Make The Challenge Great Again
*All odds are strictly for entertainment purposes only. This is NOT a betting site.
After 2018’s Final Reckoning finale, I think it’s safe to say that it might be a good idea for the show runners/producers/etc. to take a step back, pull a deep breath, and regroup.
We saw a season full of frustration for viewers —and we aren’t necessarily talking about the 20+ episodes because, as a fan, I’m always begging for MORE —we are talking about the old adage of ‘quality over quantity. ‘
Look, I get that you can only work with what you’ve got, and when it comes to a show where any of your franchise faces can and should be able to be eliminated at any given time, things can be tough. But take a lesson from Survivor (well, usually), as we saw fan-favorite and top-threat John Hennigan eliminated in the first vote since the merge, followed by a guy that not only held two idols, but even played one for himself on the night of Tribal, and still got sent home. The lesson here: sometimes watching the big dogs walk out is okay.
It’s no secret that some of the more recognizable faces on the Challenge get a heftier appearance fee —and from an investment standpoint for MTV, I understand their desire to keep them around longer. But the fact is, having unclear rules and game design as a means to manipulate the game and keep said players around makes it less fun on our end.
This all leads to the Final Reckoning and the first of many glaring, eyebrow-raising events: Paulie and Nat v Kam and Kayleigh in an elimination. I’ve written about this elimination before, but this is the first time we very clearly see one of these “equalizers” in action. I’m not saying MTV wanted Paulie or Natalie out, but they certainly didn’t trick any fans into believing there was a level playing field. If you’re going to have some sort of factor that levels the teams out, it needs to be more scientific (ie adding a certain percentage of weights to a players backpack, etc.).
There’s also the tricky edit. I get it allows for some drama, but not every challenge or elim needs to appear to go to the wire. As a viewer, I want to know if Bananas and Tony keep dominating teams, or if other teams are getting blown out. This creates a better long-term story in my opinion. It makes watching Paulie and Natalie’s victory over Banony that much more impressive. I understand this will never change, but the sports fan in me wants to see it all, as it plays out. I don’t need to be misled into believing every elim finished within a fraction of a second.
We also have the seemingly up in the air Redemption House. After the second Redemption Purge, there was no reason to believe it would continue. So, why this late in the game would you finally empty the loaded Redemption House, only to send a couple more teams in there? To protect Bananas is my best guess. This does conflict with the growing conspiracy that the Challenge gods stopped an elim in which Tony and Bananas were very clearly winning in order to create a new elim the next night in which Paulie and Natalie ended up winning. Why would MTV, whom everyone claims is pro-Bananas, want to go out of their way to knock him out?
And why don’t we take the Final Reckoning as a whole? Things really didn’t add up from day one, as I’ve been pointing out. An early-season girlfight ends Kailah and Melissa’s trip, yet a late-season headbutt from Sylvia (one that MTV teased for weeks) wasn’t even mentioned by TJ, or anyone, for that matter. And the final? There are so many things with the final that just don’t add up. Maybe most importantly: times and our winner.
The way things fell together, including the discussion in the cave, gave us every indication that the teams believed that Joss and Sylvia actually led the finale. TJ did say that the top three teams finished within two minutes of each other - and in most finals I would say hell no —but the fact we saw a 4K (under 2.5 miles) as the more “grueling” section, maybe it should be believable.
What exactly was Natalie’s penalty for running wild? I heard she was lost, with no radio communication, for two whole hours! In the African wilderness! Wtf!? I believe Joss mumbled something about a five minute penalty. For being two hours behind?? I’m lost.
And the winner(s). Can I start by pondering aloud that I don’t believe what I was told? Why not show times? Why not have a race to a flag? I feel like this is just another way for the Challenge to be able to manipulate and choose who wins, what happens, what their times were, etc.
Also, this was a fantastic display of Cara Maria being the shitty, hypocritical, terrible teammate we all know and most love (for some reason). She claimed Marie as her newfound friend, things were cutesie for about a month — then one checkpoint into the final in which Marie wasn’t fast enough for Cara and the vitriol spewed faster than Hunter falling out of a heli.
We could say the Challenge could use to take a page or two from Survivor’s book, but when it comes to Challenges, the two shows look similar. As much as we all hated to wait for the Dirty Thirty winner to be announced, it at least eliminated guaranteed spoilers. I hate spoilers more than anyone and I found out without trying who won the last two seasons about three episodes in — which makes the rest of the season a bit of a downer.
I think about this too: five or so seasons ago, MTV didn’t really have to worry as much about spoilers leaking. Not that it didn’t happen, but with the number of Stan’s and wide-mouthed cast, it’s nearly impossible to hide the winner unless the finalists themselves don’t know. That, however, takes out the race to the flag aspect. But there’s my point —if you insist on running segments of the final so no one knows who leads the race, why tell them who wins the day of? Keep it a secret like D30 and keep a shred of suspense. At least if the world knows the final 6-8, the big money champ will be up in the air. And just as Scott from Challenge Mania suggests, if you’re going to allow teams to steal money, make ALL teams record their decision in advance.
We all want the Challenge to improve...and everyone has theories on how. Let’s just hope MTV looks as critically at Final Reckoning as the fans did.