The Challenge: Free Agents Episode 3 Recap
So far The Challenge: Free Agents has been entertaining – but not riveting. During the first two episodes there was a dearth of real conflict (although we were treated to a fight between Nany and Camilla that was so ill-conceived even they can’t tell you what it was about) and a lack of real suspense. On the upside, the first two elimination rounds have trimmed the shows cast nicely, sending home annoying, deadweight competitors and allowing all of our (my) favorite cast members to remain.
Episode three seems to be when Free Agents really hits its stride. Finally falling into a rhythm where we recognize the cast members and see them starting to build relationships within the house. The most interesting part of the new Challenge format is that the cast members are freed from teams. However, this lack of consistent teams has done more than change the way contestants approach challenges. Normally, the pairs and teams in The Challenge offer some of the only structure in the house. The teams inform who you have to listen to, who you should avoid, and who you can possibly romance. With none of that structure formally put into place, this season has been a little slow to build to the kind of sparks that we’re used to seeing in The Challenge. Fortunately, it looks like the season is going to ultimately deliver in spades as the cast members slowly, individually, work themselves into romantic relationships and rivalries. Free Agents is a slower format than I expected, but I think there’s going to be a big payoff.
Anyway, let’s get into episode 3. The episode opened with an unexpected and intense flirtation between Cohutta and Nany. I haven’t actually seen Cohutta before, since his last Challenge appearance was six years ago in The Ruins, but he seems to be surprisingly popular with the ladies of the house. Nany says that “he is my dream man, he is the definition of a husband.” She backs this big talk up, and proposes to Cohutta, an offer that he’s happy to accept: “Nany is by far the best looking girl in the house, and, she smells like wild honeysuckle blossoms.”
Of course an occasion as serious as a fake wedding calls for celebration, so CT and Isaac decide to throw a bachelor party. Jasmine is well, Jasmine, and agrees to strip for the men, drinking wine straight from the bottle as she shows her ass to everyone in the house. The girls, not wanting to be left out, arrange their own bachelorette celebration, in which Johnny strips for the women. The stripping ultimately takes the form of Johnny humping Nany’s head and then making out with her. This is intended and received as erotic, which both makes me question what I know about women and makes for some excellent television.
Then I hope you guys are ready for a MOOD SHIFT. Because the very next scene is Frank calling home, telling his mother that his “lungs are getting worse” and that he’s not sure if he can keep competing. Frankly (Boom!), I was surprised to hear that Frank is having lung problems since he’s been in back-to-back elimination rounds and sent two people home. Frank sobs tearlessly into the phone while asking for his mother’s advice, and ultimately decides that he’s going to stick it out and try to win the Challenge.
Frank’s decision to tough it out is futile. When the cast gathers for this week’s Challenge TJ announces that Frank has a viral infection, and as such is too contagious to be kept in the house. After surviving two weeks of elimination rounds, Frank is sent home by the producers. While other contestants recognize the tragedy of this situation, everyone seems to be somewhat elated by the fact that such a strong competitor is being sent home.
Then it’s on to this week’s challenge, a bar crawl. In this challenge competitors are split into teams of four. They are the tasked with crossing a wall suspended 40 feet above a lake. The wall is perforated with holes, and teams are given two beams to slide through the holes. Basically, teams have to balance on one beam, while moving the other beam into a hole further down the wall. The goal is to get from one side of the wall to the other as quickly as possible.
Nia is the last one to get picked, and has the customary pouting session. Since Jasmine’s team only has three members (a problem caused by Frank’s viral infection) they are given the option to sit the Challenge out. This means that they will be safe from the draw, but that they will still be vulnerable to being voted into elimination. After briefly conferring, Jordan, Jonna, and Jasmine decide that they want to compete. I think it’s the right move, since not competing would give the other housemates a great excuse for sending you into the elimination round. Still, it’s risky, and they’re pretty much depending on Jordan’s flawless record of athleticism to give them a win.
Cara Maria’s team is the first to go. And while they move deliberately and don’t have very many scary moments, they are painfully slow. They only manage to make it about halfway across the wall before time is called, and everyone is reinvigorated to be a little more aggressive during their run. Brandon’s team goes second and kills it, crossing from one platform to the other with no problem.
Latoya’s team goes third, they set an okay time but what’s more notable about their performance is Nany. She’s the first girl to take charge and move the beams instead of just standing there, trying not to fall. In previous seasons Nany has sort of been a meh competitor, so it’s sweet to see her performing like such a badass. Of course, part of her taking charge has to do with the fact that her partner is Preston, who no one trusts to do anything. “All I need Preston to do is just stand there, and don’t move, and don’t mess me up.”
Zach’s team is next, and he tries to use his massive size to move the beams three pegs at a time instead of just two. Unfortunately, both sides have to be able to move the beams, and Johnny’s tiny wingspan does not allow for this strategy. Still, they manage to make up for lost time and scramble across to the second platform before time is called.
Then we have our team of three: Jasmine, Jordan, and Jonna. They’re making fine time, and Jordan is demonstrating his ability to work alone until he tragically drops a beam, disqualifying the team and guaranteeing them a spot in the draw. Ouch.
Last up is Leroy’s team, who have no problem crossing the platform and put up one of the fastest times in the challenge. However, they still ultimately take second place.
Brandon’s team is revealed as the winners of the Challenge, while Jasmine’s team and Cara Maria’s team are sent to the draw. Brandon’s team is left with the weighty decision of who should be sent into elimination. This tough decision ends up not actually being very tough at all, as they unanimously agree to vote Johnny the rookie in. They table the initial decision of which girl to vote for, because Camilla says she needs to talk to some girls to determine whether they have her back or not. She puts it best, “I want to see who will save my ass in exchange for me saving their ass today.”
Of course both Nia and Latoya insist that if Camilla spares them they would never, ever, raise a hand against her. But Latoya ups the ante by telling Camilla, “don’t let her snake you, don’t let her play you.” She reminds her how Nia voted Latoya into the elimination round in the first week even though they were close.
Jessica says something stupid that no one cares about and swears to make her own decisions, or something.
Then it’s voting time. The winners unanimously vote Johnny in, who is obviously nervous, but does seem somewhat excited at the prospect of proving himself. The girls vote is only slightly more split, (Jessica votes for Devyn), but everyone else votes for Nia.
Everyone is apprehensive about the draw, especially Cara Maria who finds herself facing the possibility of a “kill card” for the third time this season. However, when they arrive there is some good news for the male draw contestants. They are still allowed to flip four cards, even though there are only three boys facing elimination. This means that there is a 25% chance that no boys will have to be eliminated. There is no silver lining for the girls. They’re just in the draw. Someone is going to go home. Sucks for them.
Ultimately none of the boys draw the kill card, meaning there’s no boy’s elimination. Unfortunately, Cara Maria draws the kill card on the girl’s side and is sent into a brutal elimination round against Nia, who, apparently, carries the nicknames “Hurricane Nia” and “Niabetes.” One of which is terrifying and calls upon the strength of one of nature’s most destructive forces, and one of which makes her sound fat. Both are meant to instill terror, so I guess that they’re just evaluating Nia in terms of diabetes’ death toll, not symptoms.
The elimination challenge is called Looper, and it takes the form of tying both contestants together with a rope. They are then each asked to run past two pegs, and try to ring a bell. Of course, the rope is short enough that they can’t both reach the bell, so they have to physically drag the other contestant to the bell and ring it. Nia has a size advantage (a potential cause of Niabetes?), so things aren’t looking too good for Cara Maria.
The elimination is ultimately painful to watch. It lasts for over an hour and a half, during which the girls barely move. Cara Maria writhes around in the sand, screaming like she’s in labor, while Nia stoically sweats and looks longingly at the bell. Everyone in the house is encouraging Cara Maria, except for Bananas who keeps telling Nia how badly Cara Maria is doing. His barbs do not serve the intended effect, pissing Cara off: “I don’t care if Bananas wants to cheer on Nia, but he starts throwing some digs my way. And you know what? It breathes life into me.” The crowd goes fucking wild, everyone is supporting Cara Maria, of course, and her most heartwarming supporter is Laurel, the woman who originally started the Cara Maria hate and who was once Cara’s Rival. “Dig your heels into the sand, get your ass back in the house Cara Maria!”
Even TJ gets in on the Cara train, saying that she would be the “last person he’d ever go against.” It’s a lie of course, because CT would use TJ’s ribs to pick his teeth, but it’s still a sweet sentiment.
With another rookie sent home, Free Agents continues to have one of the strongest pools of Challenge competitors of any season I’ve ever seen. Things promise to become even more intense and uncertain as the season progresses, and I, for one, can’t wait for next Thursday. Keep your eyes peeled for more Challenge coverage from National Ave in the next few weeks, and sound off with what you thought about this week’s episode in the comments below. If you still haven’t seen it, you can watch the full episode here.