The Challenge Battle For a New Champion Episode 1 Recap: 10 Biggest Takeaways

Allan Aguirre
15 min readOct 26, 2023

The 1st Episode of The Challenge Battle For a New Champion 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 firsh episode.

If you prefer audio/video, my podcast recap can be found above/below.

10 The Launch Special Was Required Viewing

Last week, MTV debuted an Episode 0 Meet the Cast Launch special. It got labeled as a refresher/get-to-know-some-people-type episode that didn’t seem necessary to watch. Having watched the Launch special last week and the premiere this week, it’s abundantly clear that last week’s episode was MUST WATCH.

While there are technically no true Rookies this season, The Challenge Battle for a New Champion lacks brand names. There are so many players that if you fell off while watching recent seasons or didn’t watch every spinoff, you’re a bit clueless as to who these people are on screen.

The Challenge is becoming more and more like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and not in a good way. Part of the fun on The Challenge is the extended history of the show and the fact that you get to watch people grow over the years — or the excitement of seeing someone you saw on a past show finally debut. At the same time, it’s all beginning to feel like you’re out of the loop if you don’t watch every spinoff or feeder show. I’ve been covering The Challenge for 7 years, this is the 11th MTV season I’ve recapped live, and it’s my “job” to know who all these people are, and even I catch myself slipping. So what does that mean for the most casual of consumers?

Honestly, they’re probably watching this show with a smile as I overanalyze this reality show from the Ridiculousness Network.

Circling back, the Launch Special was essential as the players did an “opening challenge,” camped out at night, popped champagne, and played spin the bottle. The end result was a lot of hot make-outs ensued, and we saw alliances begin to establish themselves.

9 One Winner is Ridiculous

The one-winner concept on The Challenge is so fucking stupid for so many reasons. For starters, it’s almost possible to create a genderless Final that will leave everyone happy. If it’s an individual game, let there be a male and female champion — simple as that, it’s not rocket science.

Secondly, I get very annoyed when men get too involved in the women’s side of the political game. The male perception of strength should not be the prevalent voice in the house when it comes to politics and strategies. I didn’t fully enjoy Dirty 30 and Vendettas because it felt like the men were controlling all the female eliminations — and literally, every Troika on Vendettas female elimination days had at least 2 out of 3 men deciding who was going.

Third, we are trying to usher in a new generation, and new Champions would be a good thing. I’d be happy if we walked with 4–6 new Champions this season — which isn’t a crazy concept when you remember that we had seasons where 8 people won back in the day. The Challenge Champion moniker goes a long way in establishing a player, and having only one winner limits the franchise’s potential. Also, the winner could potentially be a dud or get canceled for tweeting they’ve been all about Black Lives Matter since they lost their virginity. There’s also the rumor that Season 40 might be All Champions, which, if true, let’s get some new blood in there.

8 Participation Ass Daily Challenge

The first-ever Challenge season was a spinoff of Road Rules. On Road Rules, players often had to accomplish missions as a group to win money and prizes. In essence, this week’s daily challenge was a bit of a callback to those yester years as there was no individual or pair winner, just one group collaborating to earn 50k dollars for the Final pot.

It fucking sucked.

If you enjoyed the daily challenge, that’s great, and there were good elements. Seeing Ciarran step up and try to play the leader as an outsider was cool. Berna’s messiness began. Watching players not be able to solve a puzzle that spells out the world CHALLENGE was funny, and the struggle to pull Ciarran/Jay up as the last two men over the hill looked grueling. Importantly, it looked like players cared/gave 110% as they wanted to win an extra 50k.

As I say all that, when there’s no individual/pair winner or loser, it’s so easy to tune out while watching. It took up a decent amount of the episode (despite being only a 10-minute challenge), and like the child with no attention span that I am, I wanted them to fast-forward to the outcome. Did they win? Yes or No? Fuck, it’s let’s move on and get Frosty’s on the way home.

What did irk me about this daily challenge is that this is supposed to be an INTRODUCTORY episode where you’re ushering in a new era of the show. This daily challenge was formatted and filmed chaotically in a way that did not allow many players to stand out, and even worse, it allowed some of the more background personalities to hide more than they would typically. On Invasion, they built the opening game format where players had to win a daily challenge/elimination from the jump to make it into the Oasis. Doing so helped establish so many personalities. This week’s daily challenge was the opposite — besides Ciarran stepping up as a leader, I didn’t walk away impressed by anyone. If anything, we have a whole cast of losers who have never won a Championship, and now they can’t win a daily challenge working together. It makes everyone look weak, which is not good for a season where people will question the legitimacy as it doesn’t have the Bananas/CT/Cara/Laurel types as full-time cast members.

7 Move In Time

The house move-in is a fun, time-honored tradition. We got Jay’s controversial first/second toast (Big T did one in the Launch Episode). I will say, The Challenge houses are all becoming so identical looking in recent years that it does bum me out.

The most noticeable part of the move-in was when Berna tried to get a room with Michele, and Moriah had to awkwardly tell her next to three open beds that they were all already taken (by her Ride or Dies allies). Moriah is the nicest person in that house, and even she was like, “Yeah, I don’t know if I can deal with Berna’s energy.”

We then saw Berna act like a mess throughout the house. Hughie & Michele acted as great friends in trying to console and advise her on the game and situation, only for her to lash back at the people looking out for her. It looked like psychologist Colleen had made a breakthrough as she listened to Berna talk and talk, and the moment Colleen tried to give any input, Berna shut her down and said she only wanted to vent. It was an incredible performance by Berna, a pure, authentic mess of a human being that I can’t stop watching. Watching Berna is like watching a speeding car about to crash, yet she is also rolling down the car window and blaming everyone else for driving too fast. Berna does teter a line where I think being on Reality TV is unsafe for her mental health, and producers should step in. At this point in time, it’s still an enjoyable mess.

6 Michele & Callum are Reality TV Showmance Soulmates

There’s something beautiful about watching two people drive full speed at one another, avoiding every apparent red flag. If you didn’t already know, Callum is a bit of a fuckboi; meanwhile, Michele loves affection and is down to make out with hot people, whether it be a man or woman. On top of Callum having a girlfriend, them having a showmance isn’t great gameplay. Michele attaches herself to a guy without many connections in the house, which could put her in a precarious spot if she prioritizes him over the game. Additionally, these two limit each other’s overall social game and Polidicking potential the more they become an item.

The showmance doesn’t make sense strategically; they live in different continents, one of them has a girlfriend, and even if he didn’t, they would have no long-term future outside this house together. All those red flags turn green the moment these two got lost in each other’s eyes, and I’m here for it. The immediate Facetime call after their night was messy perfection — like when you’re drunk and decide to heat up some leftovers, but at the last minute, you remember to pour loads of shredded cheese on whatever you’re eating.

There’s something different about this Challenge cheating affair than ones from the past. Had it been just two hot people in a Reality TV house primally hooking up, then I wouldn’t flinch. We’ve seen that before. It’s the fact that we watched these two intimately talk/flirt for 2–3 minutes where Michele asks Callum if he has a girlfriend, he says no, and then they continue talking all through the night, which makes this all so messy and entertaining to me. Finding out your significant other got drunk and hooked up with a hot person would be terrible, but you can wrap your mind around it. Learning that they had deep soul-searching conversations with someone else while denying/underplaying your existence… that’s fucking brutal. This is all a mess, and I’m the eye of the tornado living it up.

5 Big T is the Unreliable Narrator

Let’s switch over to the actual gameplay. We got a lot of Big T this episode, and from the feels of things, we will get filled to the brim with Big T content as long as she’s around. It makes sense; this is a cast without built-in stars, and Big T was already a prominent personality in her last couple of seasons. Right now, it’s Big T’s time to make The Challenger her show and her confessionals shine the brightest. Like others who came before her, Big T is this season’s narrator/main character (or just this episode).

Yet, it’s vital to note that Big T is NOT a reliable narrator. In Episode 1, Big T outlines all of her “alliances” as she says she will play a Wes-style political game and then tells everyone she doesn’t have a master plan, only to tell Melissa her master plan minutes later. The visual and idea of Big T running the game is fun, and she’s a captivating player to follow. Unfortunately, Big T’s awareness of her status in the game is not there. Big T was listing out her allies, many of which are not even close to being strong enough bonds to be a true alliance you can rely on. We literally saw some of the players she outlined actively say they’re cool with voting her into the FIRST ELIMINATION.

As Big T did all her talking and planning, she never got 100% on the same page as the Ride or Dies ladies. Those women came in with an obvious alliance that Big T is not part of, which explains why they didn’t come to an agreement other than let’s go for a man.

While Big T’s masterminding wasn’t fruitful in getting a man in the elimination arena, it did paint a target on her back. The Ride or Die ladies not only threw out her name during their plotting — they mentioned going for Melissa first as a better blindside and a way to weaken Big T. This was Big T’s best and worst episode ever at the same time.

4 Boys vs. Girls

As mentioned above, I hate when men get too involved in the women’s side of the game. Nonetheless, it is the game that exists in front of us, and I don’t blame the men one bit for organizing and keeping a solid front. The twelve fellas in the house got together and quickly said, “Let’s not allow a guy to go into this first elimination.” From there, they deliberated between targeting Berna as a strong player/making a mess or Big T as someone they perceived to be weak and plotting against them politically.

The women got on the same page for a minute during the deliberation in saying they didn’t want a woman to go into the first elimination. I thought Nurys & Ravyn did a great job speaking up for the women’s side. Big T rightfully defended herself, and Berna apologized for being a mess. The main male target became Ciarran because he stepped up as a leader during the daily challenge they failed.

As Ciarran and others noted, he succeeded in getting everyone up the wall. I want to take this as my opportunity as well to say that I fucking love Ciarran. The guy is charismatic, charming, a good competitor, and likes Pokemon — it doesn’t get much better than that. For the women to avoid elimination, Ciarran’s was their best possible target, and he was not good.

The ladies were too divided going in, and Big T and Berna’s actions made them much more apparent targets. Luckily or unluckily, someone spoke up and took all the heat off them…

3 Historic Deliberation Performance

Jessica Brody used to work as a stripper. Based on the deliberation, you’d assume the pole she’s accustomed to using is a shovel because she dug herself a grave so quickly. With the way the edit went, there was no indication that anyone was targeting Jessica besides Olivia. Then Jessica began talking, and it was like Jackson Pollock painting the biggest possible target. While trying to stand up for herself, Jessica basically called herself weak — then said she’s realistic that she’s probably not going to win money, and even if she did, she’d give some to her mom and the rest to charity.

Everyone in the house was desperately looking for a reason to vote for someone, and Jessica gave them all the bullets and the guns.

2 Voting Process

I was stunned that TJ had all 24 players vote on who was going into elimination live at the arena. I assumed there would be a secret voting room at some point. Nope, out in the open, if you say someone’s name, they see it right then and there. I like how savage that can be. Then again, as we saw during the episode, once Berna tossed the first vote on Jessica, it was much easier for everyone else to do so.

Jessica even voted for herself because it didn’t make sense to make any enemies. Horacio went rogue and didn’t vote for Jessica to make a point, choosing instead to vote for Big T. I understand what Horacio is trying to do. What I didn’t enjoy about this is that Horacio wanted to show he would not be a sheep and wasn’t afraid of anyone. Yet, he tossed his vote on someone labeled in the house as one of the “weaker” female competitors. If you want to make a statement, vote for a stronger male competitor.

The most exciting part of this all is that whoever gets voted into elimination gets to call out their opponent Duel-style. Jessica called out Big T right after MTV set up Big T with the time to drink champagne and relax confessional. With this type of format and cast, Duel-style eliminations become fun as you’ll see alliances breaking if they think their ally is the weaker opponent and people taking big shots to make a name for themselves.

1 Big T vs. Jessica

Even though there are no Champions this season — experience shined bright in this elimination. Jessica wasn’t ready for the political game, and when thrust into elimination — she lacked a sense of urgency. Meanwhile, Big T’s done the most seasons of any player on this cast; she’s been in five eliminations and trained hard going into this game. When TJ blew the horn to start, Big T acted immediately, never stopped, and won the elimination easily. The best part of the elimination was seeing Melissa as a proud momager of Big T.

I thought this was the most comfortable I’ve ever seen Big T as a competitor on this show. She crushed this elimination, and I also want to go out and say that Big T has trained/put in a lot of work health-wise over the last couple of years. The current version of Big T would massacre the version of her that debuted on War of the Worlds 2 and the even version of herself from Total Madness/Double Agents.

As someone who was excited to see Jessica Brody this season, I was very disappointed by her entire presence in this episode. From the deliberation to the elimination, Jessica didn’t seem fit to be a Challenger. Hopefully, she will come back again and prove me wrong.

From 24 down to 23, we have so much season left in the tank, and I’m excited to see whether we get a man or woman again in elimination next week.

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Allan Aguirre

27 years old. I blog about MTV's the Challenge and will dabble into other subjects occasionally. Follow me on Twitter for the occasional bad joke.