The Challenge Battle For a New Champion Episode 15 Recap: 10 Biggest Takeaways

Allan Aguirre
12 min readJan 25, 2024

The 15th 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 15th Episode.

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

10 Jay’s Toddler Behavior

There’s no self-reflection in Jay, and you can tell because if so, he would have turned his hat around months ago. Jay continued to cry and pout like a baby after Asaf’s elimination, lashing out at Kyland for “laughing” by saying Asaf was playing for his family and son…

All due respect to Asaf and his family… Who gives a shit? The Challenge is a messy Reality TV competition show that airs on MTV. Everyone is playing for their own reasons; even if Kyland was laughing at Asaf’s loss, it’s not his responsibility to care for Asaf outside this game. Now, if Jay does feel responsible, maybe he should’ve voted Emanuel into elimination instead of Ed. Which is precisely what Nurys told Jay when he lashed out at her like a dickhead, except again, Jay never blames himself, only others.

Michele was hoping Jay could mend fences with Nurys for the sake of their alliance, and she saw exactly why Nurys & Olivia felt alienated because Jay is a fucking mess. He is a pouty baby.

9 Conquest Phase — Purge City

In the first 14 episodes, only 9 players got eliminated, and in the past 5 weeks, only 1 got sent home. Shit changed fast this week, and thank god.

Since the premiere, I’ve hated the concept of a sole winner; just have a male and female winner, simple as that. Unfortunately, that’s not the world we live in. If that’s the case, I love MTV fully going commando mode, where the men and women are now competing against each other at all times physically, mentally, socially, and strategically.

The last-place finisher in daily challenges automatically getting purged is a dramatic measure taken production, yet also one I applaud. For years, I’ve complained that daily challenges often lack stakes. So many players give half-ass efforts knowing there’s no penalty for coming in last place and that they can coast through the game socially. This week, we watched fear get struck into players’ eyes as they now have to give 110% every time.

Now, I would prefer last place going directly into elimination rather than getting purged. Although it is late in the season and we have a Final coming soon, so some Purges make sense.

8 Paddle Away

Night-time paddleboarding is a hell of a way to get purged out of a season. Maybe production thought it would be a fair physical challenge that would give everyone a shot to win/do well, as most people don’t have extensive paddleboarding experience.

Horacio and Kyland looked like superstars winning their Heats. Michele has proven to be strong in the water in the past and did so again as the top female in her heat; meanwhile, Colleen had her best performance probably ever as she was the 1st Place female in her heat. Before the daily, Colleen talked about how great it is that now everyone has to compete individually. If Colleen has been playing dead fish only to blow us all away in the individual phase, I take back everything negative I’ve said about her over the last six weeks.

The real superstar of the daily challenge was Ed. Going into his challenge, I thought it was a lock that Jay would win. Jay spends so much of his life in the water — the daily challenge was tailor-made for him, yet Ed blew him away. Ed has proven to be an absolute ox physically — he’s smart puzzle-wise, and now he’s killing everyone in paddleboarding! There’s a real argument that Ed is the biggest threat in this game.

Now, the other standouts from this daily were Moriah and Ravyn. Neither woman was able to figure out how to paddle, and by the end, it looked like Moriah was swimming rather than using the paddle itself. In retrospect, Ravyn should’ve tried that because it might have saved her. As someone who loves a good Challenge conspiracy, it pains me to say that I believe Ravyn lost because there’s no way production wanted her out instead of Moriah. Especially now that the mercenary phase is over and there’s no potential Johnny Bananas arrival, the Moriah & James relationship is boring and unnecessary.

7 Ravyn’s Game Is Over

As mentioned before, so many players have coasted through this season without doing anything of significance. Ravyn is not one of them. On top of 4 daily challenges, Ravyn won two eliminations, including a mercenary win against Laurel.

Additionally, Ravyn was a great casting this season as she brought hilariously messy gameplay, had some Polidicking going on in the background, had her rivalry with Melissa, and was authentically herself. Ravyn is someone I want to see again in future seasons because she’s both a great competitor and an awesome Reality TV personality.

Sadly, Ravyn does not know how to paddleboat (or do math), and now her game is over. I’m not going to say it’s unfair that Ravyn goes out here because all she had to do was be better than 1 out of the other 14 people in this daily challenge. I will say I’d much rather Ravyn still be here over half of the remaining cast.

6 The New Voting Format

I have to give credit to Challenge Producers for creating a new, unique format for elimination nominations. They took the concept of schoolyard safety picks from The Duel 1 and Duel 2 and spun it on its head where the final three players (regardless of gender) not to get selected will automatically get sent into elimination. I don’t hate it. There are some obvious flaws and benefits to this system.

As someone who loved The Duels, I always enjoyed that the player who didn’t get picked got to select anyone except the daily challenge winner as their opponent. They could swing big or play it safe. I would’ve loved to see Horacio or Kyland call out Jay. For years, I’ve also been fascinated by the concept of 3-person eliminations, where in a duel format, the idea of someone calling out their opponent and then that opponent calling out a third player would be fun. Could you imagine Horacio calling out Jay and then Jay calling out Nurys to get back at Horacio? That would be messy and good TV.

Does it suck that the three players don’t have any say in who they face? No. The results of this episode’s first use of this voting format pained my heart as a fan. Being objective, though, all it takes is one rogue vote for someone to change the order and save your game. The Challenge is a social and tactical game; if you can’t create the bonds or deals to save yourself, then you go into the eliminations and compete.

Along with that, I think this voting format is beneficial for a game like this, where there is one winner. If you have the ability to save someone, you should save someone you think you can beat in the Final or an elimination if you’re in that position later in the game. For weeks, I’ve thought there was no path for a Michele, Olivia, Moriah, or Corey win. In a game format like this, where you can put three of the strongest players against each other and have them cannibalize each other, it opens up possibilities for anyone to win. Except James, Colleen, and Berna. That’s not me being anti-European. They just happen to be European and are either unable to run long distances (James/Colleen) or complete any puzzles or mental challenges (Berna).

5 Nurys’ Choice

Nurys never tried to hurt Jay with the split vote last week; it was never her goal for Asaf to go into elimination. Jay orchestrating the callout to ensure that Nurys would have to pick between Horacio and Olivia was a personal move to hurt her. It was a legitimately mean move by Jay and entertaining television. Credit to Jay for fully becoming a villain; prior to this week, he’d just been an unlikable petulant brat.

We watched Nurys get put between a rock and a hard place. Nurys defends Horacio with her whole heart at all times, and in these few weeks, they’ve formed a real bond. Still, even with Nurys hearing the rumors that Olivia might not fully have her back, Nurys remained loyal to her best friend and a move that made the most sense. Olivia likely was going to have a tough time facing Kyland & Zara. Shoutout to Horacio for vocally telling Nurys to save one of the girls, as it showed that he is ready to compete against anyone, that he wants Nurys to make the best play for herself, and that he has Olivia’s back.

4 Did Ed pick the right side?

I’m not surprised that Ed sided with Jay, as he’s been working with that alliance the entire game. Likewise, it makes sense to side with Jay’s alliance because those are people that Ed knows he can beat in elimination or a Final. Even though Ed just beat Horacio & Kyland in the daily challenge, he knows those guys are the real deal and would prefer them to go into elimination against each other.

At the same time, Kyland, Zara, Horacio, and Nurys’s pitch to Ed was strong, and he should’ve given it more consideration. If Ed aligns with that group, they genuinely have/had the ability to dominate every daily challenge and keep each other safe. Additionally, Kyland & Horacio are people who actually keep their word and play an honest game, even to their detriment at times. Importantly, once certain people get taken out, Ed will be viewed as the biggest threat, and they will toss him into elimination like the house is doing with Kyland/Horacio/Zara.

3 Threeway Exile Eliminations

While the new voting format is reminiscent of the Duel, the actual eliminations have brought back the Fresh Meat exile format. For the fans who hate crowd involvement, they got exactly what they want as players will have to fend for themselves. We also get the added twist of it being threeway eliminations.

Threeway eliminations are inherently interesting as the more people you add into a high-pressure scenario; the more random outcomes can occur — like Kyle winning the Pole Wrestle-esque elimination with CT & JP on War of the Worlds 1. Like the Fresh Meat exiles, it seems like most of these threeway eliminations will be Mini Finals, which will be heavily cardio and puzzle-based. The puzzles are the producer’s way of *equalizing* the game, as men and women will be competing head-to-head in these eliminations. Is that the best way to do it? I don’t know — I’ll repeat again, I’d much rather us have one male and one female winner where the two genders compete against each other.

Now, I do like exile Mini Final eliminations in that they are a true test of well-roundedness and an indicator of who is a threat in a Final. That said, if this is how all the remaining eliminations will be going forward, then I’m pissed that we didn’t get more Mercenary headbanger eliminations. I was on the side that if we would have a Hall Brawl or a Balls In, let’s have it between the competitors in the game fighting against each other. If that’s not going to happen, they should have had CT come in and backpack someone for a viral moment.

Alright, grievance aired. Let’s move on to the elimination.

2 Horacio vs. Kyland vs. Zara

Man, I wish we could’ve seen Zara compete against any other competitors in this elimination. Zara had to face two absolute beasts, and for the most part, she was competitive with them. The obvious misstep was that Zara did the cargo mud crawl before the wall climb, which made the climb difficult. Even then, kudos to Zara for being a badass as she dropped her shoes to give herself a chance to climb that wall. I will note that Zara seemed clueless on the Sudoku and had a few significant errors when I looked at her board. Still, Zara is an impressive competitor. Even though Zara didn’t bring a ton of drama, I would enjoy seeing her on this show again because she brings a competitive fire and confidence that’s infectious.

Credit to everyone in the elimination. Horacio & Kyland looked like champs in this elimination, and TJ even broke the fourth wall by outwardly calling the two strongest players in the game. They have to win the daily challenge next week, or we will see them again in this arena.

1 Conquest is Chaos

Short and simple, I fucking loved this episode. Am I sad that Zara & Ravyn, two badass female competitors, are out of the game? Absolutely. Regardless, I was glued to my TV screen watching this episode because it kept escalating and always had stakes. So much of the show in recent years has felt inconsequential. The last few seasons, especially, have dragged out near the end. This was Episode 15, and it was the most exciting the season has ever been. I’m even more intrigued to see what happens next week as I know Kyland & Nurys are coming back loudly swinging if given a chance (and Horacio quietly politely swinging).

The Conquest is the actual Chaos phase. I typically turn my brain off during daily challenges. Now, I’m watching intently for who wins and who loses because someone is getting knocked out of the game, and someone is getting immense power. We got drama and rivalries bubbling up, friendships getting broken, and 3 people going into elimination, with 1–2 more people potentially going home. I’m pumped. I’ve been drinking Green Tea all day and can’t wait for next week. While I’ve enjoyed Season 39 for the most part, this episode lit a fire under me, and I hope everyone else is on the same train as me.

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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.