In 2021, at 43 years old, Yes Duffy made his return to the Challenge for the first time in 18 years. Yes, who competed prior to eliminations existing, back when Finals weren’t crazy intense marathons, and before the debut of Mandi Moyer, went on All Stars 1, worked his way into the Final, and blasted the doors off multiple legends to win $500,000 and become the first-ever All Stars Champion. Yes Duffy is the King of the Mountain, and he’s back for more.
When Yes originally got announced as part of the All Stars 1 cast, so many people on social media were asking: “who is this guy, and how is he an All Star?” Fast-forward a year later, and some of those same people look at Yes as the biggest threat to win. Yes is a phenomenal competitor who is easy to root for because he’s a good human. He put his winning towards his family and deserving causes. We’ve had many shitty humans win Challenge Championships, so having an honorable hard-working winner who cares about the livelihoods of other humans is a nice change of pace. I and many others will be rooting for Yes based on who he is as a person alone. Let’s get into the breakdown.
Introducing Yes: At 19 years old, Yes made his Reality TV debut in 1999 on Road Rules Season 8: Semester at Sea. Out of Berkeley, California, Yes was a flat-out nice guy. It seems generic to say, but even when digging through old Reality TV archives and forums, nobody had anything bad to say about Yes; he brought good vibes and resonated well with people. Yes came off as thoughtful, socially passionate, quietly confident, and was a fascinating hybrid of an artistic soul mixed with mathematical logicality. He would make his Challenge debut on the show’s third season, Challenge 2000. The show had no eliminations, just 6 v 6, Real World vs. Road Rules. Yes was a thrill-seeker and solid team contributor where they won 5 out of 8 daily challenges and took home the Handsome Reward (aka they won the Final). He also set a World Record during the premiere episode this season when he bungee jumped off the Stratosphere tower in Las Vegas.
We would see Yes return for two more seasons, the first being Battle of the Seasons (2002), where he was partners with his RR castmate Veronica Portillo. They finished 4th Place out of 16 teams in the first daily challenge. Unfortunately, that left them just out of the Inner Circle. The Inner Circle saw them as potential threats, so they voted them directly out of the game. Yes and Veronica got punished for being good; partially why traditional eliminations would later become a thing. He returned for Battle of the Sexes 1. This season, the men’s team decided all their vote-outs based on who had the lowest aggregate daily challenge score. Following an errant DQ in a mission, Yes was the low-man on the totem pole, got voted out, and we wouldn’t see him compete on the Challenge for another 18 years.
During his time away from the show, Yes started a family, worked as an architect, and continued to be a social activist. Going into All Stars 1, Yes probably had the least fan-fare as viewers were more attracted to the bigger names like Mark & Alton. Even players like Ace and Big Easy had more interest due to their character status. It wasn’t a slight to Yes, as people who remembered him enjoyed him; it’s just the fact he was a mild-mannered guy from an era of the Challenge where the show wasn’t as competitive or high-stakes. Then the first challenge of All Stars happened in which players had to dive into cold open water to unlock & retrieve heavy puzzle pieces. This challenge led to multiple players requiring medical assistance. How did Yes do? He tied with Nehemiah for the most puzzle pieces recovered and then solved the math equation at the end to guarantee his team the win. An absolute boss performance.
Being a slightly undersized guy with not many social connections, Yes should have had a target on his back; his performance in the opening challenge immediately established him as a strong player rather than an easy vote-in. Looking back, there’s a world where if the players had gotten an easier daily challenge or one where Yes wasn’t able to shine in such a way, he probably gets thrown into the opening Pole Wrestle. Against certain behemoths, Yes could have easily been the first boot. I’m fucking glad we live in the universe where that didn’t happen because Yes put on a masterclass the rest of the season. He wasn’t getting a massive edit, but if you watch the daily challenges closely, Yes was performing close to the top, whether it was swimming, cardio, or something heights-related. His social game was strong because when Yes spoke, he had calm directness that alerted people to listen, and when they listened, they saw a good man they could put their trust in.
Yes put up an all-time performance in the All Stars 1 Final. He was a natural problem-solver. Yes went into every portion and quickly figured out the best strategy for both him and his partner. From puzzles to eating to physically pacing himself, Yes looked like a natural. Yes became the first player to defeat Darrell Taylor in a Challenge Final and did so by beating him straight up 1 on 1 in the last epic cardio portion (what Darrell is known for). The guy went from a footnote in Challenge history to taking down a stacked field of Challenge legends and is now regarded as one of the best Final runners in show history. Can he do it again?
Player Vitals & Stats
Yes Duffy: 44 Years Old, 5'10, 160–170 lbs***, 3 Seasons, 1x Champion, 1x Finalist, 1 All Star Season, 1x All Star Champion, 0–0 Elimination Record
Skills and Physical Strength: Let’s kick off with the negative, and it’s mainly only one thing: Yes is a bit undersized relative to his competition. I don’t have any worries about Yes carrying large amounts of weight. He is strong for his size and knows the physics of the most efficient way to lift large objects. The worry is, what happens when he gets put up against MJ in a Hall Brawl or Mark in a Pole Wrestle? As much as I expect Yes to put up a fight, I’m betting on his opponents in those match-ups. There is also the intimidation standpoint where even though people respect Yes, they probably would rather face him and hope the elimination comes down to who weighs more.
While size is one of Yes’s “weaknesses,” it is also a strength because the guy is built for cardio-heavy events — he can run, swim, and climb for days. Yes is incredibly agile and can lift his body weight with ease. One of my favorite moments from Yes as a competitor was on All Stars 1 when players had to traverse rope bridges in a heights over water challenge.
Most players had to carefully traverse the ropes to even make it across once. During the time Ruthie cuts a 15-second confessional, Yes had made it back and forth between the ropes with literally no attention paid to him. Casually crushing an intense daily challenge like that had my jaw-dropped where when I first watched it, I didn’t notice that he had gone. It happened in the blink of an eye.
Ultimately, a big part of Yes’s physical success comes down to his brain and problem-solving nature. I don’t even know if I would say Yes patiently takes his team to devise daily challenge strategies. His brain functions at a high level where he throws himself into situations quickly figures out the best option for whatever gets put in front of him. I’m pretty jealous as I can barely chew gum and walk at the same time.
SSMP (Social, Strategic, Mental, and Political) Game: Yes plays a game based on honor and performance. He is not here for any chicanery or snake-like antics. Yes wants to run a Final with all the strongest players. As someone who loves cutthroat/dirty players, normally, Yes’s gameplay style would disgust me. Except I don’t hate it with Yes because he’s remarkably consistent. I get annoyed by the holier-than-thou players who commonly do shitty things. Yes is a genuinely good dude who means the words he says. At first, it drove me nuts as a cynic; I’ve come to enjoy his refreshing nature and honesty with time. Not many people in this world have strong healthy morals, and Yes is one of them.
In terms of alliances, Yes has become very close with Darrell since All Stars 1 and is on good terms with Jonna, Jemmye, Veronica, and Derrick. Other than Darrell, I don’t think Yes has anyone locked down as to who he’ll be working with. Based on interviews, he and Wes will likely clash, and boy, am I excited because they are probably the two smartest men in the house yet are polar opposites as humans. The analyst in me wants Yes to play a more active political game and try to take out some big threats before the Final. However, Yes fully believes he can beat anyone in a Final, and there’s no reason to think otherwise based on what we saw on All Stars 1.
When it comes to the mental side of the game, Yes is a former math champion and works as an architect. Puzzles are like second nature to him and give him a massive edge as he can push the pace of a Final both physically and mentally.
Eliminations & Winning Potential: Yes has never competed in an elimination. He has such a big target going into this season that I can’t imagine him not seeing an elimination on All Stars 3. If the elimination is a headbanger, everyone on this cast has more experience with brute physicality, and there aren’t any pushovers. If the elimination is a carnival game or something where players have to problem-solve, my money will be on Yes because that’s what he does best. I’m excited to see what Yes can do in the elimination arena.
Can Yes win? Yes. We watched him win All Stars 1, running his first Final ever with not a ton of prep going into the season. Since then, Yes has gotten in even better shape and is more prepared for everything the Challenge entails. His only issue is now people expect more out of him, and he’ll have a target on him where he’ll need to perform to survive. I think Yes is up for that challenge. And I have to end this by saying I want to see Yes go head-to-head with Jordan & Darrell in the Final so we can crown the best Final runner in Challenge history.