The two-episode premiere of Challenge All Stars S3 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 latest. Because we had two episodes, I’m dropping 20 takeaways.
10 Epic Opening Introductions
The way they opened All-Stars 3 by bringing in specific sets of people 1–3 at a time and re-introducing them to us was spectacular.
Kicking off with Veronica & Tina was absolute perfection — we got a reunion of the Mean Girls, an All-Stars debut of a legend in Veronica, and then accompanied by the charismatic return of Tina. Their scene the night after the opening party where they laugh about sleeping in bunk beds next to each in a Challenge house after all these years was such a perfect moment encapsulating how surreal Challenge All-Stars seasons have been for players and viewers.
How they introduced Roni & Cynthia was effective as well, considering most fans would not be accustomed to them as none of their Challenge seasons are available on any streaming platforms. They let us know that Roni is a 2x Champ with a real pedigree, and Cynthia was a groundbreaker on the show’s first season and, technically, the first female Champion in Challenge history. On the other side of the coin, they brought Sylvia & Kailah together as the Young Guns here to bring a specific type of youthful energy, spice, and drama. We also saw them bring in OG friends Laterrian & Syrus, yoga sisters KellyAnne & Kendal draped on Tyler, and the Real World coupling/friendship of Jordan & Nia (which we will touch on).
9 The Main Eventers
There were two big mic drop moments. When the Real World Austin crew of Wes, Nehemiah, and Melinda came out, it was a tone shift. Nehemiah and Melinda looked crazy fucking hot in their outfits. Wes’s outfit was a bit ugly, but he had a swagger to him when walking in with his stunning friends by his side — they looked powerful. They reminded me of the villains who would show up to a party hosted by Bruce Wayne, where Batman knows they are bad guys, yet, he can’t make a scene, or else he’ll look like a crazy person. Everyone looked at Wes with a bit of caution. I will say, I did worry that after a star performance last season, Nehemiah would simply become known as Wes’s friend again, and even though he had a couple of fun quotes, he is quickly back in the role.
Challenge All Stars 3 does a feel a bit like the Wes show. The montage of people cursing out Wes as he ran on the treadmill was weird. Johnny Bananas, CT, and Katie aren’t even on this season, and the clip they showed of Kailah was from Dirty 30, a season Wes was not even on.
The other mic drop was when they brought in the reigning Champions in Jonna, MJ, and Yes. It put them on a pedestal from the jump and set the tone for the season, where if anyone takes them down in elimination, they will look like kingslayers and queenslayers.
8 Jordan & Nia Redemption Tour
Jordan & Nia’s introduction stood out because while everyone was hyping themselves up or explaining how they were going into this game, they had to acknowledge their past and tell us about their need to grow as people and are ready to show it. Their confessionals felt a bit awkward. Yet, with rumors swirling during Total Madness that Jordan had gotten banned/suspended, and with it long being rumored that Nia got banned following her DQ on Exes 2, it needed to be acknowledged.
The messy side of me wants to see Jordan & Nia be their 100% unadulterated selves, but I guess growth is rad. Also, I’m not saying these two are having sex. I will say that when Jordan & Nia exit a room they’ve been in alone together, that room definitely STANK.
7 Manic Memorization of the Men’s Heat
I loved this opening daily challenge; it tested a few qualities: cardio, rogue memorization, cutthroat-ness, and, most importantly, strategy. You could learn a lot about the players in the game purely from how hard they were trying to move through the crowd to look at the peepholes. The women mentioned Tyler being polite for not pushing anyone out of the way and waiting his turn. To me, it was a reflection of why Tyler came in 11th out of 12, because he simply did not leave it all out on the field, which is what you need to when going against such stacked competition. As we saw, a strategy was of the utmost importance in this challenge — Jordan is an intelligent guy with generally good memory skills; however, he couldn’t stick to one plan, which led to him coming in 6th. Let’s talk about the men who killed it.
Wes came in 1st because he is someone who has clearly been studying and reading up on puzzle/memorization tricks in recent years. He was nowhere near this good at puzzles even five years ago. Wes knows he isn’t the top athlete anymore, so he has learned to cut corners everywhere else. Yes came in 2nd to no surprise as he’s probably the smartest guy in the house. MJ’s 3rd Place finish was a fun surprise. Darrell & Nehemiah at 4th/5th were solid placings as well. The battle of the bottom was between Syrus & Tyler. Being “a bit colorblind” in a challenge where players had to identify between the different colors of the panels was a tough look from a production standpoint. If Syrus couldn’t laugh at himself so much and take it with a good stride, more fans would be upset. The simple solution is don’t involve colors; keep it to numbers and patterns.
6 Wonderful Women’s Heat
The women mostly killed this challenge; watching the men fail probably taught them what not to do. Sylvia showed out by coming in 1st in half the time it took the men, her first-ever solo daily challenge win ever. Before this, I never considered Sylvia a significant mental threat because she was always the 4th best Lavender Lady in puzzles — maybe they’re all just amazing at puzzles. KellyAnne and Veronica came in 2nd and 3rd; it did not surprise me as they both have excellent memories. Melinda finishing 4th wasn’t a shock either, and Kailah placing 5th was a pleasant surprise. Kendal & Tina in 10th and 11th did catch me off guard as they both have a decent history when it comes to puzzles.
Cynthia coming in last was heartbreaking as you never want to see the true OG fall behind that quickly.
5 Perfect Format
Seriously, whose dick do I need to suck for finally listening to the hardcore fans and getting the perfect daily challenge/elimination format? In this season, Last Place goes directly into elimination, and the Top 3 finishers from each gender division get immunity & the right to vote someone into elimination.
This format creates the most competitive field in daily challenges because players who know they aren’t coming in Last Place will phone it in when they realize they can’t finish first. With 3rd Place getting immunity, it pushes all players to be better, and doing so raises the bar for what it takes not to come in last.
It takes away the general house vote leading to way less floating, and because all six players have to vote and strategize, it forces players to throw out more names than they usually would, creating more drama and rivalries. The sabotage element for winners is fun and will play out big at some point, and then the name of the winners (The Authority) is badass. Sometimes, you need to keep it simple, and then things will explode naturally.
4 Jungle Boogie
(Wasn’t able to get screencaps of the party. If anyone does, forward them to me).
The jungle party was fun and full of good vibes all around. Syrus and Nia looked fantastic together, and it felt like a Challenge house. Cynthia choosing not to ask for anyone in elimination was respectable as it didn’t feel necessary. She was just trying to vibe.
Someone who wasn’t vibing was Tyler trying to pitch himself to Veronica, saying that she shouldn’t vote him in because he would be way more fun to party with in the long run. Don’t get it twisted; Veronica likes to drink wine and have a good time. At the end of the day, she is always a strategic game player, so for Tyler to pitch himself as a party guy gave her more reason to vote him in because he told her he’s not a serious player. Nobody looks less fun than someone explicitly telling you to keep them around because they are fun.
3 Opening Deliberations & Votes
At first, I wasn’t the biggest fan of this episode. As I keep writing about it, I enjoy it a lot more; the number of layers to the first Authority deliberation was fascinating. Everyone was expecting Wes to be the person to throw out Jordan’s name to make a big move, and it was actually MJ who spoke honestly about the fact he didn’t want to face Jordan in a Final. On the other side, Yes is on his own planet where he only wants to face the best people in the Final, a noble cause that had Wes’s stomach-churning for sure.
Once MJ did name-drop Jordan, Wes made sure to jump on it and essentially start the propaganda train as to why they should vote him in. Except Wes didn’t want Jordan in the first elimination because he would likely beat Syrus. Wes wanted to get the ball rolling for a potential future vote and the long-term game. Instead, Wes pitched a vote in the bottom two players hoping to create a standard where now all you need to do is not come in the bottom two. It was a clever long-term play, and the females were down for it as it was the path of least resistance for everyone. Everyone but Veronica as it meant she’d have to vote in her best friend. Again though, Veronica is a political player, and as much as she loves Tina, it’s a game, and she had to play for herself. Still, Tina was rightfully hurt.
2 Syrus vs. Tyler & Cynthia vs. Tina
(again, forward screencaps if you have them).
The elimination was well-designed; it was a hybrid of the elimination Wes/Nany faced Dario/Nicole in on Rivals 3 and the elimination that Mattie & Dee played on Total Madness, with a much bigger cardio element added.
At 50 years old, Syrus brought out his inner college basketball player and turned the turbo engines on as he worked his way through the sand and got his first elimination win in over a decade. Syrus is such a good guy with a naturally fun personality; nobody deserved a win more than him. Tyler got pretty gassed out, and I get he probably couldn’t train much due to the injuries he sustained on All-Stars 2; regardless, he hasn’t looked anything close to his 2x Champion billing since returning.
It was great to see Tina get some redemption and win an elimination on the female side. Cynthia’s loss hurt as she had such a vibrant personality to her, and it was a loss that had me a bit emotional.
1 All-Star Twist & Final Episode 1 Thoughts
The concept of players gaining power from absorbing other players’ stars piques my interest. Maybe 3 stars can get cashed in for an individual immunity idol/lifesaver at some point? My only hope is the stars don’t play a part in the Final. As a whole, Episode 1 was damn good. 9.6 out of 10.
10 Wes & The Gals + SABOTAGE
Episode 2 opens with a fun day by the pool that gets serious once people begin speculating about the sabotage twist. Wes has breakfast with what looks like a ladies’ alliance consisting of Sylvia, Kailah, Jemmye, and Veronica — the Vendettas/Final Reckoning crew. Sylvia wants to go after KellyAnne or Kendal as they are strong players; Wes pitches the idea of picking them up as a mini faction to guarantee the numbers and then dropping them once they pick everyone else off. Sylvia still chooses to go after KellyAnne. Wes uses his sabotage on Jordan, and logically it’s the safest move Wes can make. Jordan already knows Wes is against him, so if Wes uses the sabotage on anyone else, he creates an additional enemy and potentially more enemies if the person he sabotages has close-knit allies. If Wes had sabotaged MJ, Jonna would have been upset. If he had done it to Mark, it probably angers Brad.
9 Mark’s Phone Call
Before the daily challenge, we see Mark’s phone call home to his mom (who is battling cancer). For the longest time, I’ve always felt Mark Long is an extremely public personality who we don’t know much of anything about his actual personal life. Watching Mark be vulnerable and open up about the real parts of his life meant a lot, and it had me rooting for him.
2 for 2 with banging daily challenges. The swinging challenge was about body control, explosiveness, and finding a rhythm. Then they threw in the puzzle element for a tiebreaker. God, I love daily challenges that test more than one skill-set.
The most explosive & agile male athletes did well in knocking down the box part of the swinging challenge. Jordan, Yes, MJ, and Derrick all got it done with ease. The slower and less flexible men — Wes, Darrell, and Laterrian struggled. Wes’s sabotage on Jordan kept him from getting first overall (he still came in 2nd). Yes took home first, making his second Authority. Brad snuck in for 3rd Place. Wes was able to out-puzzle Laterrian, forcing LT directly into elimination.
Like the men, the more coordinated and agile women thrived in this daily challenge. We saw KellyAnne, Kendal, Kailah, and Jonna knock down their boxes without issue. Getting themselves down first was critical as Kendal, Jonna, and Kailah made up the Authority in that order. It was another solid performance from Kailah and extremely neat that a different set of three women won this time around. In both challenges, Roni has finished in the middle of the pack. It’s bugged the hell out of her because she is used to being a top player. I love it, Roni cares about competition, and I’m sure we will get a big moment out of her at some point. Once again, Sylvia took the puzzle down incredibly quickly; she just didn’t have the swinging down. Her sabotage of KellyAnne wasn’t even needed as KellyAnne had no ability when it came to any shape-oriented puzzles. Luckily for KellyAnne, Tina was a mess who couldn’t even stay properly seated her in swing and auto DQ’d herself into elimination. Tina is looking rough in these dailies.
7.5 Music Observation
The music continues to be good, although I didn’t enjoy it as much as I have the first two seasons. Even then, it’s still many levels above the main show.
7 Queen Jonna
When Tina comes and requests that she not face either Melinda or Veronica in elimination, Jonna instantly smiles and knows she has to put one in. If Tina is trying to make requests at the bottom, what is Jonna to expect when she’s actually in power? Hell, Jonna knows from Tina throwing in Jodi last season that she’s going after the best, and as the resident Queen of All-Stars, Jonna is aware that is her.
6 Wes vs. Yes
When Wes won the opening daily, he mentioned seeing Yes building anger and jealousy towards him. Entirely made up by Wes for the cameras; Yes was just a bit tired after the daily and mostly proud of coming in 2nd. Everything between the two since has given a sense of genuine animosity. Yes plays based on a code of honor, so when he sees Wes, someone who is so brazen about the fact he wants to plot, scheme, and get one over on people, he takes offense. The same goes the other way, where Wes thinks Yes’s moral high ground is a way to manipulate people. Here’s what I believe: Wes is 100% a schemer, and Yes is a flat-out good guy, yet it’s not black and white. Wes plays the role of a dastardly politician because the Challenge is a fun game and playground, and he wants to do what he can’t in his everyday life. Yes plays the role of a good guy because that’s who he is in everyday life. He treats the show like a physical amusement park and a personal experience about testing oneself to the fullest where if anyone tries to disturb the peace & fun, they are in the wrong.
I don’t think either has a firm grasp on one another, except they’ve become so dead-set in their opinion of one another, and they will only dig themselves deeper into their stance. I would love to watch a Reality TV show where they live together for a year. They would probably become best friends and mix business with activism.
5 Crazy Deliberation
(Brad during the deliberation)
The second deliberation was low-key batshit, and it’s why I love this season’s format. Each player put names on the table of people they wanted safe — Kailah initiated it, knowing she would save Sylvia. Kendal picked KellyAnne, Yes asked for Derrick & Jemmye, Jonna took MJ off the board, Jordan selected Nia, and Brad chose to save Wes in jaw-dropping fashion. Yes and Jordan were irate from Brad’s choice and pleaded for them to put Wes back on the board; Kailah, who is on decent terms with Wes, also tried to float him back into the mix. Nope, Brad picked his long-time friend, Wes, and he tried his absolute best to keep it as low-key as possible, even though it created so much chaos. Brad was the kid in class who had to tell the teacher politely that he had a severe peanut allergy, and thus nobody gets to eat the peanut butter cookies that Billy’s mom brought for his birthday.
When left with only Syrus, Nehemiah, and Mark to vote on, Jordan pushes for Mark. My guess is Jordan heard Mark mention him as an option for the previous elimination when Wes came to power. Mark getting voted into elimination is a crazy outcome as it has only happened one time prior in his Challenge career and for it to happen this early in the game is nuts. With Melinda-Veronica-Roni as options, they pick Melinda. It upsets Tina, though there is not much she can do. There haven’t been many All-Stars eliminations, and somehow we already have two rematches from prior seasons.
4 Double Agent Brad
I’m going to mention it again… Brad putting his stake in the game on the line for Wes was such a fucking ballsy move. Brad is a loyal friend — he and Wes go back a long time. He also knows that as long as Wes is there, it keeps a target off himself, and Wes will go after the people who can beat them in a Final. It is easier to fold on and go with the majority, and Brad did not do that.
Look at the big balls and big brains on Brad.
3 Melinda’s Injury
At the beginning of the episode, we learn that Melinda’s ankle injury from the Final last season is still affecting her as it flairs up following the opening challenge. Melinda manages to not come in last in the swinging daily. She still ends up in elimination, where she needs help walking down the arena floor from Nehemiah. She informs TJ she has to bow out, and it’s heartbreaking. Anyone who watched the Final last season knows Melinda has a ton of heart. For her to quit, it had to be serious.
Hilariously, we will never get the straight-up Tina vs. Melinda elimination. God does not want it to happen. Tina staying in the game is a win from an entertainment standpoint. I love what Tina brings out of TJ; he messes with her more than any competitor I’ve ever seen.
2 Mark vs. Laterrian
LT vs. Mark was a grueling reverse tug-of-war battle between two physical beasts for over half an hour. It’s hard to imagine anyone beating Mark Long in this elimination. He’s 230 lbs, is mostly muscle, and at 6'3 with a long wingspan, Mark can make long lunges in the sand that Laterrian couldn’t. I think Laterrian held out for a remarkably long time considering the circumstances. He had no real shot against Mark in that elimination, and I don’t know if anyone would have.
Mark Long gets his second career elimination win and sends Laterrian packing. It’s a tough loss for LT as he always comes with a welcomed intensity. With LT gone, all 10 men left on the cast are former Challenge Champions.
Side note: The average age for male elimination winners on All Stars 3 is 50 years old right now.
1 We Are Building Up To Something Even Better
I thoroughly enjoyed these first two episodes, and I’m giving Episode 2 a 9.1 out of 10. As much as I enjoyed them, these first two eliminations felt like placeholders to set up for what is going to be an explosive season. You look at the guys’ side of the bracket, and every potential elimination will be a heavyweight match-up. Every woman can potentially take one another out in elimination, depending on the match-up. It’s going to be an explosive season.
Big things will happen, and man, based on the trailer for next week, it looks as though were are getting a headbanger daily challenge, and we will see Wes vs. Yes in full form. The Battle of the Esses.