What if the Challenge had America’s Favorite Player?
On the recent Challenge Vendettas episode, after Victor lost his elimination, Natalie joked that Victor was not America’s Favorite Player on the Challenge. She is referring to the fan-voted prize/award on Big Brother that gives their favorite player $25,000. On Big Brother 18, Victor won the award, and Natalie was first runner-up. It was a cute reference, but made me think, what if the Challenge had America’s Favorite Player (AFP) as well?
And of course, I tried to find the “AFP” for every season. Here are the rules I outlined:
- To be fair, players can win AFP twice in a row, however, not in consecutive seasons.
- No one can win AFP after their 7th season, as you’re essentially a family member at this point. Sidenote: a lot of people hate their family, so it still applies to every cast member.
- I’ll start with Gauntlet 2 (Season 11) as that is when the competitive nature of the game was amped up a ton. They didn’t start AFP until Big Brother Season 7 anyway.
- You MUST make it to the halfway point in the game. This isn’t a rule in Big Brother, but few times has a player who didn’t make it to the jury, finished in the AFP top 3, and none have ever won before.
- The winner(s) of the season cannot finish in the top 3, and that is because a season winner has never won AFP on Big Brother, and finished in the top 3 only once. They already won the season, do they really need the AFP title as well?
- Winners of team challenges will be eligible.
- Let’s go!
Gauntlet 2 AFP — Derrick Kosinski
This one is simple, Derrick famously bulldogged his opponents in the Gauntlet and came up short after winning four eliminations.
Without the Gauntlet 2, Derrick never becomes a big name in Challenge history and lore, and possibly, never called back. This season truly put Derrick on the map.
Honorable Mentions: Alton Williams, Kina Dean
Fresh Meat 1 — Evan Starkman
When you’re partnered with Coral on the Challenge and can keep up/compete with her personality, then you’re a special person. This one could have gone to either, and the reason I’m giving it to Evan is that he was more of a novelty on this season. Later, Evan was a bit more entitled and douche-y, on this season he was fun, fresh, and dominant.
Honorable Mentions: Coral Smith, Diem Brown, Wes Bergmann
The Duel 1 — Diem Brown
Not many scenes are as iconic as the one in which Diem takes off her wig and competes in the Ring Toss challenge. Not only did she show incredible strength and vulnerability, she also won the challenge that day. Her and CT could have won AFP; Diem has the edge because she brought out the best in CT and competed at a high level all season.
Honorable Mentions: Chris Tamburello, Svetlana Shusterman, Evan Starkman
Inferno 3 — Kenny Santucci
The season’s great performers were not super likable, and there was a significant lack of charisma/interesting drama on Inferno 3. It’s a good season that is a bit underwhelming. On this season, Mr. Beautiful became a true franchise face.
Honorable Mentions: Tonya Cooley, Abram Boise, Ace Amerson
Gauntlet 3 — Frank Roessler
Inferno 3 and Gauntlet 3 are consecutive seasons where nobody stood out too much. The biggest standouts were for good and bad reasons: CT (beast and bully), Coral (funny and a quitter), and Big Easy (death). Frank Roessler showed up out of nowhere, won three eliminations, started a showmance with Jillian, and won the season. He was even on the main poster for the season!
The Island — KellyAnne Judd
KellyAnne wins as she filled the roles of both hot girl and kick-ass competitor. She came into this season hot, getting into fights with Kenny and Johnny, created an awesome friendship with Evelyn, and outlasting Rachel in a face off. Her performance at the Reunion was iconic.
Honorable Mentions: Derrick Kosinski, Kenny Santucci
The Duel 2 — Mark Long
As a major Big Brother fan, he’d probably love the AFP title. He always plays up the comedy and old man shtick while still finishing at the top of every competition. Mark Long is the apple pie of the Challenge.
Honorable Mentions: Evan Starkman* (lost due to him winning the season), Landon Lueck
The Ruins — KellyAnne Judd
The Veterans of Gauntlet 3 and the Champions of the Ruins were victims of their own success. Their undaunted success did not allow any characters to shine. The only Champion who had a major role every episode was Wes, and to many, he was a villain. Therefore, the award goes to KellyAnne over Sarah for the Challenger team, mostly due to KellyAnne being crazier and still having fans from her previous win.
Honorable Mentions: Wes Bergmann, Sarah Rice, Evan Starkman, Kenny Santucci
Fresh Meat 2 — Kenny Santucci
The only season where Kenny didn’t have the numbers, he rose to the occasion. Kenny and Laurel worked together to demolish Wes’ giant alliance, won multiple missions, and finished second to Landon and Carley in the final. The Kenny/Wes dynamic is when the two are at their best and Kenny 100% won the battle on Fresh Meat 2.
Honorable Mentions: Laurel Stucky, Wes Bergmann
Cutthroat — Abram Boise
This was Abram at his peak. From being an insane lunatic one moment, to captaining the Grey team to 100,000 dollars in missions won, to hooking up with Cara Maria on a piano, Abram brought it. He created an ex (Cara), a rival (Laurel), and remained one of the best players in the entire game. This was also his last eligible season to win.
Honorable Mentions: Brandon Nelson, Laurel Stucky
Rivals 1 — Chris Tamburello
After teasing his comeback on Cutthroat, CT’s appearance on Rivals 1 was legendary. He returned and took on JEK head first. He dominated the missions, eliminated Evan, and lost on suspicious terms. Moreover, his abs were at their best, and he was playing two girls to his advantage.
Honorable Mentions: Wes Bergmann, Mike Ross
Exes 1 — Diem Brown
Because CT can’t win two consecutive seasons, this award goes to Diem. Their mending relationship and their performance to season’s end is one of the reasons the Exes format and original season are remembered so fondly. Even Jonathan Murray, in an AMA a few years ago, said the perfect ending would have been Diem and CT winning.
Honorable Mentions: Emily Schromm, Jasmine Reynaud, Mark Long
Battle of the Seasons — Sarah Rice
There are seasons where Sarah is a bit of a villain and others where she is a hero. On Battle of the Seasons she is at her best. Following an early exit due to her partner on Exes 1, people were sympathetic to her. She played the game against the evil that was Team San Diego. Sarah won two eliminations (one against Cara Maria), and ensured her team a spot in the final despite having a major target on their backs the whole season.
Honorable Mentions: CJ Koegel, Nany Gonzalez, Dustin Zito
Rivals 2 — Jordan Wiseley
After a not so good-looking performance on Real World Portland, Jordan got to channel his performance side. He won two eliminations with Marlon and hooked up with two different girls (Sarah and Jonna). The Sarah hook up led to him winning Exes 2. Jordan also fought with CT, Frank, and Bananas.
Honorable Mentions: Cara Maria Sorbello, Heather Cooke
Free Agents — Cara Maria Sorbello
For a long time, Cara Maria was an outcast who did not have a ton of mass appeal. On Free Agents, that changed when she came onto the show in the best shape of her life. Cara fought her way through three eliminations and was primed to make the final before breaking her hand. The broken hand compounded with facing Laurel in elimination ended her season just before the final. And while she lost, fans had someone they could all get behind and root for.
Honorable Mentions: Cohutta Grindstaff, Devyn Simone, Theresa Gonzalez
Exes 2 — Theresa Gonzalez
Like Cara Maria, Theresa struggled with overcoming the hump and displaying herself as an elite competitor, for a long time. She had terrible luck with partners and timing (wrong eliminations at the wrong time). On Exes 2, she complemented Wes incredibly well, and they were a team who dominated the game socially and physically. Wes being ineligible for this gives Theresa the win.
Honorable Mentions: Leroy Garrett, Jenna Compono
Bloodlines — Jenna Compono
On Exes 2, Jenna was a hot girl kept around because she was hooking up with Zach, and because Wes wanted to keep a lay-up team for the final. During Bloodlines, she saw three eliminations because people saw her as weak and a safe bet to put into elimination. She won all three and got herself to the final. Jenna did good.
Honorable Mentions: Mitch Reid, Cory Wharton, KellyAnne Judd
Rivals 3 — Devin Walker
Jenna was the fan favorite based on social media, but she won the prior season. Wes is ineligible, the winners are ineligible, and Cory/Ashley didn’t make it far enough and lost to Nate/Christina. Devin’s late game fights with Bananas and coming to Sarah’s defense at the reunion gives him the edge. Their skull pulling and Team Princess branding was perfect on his end as well.
Honorable Mentions: Ashley Mitchell
Invasion of the Champions — Shane Landrum
The best comebacks are the ones you didn’t even know were coming. Like a horse storming onto a race track and winning a race, Shane Landrum reappeared on the Challenge after a decade, better than ever. Fresh off a divorce, he was a sloppy drunk, shady game player, and an incredible competitor who ended up a victim of the Underdog Bloodbath. He and Darrell proved that Road Rules was not dead.
Honorable Mentions: Jenna Compono, Darrell Taylor
Dirty 30 — Tori Deal
Many of the usual contenders are ineligible as they had done more than seven seasons at this point. Jenna’s votes dropped a bit as they split with Kailah, and Jordan won the season. Tori as the new rookie who was a great competitor and a beauty rises to the top. It would have been a super close vote between her and Hunter, though MTV favored Tori’s edit far more.
Honorable Mentions: Hunter Barfield, Jenna Compono, Kailah Casillas
Hope you all enjoyed this. This was a difficult one because it’s so subjective. I went back and forth, switching names a thousand times, because people will feel strongly about many of these options.