In terms of reality competitions, floating is a strong word that divides people. When a player or the fans of a player gets accused of floating, they take great offense. Being a floater implies you are doing nothing in the game, to which unless you’re on vacation, nobody ever wants to get told they’re doing nothing of importance. I could be sitting in my room eating Tostitos Scoops and watching TV all day and if you walked in and said I was doing nothing, I’d get defensive real fast. Floating isn’t bad if you don’t need to do anything else. Oftentimes, the best path is the one of least resistance.
There are players who are floaters where once the lights shine bright on them, they sink, and there are good players who can play a floater style and the moment their number gets called, they can swim with best and maybe even lead the pack. In this article, we are going to celebrate those who were able to float for a majority of a game, and then were able to walk away with largely successful seasons.
Key Notes: Floating and Coasting are two different things. CT on Spies, Lies & Allies didn’t float. He won a good deal of daily challenges, had his hands involved in some politics, and was a key player throughout. That’s him coasting to victory. Success is also a key factor for these rankings. Jay and Jenna were able to float to the Final on Exes 2, but they didn’t walk away with any money so it wasn’t a successful season.
The rankings are based on a mix of how egregiously did they float and what was the final outcome of their season. It sounds messy, because it is.
Something crucial to note is I looked primarily at modern seasons for this list as back in the day in the big team seasons, it was much easier to float when you had big teams running Finals with 5–9 people on the team. Let’s get into the honorable mentions:
Amber Borzotra (Double Agents): The game fell into her lap. Both the Big Brother and Rookie Girl alliance wanted her on their side, her two eliminations were Hall Brawls against much smaller women, and she ended up with CT as her partner in the Final. As much as I want to place Amber as a floater, her relation to these alliances, and the fact she was actively thrown into two eliminations just barely has her as not a floater.
Rogan, Dee, and CT (War of the Worlds 2): I think most assume these three would be on as they won the season without ever seeing an elimination. It’s tough to decipher because all three were actively working with the Paulie/Cara/Kam alliance and their political game is why they got to the Final. I wouldn’t call it floating; I just wouldn’t call it super impressive.
Devin and Cheyenne (Rivals 3): I can’t tell whether pulling skulls is floating or living on the edge of disaster.
10 Kyle Christie’s 3rd Place Finish on Vendettas
When people think about Polidicking their way to a Final, Kyle’s season on Vendettas likely comes to mind for most fans. On Day 1, Kyle caught the attention of Marie Roda and Cara Maria Sorbello, and while he first kissed Marie, Kyle would attach himself to a season-long showmance with Cara, the strongest girl in the game. Things on Vendettas just seemed to roll Kyle’s way. His Vendetta, Rogan, got taken out by the opening purge, meaning he didn’t have to worry about someone breathing down his neck. He managed to be on the winning team on a couple of crucial male elimination days (where he didn’t stand out athletically), and politically, he was able to float in large part because of the pre-existing rivalries and targets other players had.
Other players’ squabbling led to Kyle’s success, and he went to the Final without seeing an elimination as a rookie. Even in the Final itself, Leroy and Zach/Tony sabotaging one another resulted in Kyle opening the Final with a lead and having to run a decent amount less than his fellow male competitors. Kyle didn’t know what he was getting entering the house on Vendettas, and in the end, he was the 2nd Place Male and 3rd Overall competitor, walking away with over 20k in one of the most shocking Rookie seasons ever. I don’t rate Kyle higher on this list because he actively made savvy moves and played such a stellar social game that this might not qualify as a true floater season.
9 Vince Gliatta and Jenna Compono 2nd Place Finish on Rivals 3
Jenna and Vince won the opening challenge of Rivals 3. That was their peak. From there, their highlight was never coming in Last Place during a daily challenge (avoiding getting sent directly into elimination). Pretty simply, they were able to coast as Bananas & Sarah dominated the season, winning 4 out of 8 dailies (including 3 out of the last 4). Bananas was never going to toss his Cousin into elimination.
They got to the Final, came in 2nd Place, and took home 50k to split. That’s a pretty damn good outcome for an uneventful season.
8 Kyle Christie’s 2nd Place Finish on Total Madness
Congrats to Kyle for being the only player on this list twice. Kyle was a total shithead of Total Madness. Correction, Kyle was a lovable shithead on Total Madness. As a competitor, Kyle went 0 for 14 in the daily challenges, failed to convince people to vote him into elimination multiple times, and only qualified for the last Tribunal of the season after Johnny Bananas and Jenny brought him in following a hilariously bad DQ performance. What was Kyle’s reward for all his ineptitude? One healthy serving of Goof in the elimination arena.
It was hilarious that players were trying all season to get the perfect elimination opponent, and Kyle got Josh Martinez, one of the biggest lay-ups. He destroyed Josh in a Knot So Fast type elimination, went to the Final, and snuck out with a 2nd Place Finish!
7 Cory Wharton’s 2nd Place Finish on Double Agents
Cursed Cory. You could argue Cory didn’t coast as he technically got voted into elimination five times during Double Agents. Each occasion he got voted in, Cory was well aware it was happening as he knew it was likely to be a female elimination, and the one that wasn’t was him asking to get his chance at a Gold Skull nearing the Final. Now, Cory’s elimination was a tall task in that he had to face a legend in Darrell Taylor. Luckily for Cory, their elimination which was supposed to be a grueling battle of endurance, was not correctly designed, and Cory ended up dominating Darrell 2–0 in less than a minute. Following his win, Cory took a powerhouse in Kam Williams as his partner. Kam would then essentially singlehandedly win the last male elimination day daily challenge for them and secured his spot in the Final with them as partners.
I don’t want to go into the Final on Double Agents because that’s a rabbit hole in itself. Just talking about our results, Cory had to take one significant calculated risk, did little else, and walked away with a 2nd Place Finish and 50k dollars.
6 Johnny Reilly’s 2nd Place and Devyn’s Simone 3rd Place Finishes on Free Agents
Free Agents is most known for the Kill Card/Draw twist. Players who “lost” the daily challenge would go down into the arena and flip a wooden panel to determine whether they were safe or going into elimination.
The Draw was dangerous for some, whereas for Johnny Reilly and Devyn, the Draw was their savior and allowed them to float. As competitors, Reilly and Devyn weren’t complete lay-ups. Reilly solo won the infamous Sausage Party daily challenge and, as a whole, was a competent player/good athlete. Devyn won the season’s Trivia daily challenge and had an impeccable social game. They were not bad players by any stretch of the imagination. When the numbers dwindled and the game got real on Free Agents, they began to stick out a bit.
During the season, Devyn went into 5 Draws and never saw elimination, including the final three eliminations of the seasons, where she had a 50% shot of going in each time. Not to be outdone, Johnny Reilly went into 6 Draws, including the final four eliminations of the season. The funniest thing about Reilly’s season is he was the house vote for the third elimination of the season, except he got out scot-free due to Frank Sweeney’s medical DQ. Reilly had a lucky horseshoe lodged up his ass. At least they both pushed themselves in the Final. Reilly finished in 2nd Place and won 35k, and Devyn dug deep and finished the Final to take home 15k herself.
5 Cara Maria Sorbello Winning Vendettas
The Challenge is fucking weird sometimes. On Dirty 30, Cara Maria won 4 out of the first 6 daily challenges after the opening purge. She then got voted into the Redemption House, to which she would re-enter the game by beating four other players in a one-shot Redemption. Cara would win the next daily challenge to secure her spot in the Final. It was easily Cara’s best season ever in terms of daily challenges. What was the end result? Cara getting dusted by Camila in the Final and barely edging out rookie Tori Deal for 2nd Place.
Fast-forward to Vendettas, Cara did not make into a single Troika the entire season until the last daily challenge, a third-place finish on a male elimination day. On Vendettas, Cara got to coast on through because the men controlled most of the Troika votes. The men assumed they would run the Final with partners as they did on Invasion/Dirty 30, so they wanted to play with Cara as she was a strong female. Little did the men know that they’d be running the Final against her. Cara’s prior Final experience shined bright, and in the biggest moment, she put up her best performance of the season to become the first sole winner in Challenge history. The karma gods work in funny ways sometimes. Her Dirty 30 ending was a bleh ending to a great season, and Vendettas was a historic finish to an unremarkable season.
I don’t rank her higher on the list because Cara was clearly the top female player in the house, so it’s not like she completely coasted; it was more like she got elevated to a pedestal others couldn’t or wouldn’t reach.
4 Jonna Mannion 1st Place Female on Challenge All-Stars 1
It hurts my heart to put Jonna on this list, yet, part of me also thinks she wouldn’t argue with this ranking. On All-Stars 1, Jonna was not on anyone’s radar. She didn’t stand out in daily challenges, never got called out for elimination, and just went completely under the radar. When you compare her to the other Finalists, KellyAnne was a top physical player, Ruthie won two immunities, Aneesa won an immunity and an elimination, Jemmye was active politically, and Jisela was a prominent character from Day 1.
As one of the biggest Jonna fans in the world, I was sad that my girl had been wallpaper. All the disappointment disappeared once Jonna was in the Final; we saw her push herself and be an incredibly balanced competitor. Months after giving birth to her second child, Jonna tied with KellyAnne for 1st Place among females and third overall in the All-Stars 1 Final, and it was the beginning of a new chapter for her. Jonna proved she wasn’t a lay-up and, in the time since, has gained a ton of confidence to where she’s now essentially become the face of the Challenge All-Stars Franchise.
3 Dunbar Merrill as part of the Winning Red Team on Cutthroat
Straight up, I think Dunbar is the worst player to win a Challenge Championship since 2010. Dunbar is not a lay-up competitor because he was in shape, had some decent size/build, could swim, and was able to read at a 3rd-grade level. Those skills can take you to a certain point in the Challenge and life. Dunbar’s issue and gift were that in his mind, he was on the same level as CT, Wes, or Evan as a competitor. In reality, Dunbar was never anywhere near those guys in terms of athleticism, skill, or intelligence. Dunbar was never the top player in a physical daily challenge and never beat an above-average male player in an elimination. Except if you carry yourself like a top player and got the look of a top player, people might think you’re good.
It’s what happened on Cutthroat. Dunbar got drafted to the Red Team and got to align with his friends (Brad, Tori, Paula, etc.). The Red Team struggled a bit throughout the season despite being good on paper. Still, Dunbar was able to coast through most of the season with Brandon Nelson going into 4 Gulags for their team, and when Dunbar did have to compete, he faced Dan Walsh in elimination. Dan was a nice guy but a below-average player at best. Dunbar got to run the Final with Brad, Tori, and Tyler, and in the end, they won because Abram and Sarah on the Grey Team got knocked out due to dehydration. It was a win somewhat by default. At least Brad and Tori ran the game politically for their team, and Tyler won eliminations against two champions; Dunbar just existed.
The funny thing is he didn’t get to claim his winnings for the season because he filmed Foursome an X-rated show on Playboy TV.
2 MJ Garrett Winning Challenge All-Stars 2
Almost everything on Challenge All-Stars 2 fell in MJ’s favor. Initially, he was part of a big alliance with Derrick/Darrell/Brad/Cohutta. Because MJ didn’t get viewed as the top guy, he didn’t have a target on him. When the game went to pairs, he got a great partner in Jonna, and she held down the social/political game for them. They were a good pair and even won the mini-final daily challenge. However, when you compare the path every team took to the end-game, MJ probably had the least amount of notches on his belt. Darrell won multiple immunities as an individual and, with Janelle, pulled out an epic final elimination win of the season. Brad and Jodi were the frontrunners dominating dailies for most of the game. Melinda and Nehemiah each won multiple eliminations and pulled out a clutch win in the last daily challenge of the season.
I don’t list Jonna for All-Stars 2 because she went into the game and played a much more active political game from the jump, knowing she had a target on her for coming in 1st Place the previous season. Jonna was also the one who would come through for them in the puzzles. I’m not saying MJ didn’t do anything because he was competent in the challenges and was part of an alliance; it just feels floater-ish in that someone of similar value could easily replace his role. Hell, it’s not even like his performance in the Final set the world on fire. Sometimes you’d rather be lucky than good, and the cards falling the right way made MJ 250k dollars richer.
1 Ashley Mitchell & Hunter Barfield Winning Final Reckoning
When people think of Ashley and Hunter on Final Reckoning, one thing comes to mind: Ashley stealing the million dollars. It’s one of the most critical moments in Challenge history and led to countless debates over whether the twist should exist, whether Ashley deserved it, would Hunter have stolen the money, or conspiracies pondering if they even actually won the Final.
The argument that would annoy me was when people would say Ashley shouldn’t have stolen the money because Hunter carried her to the win. It is a ludicrous statement because Ashley and Hunter fucking stunk on Final Reckoning. They both got carried by their respective Lavender Lady/Young Buck alliances. While Ashley and Hunter had to win an elimination to enter the game, the elimination was against relatively cupcake opponents in Faith and Angela. After that, Ashley and Hunter mostly just existed as a number for the LL/TYB alliance. Amanda & Zach won the most dailies of any team, and Amanda took a bullet for them. Shane was the leading strategist of their group and won two eliminations alongside Nelson. Sylvia and Joss won multiple end-game dailies and won two elimination themselves, including sending Bananas & Tony to the Redemption House.
The only daily challenge Hunter and Ashley won was an eating Purge where the sole goal was to not come in Last Place. Their performance throughout the season was shocking as, on paper, Hunter’s athleticism mixed with Ashley’s brain seemed like a perfect combo. I mean, they won the Final, they weren’t a terrible team, but they did not have a season indicative of what a Challenge Championship looks like. You can’t even argue that they stayed totally under the radar because they were in the heat of drama, hookups, and bickered with each other. Despite it all, they could float to the end and won when it mattered most.
Edit: Amber Borzotra’s Double Agents season should be on this list now that I’ve had time to reflect a bit more. Directly after Double Agents, I called Amber a floater and felt strongly about the claim. When making this list, I assumed I was being a bit too biased towards her and chose to keep Amber on the Honorable Mentions list. If I could re-do it, Amber would be on, I’d remove Kyle from Total Madness, and then would re-arrange the order a bit.
If you are looking for more Challenge content, I did a video breaking down the Top 10 Biggest Elimination upsets in Challenge History.