The Challenge 36

Episode 17 Recap – Nearing The Finish Line

Joseph Hadaway recaps all the latest action.

Photo: MTV

After another one-sided elimination win where Fessy breaks Kyle’s finger in a Hall Brawl, Fessy decides to shake up the house one last time by breaking up the power team of Leroy & Kaycee by stealing Kaycee for himself.

The daily challenge requires one-half of each partnership to run five miles, solving math problems along the way to get their partner inside a volcano, and as a pair, run five miles back. The mini-final is won by Kam & Cory, as Amber B & Fessy are unable to finish due to Amber B’s inability to solve a math problem due to her dyscalculia.

Set to the first unironic use of Rick Astley’s “I’m Never Gonna Give You Up,” Kaycee gets Fessy to volunteer himself to go into elimination, where Cory & Kam elect to send Kyle against him, leading to Kyle’s elimination. Fessy then decides to take Kaycee, leading to Leroy picking Nany, leaving CT with Amber B, which sets up the four teams running the final.

With the final four teams, I will be giving them a rough power ranking and putting into context the significance of their wins in terms of their long-term storylines.

4th. Fessy and Kaycee.

Can They Win?

Maybe—but probably not. Due to COVID restrictions, the finals will be held in Iceland, meaning that snow will be core to the final. For people who have ever run in the snow before, it’s significantly more physically draining than running on another surface.

In terms of running the final, while Fessy is fast and physically strong, every step he takes in the snow takes three or four times as much energy then Amber B. does. Add in the difficulty that Kaycee and Fessy faced in the Total Madness final them winning as a team would be surprising.

All in all, I would give them roughly a 5% chance of winning, as I could see them winning a Final Reckoning-style final, which doesn’t test endurance as much as a traditional final.

What Would Them Winning Mean?

Kaycee and Fessy winning would confirm that Big Brother is a force in The Challenge and would get a potential Big Brother versus The Challenge season to the top of MTV’s priority list. It took the Are You The One? cast members seven seasons and twenty-four contestants to get a single winner, while Big Brother would have accomplished double that in half the time.

As “introverted” Fessy has proven to be this season, winning Double Agents would guarantee that he becomes the newest villain of The Challenge and would be here to stay.

3rd. CT and Amber B.

Can They Win?

Yes-and-no. CT is a three-time Challenge winner, but all three of those wins were in Thailand, a hot location. The second-most-famous choke in The Challenge history was CT gassing out in the finals of Battle of the Exes, which also took place in Iceland.

Furthermore, Amber B’s inability to complete this challenge and doing average in all of the “mini-finals” does not inspire much hope in her ability to win. Plus, their lack of familiarity with each other, which the other teams have, makes me a bit worried about their chances.

However, CT is a proven champion who has won a final only a year ago. Amber B is light, so snowy finals would hypothetically suit her.

I would give them a 25% chance of winning the season, as Amber B is an unknown, while CT has shown that he can deliver and has improved his cardio after Battle of the Exes.

What Would Them Winning Mean?

Amber B winning this season would make her the first Big Brother winner of The Challenge and the first woman in nine years to win on her first season. Her feat would be impressive considering that she would have accomplished this feat against probably the most physically fit female cast this show has ever had.

Her partner, CT, would win his fourth championship, and as explained on the pre-season special, his motivation this season is based on his struggles to keep his marriage intact.

CT has struggled with mistreating his opposite-sex (game) partners in the past. This final could narratively be his ‘test’ to see if he’s grown as an individual in terms of his conduct when working with “weak” partners, like a Big T or an Amber B, which I see the episode applying this to his home life.

The Challenge 36
Photo: MTV

2nd. Leroy and Nany.

Can They Win?

Maybe. Leroy and Nany are the perennial bridesmaids of The Challenge, having twenty-two seasons without a win between the two of them. Double Agents is Leroy’s fifth finals appearance, following his rough loss in the War of the Worlds 2 final; and Nany’s second final after a narrow defeat to Laurel in Free Agents.

As a duo, they’ve known each other since the Real World Las Vegas and have proven competent in anything that The Challenge typically throws at people in the final. However, there’s a reason that they’ve never won before.

For Leroy, it was his political game. Despite being a top player, he would form alliances with stronger players and wasn’t cutthroat enough to cut them. He lost Battle of the Exes II to Jordan and Rivals to Bananas. Due to his relationship with Kam, he started to put himself in positions to win the final rather than compete in them.

Granted, Vendettas and War of the Worlds 2 were both poorly structured finals where his work to put himself in a winning position was all for naught. However, his head is finally in the game, and this season is a winnable final for him.

However, for Nany, it’s her physicality. Nany is solidly a B- at The Challenge, not weak enough to drag down a partner, but not strong enough to be a threat. She has a decent record in partner seasons, while in individual seasons, she struggles.

Her performance in the most recent challenge, where she was able to keep pace with Kaycee, was relatively impressive. If Nany can replicate that pace, I think Leroy and Nany could win. I would give them about a 30% chance of winning overall.

What Would Them Winning Mean?

For both of these players, winning this season would represent them overcoming a history of failure.

Leroy has stated that this was his last ever season, and finishing his long career with MTV with a win is a perfect send-off for his time on the show. The Challenge is a workplace drama, and Leroy winning would mean that he would have nothing more to prove.

Nany has also been somebody who has underperformed throughout her career. Managing to win the season with the most physical female cast would renew her status as a “top female” on the show, which has gradually eroded from Nany’s peak on Free Agents.

1st. Cory and Kam.

Can They Win?

Cory and Kam are the #1 team to beat at this stage of the competition. They aren’t as strong as Leroy/Kaycee or Kam/Anybody Else, but they are the best team remaining at this point.

Kam this season has proven herself to be an elite female competitor in The Challenge lore, and with a weakened field, her winning is the most likely. Particularly her performance in the most recent mission solidified her as the one to beat.

The big reason that this isn’t a slam dunk win is Cory, who has a shaky history in finals, most notably his ankle, which cost him Battle of the Bloodlines.

However, throughout this season, despite losing partners at an insane rate, Cory was able to have impressive performances in the mini-finals throughout the season, which is why I give him the edge over Nany.

He has also mentioned that he was training for a final and showed that he was, dominating a Challenge elite in Darrell in their elimination.

Due to Cory’s momentum from the past few episodes and Kam’s consistent strengths, I would put them at roughly a 40% chance to win.

What Would Them Winning Mean?

In terms of Leroy’s storyline, a win for Kam is effectively the same as a win for him as they are about to buy a house and vice-versa.

Additionally, Kam would be the first Are You The One? cast member to win and get to keep the money (bar any last-minute steal twists). Kam was promoted as the new The Challenge staple after her strong performance on Vendettas, and winning this season would cement her legacy in this era of the show.

Similarly, production promoted Cory as The Challenge’s new staple after Battle of the Bloodlines but lost favour after a few rough seasons in a row (particularly the penalty shootout elimination on Vendettas). Total Madness was a return to form for him, which a Double Agents win would cement as permanent.

However, Cory was such a non-entity for much of the season. I would compare a Cory win to if Dean Kowalski won Island of the Idols, where Cory rallied in the last five or six episodes. “Cory’s Curse” was a big storyline this season, and whether or not it plays a part in the final is yet to be seen.

As a whole, I’m glad that the season is ending. I liked this episode overall, but 18 weeks and 90-minute episodes are way too much for this show. If I were to rank the post-30 seasons, I would probably put this season behind War of the Worlds and Vendettas, with this season potentially passing it depending on how it ends.

Written by

Joseph Hadaway

Joseph Holopainen-Hadaway is an Australian/Finnish/Filipino (long story) business graduate, who currently lives in London despite studying a law degree in Sydney (longer story). A life-long reality-tv fan with hot takes on everything from Santas in the Barn to Beauty and the Geek Australia, he has been a superfan of The Challenge and Survivor for nearly a decade. You can follow him on @josephhadaway on Twitter or @ilosttheway on Instagram.

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