Top 10 Episode One Moments in MTV Challenge History
The Challenge has a long history of epic first episode moments. Last week, we got a solid first episode that had a fresh daily challenge, a solid elimination, introduced a weird bunker that players would be living in, and Bananas-Wes alliance. It was cool, but I’m not sure it had any moments that are going to last in history forever. However, I broke down 10 of the most significant first episode moments in Challenge history
Before I get started, I wanted to list “Honorable Mentions” and “Dishonorable Mentions.” All Episode 1 purges are automatically dishonorable mentions. At no point in time did anyone watching ever think to themselves: “wow, I would like to see Darrell semi-arbitrarily eliminated before he even gets to participate in an elimination.” Purges are a cheap way to add suspense and drama to a game that already has enough of it. Do more 3-way eliminations, do fewer purges.
However, my Honorable Mention is TJ’s return on Rivals 1. After sustaining a massive injury 2010 (one that put him in a coma), most players on the show were unsure TJ was going to host the show again. In episode 1, he was immediately back in the saddle. TJ never missed a season, came back, and was welcomed by players with an open heart. He is a kick-ass guy, and I felt terrible putting him on a list with people who did crazy or bad things to get on this list.
10 Don’t Call Me a Guy, Ty — Rivals 1
Something you are going to learn from this list is that first night fights are almost always automatically going to be on it. On Rivals 1, we saw a mix up between rookie Adam Royer (Real World Vegas 2) and Ty Ruff. Adam is a notorious hothead who, once he drinks, falls entirely off the handles. Ty is a known agitator who gets off on getting on other people’s nerves.
Adam and Ty had already gotten separated once, but a Drunk Adam had already mentally decided that he was going to punch Ty. He sprinted passed Jenn and Johnny’s weak advances, accidentally shoving Mandi Moyer onto the ground to take his swing (wasn’t a good one). Adam got removed from the show. Even funnier when you consider it was a girls elimination day, and Adam/Leroy won the daily challenge that day. He had no reason to punch him, and he still did it. Adam is known to have failed the psychological test for Battle of the Exes 1, which led to him and Nany being scrapped off the cast last minute.
The good thing about this moment is that brought Mike Ross on as Leroy’s replacement. Together, they made an incredibly fun duo and shocked the world by making the final.
9 Gauntlet 3 Mega Party
The Gauntlet 3 had a day 1 tug of war where the winning team would get to live in much more beautiful and comfier rooms, while the losers slept in a much smaller and cramped space (most importantly, smaller beds). The Veterans won, and thus got the better rooms. Hookups are bound to happen, but the lack of desire to sleep in the crowded rooms led to a plethora of hookups. On top of those that were going to happen from the alcohol and raw sexual energy anyway.
On this night, we saw Brad and Tori start a connection, Tyler and Davis had a pool makeout, Evelyn fell in love with Brooke LaBabarbera, Paula and Derek Mccray started a showmance, Johnny Bananas and Casey Cooper had some fun, and CT was probably doing something.
The Challenge isn’t a dating show, but I hate when competitors come onto the show already in relationships because the hookup element of the show adds another dimension.
8 Darrell and Cara Maria Eliminated First on Fresh Meat 2
“Meet the Prospects” episodes of Fresh Meat type seasons get categorized as Episode 0. On Fresh Meat 2, we got introduced to a girl named Cara Maria proved to be a top prospect immediately as she was quick on her feet, and had massive upper-body strength (the ability to do more pull-ups than all other females combined). Darrell made her the #1 overall pick. Considering Darrell had never been eliminated from a season before and now that he had the first pick, he seemed primed to become a 5x Time Champion.
Instead, Wes and Kenny aligned for a brief moment, threw Darrell into the first elimination, and were taken out by Pete and Jill. The best team on paper was out on the first day. Darrell and Cara did reunite as a pair for the Champs vs. Pros Final and were able to redeem themselves by winning the season.
7 The Entire Concept of the Island
Episode 1 of the Island is funny to rewatch because it seems as though the players and production had no idea what the format of the game would be. The Challenge producers watched Survivor and thought, “we need something like this.” Then they realized it’s also the Challenge and so they supplied them with a plethora of alcohol, living arrangements, and food (not much, but food nonetheless). So really, not like Survivor at all. As a whole, the season is one big giant confusing mess.
Hilariously, until the players had received their supply of food and drinks for the week, people like Abram and Cohutta were entirely ready to build a boat and go hunt for dinner for everyone.
6 TJ Introducing the partnerships (Various Seasons, Rivals 1)
On Rivals 1, TJ surprised players by telling them the format and then introducing the pairs. If you had never watched the Challenge before, these episodes were vital because they gave you a quick glimpse into player relationships, as well as the players getting to show some personality in confessionals. I had never watched the Challenge before Rivals 1, but in the first fifteen minutes, I found out Paula was famous for never winning, CT almost murdered Adam once, and that Wes and Kenny had an apparent blood feud.
They did this again for Exes 1, Rivals 2, Exes 2, Rivals 3, and even a bit for Final Reckoning. Recent seasons where they are continually changing the formats within a season at the drop of a hat can’t have these introductions, but they are something that new and old fans can appreciate. You also have to think that MTV probably doesn’t have the footage to some of the shows these players derive from (Big Brother, Survivor, Bachelor).
5 Big Easy rings the Bell with Wes’s head (Battle of the Seasons 2012)
Battle of the Seasons was known as the season that didn’t have the big names on it. No CT, Paula, Bananas, Laurel, etc. The one big name it had was Wes Bergmann. On Episode 1, Wes attempted to establish dominance in the house by holding a house meeting. At this house meeting, he lost the respect of many in the game and had found himself thrust into elimination.
In said elimination, the biggest name in the game got demolished by Big Easy in Hall Brawl. A crucial moment in Challenge history as it did humble Wes in the long-run. Wes dramatically changed the way he played the game in the next couple of seasons (getting a win on Rivals 2). Big Easy got to have a happy moment in a career overshadowed by his collapse on Gauntlet 3. While Battle of the Seasons didn’t have big names, it gave different personalities a platform to shine. Considering Rivals 2-Free-Exes 2 would go on to be an all-time stretch of good back to back seasons following it, BOTS was a major success.
4 CT punching Davis on the Inferno 3
On Inferno 3, a belligerently drunk CT (who noted in a podcast years later he might have been coming off a coke bender), wanted to wrestle with Kenny. Kenny, a former high school wrestler who spent his Fresh Meat 1 money on a wrestling ring train in, was able to get an edge on CT. An angered CT, then wants to fight him traditionally, but Kenny was just wrestling for fun.
Later in the night, CT punches Davis Mallory off-camera after asking him if he’s able to take a punch. CT gets removed from the game. Historically, this is a massive moment because CT’s replacement was a big deal. Derrick Kosinski comes on the Inferno 3 as an alternate and finally gets a win as part of the Bad Asses Team. If Derrick hadn’t been on Inferno 3 and continued his mini-trend of doing every other season between S14–20, then, he ends on the Gauntlet 3 Vets team that loses because of Big Easy. Then he would have to face a stacked deck on the Duel 2, and then wouldn’t have been eligible for the Champion for the Ruins. In a way, CT helped Derrick become a 3x Champion.
Likewise, what if Wes or Evan takes that spot? In the episode, they speculate it could be them, and if Wes becomes a 2x Champ who makes the final in 3 straight seasons with his 6–0 elimination record, then does he becomes the GOAT? If Evan gets the win on Inferno 3, is he less hungry to catch up to Brad during the Duel 2 final?
By the way, if you look at the photos of Davis from the Inferno 3 photoshoot, you can tell one of his eyes has a heavy amount of cover-up on it from CT’s punch as the eye itself is still a bit swollen.
3 Jo’s meltdown/quitting on Gauntlet 2
If you don’t remember the first episode of the Gauntlet 2, MTV decided the Rookie and Veteran pick their team captains via over an over the water battle royale. Jo won this battle royale to become the rookie female team captain. It was her first season of the Challenge despite her original Real World Season having premiered more than a decade earlier. Then they went back to the house, and Jo had a complete breakdown. She was not cool with everyone partying, accused people of stealing her belongings and quit the show.
Jo doesn’t officially quit till Episode 2 (in which she calls the Trinidad police to escort her out), but the entire meltdown blowup happens in episode 1. Appearing from out of nowhere after a decade and then quitting day 1 is an iconic way to leave a mark on a franchise.
2 All of Nate’s Failures Battle of the Exes 1
If you don’t remember Nate Stodghill from Battle of the Exes 1, he was the third guy from Real World Back to San Diego (not Frank or Zach). It was hard to take Nate seriously. Mostly because he had one of the most ridiculously rose-colored faces that always looked even shinier because he drank a lot of alcohol. The first challenge of Exes 1 had players walking across a beam, dipping themselves into a vat of honey, then going back down the beam. They and their partner would attempt to deposit as much honey as possible into a bucket within ten minutes. A decent amount of the teams were able to fill up their entire bucket in less 10 minutes, and others were less successful.
Nate couldn’t make it back and forth between the beam a single time (note: nobody else fell in the daily challenge). Each fall was worse and worse, but more and more enjoyable to watch. Nate’s failure was so bad that TJ threw him a sympathetic “good try” after the daily challenge. If TJ tells you good try after you do that poorly, it’s because he doesn’t expect anything better out of you, and thus, you have indeed failed.
Nate sent him and his partner Priscilla to elimination, and they got taken out by Wes and Mandi. We haven’t seen either since. Fun Fact: Priscilla is still only 28 years old.
1 CT punching Adam
I don’t even know what to say when describing the CT’s attempt to murder Adam. These two had tensions for multiple seasons, and it all climaxed at this moment.
In the video I clipped above, you can see that Adam was getting into CT’s face just as much as CT was his. However, once CT threw the first haymaker, it was quite clear Adam was no longer in the fighting business, he was in the survival business. Right before it happens, Big Easy is afraid of CT/Adam getting into it as people are holding beers near his bed. Then when he sees Adam get clocked, you hear him go, “OH.” CT’s punch of Adam is crazy because when it happens, it makes such a sizeable audible noise. Honestly, Adam is very, very lucky that Big Easy and Mark Long are nearby to help break things up because those are big guys. If that happened in 2020, and all CT had was Wes and Bear stopping him, then Adam would have been dead.
CT’s chase of Adam all across the house is infamous, and they both got removed from the game. CT was “banned” from the show for a few seasons after this, not coming back until a few years later as a heavy hitter on Cutthroat, and then again as a series regular on Rivals 1. While a monster was still inside him, he did learn to temper his anger to the point that he has not been disqualified in a decade of television since.