Challenge Retrospective: Free Agents Awards
While we have the objective history of the Challenge in the wikias, and the show intact to look back on to see how great the olden days were, we are missing some big things: AWARDS. As a major basketball fan, my friends and I spend hours on discussing who the league MVP is, who the rookie of the year is, and who are the top players per position are. I began with Fresh Meat 1, and now done the Duel 1,Inferno 3, Gauntlet 3, the Island, the Duel 2, the Ruins, Fresh Meat 2, Cutthroat, Rivals 1, Exes 1, Battle of the Seasons, Rivals 2, and now Free Agents. If you want links to them, they’ll be at the bottom of this article.
Free Agents is probably the best season of the Challenge since the Duel 1. It had a cool fun format, where the draw kept the game interesting, brought back some faces, and the emergence of competitors who were finally able to prove themselves as competitors. There’s still a ton of “What Ifs” that remain with the Free Agents season, and while it was not the number one favorite of many, (wasn’t mine), most people consistently rank it highly.
The Rules: I will be giving out an MVP award for both male and female competitors on the season. MVP does not just go out to the pair that won the season, but the individual competitor who brought the most to the show: physically, socially, mentally, entertainment wise, hook ups, arguments, circumstances, etc. I will be naming First Team All Challenge, and Second Team All Challenge. These will be 5 person lineups consisting of the best/most important competitors from that season using the MVP criteria, and it can be 5 guys and 0 girls, or 5 girls and 0 guys, or just 3 guys and 2 girls. It will consist of 5 competitors regardless of gender.
Rookie of the Year awards will be given to both genders, and I will also be giving awards out for Most Disappointing Players of the Season(both genders), Top Physical Competitors, and Underdog of the Season. Here we go:
Male: Johnny Bananas Female: Laurel Stucky
I view Free Agents as the definitive Johnny Bananas legacy season. He had won 4 Challenges prior to Free Agents, and was looking to become the all time Challenge champion. I had never viewed him on the same level of other elite competitors, viewing him as a successful due to luck and timing more than anything. Bananas proved me, and a lot of people wrong on Free Agents. He had most of the guys in the house gunning for him (Jordan, Reilly, Zach) , neutral (CT, Cohutta, Frank), or even his best friend in the game, LeRoy, was playing to be in the draw, just chancing it.
Bananas went to 3 eliminations, being voted in twice, and getting the last minute kill card before the final, where he had to go up against CT. He was never known for being good at eliminations, but came back from all three, won the final daily mission of the season, and most importantly won the final. Regardless of how you view Bananas, he has one of the best individual seasons in Challenge history, he has a scene that you can put on the highlight reel against the best.
I spent a good amount of time choosing between Laurel and Cara Maria for Free Agents. Cara Maria’s emergence as an elite competitor was a major surprise, she came into the game in the best shape of her life, killed competitions, slayed eliminations, won an elimination and continued to play in the game despite breaking her hand. Her and Laurel started the season best friends, and as the friendship broke apart, most people found themselves on Cara’s side, as Laurel proved herself to be a terrible person and friend.
I had to choose Laurel. She won 4 eliminations (part of an exclusive club to do that), beat Cara Maria in elimination, and finally won her first Challenge after 3 second place finishes.
Cara Maria breaking her hand is one of the biggest “What Ifs” in Challenge history. She lost to Laurel in an elimination that almost necessitates that you have two hands. In “Wrecking Wall” Laurel is stronger based on mass and size, but Cara Maria is quicker, more agile, has better core strength, and stronger forearms. I think it would have been really close. And even then, you have to consider that the last daily challenge, Cara participated with a broken hand, and still beat Devyn on the shoveling portion. A healthy Cara, paired with CT, maybe wins that Challenge. Considering the X factor Zach meltdown that happened on top of the mountain during the final; if Nany was able to within 8 minutes of Laurel, Cara Maria likely would have won. Then again, that didn’t happen, and Laurel won.
Rookie of the Year
Male: Johnny Reilly Female: LaToya Jackson
There were two female rookies on Free Agents, LaToya and Nia. One made it to episode 3, and the other made it to episode 4. LaToya wins this award for going further, and winning an elimination.
The guys pick was easy. Johnny Reilly won a few daily missions, and even won an individual mission. Of course he had a lucky horseshoe up his ass, but he still proved himself in the final, getting close to Bananas, and in my opinion would have won if he had pushed himself with the focus of winning, rather than only keeping up.
First Team All Challenge
Johnny Bananas, Laurel Stucky, Cara Maria Sorbello, Nany Gonzalez, Theresa Gonzalez
The MVP bypasses Bananas to this point. I’ve mentioned the drama between Laurel and Cara Maria, and they were a whole load of interesting added to the season. The two of them won 7/11 of the eliminations, eliminating half the cast. Laurel had a relationship with Jordan Wiseley, with Cara Maria having the worst draw luck ever.
Nany proved herself as a competitor as she got to stand alone on Free Agents. Keeping herself safe by winning the final three daily missions of the season, doing the work of male competitors during the Bar Crawl mission, and being within striking distance of Laurel in the final, finishing second overall. She also had an intriguing relationship with Cohutta, and a drunken hookup with Johnny Reilly.
Theresa performed a witch hunt on Laurel, trying her hardest to get her out of the game. She was able to make it to the top 4 by being a solid competitor, knocking out champion Camila in elimination, and only lost to Laurel in the final random elimination puzzle. On Free Agents, the girls ranked as such: 1 Laurel 2 Cara 3 Theresa 4 Nany. It was a shame that we had to watch a final of 1 vs 4, when 2 and 3 got left out at the end due to a dirty draw. Likewise, CT, LeRoy, and Cohutta going before Reilly felt dirty, except for the fact that Reilly performed exceptionally in the final.
Second Team All Challenge
Zach Nichols, Johnny Reilly, Chris “CT” Tamburello, Jordan Wisely, Cohutta Grindstaff
The girls were kick-ass and competitive on Free Agents. Watching Nany and Theresa be unshackled from teammates was great to watch, Cara Maria fighting for herself and proving herself consistently that she’s not only carried by partners was awesome. Hilariously, the guys game was chill and low-key, especially once the main drama and shit starter of the season was out, Jordan.
After one of the great rookie seasons all time, Jordan had a high opinion of himself, and was acting as a self anointed Champ. He also had allies in his RW Portland buddy, Johnny Reilly and buffed up Zach Nichols. His focus was the throne, and he wanted to deface Johnny Bananas more than anything. He played theoretically smart, he was consistent on driving through this idea that they needed to put Bananas in elimination. It makes sense, why give him an easy road to the final? Jordan made the ultimate dumb-ass move in the mix of is headassery. His ballsy move of flipping all the kill cards to face Bananas in Wrecking Wall. Dumb move as he only had one hand and had to punch a wall, dumb move as he sent himself home, good move in that he stuck to his word.
Zach and Reilly made the final. Good for them, they did solid in the game, and each won daily missions, while having some luck in the draw to get there. Zach finished top 2 in the last 6 missions, winning 4 of them, 1 individual, 1 pair, 2 team(s), unfortunately this will be known as the season he died on the mountain, almost losing the final for Laurel.
Not having appeared on the Challenge since season 18, the Ruins, Cohutta Grindstaff, King-slayer returned to the Challenge. Having been an alternate for Fresh Meat 2, Cohutta went without casting for a while either for them going in a different direction, or him not truly fitting the themes as he did not have partners: (Rivals, Exes, Rivals 2, etc.). He came back and did well in every single daily mission, even if he wasn’t winning them, he was never the reason his team did poorly. Cohutta was able to grab the flag easily on the rolling pole daily mission, got across the ropes on Piggy Back, and won the Auto Body Rally mission. He had a relationship with Nany Gonzalez, hooking up with another hot girl. It baffles me that Reilly wasn’t voted in, and he was.
CT was there, he was hot, he had a beard, he finished in fourth.
Best Physical Players
Male: Chris “CT” Tamburello Female: Laurel Stucky
I have no clue whether to give this to CT or Bananas. All the shots of CT on Free Agents show him to be in the best shape of his life. He not only looks massive, his abs are sharp and defined. During Rivals 1 he was trim and cut, Exes 1 really bulky and a bit chubby, Rivals 2 thin and big, where on Free Agents he was a mountain man. Giving the award to CT, as it would be a shame to not reward a guy in probably the best shape of his life.
Laurel, the most dominant female in Challenge history, easy pick.
Most Disappointing Players
Male: Jordan Wiseley Female: Camila Nakagawa
Camila was the only female champion during Free Agents, Laurel and Cara still had not won, and thus there should have been high expectations for the Brazilian bombshell. Instead, she lost early in the game to Theresa, a person who had never won an elimination prior.
I mentioned before about Jordan disappointing after a great rookie season. He did have a relationship with Laurel, so even though he did worse than Preston, he still had something to be happy about.