The Challenge USA Episode 2 Recap: 10 Biggest Takeaways

Allan Aguirre
10 min readJul 14, 2022


Episode 2 of Challenge USA 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 2nd episode. If you’re a first-time reader, buckle in for a ride, my recaps are a bit atypical, but dozens of people enjoy them.

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

10 How Rigged Is The Algorithm

The pairing of Cinco and Cashay was not random. It was production stirring the pot by forcing these former lovers to compete and communicate with one another as soon as possible, considering there was a decent likelihood either could have gotten eliminated early on. It was a storyline CBS was dead-set on including, and you’ll see other scenarios like this during the season. Does that mean all the Algorithm pairs were rigged? I want to say no, though if just one pair gets rigged, doesn’t it inherently spoil all of them? Justine partnered with Tyson after he voted in her best friend and the pairing of Cayla/James raised my eyebrow. The rest all seemed genuinely random.

It looks as though they are going to introduce the new pairs at the beginning of each episode so players can have talking head moments where they react to the new partnership so anyone watching for the first time gets a vibe of who/what the players are. One of the most interesting confessionals was Desi basically calling Enzo/Derek X weak players. While I think Enzo and Derek are solid players, her willingness to immediately throw them under the bus made me laugh.

9 Welcome to the Love Island Villa, Tiffany

Tiffany Mitchell was the mastermind and architect of the historic Cookout alliance. She has a tremendous strategic brain and is a brilliant woman. From the looks of things this season, she got lost in the sauce of love and ego. When I say ego, I don’t mean it in a bad way because Tiffany deserves a big ego. She won America’s Favorite Player and drove the car for one of the most significant alliances in Reality TV history. From my standpoint, the issue with Tiffany is that it felt as though she was expecting to be able to steamroll this game politically as she did the previous one. Except the Challenge isn’t Big Brother, and the people on this show, specifically from Survivor, know their way around strategic/political games.

If you’re unaware of how Love Island works, the show has initial couplings/relationships, and as the show goes on, new men and women enter the house to potentially form new relationships. Whenever a new person enters the door, the people of the same gender hate them because they could upend their time and take their man/woman. On the Challenge USA, Tiffany felt like the new girl in the Villa, and Cashay was not welcoming of her stretching and getting carried by Cinco. It speaks to the bond of the Love Island girls where Justine and Kyra jumped on the bandwagon against Tiffany in the name of their sister. Tiffany stated in interviews that the bed carrying was due to an ankle injury, and while I believe her ankle was hurt, she was definitely interested in Cinco. I mean, who wouldn’t be? The dude is an Adonis, and they looked hot together. Still, it shows that the Challenge and the people aren’t playing the Big Brother 23 game.

8 The News with Shan

The resident gossip and narrator is one of my favorite Challenge arc types, and I’m glad we’re seeing the charismatic Shan Smith take over this role. The news with Shan segment was so cheesy in the best way possible. On Survivor, Shan got to be a “villain” with her musical theme playing in the background and then comes on the Challenge USA and gets the news anchor scene. Shan has a star presence to her.

7 Worst Scrabble Players Ever

I enjoyed the daily challenge as it tested four aspects: swimming, upper body/core strengths, heights/fear, and strategy/spelling.

The results of the Daily Challenge went as such:

Tyson & Justine — 9 Words
Danny & Desi — 6 Words
Cashel & Tiffany — 6 Words
Kyland & Sarah — 5 Words
Ben & Shane — 5 Words
Leo & Angela — 4 Words
Enzo & Alyssa — 4 Words
Cinco & Cashay — 4 Words
Danny & Kyra — 4 Words
Derek & Tasha — 3 Words
Xavier & Azah — 3 Words
Dom & Shannon — 2 Words
James & Cayla — 0 Words

As someone who plays a lot of Words with Friends, I was disappointed to see the lack of strategy used by these intelligent players. There were far too many “little” words getting spelled for my liking, not enough of a focus on vowels, and I saw a couple of people try to use the letter Q. If the game is to spell as many words as quickly as possible, you toss that Q tile deep into the ocean never to be seen again.

Tyson and Justine blew everyone out of the water in this challenge, where Tyson took more trips than anyone, and Justine locked down the mental side for their team. It was an impressive performance by both, making everyone else look extremely average. Meanwhile, James and Cayla took last as they were physically unable to make the jump from the platform to the tire apparatus.

6 Standout Ladies

The leap from the platform to the tire apparatus was not small, and some female competitors did it with ease. Angela, Sarah, Desi, Justine, and Kyra looked like naturals; Tiffany, Alyssa, and Tasha also performed well.

Angela, Desi, and Sarah look like the top dogs due to their physical physique, performances in past shows, and real-life experience. Justine and Kyra are the two wild cards that stand out to me. During the episode, Justine mentions she played soccer growing up as if she had fun playing it in middle school. In actuality, Justine played soccer at the collegiate level, meaning she has excellent cardio, footwork, and balance. As we see in the episode, Justine plays puzzle/word games for fun, and also, she won Love Island due to her charm. Justine is a real all-around threat, and I don’t think people quite understand how good she is. Then you have Kyra, who pushed Cashel during the first challenge and jumped into this challenge seamlessly as her partner (David struggled). Kyra is sneaky tall, and I think she could make some waves. I’m vibing with Kyra.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Cashay came out looking bad as not knowing how to swim is a gigantic Red Flag, and boy oh boy, people will be mad at the Algorithm if they get paired with her during another water/swimming challenge.

5 Tyson Apostol is God’s Gift to the Challenge

Last week I said the Challenge USA could struggle without the virtue of a top dog a-la Johnny Bananas, Cara Maria, or CT, and this week, I realize I was an idiot because Tyson Apostol is THAT GUY. Tyson has an undeniable magnitude he carries with himself during his confessionals. He is engaging, sarcastic, funny, and just someone who keeps the show entertaining without bells or whistles.

During this week’s daily challenge, Tyson made every other guy look like a chump.

I’ll admit, I had doubts about how Tyson would transition as we never see anyone with his body type succeed on the show. The closest parallels I could think of are Kyle Christie and Alton Williams, and those guys got 20–30 more lbs than them on Tyson. We don’t see many people who are that tall and lanky be functionally mobile and agile. Now that I’ve seen Tyson perform in a Challenge like this, knowing his collegiate swimming and pro-cycling background, I have no doubt he can win a Final. It’s not like eating gross food or puzzles is a problem either because he has experience doing that on Survivor.

4 The Music is Painfully Generic

Part of the success of The Challenge All Stars has been the music/soundtrack, where song choices have given the show a consistent theme enhancing the OG nature of the show. While the soundtrack on the main Challenge seasons isn’t as strong, music has been critical to amplifying big moments, from eliminations to fights to hook-ups. The music on The Challenge USA is woefully basic background instrumentals that add nothing to the show. This week’s elimination wasn’t the most exciting to watch, and the bland background music only made it harder to keep my attention.

3 The Amazing Race Players Came To Play

The Amazing Race felt like the afterthought of The Challenge USA as they only got three cast members as representation. Regardless, these three individuals have a lot of pluck and a real desire to prove themselves in this game. Cayla seems like a delightful human being and someone I want to be friends with. James is working his ass off more than anyone socially, both on the show and on Twitter/Instagram, etc. Leo seems like a ball of fire, moving to the beat of his own drum.

Watching James and Cayla ask for Tiffany & Cashel in elimination was a big move and one I respect. They are trying to move the table and play their best game possible.

2 Justine’s First Blindside

Tyson revving Justine up for her first-ever blindside was a cute moment in the most dastardly way possible. The move gobsmacked Tiffany and Cashel, and even though Tyson had promised Tiffany she wouldn’t go in, they still seemed a bit too caught off-guard. Tiffany had the Love Island girls, the Survivor players, and even people from her BB Side (Alyssa & Xavier) against her. The fact Tiffany couldn’t pick up that so many people were against her shows the hubris was maybe a tad too big, which is wild as the Tiffany we saw on Big Brother was such an aware player.

1 Keep Exercise Equipment Out of Eliminations
(Tiffany & Cashel vs. James & Cayla)

Watching people ride an exercise bike as they try to memorize a pattern makes for a boring elimination; it just does. Congrats to Cayla and James; they went down 1–0 in this elimination at first, dug deep, and pulled out a win! Tiffany going down is a significant loss from a character perspective as she was someone CBS put on the poster for this season. I don’t feel anything towards Cashel losing; he wasn’t bringing anything to this show for me.

Despite the elimination being a lacking viewing experience, the results have considerable implications. Love Island is down three people already, and Big Brother has lost a key figure; the game is moving in Survivor’s direction and is mainly due to Tyson’s success. Love Island and Big Brother need to get their shit together — if not, Survivor will steamroll.

If you want some Spoiler-Free Movie/TV recommendations/reviews:

The Bear on Hulu

Thor: Love and Thunder



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.