara Maria by Jill and Pete on the much longer exile in Fresh Meat 2. In terms of size, the only two male competitors who can size up with Darrell are Zach(who has a messed up wrist) and Nelson. I’m sorry CT fans, but the dude hasn’t been anywhere near as big as he used to be in years. If it is a speed contest then Darrel probably has it; in order to get him out it will probably be a weird skill elimination where you learn on the fly.
Final Potential/Endurance: This is the most intriguing part of Darrell to me. Yes, he has won 4 times, but he has never seen a final anything quite like the modern ones. The final he won on Fresh Meat was a record ten miles. The final was just a straight up run carrying some weights, where at the check points which were simple puzzles you could drop the weight. Luckily he had Aviv, and also lucky that Tina and Kenny were a dysfunctional team and Casey being the worst competitor ever. The Rivals I final was more than twice the distance, included a swim, a kayak, carrying weights, memorization skills, eating, hiking, staying up all night on a rock, and then scaling a mountain the next morning. Not saying that Darrell cannot do it, I am just saying that the finals of the past are just a joke in comparison. His massive size and muscles are not conducive to long distance events, but he is such a beast that it might not matter. Darrell is in it to win, it would be fun if he does, but at the same time it would be fun to watch a youngster dethrone a champ.
Final Score: 95/100