Invasion of the Champions: Rookie of the Year
Candidates: Sylvia, Nicole Z, Anika, Kailah, Hunter, Anthony, Theo, Bruno
Invasion of the Champions introduced us to four long-term contestants, and proved to be heavy in the young-blood department. The premise of this season, after all, was supposed to be a group of non-champions that were finally being given their chance to show what they were made of without the vets getting in the way and fucking everything up. Obviously, as we know, that’s not how the Challenge rolls, and the Champs were brought in a bit later. After pitting the excited Underdogs against each other, trying to earn their way from The Shelter (quite literally just a roof over an open frame, with mosquito nets and not much else, on the beach) to The Oasis (a more typical Challenge mansion), the group of Underdogs were surprised with the arrival of a pretty strong group of Champions.
In fact, in retrospect, the Champions were fairly loaded —Ashley K (perhaps the only mediocre player), Camila, Cara Maria, Laurel, CT, Darrell, Bananas and Zach — came with all the fire and swagger looking to make our Underdogs look like posers in a world too large for them.
This race narrows down to four rookies: Sylvia, Nicole Z., Kailah and Hunter. While I think the best overall player out of this group is Hunter, and perhaps the most polarizing is Kailah - the true Rookie of the Year belongs to Nicole Zanatta. While one could argue that anything involving puzzles or math is almost comical when Nicole is added, you can’t help but realize she is physically one of the most gifted athletes not only among the women, but the entire cast. When it comes to rookies, most will not be polished or perfect, most have flaws. Nicole’s liabilities shine bright at times, overshadowing an otherwise solid player. We’ve also seen her struggle at a political game, but charms the pants off (literally and figuratively) some of the stronger women in the house, helping protect her.
Nicole came out the gate strong, winning the very first Challenge, and continued strong all the way to a third-place finish. Once again, it was a math problem in the finale that slowed her down, tarnishing an otherwise fantastic season.
Other Rookie of the Year Winners:
Final Reckoning: Paulie Calafiore
Vendettas: Kam Williams
Dirty XXX: Tori Deal