The 9th 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 ninth episode.
10 Awareness Check
One of the best parts of this Challenge USA cast is seeing players’ various levels of awareness, specifically from the CBS side. You have a player like Cassidy who is at the bottom of the Survivor alliance and thinks her friendliness towards certain vets will keep her safe. The bonds formed by Cassidy aren’t strong enough to keep her safe, yet when someone votes for her, she thinks it’s a plot against her when, in reality, it’s more she hasn’t done the work to keep herself from being the easy vote.
Meanwhile, you have hyper-aware players like Michaela, who has experience with MTV folk from Spies Lies & Allies and came into this season knowing what they’re capable of, and in retaliation, gathered strong loyal numbers on her side. Not only that, Michaela has been cognizant and receptive to the veteran side of the game where she didn’t want Wes in elimination because he was an asset to her team in dailies and where she cut a deal with Bananas as he could be a resource to her. Michaela is also aware of when a number on her side is shaky, and that’s why she poked and prodded Chris at the opening of the episode.
Michaela could sense that Chris was veering too far off the Survivor path and into the Cory/Fessy veteran arms. Again, the awareness levels have been fun to watch because Chris got thrown under the bus and targeted so easily a few weeks ago, and then didn’t stay on high alert. Chris got lulled into a false sense of security with Cory & Fessy, where they were “cool” with him because they didn’t want to be on his bad side, except they weren’t going to put their games on the line for him. I didn’t get to write a full blog last week, and I’m upset about that because I thought Chris’s sense of self/game was way off, and then this week, Michaela clocks it. She gave Chris a shot to admit he was straying too far off and that they could work more in conjunction, and he stayed steadfast in his ways.
Hilariously, Sebastian is one of the most aware CBS people. The guy has been loyal to the Survivor alliance in multiple crucial votes. Last week, Sebastian helped Tori win the daily challenge; she didn’t help him at all, and he didn’t mind one bit! It’s for one reason: the man adores Tori, worships the ground she walks on, and would drink her bath water. Good for him for finding his purpose this season.
9 A Sense of Fairness
They adjusted each player’s trampolines for the daily challenge based on their height. During an earlier team daily challenge, players carried boxes that were proportionate to their individual weight as well. We don’t see enough of that on the MTV show, and it’s a nice little touch that makes the game feel like it’s a somewhat even playing field.
8 Lady and the Trampoline
The daily challenge took up a decent amount of time, though it felt like a breeze. Sebastian dominated Part 1, and then people started racking up correct answers over time. I also think Fessy might’ve whispered the correct answer to Josh.
Then, there was a portion where players had to use a trampoline atop a moving semi truck as they tried to rip flags from the sky. Timing the jump and having the hand-eye coordination to grab the flags was tough. It’s where being a vet mattered — and also where size mattered.
Tori is a few inches taller than Michele & Chanelle and far more experienced. Michele and Chanelle both struggled mightily in this challenge. Tori put her body on the line in this challenge in ways the other two didn’t, although she did almost break her back.
Sebastian performed well for a Rookie, and Josh performed well for someone with zero coordination and two left feet. Fessy crushed them using athleticism and his brain. After seeing everyone else mindlessly hop on the trampoline before taking their leaps, Fessy smartly waited to jump when approaching the flags to avoid adding an extra variable. Add in that Fessy is a 6’5 guy with a legitimately elite vertical jump, and the daily was a piece of cake for him. It’s nice to see Fessy use his brain to amplify his other skills in the game. Some say this daily challenge performance got Fessy a pro-Slamball contract.
7 Tori is a Beast, and People Take It For Granted
I genuinely thought Tori would be down for the count after the back bump she took at the beginning of the daily challenge. It was a brutal hit that would’ve ended so many players, and not only did she keep going, she won the daily challenge. Tori is now 2 for 2 in individual daily challenges, winning each in blowout fashion. Considering Tori has had a massive target on her back since Day 1, the fact she’s performing to this level to where her opponents can’t even vote her into elimination is crazy impressive.
Over the last couple of years, part of The Challenge fandom’s distaste for Tori and how much it feels like production stuffs her down our throats has, at times, overshadowed how good of a competitor she is. When Tori does well, it almost feels lesser for certain fans because it’s what production wants to happen. That’s not fair to Tori. You watch a daily challenge like this one, and it’s clear she’s just a beast. Admittedly, I’m part of the problem. I constantly take digs at Tori, and even recently, on Twitter, I stirred up some noise when I said Tori isn’t a Top 10 female competitor All-Time.
I still don’t have Tori in my Top 10; however, cracking the Top 10 in the long history of this show is tough, and Tori’s not far off. Part of what keeps Tori outside the Top 10 is she’s had some brutally bad elimination losses that weigh in my memory, like on Total Madness and Double Agents. At the same time, I fucking hate some of the revisionist history in this fandom. With the return of Cara Maria coming soon on Season 39 & All Stars 4, people often joke that they took Cara off the show so Tori could win. Yet, I watched War of the Worlds 2 with my own eyes, and Tori was better than Cara on that season. Cara was still struggling as a swimmer after 10+ seasons, crying during a puzzle and eating portion in the Final; in the same season, Tori was taking down strong players in eliminations and crushing the Final before the random puzzle purge took her out.
Now, Cara is a fucking legend, a beast in her own right, and in my opinion, is the most important woman in Challenge history. Winning a season without Cara is 100% inherently easier, and Tori’s definitely gotten some help from production in the past. Yet, most players in Challenge history have gotten some help to win, including Cara, Bananas, CT, Wes, Bananas again, Paula, Bananas a third time, etc.
It gets frustrating when people who don’t like Tori act like she isn’t a great competitor when she’s been one since Day 1. As I say all this, don’t be surprised when I make fun of Tori in a week or two on Twitter for being fake and having rehearsed confessionals. This was just a rant I needed to get off my chest, especially after watching this daily challenge performance and hearing Fessy say that Tori won 6 out of 9 daily challenges. Among Tori’s already impressive resume, this daily challenge streak/record is one of those things that will get her onto a Top 10 competitor list at some point.
Tori winning the daily challenge was not the best thing for Fessy’s game. Fessy wanted to put Bananas or Wes in elimination as he knows they’re his biggest threats in the Final, but Tori wouldn’t go for that move. Had Desi or Michaela won, Fessy probably could have gotten Wes thrown into elimination.
Instead, Fessy focused on saving his Big Brother allies and making a move against Survivor. Tori accepted putting Chris and Cassidy in elimination, which keeps the ceasefire between her, Desi, Michaela, and Chanelle intact.
The number of shots Fessy has to take at Bananas and Wes is dwindling; he needs to make a move soon.
5 Fish Out of Water
After the daily challenge, Sebastian was on high alert as he got a majority of votes in the previous elimination, and with Chris going in, he tried to scramble and make a play. Sebastian threw out the idea of getting people to vote Cory into elimination because Cory is a strong player, and he’s someone nobody in the game has targeted yet. It was a bold pitch and a dumb one.
Had Sebastian pitched the idea of the house voting in Wes or Bananas, that would’ve been far more reasonable, as a decent amount of people in the game had already voted them in. Cory, on the other hand, has built solid relationships with a majority of the house, and importantly, he’s not as significant of a threat as he’s never won a Final.
Luckily for Sebastian, Tori & Michaela immediately shut down his idea and implied to him that it was the type of play that would result in almost all votes going on him. It’s a testament to his likability and kindness that his alliance members took the time to reel him back. While he still went into elimination, the votes on Sebastian could have been far more overwhelming.
4 Chaotic Chris
We saw Chris unravel at the seams after getting nominated for elimination. He said Fessy’s move felt like a personal one when, in reality, the move was the only one that made sense for Fessy’s game within the realms of possibility that Tori was going to allow.
Chris then went to every single person and pitched a different plan to them, throwing different people under the bus each time. It was pure chaos. Chris was setting fires everywhere, and they all led a trail back to him. At a certain point, it was almost like other people were creating additional fires, knowing they could blame Chris. That’s what Sebastian tried when word got back to Cory that he was trying to get him into elimination.
I think Chris is a great competitor regarding the actual challenges and elimination — his political and social games are completely off.
3 Hopper Votes
Even with all of Chris’s franticness, the Survivor women stayed strong and piled five votes onto Tyler to ensure it would be a men’s elimination and potentially protect Sebastian. The other half of the house threw their votes on Chris. Chris put his one vote on Alyssa. Someone went rogue and tossed a vote on Bananas — which, if Bananas had lost in this specific elimination, I would’ve laughed my ass off.
Ultimately, the slight majority ruled as Sebastian’s ball got picked to face Chris.
OH YEAH. Very fucking important, they showed Sebastian’s name on the ball out of the Hopper!!! Progress!!!
2 Dude Perfect
For the third straight episode, I walk away ridiculously impressed by the quality of the elimination design. The elimination was such a simple and fun concept. It had the old-school carnival game style, and a sense of strategy was also included. Sebastian was fucking around a ton, while Chris was more methodical, and it felt like either could win at any moment.
As someone who always falls into the trap of watching marbles roll down mazes on TikTok and YouTube and TikTok, this elimination was so fun because every time someone barely missed or made a shot, I was so excited. Chris took home the win — he’s stirring up the pot way more, and it will be fascinating to see what happens with him next week in the game.
Sebastian losing here is perfectly fine. I think Sebastian is a solid competitor, but he wasn’t winning this season, and there’s no storyline of intrigue for him going forward. His showmance with Tori was something that happened; it was inoffensive, and I’m glad he got to experience it.
1 Final Approaching
The numbers in the game are finally even. We got 7 men and 7 women left, and with the Final approaching, I expect the next couple of weeks to be double eliminations.
On the men’s side, Chris and Tyler are the easy votes, and Wes and Bananas have the biggest targets as past Champions. Cory & Fessy are in a golden position to make it to the Final. Josh feels like he’s in a decent position to make the Final; I have no belief in Josh to beat Fessy or Cory in the Final.
The women’s game easy votes left are Alyssa and Cassidy, with the big targets remaining being Tori & Michaela. I think Desi is the biggest threat to win right now as she’s as good as Tori/Michaela but is more under the radar than those two. Chanelle is currently in a good spot, as is Michele, although, like Josh, their performances thus far don’t have me confident they can win the Final.