Recently, Netflix put two seasons of the Challenge on its platform. Fans had been clamoring for the Challenge to appear on the streaming site for the last half-decade, and finally, it has popped up. It wasn’t as many seasons as people wanted, and the seasons that we did get happened during the Bush administration. However, you can’t argue with the fact that we got two of the best seasons: Inferno 2 and Duel 1. They are two of my personal favorites, and I was thrilled to get to see Inferno 2 on Netflix because, in the past, I had only seen cheap pirated versions where the video and audio quality were not great. Yes, the Netflix version is still not HD, but it is a massive improvement in terms of viewing quality!
While I am not 100% set on Inferno 2 being the best season in Challenge history, I fully believe it has the best cast in Challenge history and want to highlight the people who made it great. One of the main reasons the season stands out to me is that there are only 20 people on it with fewer eliminations than usual. It allows all the cast members to get screen-time, display personality and gives us a reason to root for them. If they didn’t, it only meant they were boring. Inferno 2 is a testament to quality versus quantity. Some of these modern Challenge seasons with 30+ cast members should take note of the Infernos. Of course, what puts Inferno 2 over the other two Infernos and many season is the fact that of the 20 players on the cast, almost every single player is relevant towards the show’s history.
Before I get into a full breakdown championing the cast of Inferno 2 one by one, I also decided to make a video where I breakdown the WORST cast in Challenge history, how it came to be, and why even with the worst cast, it might not be the close to the worst season. It was a fun video to make, and if you can, drop a like and subscribe on the YouTube channel.
Onto this amazing Inferno 2 cast. Man, this season has everything. There is competitive legends, an iconic female alliance, people who are reality TV gold, players who became actual celebrities, there are underrated gems, and the cherry on top, Dan Renzi.
The Famous Ones
This season had three cast members who would become far more famous in mainstream culture and are still thriving in 2020. Jamie Chung, fresh off Real World San Diego, came on for her only season, made it to the final, and won. She has appeared in many films and tv shows, including Once Upon a Time, The Hangover Part 2, Grown Ups, Gotham, The Gifted, and Sucker Punch. Most notably, she gained a ton of attention recently for her role on HBO’s hit Lovecraft Country. Karamo has blown up the last few years as a member of the Queer Eye Fab Five during its reboot. He also hosted the AYTO Challenge Spinoff, Are You The Second Chances. Hilariously, Karamo tried to get eliminated on Inferno 2 because he had a college speaking tour that he was contractually obligated to be at.
Miz became WWE World Heavyweight Champion and Main Evented WrestleMania. He is still a major staple in WWE and is currently in the World Title picture. Miz even has his reality show, Miz and Mrs, that follows the shenanigans of he and his wife, Maryse. When the Miz comes back to host something for the Challenge, it feels like when the Rock comes back to a WWE show. Inferno 2 was his last season as he was moving onto being a wrestler full-time, and it affected his performance as bulking up lessened his endurance. Miz’s promo ability in WWE is top tier, and it’s the same when it comes to Challenge confessionals.
The Mean Girls
Veronica, Rachel, and Tina were an iconic trio. Of the three, Veronica was the Queen who was the politician and could tear down her enemies with words. As a competitor, Veronica was physically underrated and eliminated Jodi on Inferno 2. Rachel was the muscle and killed the game from a physical perspective. Tina is an all-time underrated character and competitor. She could talk shit with the best, had hilarious confessionals, and as a competitor, won two eliminations. We didn’t see a trio of female allies hold down such a large presence on this show until the Lavender Ladies over a decade later.
Good Guy Legends
Darrell and Landon are two of the greatest players to compete on the Challenge and were on the same team for Inferno 2. They are two of the greatest final runners ever and got to compete in one together as an unstoppable force. Rookie Landon is my favorite version because he is more likely to make poor choices, like wrestle with Derrick on concrete and hookup with Tonya. Meanwhile, Darrell is the same person he is now. Funny in confessionals, money-motivated, and not someone you want to face in anything raw physical.
Bad Ass Bad Ass Men
CT, Derrick, and Abram is a monstrous trio. These men were super competitive with one another. CT was naturally the best athlete, Derrick had the most heart, and Abram is the most skilled of the three. CT and Abram were their crazy selves then, and similar to Landon, young Derrick was the best Derrick from a reality television perspective as he’d get drunk and make poor choices.
Beth is one of the Challenge’s great all-time villains. She walks into a room and immediately kills the vibe of the entire house. Beth spreads lies about people, unnecessarily stirs the pot, and hypes herself up as a competitor despite multiple failures. For all these reasons, Beth is reality television gold. Then you have another X-factor in Tonya, one of the biggest messes in Challenge history as she makes it her job to make terrible choices, whether it be alcohol intake, trying too hard to befriend the same people consistently bullying her, stretching the truth, or simply not having a filter. Yet, at the same time, Tonya was a good competitor sometimes. She won two eliminations, did decently in daily challenges, and in the most Tonya fashion, decided to stay up all night drinking vodka till 4 AM the day before the final, sabotaging herself and the team after bragging about her long-distance running ability. Tonya makes Nany look like the greatest decision-maker ever.
The Julie and Jon arc-type of devout Christians coming on reality television to prove some sort of point there can be upstanding religious individuals on reality television is something that MTV has gotten rid of in the last decade mostly. What made Julie iconic is the fact she was completely chaotic. She made rash decisions, played victim, and at the end of the day, was validated based on her bond with God. Somewhere in Massachusetts, Cara Maria was taking notes watching Julie.
If you don’t like Dan Renzi, then maybe we can’t be friends. He was funny and biting in his confessionals and was a strong gay figure on reality television in the early 2000s. The guy was a solid competitor and was willing to talk shit to CT without any fear. Dan knew his self-worth and carried himself powerfully. Considering the recent dearth of gay/bi male representation on the Challenge, his presence on Inferno 2 is a reminder we need more Dan Renzi types on the Challenge.
Best of the Rest
Young Brad and Robin are on this season, and both get eliminated before the final. They are excellent house additions. Brad famously had his “now it’s a necklace moment” and his incredible Balls In elimination against Abram (the first time we ever saw Balls In). Robin would be a staple on the Challenge for the next half-decade, even after becoming. People forget how famous Robin was, as she dated Steve-O from Jack Ass, and even ended up being a joke/story of his when he became a bad stand-up comedian years later.
Shavonda was a one and done cast member that was an excellent presence and an absolute smoke-show. Last but not least was Jodi, who had something going on with both the Miz and Derrick. Jodi went rogue at a voting ceremony, announcing her team had picked Veronica for the Inferno and then lost to her in said Inferno. It was a rough loss but is the only blemish on Jodi’s impressive resume as she would go on to win her next two seasons, Gauntlet 2 and Duel 1.
It’s crazy to think we will ever get an Inferno 2 ever again. A season with not only multiple all-time great competitors, but also multiple people who were able to cross-over into the mainstream and become actual celebrities is a tall order. You have to remember Inferno 2 during a pivotal time as the competitive element was ramping up, yet, it still had the fun and easy going-vibes of the past. It’s both a reminder of how the Challenge has become an actual 5th sport in the modern-era, yet lost the entertainment element that gained it so many fans.