The finale episode of The Challenge USA 2 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 finale episode.
10 Day 1 Format
Look, I’m not going to say that Day 1 didn’t matter. It did, as those minute advantages/disadvantages played a difference in a 10-mile race, especially with the purge at Checkpoint 2 on Day 2 in play.
In the grand scheme of things, though, Day 1 did not matter a ton and was more of an exercise to turn the Final itself into two days and hit some checkpoints that we are accustomed to seeing (eating, puzzles, etc.).
There’s nothing wrong with having a traditional one-day Final race, and I don’t know why production is so hesitant to have one. Ever since doing the first two-day Final on Rivals 1, production has felt the need to up the amount of time the Final goes on as a means of making it feel more intense. It’s unnecessary and, in some cases, makes the Finals themselves feel less brutal.
I did enjoy the strategic aspect of players choosing when to Double up for their advantages.
9 Rushing or Dragging
The opening physical portion on Day 1 was interesting because the players carried cases proportionate to their weight. If everyone played with the same amount of weight, then Cory & Fessy would’ve been at the top of the heat rather than battling to not come in last.
Chris’s performance in this portion was impressive as he outworked and outsmarted all the veterans. Michaela proved once again to be a beast on the women’s side. The Survivor women all beating Tori was very cool to see, considering that strength is Tori’s specialty.
8 Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?
The five-word spelling portion was a bore other than being able to laugh at Cory for not knowing how to spell. Even then, you have to know that Cory is easily the best speller in the Young Bucks group chat. Congrats to Desi & Bananas for winning this portion.
I liked the puzzle portion because players were able to solve it in multiple ways, which made for a fun wrinkle. Fessy showed off his puzzle skills a bit, and Tori began a comeback after finishing last in the first two portions.
7 Barf Buffet
I’m tired of gross eating challenges on this show. They bring me no joy at this point.
Seeing Fessy get some redemption by proving he can eat gross stuff was cool. Bananas experience came in handy, and Tori also proved herself in this one. Let’s move into Day 2.
6 So I Married An Axe Murder
Bananas had the biggest lead going into Day 2, but Fessy caught relatively quickly into the race, and Chris was not far behind. Then they got to the axe throwing, and that’s where things became a mess.
Everyone in the Final completed the axe throwing except for Fessy & Tori. This led to Tori & Fessy having to run an additional 1.2 miles with a heavy rock, and this was enough of a deficit that set them back to where they showed up at Checkpoint #2 last — leading them to get purged. Which fucking sucked because they were doing well.
It’s bullshit. Five-axe bad throws should not create a penalty that is so steep that it ends your game completely. It’s not a puzzle, a swim, or a strength feat you train for. Axe throwing is not something people prepare for going on this show, and I know The Challenge can throw anything at you, but it’s not something you get punished for when the stakes are the highest. Cory tossed his axe the same way I toss my keys to a designated driver when I’m drunk, yet his axe hit. That’s not me shitting on Cory; it’s more or less shows how random this comp was.
Let’s take a moment to talk about our 4th Place finishers here. When spoilers first hit the internet that these two finished in 4th, people expected to see them struggle and die like Big Easy. They didn’t. In actuality, I think Fessy had a legitimate shot to win this Final had he been able to throw an axe. People take shots at Fessy’s intelligence and his inability to eat gross food. In this Final, Fessy won a puzzle portion and was willing to eat whatever got put in front of him. Fessy proved his haters wrong, and it’s shitty that he came in 4th when he truly didn’t do anything wrong. Yes, he took the wrong path, but it didn’t make a difference as he still ran the extra 1.2 miles. It was a harsh punishment that ended his game. I’m not saying Fessy deserved to win; however, he deserved an actual shot to compete and win. Not whatever this was.
The same goes for Tori. She finished last in the first two portions on Day 1, and it looked like it would be a slog for her. Then Tori showed resilience and won two portions in skillsets you wouldn’t expect (puzzles/eating). It was an admirable performance and season by Tori. Seeing her game end the way it did felt underwhelming. While I prefer the Survivor ladies over Tori, I wanted to see them beat her clean. This didn’t feel super clean. Tori put up a fantastic season, and she should be proud.
5 Rocky Road
Chris took the lead after the axe throw and got the weighted scale challenge done with relative ease, allowing him to take the ATV that literally allowed him to cruise to victory. Desi finished hers perfectly the first time, giving her a massive advantage. Cory and Chanelle were able to catch up a bit as they completed the checkpoint.
Like the axe throwing with Fessy & Tori, the scale weighting ended Bananas’ game in one swoop. Michaela’s decision not to wait and even attempt the checkpoint was also a fatal choice. Two competitors who were doing well saw their games end in a flash.
Now we shall talk about our 3rd Place finishers.
Johnny Bananas looked whiney at the beginning of the season, won that elimination against Paulie, and then we saw him adapt like the professional that he is. It was a good season for Bananas, and he looked prime to win the Final at one point. After years of seeing people get fucked by twists in formatting/Finals, it’s unique to see Bananas on the other side. For that reason, I don’t feel as bad for Bananas as I do others. Still, like Tori, I want to see him get beat clean. It is interesting to note that this is Bananas’ first-ever back-to-back Final loss.
Michaela had a phenomenal season and was crushing the Final. She was the only player who never came in last on Day 1 and was right there with Desi until that rock-weighing portion. Michaela tried to play smart/risky, and it cost her. It’s funny because Michaela had a rivalry with Wes this season, and her decision to try to skip the checkpoint was the way Wes guided her team to a daily challenge victory this season. Yet, also, it reminded me of a much less stupid version of Wes putting rocks in his socks on Rivals and then dying in pain an hour later from exhaustion. Michaela gassed out — she also ran more than anybody other than Bananas, a bazillion-time finalist. I want to see Michaela return and get a win.
4 The Losers Club
The players having to stack the cement blocks with the names of players who had gotten eliminated during the season was reminiscent of the trail of losers from Survivor. It’s a fun, nostalgic touch to add to a Final. As a final checkpoint, I thought it was anticlimactic. Everyone who took on the checkpoint got it done. Chris and Desi smoothly sailed to victory. We will use this time to talk about our 2nd Place finishers.
Day 1 of the Final felt like an exhibition of Cory where we laughed at his struggles and pain. We saw great pluck from Cory as he kept pushing forward and trying to catch up. Cory’s 2nd Place finish was weird because Bananas & Fessy got unfairly punished, yet I was happy to see Cory rally back as he’s a good guy. Even then, this Final indicated why Cory’s never won. Cory’s never put together the puzzle and mental skills required to win a Final. Until then, Cory will only be viewed as a solid competitor who wasn’t good enough to win. Cory is the first male player to be a 3x 2nd Place Finisher, not including team finals.
I don’t have much to say about Chanelle. While she was in last place after Day 1, it’s not like she had an atrocious performance. Chanelle was good the entire way; she just wasn’t as good as Desi. I do wish they let her have a confessional at the end rather than throwing credits over crossing the Final line. That was fucked up.
3 The Final Was a Fucking Mess
Look, this Final was not as much of a shitshow as The Challenge USA 1 Final. It wasn’t as poorly designed as Spies, Lies & Allies, and Ride or Dies Finals.
As a whole, though, Day 1 was mostly unnecessary. Then on Day 2, the checkpoints were fucked. Players’ punishments were far too detrimental, and the actual checkpoints felt slightly luck-based. Not to mention, the advantages given to players were way too generous.
In my perfect world, this is a one-day Final, a 10-mile race where we dramatically lessen both advantages and punishments from checkpoints and have more checkpoints. Have the stuff players were doing on Day 1 and incorporate that into the Day 2 Final; that way, players have time and opportunities to catch up. Also, don’t purge anyone until near the end or at a point where it’s clear they’re not winning, like Jenny & Mandi were DQ’d in Rivals 1.
I’m not super angry about this Final because we got two likable winners who killed the Final that existed. At the same time, I won’t pretend this was all perfect.
2 The Queen of The Challenge USA
Desi coasted through Challenge USA 1, winning multiple dailies, never having a target on her back, and was a threat to win. Then Enzo couldn’t swim 12 feet, and they DQ’d her immediately from the Final. It was bull shit and an absolute injustice to her.
She returned this season, and once again, Desi pulled off multiple comp wins, was in a good spot socially/politically, and got to her 2nd straight Final. Everyone knew Desi was one of the biggest threats, and she proved why in this Final. Desi performed well physically & mentally and, in the end, took home the win.
With Desi’s skillset and demeanor, I think she is a threat to win any Challenge season she is on. If Desi chooses to do more, she can very well end up a multi-time Champion and legend. I also wouldn’t be shocked if she walked out on top now.
1 The King of CBS
Chris’s win is among the most impressive rookie seasons The Challenge has ever seen. Hell, it’s flat-out a Top 10 individual win all-time. 50% of the men in the house were Challenge vets, and 5 out of the 12 are former finalists, all of whom I’d rank as Top 30 All-Time male competitors. Chris went into four eliminations, all of which were very different; he won them all, then won two daily challenges to guarantee his spot in the Final, and then crushed the Final.
After that first checkpoint on Day 2, Chris had the win in the palm of his hands. Chris seemed to be good at everything and had a knack for thinking through challenges. As much as I didn’t enjoy the formatting of this Final, Chris killed the entire thing. Never at any point was Chris in jeopardy, and I’m curious about how much of a margin he ended up winning by. Just a great season by Chris, and I’m glad they put him on this show.