The aspect of The Challenge I love the most is that you have to compete to earn your keep. So if you call someone out, you better be ready to back the talk up because you are more than likely to find yourself in the Crater. A rookie learned this lesson the hard way this week. Let's dig into the brand new episode of The Challenge: Double Agents.
As the winner of the last Crater, Natalie has to decide whether or not she wants to switch partners. Ultimately, she decides to stick with Wes. I cannot believe I'm typing this, but shouldn't Natalie have stolen Josh? She would have an inroad with the Big Brother alliance, and Wes's new partner would have been Kam, a loose offshoot of the Big Brother alliance thanks to Leroy's connection to Kaycee. They could still work together while taking the target off both their backs. Then again, Natalie is big on loyalty, so you cannot fault here, I guess.
As for CT, he doesn't have a partner but isn't eliminated from The Challenge either. Instead, CT is now a rogue agent. TJ doesn't give any more information about what this means, but he tells the group the next elimination will determine CT's new partner.
Back at the house, everyone is trying to wrap their heads around the partner swap twist. Some of the agents, like Josh, are nervous their partnerships will inevitably get infiltrated. Nany and Big T, on the other hand, aren't pleased with their current partners. They both see this as an opportunity to switch up their games. In the biz, they like to call this foreshadowing.
Love is in the air
What would a Challenge be without love? With as many people living under one roof, sparks will inevitably start flying around the compound. This season is no different.
Everyone is in love with Nam. Kam is swooning over him, Wes thinks he's hot, and his partner Lolo is quite smitten. Nam is taken aback by Lolo, too, calling it an honor be kissed her. Lolo may not be able to get a read on him, but there is something so genuinely pure about their relationship.
This connection worries Devin, though. He sees them as a strong pair and is believes their budding romance will make them unstoppable. He isn't necessarily wrong because Nam and Lolo are the most physically dominating forces in the house. If they get to the end, few challengers stand a real chance against them.
The other love story so far this season is between Fessy and Aneesa with themselves. I won't dig too much into the daily mission yet, but their second win in as many weeks has them feeling good. They honestly think they have the game wrapped up and that TJ should hand them the check now. Aneesa's uber confidence in all of her talking heads makes me believe she gets sent home right before the finals again, a point she continues to make every chance she gets.
On Thin Ice
The daily mission this week is called Ice Spy. Teams swim out to a barge where they retrieve ice blocks, one at a time. After swimming back to the beach, teams use a pick to chisel away the ice, freeing a kill capsule and placing it into another team's stand. Once a team receives three strikes, they are eliminated from the competition.
With no partner, CT isn't allowed to compete, but he can watch and gather important information about the game. And this challenge was illuminating from a strategy standpoint.
As is to be expected, Wes and Natalie are public enemy number one. By the time the first sets of pairs finish chiseling their ice blocks, there is a line waiting to assign strikes to them. Hell, Leroy gave them an extra one after their elimination for good measure.
From there, nobody wanted to make the first move against the power alliance. Teams who have yet to declare a side, like Jay and Theresa, are jus trying to lay low out of fear they will be targeted. Teams in the majority alliance are fearful of making each other mad. At one point, about four groups were standing in a circle debating where to put their capsules. Four groups, strategizing in the middle of a live challenge, in front of the whole house. And no one wants to target Fessy or Aneesa. It was wild and chaotic and far too hard to follow.
Aneesa and Fessy come off particularly bad here. They end up pulling off a second consecutive win with zero strikes, but it looks like they are working with everyone. Worst of all, TJ calls them out after the mission is over, asking them if he should go ahead and give them the check now. Other challengers are noticing them, and they may be painting a large target on their back.
Don't rock the vote
I have a strong sense this season will see an uptick in the politicking and strategy. Perhaps it's the secret vote. Maybe it's the large contingency of Big Brother and Survivor alumni. Either way, these agents are here to play this season.
After losing the daily mission, Wes knows he will most likely be facing another Crater. Fessy wants the house to vote Wes into elimination so he and Aneesa can send in his ally Devin as his opponent. After everyone supported them in the daily mission, they are confident the house will follow through and vote in Wes.
Of course, few players are as compelling strategically as Wes, and he is most dangerous with his back against the wall. He immediately begins campaigning with Fessy and Cory to go after rookies for easy gold skulls while using Wes for future votes moving forward. With only ten spots in the finale available, it isn't a terrible pitch, but the Young Bucks don't bite. Fessy maintains he isn't sending Wes in, but he should be worried about the house vote.
What Fessy doesn't know is that there is already a growing movement to save Wes, spearheaded by Kyle and Big T. Kyle sees the opportunity to start forming a counter-attack against the power alliance by voting in Joseph, who is already alienating himself in the house. It isn't likely that Joseph can win in elimination, resulting in Big T getting partnered up with CT. Essentially Kyle is trying to grow his numbers here while Big T sees an upgrade in terms of partners.
I also think the house is trying to take some power away from Fessy and Aneesa. Fessy may want them to vote in Wes, but his alliance wants him to get the blood on his hands, especially after the house let Fessy and Aneesa win in the daily mission.
When Fessy and Aneesa head to the chamber, they are shocked to find Joseph and Big T on the elimination block. The pair feel betrayed by most of the house, but Kyle sticks out to them. He just lied to their faces about his vote, claiming to send Wes in. They aren't happy with their alliance for not holding up their end of the bargain.
As we head into elimination, Fessy and Aneesa don't want to do the house's dirty work by sending in Wes. Kyle's decision to lie to their faces puts him in immediate danger.
America's Got Talent. Joseph, Not So Much.
One of the surprising aspects of this season has been the rookies' willingness to stand up to the vets. Last week was Lio stepping up to CT. This week, Joseph put himself in the spotlight by calling out Wes.
Poor Joseph does not have a grasp on what is going on in the game. He has slowly alienated himself in the house, including with his partner. Worst of all, his laid back personality makes it seem like Joseph doesn't care about what is going on. But at least he has a workout routine that works for him, even if Leroy makes fun of him.
After falling asleep in the club last week, Joseph decided to call his shot this week by targeting Wes. It is a jump from sleeping on the couch to calling out a legend, but I respect Joseph's gumption here.
The elimination deliberation was the final nail in Joseph's coffin. He pushed hard for the house to vote for Wes. A crafty veteran, Wes knew all the right things to say while Joseph came off as frantic and scatterbrained, desperately searching for the right words to get everyone to say Wes's name. At the end of the day, though, if you call someone out, you better be ready to back it up. The house called Joseph's bluff by sending him into the Crater.
The only question remaining is who will Aneesa and Fessy send into elimination to face Joseph. As the agents walk up to the Crater, there is just an empty elimination floor, a ring, and three posts. It seems we are getting a physical competition.
TJ welcomes the group and reveals that Big T and Joseph are the compromised agents facing elimination. Then TJ turns to the double agents, asking Fessy if he wants to come down and challenge Joseph for a chance to earn a gold skull. Fessy has stated that he wants a physical elimination but turns down the opportunity to compete for the second week in a row. as it looks janky. Instead, he and Aneesa want Kyle to step into elimination.
In all honesty, this is a terrible choice from Fessy. While I agree it was the right decision to keep Wes safe, anything outside of Fessy walking down and facing off with Joseph should be considered a terrible decision. I know he was offended by Kyle lying to him, but the house offered Fessy an easy gold skull on a silver platter, and he didn't take it.
The decisions the double agents make are key moments each week. It is the only public vote in the house, so there is no hiding or skirting around your choices. The house would understand Fessy trying to get a gold skull, but calling out a team other than Wes and Natalie makes him seem untrustworthy. And now, Fessy is handing some power in the house to Kyle.
The Crater game this week is Ring of Spies. Contestants will start with both hands on a metal ring in the center of the elimination floor. Each player will try to wrestle the ring away from their opponent and place it on a post. The first player to place a metal ring on two posts wins.
Joseph puts up a small fight, but the elimination isn't very close. Kyle's dominating performance, albeit against lesser competition, puts the house on blast that he is here to win this season. After the elimination, TJ gives Kyle the option to switch partners. In a somewhat shocking moment, Kyle announces he wants to infiltrate a partnership and steals Kam. Josh is furious, exclaiming to Fessy and Aneesa that they ruined his game. But not all is lost for Josh as TJ reveals that he gets to pick between Nany and Big T to be his new partner. Much to the delight of Nany, Josh picks her as his new partner.
Of course, this leaves CT and Big T as partners. They could be a formidable tandem in the long run as CT's physical ability and Big T's social strategy are a nice pair for one another. Best of all, they are both excited to be each other's partners.
That's it for this week. I know it is only two episodes into this season, but The Challenge has delivered on every level so far. And if next week's preview is any indication, we are in for more of the drama!