The Case Against Cara Maria
Just a couple short days after Cara Maria Sorbello has been crowned Challenge Mania’s 2018 Challenger of the Year —in which she unanimously took the Patron, expert and Scott & Derrick’s votes —I’m going to take the uncomfortable yet necessary opposite take, and show evidence that Cara Maria should not be a shoe-in for this coveted first-annual award.
Let me start by saying that I love what Scott is doing here. If you’re going to push the Challenge as a sport, what better way than to give out yearly performance(and other)-based awards? I’ve been doing it here at thisisthefinalcut for the last year or so, but I can admit my systematic process (as well as his) is slightly flawed. I polled members of die-hard Facebook groups, added some fairly strict rules & requirement to be nominated, and voting started. Challenge Mania has zoned in with a much better system, helped by the fact they have the resources I could only dream of (contact and willingness from alumni, current Challengers, and a widespread audience). I love the approach, and while I’m still going to award my own Rookie of the Year, MVP, etc., the crown goes to CM for the most worthy list. *I have edited the breakdown of voting weight, as I had it mistaken.*
Back to Cara winning COY: I find this a little hard to not be critical of, and I realize I am against the masses here. Let’s look at this ‘magical’ year and see where we land:
2018. The year Cara was supposedly the all-around Champion of our favorite show. We start with Vendettas, and I’ll admit, my case already looks like shit. Cara Maria not only won this season, but she also became the first solo-winner of the Challenge and the biggest single-game prize-winner ($450,000) in history (that is until Ashley Mitchell’s $1,000,000 payday to close 2018). Cara was hot, baby.
But since we’re here, let’s take a quick trip down Vendetta memory lane...
Cara never saw herself in an elimination. Now, one could argue that good players can avoid eliminations, and that’s part of the game. Agreed, this can be the case. But Cara wasn’t necessarily ‘too good’ to skip over elims, seeing as how she also never won any daily challenges (except being a part of two large Team A or Team B wins). Cara also never found herself as a member of a Troika until the very last of the season (in a challenge she did not win).
For the entirety of Vendettas, Cara Maria was the definition of a middling player. No wins, no sent-straight-to-elimination losses. Again, I feel Cara fans saying the middle is where you want to be — and I’m willing to even accept that a little bit (hell, I’m handing the excuse on a platter).
We saw what was quite certainly her low in the second half of the season, in a challenge called “Spanish Treasure.” Cara was the absolute worst part of a bad team, where competitors would swim to recover balls in a calm pond. It’s no secret that Cara struggles (and that’s putting it nicely) at swimming, among other things, and she was downright awful here. This was also the challenge made famous for absolutely screwing Kam and her supposed grenade...
And while on that subject: the grenades. Some Cara-backers will point out that Kam threw not one but two grenades at Cara, and yet she prevailed. That is somewhat true. In the first daily that she had a methaphorical and somewhat literal grenade lobbed at her, Cara was forced to participate in a high-elevation water works car-jumping and timed sequence while also forced, as her disadvantage, to apply lube to herself. Sounds terrible? It was. For literally everyone. We saw two monster male performances —the only competitors to complete the challenge —while every other person fell in the first quarter of the event. It didn’t matter whether Cara had lube or not, and the fact she was allowed to apply it herself and just dump it down her back (which never touched any surface of the car) was kind of pointless. But hey, it was fun.
The second grenade was just plain and utter bullshit. First off, Kam was forced to use the grenade at this exact challenge, which is the “Spanish Treasure” event described above. The disadvantage was a one-minute time penalty. However, Kam didn’t ask (and really, why would you?) about logistics, and was then put on the very team that had to incur the penalty for Cara. Dumb. Dumb. MTV Bunim Murray Challenge Dumb. The other point to this: even if Cara had not been given a penalty, her team would not have won this daily had Jesus Christ been their 5th swimmer. Not one person on this team landed a ball. Cara then stood afterwards with her arms crossed, looking at the ground with that “the world is unfair” smirk. So we can effectively wipe out both grenades thrown at Cara, seeing as neither had any effect on outcome.
I’ve also found a lot of problems with the final and how it was run. First: why run 90% of a final only to allow the competitors well behind the leader get to start the last portion at the same time? Look I get wanting to break it up a bit, cause drama, but if Zach had a large advantage almost the entire stretch, why make everyone stop and then re-start with zeroes on the clock for the last few minutes. I’ve heard Cara herself claim that Zach led by less than what she beat him by in the puzzle. That could be true. It could be wrong. But I can tell you this: if I run up to a puzzle 15 minutes after Zach has started, and I see he is 85% done and I’m just starting, you’re taking the wind right out of my sails. Allowing me to start the puzzle from scratch and needing to only beat Zach by one second is bullshit. So, did Zach lead by 10 minutes and Cara finish the puzzle 20 minutes ahead? Maybe. But I can promise you it affected how Zach and Cara both approached it. Also, Nicole Z goes down with injury and Kam is the only competitor stuck with the stupid card game grenade? Please. That’s another story.
Let’s move to more recent memory — Final Reckoning. What an absolute mess for Cara Maria. On a personal level, she comes in and spends so much time in a childish middle school battle with Kyle - acting like two kids with jealous crushes and turning the rest of the house to despise their silly games. She pursues Paulie repeatedly despite him turning her away and telling her she is hamburger and Danielle is filet mignon. She then writes an article/blog for a large publication criticizing Ashley of betraying ‘girl code’ because she slept with Kyle (who were both single) while she was sleeping with a man in a relationship. Low and hypocritical (and right on the money for classic-Cara)
Cara then miraculously becomes friends with the one person that has seemingly been on her shit list forever, her Vendetta Marie. This last one - the topper. We get to spend a huge chunk of episodes watching this new sistermance. Tweets from Cara expressing their newfound bond. And then, they make the final. Marie (who is later revealed to having an extremely sprained ankle) falls behind on the first leg of the run, and starts to struggle. We then see Cara in true form, going 180 and yelling at and berating Marie. So much for all the friendship talk — if you can’t help Cara, you’re not worthy of Cara.
But to my point about Final Reckoning —it can be argued that Marie was actually the stronger half of that duo for most of the year. Let that sink in. We even see TJ question and show his disappointment for Cara during multiple daily challenges. There were times she seemed checked out; whether it was her issues with Kyle, missing Paulie while he was in Redemption, or just not performing up to her supposed standards for an unknown reason. During the challenge where Marie was locked in the box in the woods, Cara was useless. During the challenge where teams needed to advance across the hanging metal platform, Cara practically played dead. Cara had few friends in this house, with Marie’s connections for part of the season the only thing keeping them safe for a good chunk of time. Cara contributed very rarely to their success.
All that said, Cara and Marie made the final. They were, however, more or less the seasons layup. And finally, instead of trying to be a good teammate to try and get behind Marie and provide encouragement, Cara imploded and was a finale non-factor almost immediately. Anyone can make it to a final if the situation lines up, and anyone can fall behind during what is typically a long, endurance-type race, but it’s how you handle those obstacles that make you the Challenger of the Year. Quitting, blaming your partner and airing all grievances to your competitors during said final while guzzling wine during the $1M finale? That doesn’t scream “Challenger of the Year” to me.
So, that was Cara’s 2018 resume. I think making both finals has clouded some voters view on the matter. Again, it’s hard to hate on someone that won Vendettas, I get it. The other logical pick would be Tony Raines - a guy that spent the first part of his Real World and Challenge career as a high-temper, alcohol-driven madman at times that decided to refine himself and his game, settled into Vendettas and helping Devin pull the massive blindside of Bananas, and making the final. He followed that up with his Champs v Stars win (in which Challenge Mania alluded that WOULD be factored in), his first win of his career. Lastly, he came in during episode two and partnered with Bananas, fighting off the huge targets placed on their backs and performing incredibly until their elimination at the hands of Paulie and Natalie late in the game. Do I think Tony is hands down the winner? No. But I think this should have been closer.
For Cara, all of this doesn’t even include the incessant irritation of her love life — and whether that’s our business or not, we have to watch it play out on the small screen and in social media. There was a large out-pouring of support for her when Paulie, the man that cheated on the last two women that we know of, the last one cheating with Cara, was found to be two-timing. Perhaps it helped the story that Paulie was on BB and his ex on reality TV herself, but I was shocked at how big this story was. And we all felt bad for the women in this situation, as Paulie (who I am a huge Challenge fan of, just not a personal fan) showed his douchebag colors. All that said, we have also watched Cara painfully try to be cute and coy about letting Paulie back in over the past week or so —the pics from Montana, videos from the same club at the same time, tagging the same “friend” at the same time — we get it Cara, you’re so clever and funny. Thousands of fans went through your pain and you giggle in their face. If you didn’t learn, you won’t learn. My point: Cara’s romantic life has been prominently featured during 2018’s Challenge, as well as personal relationships, and I’d say she is failing at those aspects.
If Challenger of the Year is performance-based...I think we may have been rope-a-doped.