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 the most anticipated rookies in recent history, got taken out in the first elimination of the season. When Michaela first went on Survivor, players from that show had not yet made the switch over to the Challenge. So once MTV began letting people in from Big Brother and other franchises, reality fans became fixated on the idea of the super athletic and strategic Michaela Bradshaw transitioning onto a show built for her. Sadly, all the reasons fans wanted Michaela on the show ultimately led to her Episode 1 demise, on top of just some bad luck in coin flip situations.

Michaela wanted to lead a Rookie Revolution; she saw the potential power in numbers to make big moves and systematically take out the veterans. Unfortunately for Michaela, she had to learn the hard way how difficult it is to pull off such a feat, even if you have the numbers, the skills, and the right mindset. Looking back, what Frank Sweeney was able to accomplish on Battle of the Season 2012 was staggering, and had he been less of an emotionally volatile dictator, people would recognize his season as one of the best strategic games ever. In this article, I will be breaking down why a Rookie Revolution is so challenging to pull off, the problems Michaela ran into, and why it was able to happen in the case of Battle of the Seasons (2012).

Veteran Establishment

To have a proper revolution, you need to have an establishment you are attempting to overthrow. What helps is when that establishment is in a state of chaos or general disarray. The Russian Revolution came after Tsar Nicholas II’s complete mismanagement of the countries army in World War I and his overall lack of competency in running a nation and its economy. When Frank Sweeney and his alliance targeted veterans on Battle of the Seasons, the opposition he was facing was not that that fierce. Wes Bergmann was arguably the vet with the most clout and experience, but he was a shell of his former self and had not yet reinvented his playstyle while maintaining a massive ego. He was an easy person for the rookie to band together against. The Fresh Meat Team did not fly with all the players to Turkey as they were called in last minute as alternates and were a dysfunctional bunch easy to prey on. Team Brooklyn was the only competent team among the vet squads, and even they did not have the most experience.

You compare that situation to what Michaela went up against on Spies, Lies & Allies. Besides Nam, every single vet on this season has done 2 seasons or more and has prior relationships. This veteran alliance exists peacefully due to their own egos and desires. Some of them know they can win (CT, Ashley), some think they can win as long as they can get to the final (Fessy, Cory, Kaycee, Tori), others want to be on as many episodes of TV as possible (Devin, Josh), and then some want to play the game without any work needed (Kyle, Aneesa, Nany). Amanda and Ashley are two of the driving forces for this alliance as they saw the potential of the rookies and decided to paint them as a threat, and nothing scares the establishment more than the unknown. I also am unsure if their polidicking had a guided direction because their hooking up with Fessy and Nelson, respectively, could delay a Vet civil war for the time being. The second quarantine also solidified the veteran alliance while hurting the rookies as many got paired with vets.

Trust

Trust is one of the most crucial parts of creating a Rookie Revolution. Everyone needs to be on the same page or at the very least be going in the same general direction. For Michaela to gain the trust of 17 other rookies from various shows and countries in a short period is so incredibly difficult. When Frank Sweeney created his Rookie Revolution, everyone had done the Real World prior, and many had been in contact with one another before the season to figure out who would be there. They also had a period at the airport before departure and filming to get on the same page.

Meanwhile, the Spies, Lies & Allies rookies are a mixed bag. You have people entering the game with egos (some deserved, others not) like Logan, Emanuel, Kelz, Emy, and Berna. There are players trying to lower their threat levels and observe from afar, such as Michele, Tommy, Jeremiah, and Esther. Then you have those who seem like they are not entirely sure what the Challenge entails: Gabo, Tracy, Bettina, and Renan. If Michaela played the game with 17 other Michaelas, she would have zero issues pulling off a Rookie Revolution. The problem is, not everyone has her mindset, and I don’t think she grasped that. I take that back; 17 Michaelas would probably lead to a Michaela Civil War.

While the vets did not enter the game with trust, the sheer fear of a rookie uprising makes their trust as solid as a rock. Even worse, those veterans preyed upon the lack of trust among the rookies; they ensured the safety of their rookie partners, promising that the teams with two rookies would get targeted in the house vote. They would have a free pass for a couple of episodes, and since nobody wants to be the first boot, they tuck their tails, keep themselves safe, and let Michaela take the bullet. Sometimes it is less about the moves you can make versus how you can take a hit in the face of opposition. These rookies are playing in the short-term to get cast again and thus become afraid to rock a boat.

The vets utter the words “Survivor Alliance” not because they are terrified of one, more so that it makes those players easier to target as a visible threat while keeping the weaker rookies in check. It is the Challenge equivalent of labeling someone a Communist in the 1950s. The whole list debacle with Emy ratting Michaela out did not help either.

Strong Leadership and Support

Trust and support go hand in hand. When shit began to hit the fan for Michaela, Michele and Tommy folded on her. I think they made the smart play for their games at that moment when they did so; however, it was the nail in the coffin for Michaela’s game. On Battle of the Seasons 2012, Frank was running shit, had a giant muscle man in Zach as his right-hand man, the undying support of CJ Koegel and Team Cancun on his left, on top of a large group of allies. To go to War, you need to have that strong leader flanked by physically impressive reinforcements.

To thrive, you need to be ready to take a bullet for your cause as well. For a Rookie Revolution to succeed, the leaders need to prep for when they get targeted to go into elimination. Team San Diego got voted in 3 times during Battle of the Seasons because they made waves and got on the wrong side of those they went against and those they were supposedly working with. Ultimately, a successful Rookie Revolution could happen even with its leader being a martyr, as long as they can make a dent on the existing establishment before going out. Instead, Michaela became a cautionary tale to the other rookies to not make too much noise. That fucking sucks. We need more people willing to make big moves, or else we will get a boring game. At the same time, players need to make a more pointed effort towards having a pulse for the game before going all out.

Format, Power & Luck

Last but not least, format plays a significant factor. On Battle of the Seasons 2012, Frank and the Rookie Alliance strung together a majority of the early daily challenge wins, securing themselves the ability to throw a veteran team into an elimination they pick. It also helped that Big Easy kept putting Team Fresh Meat in last place, automatically throwing their team into elimination. If they had that format on Spies, Lies & Allies, then Michaela/Renan likely put a good match against Hughie/Ashley and probably win. Instead, they get thrown against a duo of Corey/Michele, where Corey is easily the biggest guy in a size-based elimination.

Luck matters so much on the Challenge. When Kyle was picking a partner, he was looking for a Survivor girl, and Amanda yelled at him to tell them they got picked already. Michaela could have gotten Kyle, and she could have been safe Episode 1. Instead, she gets Renan, making them one of 3 Dual Rookie pairs with targets on their back from the jump. Little moments like that dramatically change a game. Even with Renan, they came in 2nd Place in that first daily challenge and had the format been similar to War of the Worlds 1, where there is a 3-team tribunal, they get safety and voting power. From a luck perspective, it is honestly funny to see how every little 50–50 that Michaela needed to succeed went the other way. I do personally believe she played the game way too hard without considering the gameplay of others around her, but when none of your little things go your way, then it’s not an even uphill battle anymore; it is simply an uphill defeat.

(Apologies to plug right before the conclusion, but these people deserve it. The Redditors React Podcast did an interview with the Wonderful Devyn Simone, and you should direct your eyeballs and ears towards if you get the chance. It is a lovely podcast with people passion about the Challenge talking to the gorgeous and intelligent 2x Challenge Finalist.)

Conclusion/TLDR

Pulling off a Rookie Revolution is one of the hardest things you can do on the Challenge. MTV’s Global Expansion has only made it more difficult, leading to fewer rookies entering the game with pre-existing relationships. To succeed, you need trust, strength, support, and some good luck.

25 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.