Win or bust. The past few seasons for Cara Maria have been held with the standard of failure if she did not make the final. That standard is gone now. Last season marked Cara Maria’s fifth career final appearance, tying her for the most all-time final appearances by a female competitor. As the female record holder for most finals appearances and most elimination wins, every little win is becoming gravy to an already great challenge resume. To Cara Maria, they are empty calories compared to a final Challenge win. She has said it multiple times, she does not care about the money, Cara now comes on the show to win (winning the money would be pretty chill).
Cara Maria’s performance on Dirty 30 was strong physically, but boring from a show standpoint. She won the first four daily missions of Dirty 30 and only saw the Double Cross once all season. Cara got sent to the Redemption House through a Purge, and was not only able to earn her way back to the game in Redemption, she also won the first part of the final purge to guarantee herself a spot in the final. Ironically, winning consistently is boring as it gets rid of the element of surprise. Cara removed the element even more by playing the game with the same strategy of eliminating the weak players.
This strategy was a good choice by Cara Maria as she played the same game the best guys on the Duel 2 did, they all aligned and picked off the worst players one at a time. Cara aligned with Camila, Kailah, and Jenna with the hopes they would win every mission and go to the end together. Kailah flipped the script on Cara Maria, which was an incredibly smart choice as Cara Maria won basically every mission at that point. Was she scared of Cara? Of course. Was it a smart move? Yes. Did they not capitalize enough on attempting to put stronger people in the Redemption House? 100%, yes! Did Cara prove she’s a bad-ass competitor by destroying that Redemption? Yes.
Vendettas seems almost like a season built around the Cara Maria and Kailah rivalry. The question is why does MTV not promote it as such? Rivals 1 and Fresh Meat 2 were billed as Kenny and Wes seasons, yet for some reason, MTV is billing a weak Johnny Bananas and Cory Wharton rivalry nobody cares about. Put Kailah and Cara on the New York billboard if you want the show to be true to what it is actually going on. Putting Bananas on the billboard as the franchises’ main star makes sense and on other billboards it Bananas and Cara.
This may be the most crucial season to how Cara Maria is viewed as an all time Challenge competitor. With all the Twitter drama and Kailah stuff in the air, she needs to do one thing to silence her haters — win.
Skills & Physical Strength: Something that should always be mentioned is the fact Cara Maria is 5'4. The more modern strong female competitors are all around 5'6 or taller: Kailah, Ashley, Jenna, and Tori. Size and strength has become the name of the game, and while Cara Maria is small, she still stands the tallest when it comes to strength. The only girls who can outright take Cara out from the raw physical perspective are Emily and Laurel (who are not on this season), two girls who are not only as strong as Cara, they’re bigger too.
Her arms are her signature feature. After defeating Aneesa in Pole Wrestle on Bloodlines, Cara proved being twenty-thirty pounds bigger than her doesn’t mean you get the win against her, it means you’re going to have to fight, and there’s a decent shot you’re going to lose. Swimming has always been her big weakness, though she has improved over the seasons. Cara Maria has fears, and while she might cry or complain, she still gets it done, which is more than you can say about most people. As long as the job gets done, she is fine.
Endurance is the big question mark around Cara Maria. She seemed to struggle a bit on the Champs vs Pros final and on the Dirty 30 final, which is uncharacteristic of her. Cara finished the most difficult final ever without any complaints (Rivals 1), and won the Bloodlines final. Following her performance on Dirty 30, I expect Cara did more cardio to prepare for Vendettas. It must have been easier as she was more removed from when she broke her foot (something that weirdly isn’t talked about in regard to her Dirty 30/Champs vs Pros season).
Cara Maria was part of the only co-ed pair to have won an elimination and final against a dual male pair. Considering this season will have only one winner, that’s a fun fact with a little more oomph.
Social, Mental, & Political Game: The elephant in the room is Cara’s relationship with new UK cast member Kyle Christie. While the two are not officially together, Cara has been buzzing about him, as noted in the Reality Steve interview she did, and her taking him to meet the family.
For most players, a showmance is a distraction from the game. Considering how riled up Cara got last season after the Kailah drama — a boy toy to keep her busy when she is not dominating competitions could be for the better. It would take the tension off.
Because Cara wins daily challenges, she will have political power. Will she shake up her game and throw in strong competitors this season?
Eliminations & Winning Potential: Dirty 30 was the first time in her Challenge career, Cara did not see an elimination in a season. Fun facts: her elimination record is 12 wins and 5 losses, she has won more than one elimination on four different seasons (Rivals 1, Rivals 2, Free Agents, Bloodlines), and she has only lost in elimination to champions. If someone can beat Cara, then they should be the prohibited favorite to win. Until then, Cara has the best chance of any female competitor to play with the males and win in a final.
The biggest edge Cara Maria has in a final is her puzzle ability. While she is not the best, she has proved to be above average in recent seasons. Johnny, Nelson, Nicole, Brad, and Kailah have all wildly struggled with mental competitions and puzzles in the past.
Considering Cara has never done worse than second in a final, she will be a legitimate contender to win the first gender-less final.
Overall Rating: 93/100