Episode 4 of Challenge All Stars S2 is in the books. You probably have some thoughts, so let’s compare. Instead of giving a simple summary, I decided to focus on the 10 Biggest moments/takeaways from the 4rd episode.
Sidenote: Jodi has always reminded me of Hilary Swank. I’m not going to explain it further, let’s get into the recap.
10 Lines in the Sand, Alliances Forming
While we make fun of modern seasons for all the players being too buddy-buddy with one another, there is definitely a “Cool Kids” club on these All-Stars seasons as well. Derrick is someone who has done seasons with so much of the cast and has brought his friends like Darrell, Brad, and Cohutta out for multiple Challenge Mania Live appearances and podcasts. Throw in MJ, and together, they have a formidable five-person alliance that would be able to coast on through in most seasons.
This season though? The outsiders quickly got on the same page — Nehemiah, Steve, Laterrian, Melinda, and Teck decided to unite and create their own alliance to combat the “Cool Kids” alliance. We’ve been watching a Vet alliance steamroll the Rookies and Outsiders on Spies, Lies & Allies, so it’s incredible to see players be proactive instead of reactive to the state of the game. Plus, as fans, you get to choose which side you are rooting for, almost like having a favorite sports team.
9 Nehemiah vs. Derrick
My favorite part about the Nehemiah/Derrick “rivalry” is even the people in the house can’t tell whether or not they have real beef or if they are doing this is all for a storyline/camera-time. It is suspect that Nehemiah has done Challenge Mania Live events and been on the podcast multiple times, yet, they come on these shows, and their actions towards each other carry the weight of genuine animosity. In my Episode 2 Takeaway, I noted that Nehemiah wants to step out of the supporting character role he’s been in for over a decade and try to be the show’s main star. What got left off that recap is that Derrick has been actively trying to shift his narrative from the pit-bull/mercenary type to a strategic political player.
During a game of Pool, Nehemiah calls Derrick out on it and flat out tells him that Derrick needs to stop pretending manipulation and mental games are things he can do. Nehemiah tells him what he’s good at is being a beast, and it’s why he respected him as a fan of the show. I don’t think Nehemiah is wrong, although I respect Derrick for stepping out of his comfort zone to try and play a different game style. My issue is that Derrick is acting a little too cocky when hyping his political game. If Derrick were hyping up his elimination and physical challenge prowess, I’d have no issues; it’s just we need to see a little more substance before he bankrolls himself as the all-time political puppet master.
8 Simple Trivia is the Best Trivia
In recent Challenge seasons, Trivia has gotten too convoluted with players being allowed to sabotage one another or them adding physical elements allowing players to miss questions and stay in the game. They’ve also done multiple-choice questions, which does not allow for some of the funniest free response answers we’ve gotten in trivia over the years. They kept it straightforward for All-Stars 2, you get a question wrong, and you get shot off a building. The last player standing wins, and the first person to get knocked off goes straight into elimination.
I tried to note all my favorite moments/responses from the rounds.
MJ guessing New Orleans as a state bordering a coast/sea…New Orleans is a city.
Jasmine hilariously guessed, “Oops, I did it again” as a Britney Spears song just a few guesses after Jonna had already guessed it.
Darrell going way off the board for a Boris Kodjoe guess when asked to name a former People’s Sexiest Man Alive cover model.
Tina not even attempting a guess when asked who has been an individual Challenge champion, and then hitting us with a “Look at that Camel Toe” yelp once sent flying.
Janelle guessing Denny’s as one of the Top 20 Food Chains in the US because I thought it was a great answer.
7 Trivia Winners and Losers
Let’s kick off with the losers. Katie was too afraid to even compete in the daily challenge and automatically put herself in elimination. Heights is a legitimate phobia of Katie, and she has the battle scars on recorded video to show why she fears them. So while I don’t blame her for opting out of the daily, the fact she has now put herself into multiple eliminations (AS1 & AS2) due to this phobia is a bit disappointing when you consider she has such a stellar social game. Katie has so many friends and allies who get put in semi-tough political situations when she opts out of challenges like these.
On the male side, Brad gets knocked out first, hilariously, on a question where he has to name any player who has won more than one Challenge Championship, where if he simply said the name of ex-wife Tori, he would have been safe. Instead, he says Katie, a 1x Champ, and gets sent directly into elimination.
When it came to winning, Casey went toe to toe with Jonna in a battle of name the Harry Potter books, to which Jonna’s read all the books, while Casey has seen the movies. It seemed that Jonna would take the win until… they got 6 books deep, and Jonna brain-farted on Order of the Phoenix (ironically, the longest book in the franchise). Casey gets her first ever solo daily challenge win. I am so happy for Casey; she faced her fears and accomplished something nobody ever expected. On the male side, it came down to Steve and Laterrian, which was a win for their alliance either way. Steve pulled out a clutch win, and it’s pretty impressive that after 18 years, he’s coming in 1st and 2nd in the two solo/pair daily challenges thus far. Man, the show is fucking crazy; imagine telling a fan a year or two ago that Casey Cooper & Steve Meinke were going to win the first individual challenges on an All-Star season consisting of all the OGs from back in the day? This show feels special in the moment.
6 Big Time Nominations
Steve and Casey got nominated for elimination the first week. They knew it meant they were at the bottom of the social totem pole, so they went into their nominations swinging big and going for the people that nominated them (Derrick & Jodi). Nehemiah game-planned with Steve beforehand on how to deal with the Lifeshields. Steve smartly realized that if they nominate Cohutta & Jodi, their hands get forced into using the Lifeshield on themselves, allowing the people in power to nominate anyone else in their place. The bonus for Steve/Casey is Cohutta/Jodi losing their house vote due to using the Lifeshield.
On the male side, they nominate Derrick & Tyler on the basis that Tyler is most likely to stay out of elimination dues to his friendships with the females in the house. For the female side, they nominate Ayanna due to her coming in 2nd to last in the daily challenge, and Casey additionally selects Kendal, even though Katie explicitly told Steve she didn’t want to face Kendal. Casey is able to get a Katie nomination by noting that Kendal would be a vote to keep Derrick out of elimination, which Steve is not willing to risk for his game, even if it means hurting Katie. A lot of respect goes out to Casey & Steve. They made big-time nominations and didn’t think about it haphazardly; the two of them outlined every single potential vote, knowing how slim their potential margin for error was.
5 Lifeshield Strategies
I’ve seen some people upset this week’s episode turns the Lifeshield into the Relic from WOTW 1, and to me, that’s completely fine; getting a free individual immunity in exchange for an elimination winning is a blessing. There are still certain situations where the Lifeshield could get used in unique scenarios. For example, last week, we saw Darrell struggle with the nominations alongside Tina; theoretically, if Darrell had a Lifeshield, he could agree to nominate Kendal and immediately use it on her to guarantee her safety. It would be like in Survivor when someone has the Individual Immunity necklace and then uses an Immunity Idol on their ally.
There is also a scenario where once the numbers in the game dwindle, where if you get nominated for elimination, you can use the Lifeshield on the other person nominated so that they keep their vote, force the daily challenge winners to nominate someone they don’t want to, and then flip the numbers onto the new nominee. In that scenario, it would be somewhat like a Big Brother Power of Veto. Now, that is not a realistic option currently, though; it could happen later in the game once nomination and voting options become limited. Along with all that we saw with Ayanna last week, the Lifeshield is insurance if you come in last place in the daily challenge.
4 Epic Voting Deliberation
At deliberation, Derrick channeled the entitlement powers of Devin Walker & Johnny Bananas when he said Steve & Casey did him dirty by burning his Lifeshields. Casey quickly shut that down by noting they were not his — they were Jodi & Cohutta’s Lifeshields. Everyone was a bit shocked by how powerful and confident Casey was, and I have to say, I fucking loved it. Casey has never held power like this her entire Challenge career, and I’m glad she is not squandering it.
Derrick crumbled under pressure during the deliberation; he tried to play up the intimidation card, saying he was likely to come back and people should only take their shots at him with the knowledge he’ll be coming back at them. This move might work on some mentally weaker players, but these are vets in their 30s and 40s who are not easily intimidated. If Derrick had pitched a more strategic version of why not to vote him in, maybe it would have been Tyler instead. The votes on the male side went 7 votes to Derrick (from Nehemiah, Teck, LT, Jasmine, Melinda, Tina, and Janelle), and 3 votes to Tyler (from Darrell, MJ, and Jonna).
It was an all-time vote-in ceremony as a whole. The biggest highlight was Ayanna taking off her sweatsuit to reveal she was in uniform, ready to go into elimination, an epic callback to her infamous “I slept in my uniform because I wanted to win” moment from Battle of the Sexes 2. All 10 votes went to Ayanna, and Kendal has to feel great avoiding three consecutive eliminations after fighting so hard on All-Stars 1.
3 Nehemiah Fiorenza
One of my favorite things from the Rivals generation of the Challenge is when players would wear the colors or the extra jerseys of their allies going into elimination as a show of support. We haven’t had that since they got rid of the multi-colored jerseys. This week, Nehemiah found a solution to the problem and went above and beyond. Nehemiah got Jonna to use her weave hair to give him a makeshift beard so he could provide Brad with all of his support and then some. The perfect touch was Nehemiah not blinking whatsoever, just like Brad.
2 Ayanna vs. Katie
This week’s elimination was not the most exciting to watch, though; it was well-designed. Players had to carry weight back and forth to unlock their puzzles. The fact this elimination integrated raw strength, cardio, and a mental aspect all into one makes it so you can’t say that you got cheated out of a win. If you suck at puzzles, there is a physical aspect to give you an edge, and if you suck at cardio, there is a puzzle aspect for you to catch up.
In the Ayanna/Katie match-up, Ayanna was much better at both the physical and mental aspects. While Ayanna is not close to her prime shape, she is still a natural athlete, and you see it in these eliminations. That sprinter mentality comes out, and then you add in the mom strength, and it’s a wrap. Katie takes a tough loss, and Steve was full of regret once he sees his friend go down. Looking back, he probably should have nominated Jasmine instead of Ayanna; then again, if Katie just doesn’t DQ, none of this matters. Ayanna is now 2–0 in eliminations, and Katie is 0–2 in the spin-off eliminations (4–8 if you include the totality of her career).
1 Derrick vs. Brad
Derrick and Brad are very similar players. They are two spectacular Polish-American athletes who have so much heart as competitors. In my opinion, Brad is a slightly better athlete, but Derrick is slightly better at the game, which is why Derrick has 3 Challenge Championships compared to Brad’s 1. What is their biggest weakness each? Puzzles. So what did their elimination come down to? A puzzle, of course.
They each physically killed the elimination. Compared to Ayanna, the men seemed a little more aimless, though Brad eventually made headway once he began listening to the crowd, worked fast from there, and took the win. It’s a big win for Brad and ties him and Derrick at 1–1 all-time, finally making up for their elimination on the Gauntlet 2. Derrick gets taken out shockingly early. I truly thought that if Derrick didn’t rock the boat, he’d easily get another final appearance. Little did we know that Steve, Casey, and Nehemiah’s alliance would pull off such a massive move this early in the game. Derrick has not lost this early on a season since Battle of the Sexes 2, and it could be a good thing; CT and Wes are both elite players who have taken early-season losses as learning moments and adapted their style of play after to great success. There’s no reason Derrick can’t come back and potentially win in the future.
This episode restores some of my faith in the Challenge. I mean, If you’re still reading at this point, we are over 2400 words deep into a recap of a 40-minute Reality TV show. Do you know what that means? The show is fucking good. Also, we need a Brad vs. Derrick Pole Wrestle at some point because their strengths and weaknesses overlap so much that I need to see them put their entire bodies and hearts on the line.