The Challenge Spies, Lies & Allies Comprehensive Veteran Male Previews & Power Rankings
Normally, I try to do a detailed player preview for every Challenge competitor going into a new season, and I was trying do that with Spies, Lies & Allies, even posting previews of Kyle Christie and Michele Fitzgerald in the days immediately after the cast was announced. Then I took a step back and realized there was no way I was going to be able to get all 34 previews done without being endlessly stressed for an entire month. To be completely frank, between balancing life, work, and all this stuff, I did not have the mental fortitude to tear down some of the healthier life habits I have been working towards to put out 1200 words on why Josh Martinez sucks.
However, I did do all the research for the previews, made some graphics, and will be doing mini previews for each player in a power ranking format. All the vets and rookies will get a player rating and a rank in four detailed previews (two per gender). If you want to know the lengths I went for researching this season, I might have been frantically translating random YouTube comments of a celebrity boxing match from Turkish to English at 2 AM to get insight on one of our competitors. I will note the veteran male cast is much of what we have gotten the last two seasons. Bleh.
Josh Martinez (5th Season)
Overall Score: 76/100
Josh could set a potential modern record this season. Since Cutthroat, no male debuts have gone through their first five seasons without ever making it to a Challenge Final. Josh finally won an elimination last season by taking out Mechie in a match-up where both players came out of it with fans making fun of them. As fun as it is to make fun of “The Goof,” Josh has improved a ton throughout his Challenge career as a physical competitor. He makes it much farther every season than any of us ever expect, his daily challenge stats are solid, and people like working with him as a partner. Going into Spies, Lies & Allies, Josh should be able to make a lengthy run based on the fact that he is allied/close with Kaycee, Nany, Tori, & Amanda, four of the five strongest veteran females on this season. That list of females allies is both quality and quantity.
Yet, he is easily the lowest ranking vet guy on this list because even though Josh has allies, the men want to face him in elimination at the end of the day. After all, he is their best chance at staying in the game. Josh does not work well under pressure, and he is not a natural athlete by any stretch of the imagination. While Josh is much bigger than someone like Nelson, I know that Nelson would mop the floor with Josh in a Pole Wrestle. For Josh to make the final, he will need to put up a decisive elimination win(s) against quality players (Kyle, Cory, Nelson, Devin, etc.) Until then, he will be seen as a lay-up by his fellow competitors in the end-game.
Nam Vo (2nd Season)
Overall Score: 81/100
It is difficult to rate Nam since he did not get a fair shake last season due to having Lolo Jones as his partner and then his back injury that took him out of the game. Even before the back injury, I felt Nam was a little bit underwhelming. I kept waiting for him to have a Superman moment, and then he kept coming up short. For example, he had the Pole Wrestle with CT, where he put up a good fight but ultimately lost to the vet. Even though I expected CT to win, part of me wanted Nam to establish himself as a power player, and instead, he seemed like a nice guy not willing to hit the kill-switch.
Last season, I rated Nam an 87 going into Double Agents, and now I have tempered my expectations. He has the physical and mental tools to do well; I will wait till we see him put them into use. It does not help that he lacks allies besides Devin. The person Nam was closest to last season (Jay) isn’t here this time around. Plus, back injuries can be a real son of a bitch to come back from.
Devin Walker (6th Season)
Overall Score: 81/100
One of the highlights of a dull Double Agents season was Devin. Devin said what the fans were thinking about the Big Brother alliance; he won a big elimination against Wes and pulled out two daily challenges (with different partners) as his enemies called him a lay-up. Devin prides himself on being intelligent and then backed it up by killing the more mentally driven challenges. For the longest time, Devin’s focus has been to make the most noise to gain the most attention he could because winning the game was not a realistic option. Last season on Double Agents, he went home because he wanted to face Darrell in elimination as it would be the most impressive win that would have people talking.
Things could be different this time around. Devin continues to come onto these seasons in better shape, the male casts around him are, for the most part getting weaker and more one-dimensional, and he is coming into the game for the first time with a good amount of allies. He is the #1 guy for CT, Kyle, and Nam on the guy side and is close with Big T, Amanda, and Tori on the female side. Devin will never beat CT in a final; however, if CT isn’t there and the Final is puzzle-heavy, his winning becomes realistic. It’s a less than 2% chance, but he has a shot, and that is what matters.
Nelson Thomas (8th Season)
Overall Score: 82/100
Losing Nelson so early on Double Agents hurt the season massively. Nelson’s ability to switch from comedic relief to legit physical threat seamlessly is a fantastic quality. He brings such a lively energy to the show that even people who don’t like him find themselves rooting for him at different points. As mentioned above, Josh Martinez won an elimination, and people thought less of him as a player; Nelson is coming off back-to-back elimination losses where the big takeaway has been “damn, Nelson is a beast.”
Nelson has so many flaws as a competitor. He is a zero as a swimmer, can’t solve puzzles, and his hand-eye coordination is not great. Literally, he has not won a daily challenge since Vendettas. Yet, because we know how lethal he is in eliminations and how nobody in the house wants to face him either, Nelson has a pretty good shot to go far into the season. Amanda being back also helps his social game because she is very loyal to him, and her relationship with female players will be a net positive for him. Based on the trailers, this looks like Nelson will be the star of the season. He has two different showmances getting teased, is in the heart of the political game, and wants to get revenge on Fessy. I’m excited to see Nelly T get the star treatment he deserved to get years ago.
Kyle Christie (7th Season)
Overall Score: 85/100
It will be Kyle’s 7th straight season of the Challenge, the most of any active competitor, and the most overall by any international player by a total of three seasons (Big T is 2nd with 4 seasons). He is a 2x finalist who has gone far into almost every season he has played aside from War of the Worlds 2. After being the second-place male in two different seasons, Kyle has proven a couple of things. The first is that he is not good enough to beat this show’s actual all-around elite competitors. The second being that he can win a final if those guys aren’t there, and going into this season, CT is the only person who fits that description. While his focus is on taking out a Big Brother alliance if Kyle can get CT out, his chances of winning exponentially increase.
His positives as an athlete are he has excellent height and size, very complementary to a female partner. He is a good swimmer, has good cardio, and is not afraid of heights. Kyle’s flaws as a player are his general apathy when he knows he won’t be going into elimination. If Kyle gave 110% all the time, he would win more daily challenges, would potentially be able to make big moves, and his chances of winning would go up significantly. Instead, because he has achieved success based on a game where he tries to coast his entire way through, he tries to replicate that same gameplay. It reminds me of Nany quite a bit, and sadly, we might realistically look back at the two of them as people who had a window of opportunity where they could become winners, and they didn’t get the job done due to a lack of risks taken. Now more than ever, Kyle’s window to win is open. He needs to seal the deal.
Cory Wharton (9th Season)
Overall Score: 86/100
The best social game of any male player the last couple of seasons has been Cory. Everyone in the house respects him as a competitor, nobody ever targets him for elimination, and each time he went into elimination, the last two seasons, it’s been by his own volition to try and get a skull. Not to mention, he won both eliminations convincingly, including an absolute blow-out win against Darrell on Double Agents. Cory is coming off back-to-back Finals appearances where he came in 2nd Place on Double Agents and 3rd on Total Madness. His Total Madness performance is particularly impressive as if you took the collective aggregate performance of both Day 1 & 2; he probably completed the final in the fastest time. Unfortunately for Cory, his big Day 1 lead got turned into a 1–2 minute lead on Day 2.
Cory is one of the best modern heights challenge competitors, has the size and athleticism to beat people up in headbangers, is quick on his feet, and has turned his former cardio weakness into one of his biggest strengths. It must be noted, Cory still is not great with puzzles or swimming, but he is slowly getting better, and more than anything, he is giving it his all in them. On paper, Cory is one of the greatest never to win: he has a stellar 7–3 elimination record, is in the top 10 for daily challenge win ratio %, has the record for most consecutive daily challenge wins, and is a 4x finalist. At this point, all he needs to do is win the whole damn thing, and he knows for that to happen, CT cannot be there.
Fessy Shafaat (3rd Season)
Overall Score: 87/100
I know ranking Fessy so high will piss a lot of people off. His performance in the Double Agents Final, where he refused to eat any food as Kaycee was mouth-deep in Ram Testicles with a busted knee, was an all-time weak showing. While my own personal and general fan opinion of Fessy as a human being is at an all-time low, he is still the biggest, fastest, and most athletic guy in the house as is it stands. Fessy is good with math, decent with puzzles, strong in the water, and more importantly, nobody wants to see him in elimination. They might want him gone, but nobody wants to go in and do the deed.
Fessy’s chances of making the Final are incredibly high. His chances of winning are where we begin to question his abilities. The guy refuses to eat gross foods, has proven to slow down as a runner in the cold, and is one of the worst teammates you can have in terms of communication. Fessy might be the James Harden of the Challenge. He will put up incredibly dominant feats in the regular season, just to disappoint when the stakes are high. Fessy will only change fan opinion by winning and displaying self-awareness (i.e., learning from his mistakes, being a good partner, humble, etc.).
Chris Tamburello (19th Season)
Overall Score: 97/100
If CT were 70 lbs heavier and still had the Dad Bod, I’d still probably rate him as the #1 guy on this cast. His overall score would be something closer to an 87–89, rather than the 97 I’m giving him. CT is one of the best all-around players in Challenge history. His most famous moments on the shows are the feats of his physical strength where he has crushed skulls and backpacked Johnny Bananas. Those feats are impressive; however, CT is as good as he is still to this day in 2021 because he is an elite eater, puzzle person, swimmer, carnival gamer, and so forth. CT gets all the little stuff right, and then you remember he is 6'2 215 lbs and can rip your head off at any moment if he wants.
There are not many players in Challenge history who can be good at every facet of the competition part of the game. What is crazy is the ones that immediately come to mind: Bananas, Jordan, Landon, Wes, Turbo, etc.; they are all much smaller than CT. As terrified as people are of big men on the Challenge, the 5'10 180 lb guys dominate this show. CT is a hybrid of both and just a super freak of an individual. There is such a clear difference between CT and the 2nd best guy that they would be dumb not to throw him into elimination every chance they get. The last time there was a gap this big between the best and 2nd best male on the cast was probably Rivals 3 with Johnny Bananas being the clear best players, and then he went on to win that season (it helped that his female partner was also the clear #1 best player). Will history repeat itself except with CT in that place?