Imagine winning Survivor at 24 Years Old, going back for the All-Winners Season at 28, making it to the Final Tribal Council of that season, becoming one of the most well-regarded players in the show’s history, and then at 30, coming onto an entirely different Reality TV franchise and forging an additional unique impact towards that show? Well, you don’t have to imagine because that is what Michele Fitzgerald is doing.
Amid the chaos between Hughie and Corey in that heated elimination last week, Michele, who has been a fantastic all-around addition to the Challenge, getting taken out abruptly, and the attention taken off of her was heartbreaking. Especially since she had never gotten eliminated on a Reality TV show before! Although Emanuel running down the steps to hug her and kiss goodbye was cute to see, even that took away from the fact someone awesome this season was leaving in only Episode 4. It is not a goodbye for Michele, though, not even close, only the beginning of what could become a glorious Challenge career and what extends her already impressive Reality TV Resume. I want to break down what went wrong for Michele this season, what went right, and how her Challenge career projects going forward.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Simultaneously Too Many and Too Little Survivor People
Going into the game, people were hoping the Survivor players could bring in their social and strategic savvy to the Challenge and politically take over the competition. Instead, they were labeled witches and got burned at the stake. The Survivor moniker was a massive negative towards their games because they were not enough to be a stable force that spreads their influence. For Michele specifically, there were too many of them for her to go unseen. If Tommy and Michaela were not there, I think Michele’s social game would have shined bright, and she might have been able to navigate the game much easier. I’ve seen people throw around that things would be different if Natalie and Jay were there too. Natalie’s physical prowess would make their alliance a lot more formidable, though; she is essentially a rookie like Michele/Tommy/Michaela. When it comes to Jay, I saw him sell out Michaela on Survivor for a move that hurt his game, so I’d fully expect him to sell his Survivor peeps up the river if it meant his safety.
The Challenge Spies, Lies & Allies: Why is it so Hard to Pull off a Rookie Revolution?
Last Wednesday, the hearts of long-time fans of both Survivor and Challenge got crushed when Michaela Bradshaw, one of…
I know some people are still upset that Michele & Michaela turned on one another when they should have been trying to pull off a Rookie Revolution together, but that was never going to happen with the rookies in that game. When you got Emy ratting on people, Gabo having zero clue what show he is on, and others having no interest in alliances, that gameplan does not pan out against a well-oiled veteran machine, especially when they can whisper into the other rookies’ ears that they will keep them safe an extra week and that the only thing they need to fear is the Scary Survivors.
So many little external factors lead to massive ripple effects. Losing Nam that first week hurt Michele’s game. Even though he was not the most connected vet, Nam was close with Devin on Double Agents, and Devin is pulling a majority of strings this season. In that first episode twist, Logan decided that he liked Emy and thus went rogue in his vote decision leading to Michele getting thrown into that first elimination was an unaccounted variable. She and Corey win that elimination and take new partners.
Unfortunately, those partners get retaken the following week, and they get put back together and are in the dreaded position of being a dual-rookie pair. Now, Episode 3 is a whole lot of bad luck for Michele that you did not consider. Tommy, one of her allies, gets concussed and knocked out of the game, and his absence shifts the elimination numbers. Had Tori thrown Michele into elimination like Tacha wanted, then I think Michele wins that elimination. I say this because, on Survivor, Michele is a master at a 3D Three-Level Tower Puzzle where players get different-sized blocks in which they must stack/organize them to be perfectly even. It is an intricate puzzle that Michele is known for killing because her Spatial Awareness skills are through the roof. The ladder elimination is a much more elementary version of that, and while Michele might have had trouble climbing, the organization part would be cake for her. If Michele wins that elimination, she can pick a new vet partner and is likely safe for Episode 4.
Or, if Tommy had not been DQed, then at least Corey could have won the elimination with Berna, then stolen Amanda as a partner, and that would have made Michele partners with Kyle, and at that point, there are no more Double Rookie pairs. Again, small events can cause significant impacts. Michele’s luck was good in the first elimination when Corey’s size helped them in elimination, and then it was a detriment in their second elimination together. For the most part, her luck broke the wrong way this entire game.
WHAT WENT RIGHT?
The Killer Instinct
Coming from Survivor, there was a fear that Michele would not be ready for the more intensely physical challenges or how dirty they could become in certain moments. Before the season, I posted about an immunity challenge from Survivor, where she was the only player not to complete the physical aspect of the competition and was in tears after. Then she comes on the Challenge, wins an elimination, comes in 2nd Place out of 15 teams in a Swimming challenge where her faces get bloodied, and by the next week, she is cursing out Corey L as he is getting his ass kicked by a daily challenge and their lives are on the line. I now have zero fears over whether Michele can hit that killswitch and be the savage necessary to compete at a high level on this show. Not saying she is some elite athlete by any means, it is more or less that I believe she can at least keep up with the good competitors, and all her other strengths will lift her up.
Screen Presence and Oration Skills
Michele is a natural in her confessionals. She speaks intelligently yet has a cute charm to her to makes her accessible to a broad audience. Every deliberation, she carried herself powerfully while also displaying respect to her foes. It was almost like she was used to defending herself at Tribal Councils.
The Entertainment/House Factor
In terms of house life, Michele was down to party and had a showmance with Emanuel. They went from shooting stares to another from across a room to hugs, then kisses, and eventually, in Emanuel’s words, snuggling. Even juicier is that she might have had a fling with Fessy when the competitors were filming promo material in New York. MTV casts certain people because they can check off a certain arc-type or role. Michele checks multiple boxes, and I hope MTV sees that because she will be an asset in the future. She can be a fun person and a legit competitive threat, making her a potential main character.
When Will She Be Back?
The ball is in MTV and Michele’s court. MTV would be idiotic not to bring her back. Likewise, I would not be shocked if she chose to decline for whatever reason. She is an actual human, and her Survivor seasons were multiple years apart, and her Challenge season was filmed at least two years after her most recent Survivor season. She has never done two shows back to back like the way the Challenge usually demands its players.
How Will She Do?
Now that Michele knows how intense some of the daily challenges and eliminations can be, seeing them first-hand, I hope she is training. We know she is a strong swimmer, and if she can build up her cardio, I think she could be a threat to win it all in the long term. Michele is never going to be the person who dominates headbanger eliminations. She needs to double down on her intelligence and ensure that she can keep up with/outpace people running. Ashley Mitchell is a 2x Champ for that reason; she plays to her strengths.
Socially, Michele is no longer a true rookie and has formed relationships with so many players after the show. With those friendships, I think Michele could show off what she can do politically and strategically. She hasn’t earned all her stripes, just what is necessary to not go into a season as the primary target. Ironically, the worst thing to happen to her going forward is maybe MTV bringing in more Survivor people, and she gets caught up in that mess again. Even then, it seems Michele has become friends with a plethora of cast members, and I think she will have a successful career if she chooses to do the Challenge. Maybe even a Champion one day, I can at least see a Final in her future.