Last week, Amber Borzotra came out of nowhere to dominate Day 1 of the Challenge Double Agents final. It was shocking as she had no standout performances in any of the daily challenges prior, and her eliminations win were in Hall Brawls against the smallest women in the house. Regardless of how she places from here, Amber’s performance has been a massive shock. I decided to go through Challenge history and find some of most shocking finals performances ever — some good, some bad. Remember, these are shocking outcomes. Big Easy dying during the Gauntlet final was the worst finals performance in Challenge history, but if someone was going to down that way, it was probably going to be him. Same goes for Jay and Jenna quitting the Exes 2 final and so on.
Let’s get going!
Shocking Bad: Paulie Calafiore (War of the Worlds 2)
When you think about what type of players do well in finals, it is the all-around talents who can run long distances, swim, eat, and solve puzzles. Paulie looked like he would be Team USA’s MVP for the War of the Worlds 2 final. Instead, he quickly gassed out and was bringing his teammates down with him. Some of his teammates lobbied for him to quit the final because he was slowing them down so much. Cara forced the team to take multiples breaks for him and fed him most of the water that was supposed to be for the entire team.
Making matters worse is that Paulie got a second wind and survived the purge, meaning players like Kam and Leroy, who killed Day 1 of the final, had their spots taken by the guy who held them back. Ninja Natalie also deserves an honorable mention for her poor performance in this final.
Shocking Good: Ibis Nieves (Gauntlet 2)
Some players on the Gauntlet 2 Rookie Team thought putting Jill Zoboroski into the final elimination against Kina in favor of Ibis was a bad move as they viewed Ibis as a potential liability in the final. While the Final itself is a bit confusing to explain — what you need to know is the Veteran team put their entire stake in the game on an eating portion where they would have a 5 to 4 player advantage. Ibis’s eating ability completely swung the odds. She put her mouth to work and made up the one-player deficit guaranteeing the Rookie Team a Championship win.
Easily one of the weirdest finals in Challenge history, topped off by the most rogue player dominating.
Shocking Good: Ashley Mitchell & Nelson Thomas (Invasion of the Champions)
Generally, I’ve found daily challenge performances are more indicative of who would do well in a final. Ashley and Nelson were not impressive in the daily challenges whatsoever on Invasion of the Champions. Nelson got to the final based on his elimination wins, and Ashley was the puzzle person who had no stand-out physical performances.
In the final, they both had coming-out parties. Even though Nelson struggles with swimming and puzzles, he kept pushing the pace and displayed so much heart. Fan opinion of Nelson changed in this final; people thought he lucked his way into the final, and then he came within 2 minutes of beating CT! Meanwhile, Ashley proved she had what it takes to run a final endurance-wise and beat two physically strong women in the process (Nicole and Camila). To put in perspective how surprising Ashley’s win was, back in 2017, when I was first blogging about the Challenge, someone angrily DM’d me a Challenge spoiler that Ashley won Invasion. Considering how strong the female cast for Invasion was, I didn’t believe it until I watched the final.
Shocking Bad: Abram Boise & Sarah Rice (Cutthroat)
Abram kicked ass on Cutthroat. He was an excellent team leader who led a lousy team to 100k dollars won in daily challenges. It is maybe the most underrated individual season in Challenge history. His one fault was being overly protective to his showmance Cara Maria, even putting in their best female player (Laurel) into elimination to protect her. Laurel and Sarah kept calling Cara a JV player, to her face and to Abram. Then the final happened, and Abram medically DQ’d instantly from dehydration. It was shocking as Abram was someone who had carried Tonya on his shoulders during the Inferno 2 final. He is not someone you expect to DQ in a final. Sarah would also DQ for the same reason shortly after, and it was a bit karmic after the way she treated Cara and some of her other team players.
Shocking Good: Johnny Reilly
Everyone thinks of Johnny Reilly making the final of Free Agents based on the luck of the Draw. They are not wrong; Reilly went into the Draw a total of 6 times (including the final four rounds) and never flipped the Kill Card. Doing the math, Reilly’s chance of not flipping a Kill Card in those four rounds is 2.72%. Also, the one time he got voted into elimination was the round where Frank was medically DQ’d, and because of that, they did not have a male elimination. Either he made a deal with Devil, or he had a horseshoe up his ass. I will note, Reilly did win the only physical solo daily challenge of the season (the Sausage Party challenge).
In the final, Reilly competed like a ten-season veteran. He was capable in every portion and stayed calm under pressure. Reilly lost the final by a total of eighteen minutes which sounds like a lot, except it must be taken into account that he ran the most difficult partner portion with Devyn. Devyn took 13 minutes longer than Zach up the same mountain that people make fun of Zach for dying on. They lost to Bananas/Nany in that exact portion by 33 minutes. If Reilly gets Devyn on the second portion instead of the third, he is likely the winner of Free Agents. Regardless, it was still a performance that shocked people.
Shocking Good: Kyle Christie (Vendettas)
The person most shocked by Kyle’s performance in the Vendettas final might have been Kyle. He did not know what the Challenge was when he agreed to do the show. While he adapted to playstyle and house environment quickly, Kyle was there for fun, never did he seriously think he would win. Then out of nowhere, he starts the final with a massive lead due to the other men trying to sabotage one another. As the final went on and Leroy passed him up, it looked like Kyle was going to squander his lead and fade back. Nope, he got a second wind and came in second-place among males on Day 1, beating Tony and Leroy.
Kyle proceeded to come in 3rd Place overall and walked away with some money. When it first got announced that players from the UK were coming onto the Challenge, Rogan and Joss looked like the Power Players, and then Kyle ended up being the one to make the final. Hilarious.
Shocking Bad: Tony Raines & Kailah Casillas (Vendettas)
Vendettas was Tony’s season. He had put up multiple dominant daily challenges performances, ran the game politically alongside Zach, and had the most money in his back account going into the final. Tony was too confident and got lost in his own sauce. Once he realized there was a potential sabotage element in the initial running portion, he tried to get Zach to team up with him against Leroy. It gave Kyle a free lead, Leroy began to sabotage Tony back, and as Zach saw what was happening, he decided to stop sabotaging as it would only make the final harder for himself. Tony put himself in dead-last among the men; as the final went on, he struggled mentally and physically. It was a humbling moment. For all his confidence, Tony learned that he did not know what it took to run a final.
Kailah gets included because she was rising through the ranks of the Challenge world. She had a rivalry with Cara Maria, and people like me were writing articles/doing podcasts about whether she was a threat. Sadly, in the final, she was a complete non-threat. If Kam had not been hit with a grenade during the final and had Nicole not sprained her ankle, Kailah gets purged after Part 1 easily. To add insult to injury, she came in Dead Last in Part 2, losing the mental portion to Kyle of all people. It was a bad showing that does not get talked about enough. That performance made me retroactively think less fondly of her Dirty 30 season.
(Also, if you like videos, I breakdown why the Challenge Dirty 30 failed to live up to expectations.)