The Case Against Cara Maria pt 2
Catch up! The Case Against Cara Maria
The amount of feedback I have received on the first article in this series, The Case Against Cara Maria, was, to say the least, pretty mind-blowing. I received the expected amount of hate mail from Cara stans, I even had one person lobby to find me so that they could tell me that I am a bully, and in turn tell my parents that they must have been bullies as well. I had a much more than expected amount of feedback that said I made a compelling argument, and even a few comments from Cara fans saying I changed their mind about her run in 2018. I had just as many people say the blog post was “very well-written” as said it was “poorly-written” and one even suggested I run these blog posts by an editor first. I’ve still yet to hear back from her on what editor will read and give notes on my free blog I write for fun in my free time (since “I never said you had to pay the editor”), but I’m sure she will come through for me at some point, right guys? My point being, you can’t please everyone.
Let me start by saying I do not intend on being a ‘bully,’ in fact, I thought I kept things fairly clean. I tried to stay away from the personal issues I have with Cara because she is a person and I understand what she chooses to do in her life isn’t really my business —though with reality TV you kind of sign off on that. My points were focused more on the fact I felt she was not the runaway 2018 Challenger of the Year, and I tried to keep most of my feedback based on her performances on Vendettas and Final Reckoning. If I showed my hand and let a little vitriol slip toward Cara, shucks. If you’re a TitFC reader, it’s no secret that I can’t stand her pouting, and that she often whines and proclaims “that’s not fair!” when nominated for eliminations despite that being exactly how this game is played. I find it odd that she calls herself a shy weirdo, plays up the awkward role and pageants herself to the “uncool, outcast” crowd and then releases picture after picture on social media with barely any clothes, looking very much the opposite of what she claims. And hey, as a guy, I can appreciate that, she’s a good looking person. I just feel she’s trying way too hard to be a part of a crowd that really doesn’t know what it’s like to have the confidence to show the world everything. And maybe I’m looking at it the wrong way.
Those are the things I wanted to say, but didn’t.
However, one of the biggest critiques from readers I saw was a very good one: I hadn’t really provided a replacement for Cara that was more deserving. Again, my article wasn’t necessarily to do that originally, it was more or less to introduce the idea that Cara really wasn’t that good this year. That not all finals appearances and all “successful” seasons are taken from the same cloth. The idea that her Vendettas run was not only unimpressive, but her win in that finale smelled a bit sketchy - and considering her entire Final Reckoning season unfolded to an unmitigated disaster, perhaps we could look at the big picture a little more clearly.
With all of that said: you want a better pick? I can give you not one, but TWO solid options that should have be considered, and maybe even should have had your vote.
The obvious pick, and the one mentioned prior, would be Tony Raines. I understand that him turning his life around is not a reason to win Challenger of the Year - however we’ve heard for years about how Cara used to be the first out, awkward girl and has now become this feared competitor. Like it or not, it does matter. You can’t preach it and also deny it. Tony entered Vendettas having been Bananas’ loyal puppy. He served him, and was discarded when there wasn’t a need for him any longer. That was all a best-case scenario for Tony, as his problems with alcohol usually dismissed him long before he could even be considered for elimination.
Fast-forward to Vendettas, and Tony seemed like a changed man. He came in as a father, with focus and a changed attitude. None of that shined more than when he assisted in one of the biggest moves in Challenge history, turning on his former mentor and flipping the season on its head. Tony ended up making the final, but was eliminated before the last cut because he had to wait for Kam or Kailah to do the pairs eating challenge —costing him tons of time and his chance at winning the season.
He did get a little redemption, winning Champs v Stars. While I think most of us don’t consider that a full-blown championship, it did mean a lot to Tony and solidified that he wasn’t a flash in the pan, rather someone that had seemingly hit another gear in his challenge career. And, we were specifically told that CvS would be counted in the Challenge Mania voting process.
Moving to Final Reckoning, we saw Tony join forces with Bananas in what appeared to be an unstoppable duo. That turned out to be somewhat of a faćade —while they were a physically-dominant duo, they spent the entire season as public enemy number one, fighting to stay away from elimination most weeks. We watched Tony eat his way through what would be their last elimination —falling short of a final when Bananas’ arms couldn’t keep up with the diminutive Big Brother and Vendettas standout, Natalie.
So, did Tony have a better 2018 than Cara? Maybe. Maybe not. Is it close?
Catch up! TitFC Vendettas MVP
How about another option: Zach Nichols. Coming off Champs v Pros (which doesn’t count in this vote) in which he dominated on a weekly basis and was left out of the finale by Bananas & Emily when they chose their third wheel to be CT, Zach came out hot during Vendettas —running the show from a physical domination standpoint.
Zach has never been the social butterfly that is required to politic the ‘people’ aspect of the show, though he seems to be generally liked a bit more than not —assuming he doesn’t stick his foot in his mouth around women. His proclivity to come out and leave it all on the Challenge floor, however, is at times awe-inspiring.
A modern-day Challenge hulk for the first part of his career, the knock on Zach may have been his inability to carry himself through endurance rounds and finals —never more apparent than his breakdown during the Free Agents finale that found him writhing in pain and yelping like some injured bird begging to become prey.
Jump to Vendettas (and even earlier on CvP) and we see a trimmer, more agile Zach. The shedding of some muscle doesn’t seem to negatively affect his game, as his 6’3” frame is still large enough to dominate a physical matchup against nearly anyone, yet can now better perform and hang with almost any size and build opponent in almost any type of comp.
We started to see Zach’s name come up often not only in Vendettas victories, but also as a member of the Troika. The road to a championship would seemingly go through Zach, and his partnership with Tony and fringey alliance with Bananas places him in a power spot to run the show.
Now, I’ve spoken plenty about the Vendettas finale, and all that went wrong with it. I believe that Cara Maria was given favor over Zach —I believe The Challenge Gods wanted a female winner for the first ever solo championship. And honestly, I can’t blame them. Zach is a fun fixture and fan-favorite for Challenge fans, but he hasn’t exactly taken the reins from the likes of Bananas or CT to be the male face of the show. He is also not a very controversial player in recent years, so, while funny and great at commentary, he can sometimes get lost in the shuffle.
Cara’s time was now (meaning during the Trilogy). Johnny Bananas has been the face of this franchise, but with him seemingly on the move to bigger things, as well as a current five-season losing-streak, who better to take his place than the person that has now appeared on 13 consecutive shows, has a ‘zero-to-hero’ story and a die-hard, loyal fan base?
So, after seeing strong competitor after strong competitor picked off in a multitude of ways (Nicole Z injured; Tony eliminated after having to wait on Kailah; Kam the only player to get blasted with a grenade), there was one, final target: Zach. Keep in mind that Zach led this final from the start, and if this had been a true race, I’m not sure anyone would have caught the nimble giant. THEN: In steps production. After 90+% of the race had been completed, one final puzzle stands in the way of the final four remaining competitors.
Call me crazy, but if there was, say, a decathlon in the Olympics, and USA had a sizable lead headed into the final leg and, with the finish line in sight, they were stopped and told to wait for the next handful of teams to catch up, and those teams would all start at the same time for the final sprint to gold...that sorta wouldn’t make a lot of sense, right? Right. And while I know the Challenge seems to just make shit up at times, I can’t believe this wasn’t questioned more. Cara finished her puzzle quicker and is your champ.
Move to Final Reckoning and we all know what happened there: another ‘Vendetta’ partnering that just could not get past their previous and current hatred. What can’t be forgotten, however, was that Zach and Amanda were all but running the show before their gaffe. And for the record, I blame Zach more than Amanda for what happened —I think had they taken a couple of deep breaths and been able to communicate even a little, they don’t head to elimination and don’t find themselves in an impossible redemption comeback. I had them leading most weeks in my Power Rankings, and while anything could have happened, I think they signed away a million dollar check that night in Africa, while I think Amanda had their team covered and protected.
To make things as simple as possible: Zach dominated during his time on Vendettas, yet lost on the puzzle. He then dominated again with a partner many consider to be weak, until a mental lapse took them out. Cara was a mid-tier performer on Vendettas, but took the final, and was an absolute mess during Final Reckoning, to the extent she was taken to a final as a layup and then did exactly what layups do: collapse early and remove themselves from having a chance
Do I think Zach or Tony should have won Challenger of the Year over Cara Maria? In the words of Lil Dicky: that’s not for me to determine. Do I believe Cara making both finals weighed too heavily on minds of voters? Of course. But just like most things, I think there are more factors involved than what lies on the surface.
Cara won a Challenge Championship in 2018; Tony won Champs v Stars in 2018; Zach finished second in a season but didn’t have a win. That’s the bottom line, if you’re a bottom line type of guy/gal.
What’re your thoughts?? Leave comments below, hit us up on the new twitter account @thisisfinalcut or email at email@example.com