MTV’s The Challenge: The Best Episodes of The Last Ten Seasons
I went episode by episode over the last ten seasons of the Challenge to find the best episode of every season. Part of the fun of this is going back in time and reading the online reactions to some of these episodes, whereas over time some have become more iconic. Likewise, others have become cringe due to the actions of certain players in future seasons. If you’re a Challenge fan and are looking for something good to watch, here are the gems from recent seasons:
(Also, here’s a video where I break down some of the dumbest moves in Challenge history, one of which is featured in the best episodes list you’re going to read.)
Total Madness Episode 3 (Jay vs. CT)
The CT vs. Jay elimination episode. What made this episode so special is we don’t often see CT in elimination, let alone volunteering himself for elimination. With the new “cool” Red Skull twist in play, CT thought he could take out the smallest guy in the house and the coast the rest of the way. In a variation of Knot So Fast, Jay pulls out the upset of the century in such a way that I have to give kudos to the Challenge editing team because they slam us with confessionals of everyone in the moment saying it’s an easy win for CT. Visually it looks as though Jay is getting his ass kicked. That moment where Jay opens the door, there is a legitimate shock on everyone’s face, the crowd, CT, and the viewers at home. This episode also happened during the first month or two of quarantine; considering we couldn’t leave our houses and apartments, Jay’s win was easily the most exciting thing to happen all month.
You also have the Young Bucks trying to vote Bananas into elimination this episode, to which Wes shows his cards by not voting him in and swaying the votes towards Jay. The Rogan/Dee/Jay triangle of toxicity is part of the episode as well. This episode gave us so much hope for Total Madness, too much.
War of the Worlds 2 Episode 9 (Turbo DQ)
You might remember this episode as the Jordan/Turbo fight that got Turbo kicked off the show. Good lord, this episode had so much drama, not even including the Jordan/Turbo fight instigated by Ashley and Cara.
For starters, we had the infamous Paulie vs. Theo argument where Paulie tells Theo that he would steal and bang his girlfriend (while in front of Cara) and then proceeds to try and lick/kiss Theo. Jordan and Tori get into a massive fight with Cara, Paulie, and the rest of their alliance, mostly over the fact that Jordan keeps calling her a lay-up. A rare cool modern Cara moment is her point-blank asking Tori if she wants to go in the jungle with her, and like a deer in the headlights, Tori buckles after puffing her chest out like a lion in the moments prior. Team UK brutally throws Idris into elimination after using him as a pawn multiple times. Theo crushes Idris in elimination, even with the entire crowd trying to help Idris solve the puzzle. There is a massive Josh and Paulie fight at the voting ceremony, which every side of the fight lost, especially the viewers at home. Kam and Leroy finally reconnect physically/romantically. The editing makes it very much seem like a Polidicking move to ensure his vote on their side; however, considering they now live together, it seems they just love each other. Circling back, Turbo tries to murder Jordan, and the cliffhanger ending was good since his removal from the show the following was anti-climatic.
War of the Worlds 1 Episode 4 (Three-Way Eliminations)
You might remember this as the episode with two three-way eliminations between Kyle/CT/JP and Mattie/Julia/Natalie. Kyle winning was a total shocker, Mattie displayed pure dominance, and CT’s spaz out on JP after getting called out was hilarious.
What elevates this episode is an epic Paulie/Cara vs. Kyle fight that happens during Halloween. During their fight, Paulie has pirate eye-liner on, Cara has a Harley Quinn outfight on, and Kyle is dressed as a cheerleader with a skirt and pigtails on where it’s unclear if he has anything on under, so at any moment, he and Paulie may become sexual. Meanwhile, most of the girls are looking smoking hot in the background, especially Zahida and Amanda. WOTW 1 being 60 minutes an episode is a total bummer as there was so much content left on the ground floor.
Final Reckoning Episode 13 (Zach and Amanda’s Implosion)
Final Reckoning is a clusterfuck of a season. It is disjointed because there are so many To Be Continued’s/Cliffhangers where we don’t end an episode with an elimination, and because of that, the fluidity of individual episodes is not there. Episode 13 is the Zach/Amanda complete implosion episode. Throughout the episode, the two fight about who they should vote in elimination following their daily challenge win from the previous episode. Amanda wants to put in Bananas/Tony since they are clearly against Amanda’s Lavender Ladies, and they are their biggest threat in the final. Zach wanted to put in Ashley/Hunter as he is generally not cool with women having power of any kind. Tony was also his best friend who he believed would never throw him in (even though we the viewers saw him try to at the end of Vendettas, which aired while filming Final Reckoning).
Their fight culminates with Zach stepping off the platform and volunteering themselves for elimination when they were the one team with immunity. Cory/Devin come out as mercenaries, and Zach breaks his nose in the process of a weird elimination loss. The episode will live in infamy.
Vendettas Episode 10 (Bananas vs. Devin)
The Bananas vs. Devin elimination episode. Tony and Kailah pull off a significant move by voting Bananas in, and Devin pulls out the massive upset win, easily the peak of his Challenge career.
Besides the elimination, the episode includes the reveal that Bananas and Kayleigh had made out during week one in the house, leading to a split-up of both Nelson/Kayleigh and Bananas/Natalie. There is the cringe scene of Jemmye, Britni, and Kailah throwing Kayleigh’s suitcase off the balcony and talking shit to her while on a floor above her, which was not a good look for any of them, regardless of what the editing may not have shown.
Dirty 30 Episode 13 (Hunter vs. Leroy)
This episode is known for a few things: the Hunter/Leroy Hall Brawl-type elimination, the Kailah/Jordan blindside purge of Cara/CT, and when Leroy got overcooked by burn votes for the second time. For most Dirty 30, the veteran players in the game dominated every vote, and Cara/CT had immunity almost the entire way up to that point, with Cara hitting the Double Cross one time before this point. It was a big move that shook up the game and created a massive social media holy war between Camila/Cara and Kailah/Jenna as they were in an alliance before this moment.
Hunter created a mini alliance with Tony after the Young Bucks got taken out, and Tony realized he was on the bottom when it came to the veterans remaining in the game. Veronica was annoyed by the fact that people wanted her to vote in Hunter as he was one of the closest things she had to an ally on the male side, as crazy as that sounds. When Britni voted in Leroy as a burn vote, Veronica took advantage of it, and Tony showed his cards by doubling down and keeping Hunter safe. Hunter would then go in via Double Cross, but there was a 1/3 chance we would have gotten Bananas vs. Leroy in elimination, in which Hunter never breaks his hand and maybe goes to the final. The elimination between Hunter and Leroy itself is an all-time Hall Brawl where Hunter proves he’s a human cannonball as he pulls out at that point, a massive upset.
There is also a Jemmye/Camila elimination that Camila wins during her reign of terror. When Jenna puts Camila into elimination via Double Cross, Camila cusses her out, and Jenna’s terrified face after she does so is in my Challenge reaction pics Hall of Fame.
Invasion of the Champions Episode 11 (Underdog Bloodbath)
The Underdog Bloodbath is one of my personal favorite episodes ever. With the Underdog side down to 4 men and 4 women, production introduced both in-season purges and three-way eliminations for the first time. While the general use of purges on the Challenge has been the bane of my existence, its original use on Invasion made perfect sense as it raised the stakes of trying to get into the final and guaranteed that nobody could “coast” their way there. They opened with a puzzle purge where all you needed to do was not be the dumbest person, and then a three-way reverse tug of war where physical strength got rewarded.
Nelson pulling one over on Cory and Shane in their three-way elimination to put himself in the final was at that point the biggest moment in his Challenge career and a turning point for him with fans, where people finally began to give him credit as a competitor. Amanda’s puzzle prowess and the fact she physically took Nicole to the edge in elimination showed that she was more than a Pop Off Queen. Ashley took a significant step in building her legacy by snaking the three-way elimination win out of nowhere, and the cliffhanger of “will Cory and Nelson fight” was a good one considering the 1 v 1 of Shane and Cory that followed fell flat.
Rivals 3 Episode 14 (Bananas Steals The Money)
Rivals 3 is a season with a terrible cast, yet it has a plethora of entertaining daily challenges and eliminations. There are many positive elements on what generally gets denoted as a bottom tier season. Thus, I am not rewarding any of the underrated challenges, hookups, or drama, only shining a brighter light on Bananas stealing the money from Sarah. Despite the episode itself being a lackluster final where we all knew Bananas and Sarah were going to win, it’s the final heart-wrenching moment where Bananas takes the money that makes the episode so iconic. I would get so irrationally angry thinking about this episode from time to time. It’s simultaneously one of the best and worst episodes in Challenge history. Even people who stopped watching the show went to YouTube and Twitter to see the clip of him taking the money. The gap between Rivals 3 and Invasion was also quite long, which ensured that this would be one of the most talked-about moments since there wasn’t new content to discuss. It was even ranked #42 on the Ringer’s Top 100 TV episodes of the century.
Bloodlines Episode 2 (Jenna and Brianna’s fight)
Initially, I was going to put the episode where Abram acts like a madman as his brother competes in elimination. Upon closer examination, Episode 2 of Bloodlines wins out. This episode is known for the fight between Jenna and her Cousin Brianna. After a daily challenge where Brianna puts up an abysmal performance in an eating challenge reminiscent of Jenna in the Exes 2 final, TJ chews Brianna out, saying some people weren’t meant for the Challenge. Brianna wants to quit, and Jenna is frustrated as reality television is her meal ticket, and her cousin wants to take it from her. They get into a hilarious drunken fight where Brianna makes fun of Jenna for only being a dumb babysitter. Jenna drags Brianna for only having a job because her Dad owns a bakery and that her boyfriend cheats her and then apologizes by buying her ice cream (honestly, I’ve been cheated and not gotten ice cream before, so kudos to Bri). It was a mess of a fight and is the most entertaining Jenna has been over the last 15 years on the show. Fun fact: Brianna got fired from the bakery by her dad a few years ago.
We also had Bananas filming Thomas and Cara hooking up with his GoPro Banana-Cam, making Cara’s choice to vote Thomas into elimination later in the episode even more shocking. Cara put him in as a favor to long-time friend Cohutta, and for Thomas, at least he got a handjob before getting voted into elimination. It’s not ice cream, but it’s something.
Exes 2 Episode 8 (Jordan’s sledgehammer elimination)
You might remember this as the Jordan/Sarah vs. Zach/Jonna sledgehammer elimination. There is an excellent daily challenge where players jump between moving semi-trucks to transfer balls from one location to another. Leroy and Nia pull out the win, and powerhouse pair Jordan and Sarah essentially DQ, putting them directly into elimination. Wes acts as a manipulative genius by convincing Leroy to put Zach into elimination, where if Zach gets eliminated, Leroy can take the spot of Wes’s #1 ally. This is after Wes has already coordinated two eliminations where Leroy would have to go against his allies. It is head-scratching to this day how Wes was able to pull this off.
Jordan torching Zach in the elimination is further proof of how damn good he is as a competitor. The fact that Jonna outperformed Sarah in her portion was an incredible moment for viewers as we watched Zach verbally abuse her the entire season despite her being a solid partner. When stakes were at their highest, big Zach got his ass beat. Jonna’s final confessionals are some of my favorites in Challenge history.