The Challenge 36

Episode 2 Recap – Joseph Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt

Joseph Hadaway recaps all the latest action.

Photo: MTV

Fessy ended the last episode by saying, “Unless there’s a pole in the ground, I’m not going in.” However, this episode, when gifted a pole in the ground, he still refused to go in, electing for veteran Kyle to compete against America’s Got Talent’s Joseph in the Crater. This led to Kyle defeating Joseph in a one-sided variant of Pole Wrestle, earning the second Golden Skull and leading to Joseph becoming the second person eliminated from Double Agents. 

Game of Partners

The episode starts by resolving the cliffhanger to the previous episode—Natalie, as the winner of the elimination, has the ability to choose from any person in the game to be her new partner. The person left over will become a “rogue agent” and remain in the game but will not be able to compete in challenges or be eliminated until they get a partner. Natalie elects to keep Wes as her partner. 

But the full consequences of this twist are felt at the end of this episode, when Kyle wins the elimination and elects to steal Kam from her partner Josh. This leads to Josh taking Nany as his new partner and rogue agents CT and Big T being partnered together by default. 

This partner swapping can have massive repercussions on the game’s strategy. In this episode alone, we have Nany requesting that Fessy throw himself into elimination to beat Joseph and “steal” her. And Big T willingly campaigns for herself and Joseph to be voted into the elimination to have a chance of partnering with CT. 

Also, CT’s one-episode immunity from losing his partner could easily be taken advantage of by a cunning male player with a weak partner, who could consistently target their own partner for the immunity. A strong social game with strong players of the opposite sex has never been this important to The Challenge strategy, and I hope to see players continue to take advantage of this in future episodes. 

Ice Spy

Speaking of strategy, the major house alliance in Episode 1 (formed from the Big Brother alliance, the Young Bucks, and Leroy and Kam) takes a massive loss this episode, failing to get either of their targets (Wes or CT) into an elimination round. 

The main challenge this week, Ice Spy, gives the majority alliance full control. It’s an adaptation of the ever-popular Survivor Coconut Chop Challenge; teams need to swim out into glacier water to retrieve an ice block. Using an ice pick, they must then break the ice block to get a cylinder (“kill”), which they must place in another team’s station. Once a team has three kills in their station, they are eliminated. The last team standing wins.

This challenge works really well for the majority alliance, who successfully eliminates Wes and Natalie immediately and gets rid of the rookies and newer teams shortly after (inclusive of Meechie, who is disqualified from the challenge due to undisclosed medical issues). This leads to the final four teams (Cory/Tori, Kaycee/Leroy, Amber/Darrell, Aneesa/Fessy) all having kills but also being unwilling to distribute them. And so, all eight people decide to give Aneesa and Fessy the win, which I’m sure gave Natalie memories of San Juan del Sur

The Challenge 36
Photo: MTV

Allies in Disguise 

With all the power, the initial alliance decision is to vote Wes/Natalie into the elimination, therefore getting rid of their target from the previous episode. However, Joseph and Big T decide to volunteer—Joseph in an attempt to get a Golden Skull and Big T in hopes of taking out Joseph. This leaves the house divided between the majority alliance wanting to nominate Wes/Natalie, and the rookies and Wes’s alliance wanting to nominate Big T/Joseph, leaving Kyle in the middle of both alliances.

After a relatively tame club night, with Fessy taking his shirt off and Jay encouraging Olympian and famously proud virgin Lolo Jones to try to seduce her partner Nam, Kyle tells both alliances that he’s voting with them. And after a deliberation where Joseph calls out Wes and Natalie, leading to both of them completely shutting him down, Kyle decides to vote for Big T and Joseph. 

Joseph volunteering himself to go into the Crater is idiotic on its own, but watching Natalie try to talk strategy to him is like watching a chess grandmaster playing checkers against a goldfish. However, Kyle’s decision comes back to bite him, as Fessy and Aneesa, as the Double Agents, get secretly told who everybody voted for, exposing Kyle for being one of the votes for Big T/Joseph. 

Ring of Spies 

This leads into the Crater, where Fessy and Aneesa get to select Joseph/Big T’s opposition. The three potential options are Fessy and Aneese, as this would likely be the best chance to earn a Golden Skull. Wes and Natalie, the alliances’ target to eliminate, or Nany and Kyle, as Kyle just betrayed Fessy’s trust. 

Fessy decides not to risk an upset win in elimination and selects to put Kyle into the firing line. However, Kyle dominates in a new version of Pole Wrestle called Ring of Spies, earning the second of ten Golden Skulls and eliminating Joseph from the game. 

Kyle then decides to infiltrate the big alliance by partnering up with Kam, putting Josh with Nany and Big T with CT, ending the episode.

The Challenge 36
Photo: MTV

Overall Thoughts

As a whole, this is another really strong episode for The Challenge this season. I think this format, in addition to the more strategic rookies than usual from both Survivor and Big Brother, has led to smarter and more strategic gameplay from most of the contestants. 

It’s been a bit light on the drama so far, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, that is understandable. The spy theme, 80s music, the house, and the location has been spectacular, and if it keeps up this standard, this season could be an all-timer for The Challenge. 

The next time on promises a physical daily challenge that’s played on the top of a moving truck and a drunken fight between CT and Josh. Hopefully The Challenge is able to maintain its hot streak. 


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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