YOWIE WOWIE. This episode was a dooooozie. The final tested players physically in a way that we’ve probably only seen once or twice before (Rivals 1/Exes1), and this was ONLY the first portion. Generally, Challenge finals are the worst episodes of the season. Compared to others, they are often poorly edited or formatted, or just simply boring. The most memorable moments from Challenge finals are when players fail dramatically, rather than when they win. Zach dying on Free Agents, Wes being carried up a mountain on Rivals 1, Big Easy passing out on the Gauntlet, Tonya gassing out on Inferno 2, and Cory’s entire Invasion final are some of the most iconic Challenge moments and they’re all losses. As cool as the wins are, failing big is usually remembered far more, and Wes even said as much during this episode, he failed so bad in a final that it haunted him for a decade.
Sidebar: I love Wes telling the rookies they should be afraid of the final, it’s a classic veteran move. While the final is obviously going to be arduous, planting the seed in their brains that it might be too hard will definitely work against them as they run.
Why was this final awesome?
The sheer difficulty of this final made it exhilarating. The finals for Vendettas, Invasion, and Final Reckoning had fans complaining about their lack of difficulty. I’ll be honest, I defended the difficulty levels of those finals in the moment, and I really shouldn’t have, they sucked. This final might be too hard, but I gained so much respect for all eight competitors involved.
Georgia, surprisingly, was keeping up with the top boys in the run and then once she was knocked out, fans realized this final was no joke. Mattie might have quit, but she went about sixteen miles before she did. To put that in perspective, the major running portion of the Final Reckoning final was only a 4k run (about 2.5 miles). In this final, you had to run three miles to get to your bike so you could bike an additional three miles (in the sand with hills) to accomplish one of the four laps. Sylvia, Hunter, Ashley, and Marie were struggling with the running portion last season.
Cara and Ninja finishing day one an hour behind the top three guys (and beating Hunter!) is possibly the most impressive feat by a female competitor(s) in the show’s history. They ran the same exact final as the men and put up top notch times. In my mind, both these women are essentially Champions. There is no chance they will win if they continue to run the same final, but they have worked harder than any other female has in one. Legitimately, off the top of my head, I believe there is less than 10 women in Challenge history who could finish this day one portion or at least within the time range of Cara and Ninja from this past week.
On top of that, give a hand to Theo, Wes, and Turbo. Theo is running his first ever final and is killing it. Meanwhile, Wes has historically done poorly in finals, is a Ginger in the African desert, and is old in “Challenge” years yet he finished only ten minutes behind Theo (despite only completing two out of the five checkpoints). Turbo looked to be dead at one point, yet still kept himself in contention to win.
I can imagine Paulie running this final and passing out from pushing himself way too hard.
At the end of the day, I gained so much respect for everyone, even Mattie and Georgia. With the Challenge, I’ve found myself disappointed by some competitors in recent years. Tony dropped an egg on Vendettas, Natalie almost got eaten by Lions, and Cory/Jenna couldn’t do a damn thing in their multiple appearances. The people in this final are primetime players who are here to give their all.
Currently, there is a battle between three men to become the greatest individual winner of a Challenge final ever, and at the same time, there’s a battle between the remaining six competitors and whether they can simply finish the final at all. It is a battle of human vs human and human vs nature