The Challenge: Free Agents episode 4 recap
What an episode.
This week’s episode of The Challenge: Free Agents opened with a comparatively rare scene: a party that I would actually like to go to. Obviously there is no shortage of shameless debauchery on this show, but the fact that most drinking events turn into roid-rage fueled high school feuds puts a definite limit on the amount of “fun” that these parties produce. No such problems this time. The cast has a pool party and everyone appears to be having a good time, although as Latoya says, “With the game being free agents, everybody that you call your friends are really not your friends, and deep down inside they’re actually gunning for you.” Betrayal looms large this season, and even manages to cast a shadow over an idyllic pool party.
Aneesa also finds a way to not enjoy the pool party, although her grievance has less to do with the constant threat of finding a knife in her back and more to do with the fact that she is unreasonably upset by Laurel and Jordan’s budding relationship: “Oh god. Jordan and Laurel. Two fucking peas in a pod. Two of the most overachieving, showboating, I’m BETTER than you people… It’s like they’re dating themselves.” Honestly, Aneesa’s criticisms would hold more ground if she wasn’t clearly a worse competitor than both Laurel and Jordan. She’s skated through the past few seasons of The Challenge solely on reputation and seniority. Stirring the pot is a risky move for her; no matter how much dust she manages to kick up, it’s not going to change the fact that she’s old as dirt and realistically can’t compete against most of the other top competitors.
But this isn’t The Real World. We aren’t here JUST to waste time with the contestants’ house drama; there are challenges to be won, and this episode does not disappoint in that regard. This week’s challenge is called “BounceOut,” and it’s awesome to watch. Basically, contestants are put inside giant bubbles on a beach with goals on either side. They then split each team into two groups, and pick one member from each group to be the ball, whose job is to try and get inside the opponent’s goal first. Everyone who is not the ball can either block for the ball, or defend their own goal. It’s an aggressive, physical challenge where a lot of competitors should have a chance to shine. Here are the teams:
Captain 1: Johnny Bananas
Captain 2: Cara Maria
During the first round, Bananas plays as a ball, and Zach plays as the ball for Cara Maria’s team. Zach is a giant, so he’s clearly a force to be reckoned with in this challenge. However, he and his team somehow decide that the best strategy is for Zach to barrel towards the opponent’s goal pretty much all on his lonesome. This allows most of the other team to intercept him and delay him. Meanwhile, Bananas implements the revolutionary strategy of avoiding conflict when he can help it, and sneaks around most of the enemy team. He then knocks down Aneesa and Cara Maria and scores a goal. Boom. One point for Red Team.
The second round has the red team fielding Jordan as their ball, and the yellow team fielding Isaac. This is a slower, more grinding round, but ultimately just as one-sided. Isaac falls down, gets pinned by the girls, can’t push himself up, and basically gets locked down in the middle of the beach. Meanwhile, Jordan puts himself closer to the goal, but is unable to overcome the last line of defenders which are keeping him just outside of scoring range. In an underdog moment worthy of a sports blockbuster, Preston disengages from the Isaac pile-on, runs to Jordan, and pushes him through to the goal. He’s a playmaker, and Red Team is now up by two.
Okay, the Challenge is best of five, and the red team is up by two, which means that every round is make-or-break for both teams. Zach is the yellow team’s ball again, and this time the yellow defenders are prepared for Bananas subterfuge. Zach is able to successfully leverage his strength and size to fight through the bulk of the red team and score Yellow’s first goal.
Round four begins and the Yellow Team must regrettably rely on Isaac as the ball once again. This round plays out pretty much identically to the second round. Isaac gets pinned, and Jordan is close to the goal but can’t push in. Hell, Preston even intervenes once again to push Jordan into the goal. It’s an exact repeat, which means that red scores its third goal and takes the challenge victory.
Oh, also TJ Lavin gets pumped by some of the contestants. As a former professional BMXer who has suffered permanent nerve damage, he seems pretty unperturbed. Way to play it up in the trailers, MTV.
The political ramifications of the challenge are myriad. First, Isaac is basically blacklisted by everyone on the Yellow Team. There’s no doubt that his piss poor performance contributed to their loss. Expect to see him getting picked closer to the end in future challenges. Secondly, Preston enjoys a bit of prestige. Swift (among others) declares him “MVP” and we’re even treated to a nice clip of when Preston knocked Leroy down. At 6’7”, Preston could actually be a decent challenge competitor if he managed to bulk up a little bit. But at this point, even his “MVP” performances are really instances of him not letting the team down, as opposed to actually doing anything spectacular. Still, good to see a nice guy do okay.
The other political disturbance is focused within the winning teams voting deliberations. After telling her team that she doesn’t want anyone to share this news, Laurel announces that she would like to send Aneesa into elimination. Jessica immediately goes and tells Aneesa the news, kicking off a shit storm that dominates most of the rest of the episode.
Aneesa claims that its too early to throw her in because she has the “most experience,” and it is true that she used to enjoy the title of “elimination queen.” But in recent seasons Aneesa has really failed to do anything impressive, and I think it’s easy to tell how scared she is by the prospect of going into elimination. Unless she gets a challenge where her size can be a huge asset, it’s likely Aneesa will be sent home by almost any of the remaining competitors (she could probably take out Jessica, though.) Driven by fear, Aneesa immediately confronts Jordan who basically pleads the fifth and claims to know nothing.
Now Jordan knows that Jessica told Aneesa the piece of information that Laurel specifically told her not to share, and decides that the best time to confront her is in front of the rest of the team while they deliberate about who to vote in. This idea is sound in practice, however, the execution is flawed. Jordan first off fails to bring up the real issue — Jessica snitching — and instead decides to bring up her weak performance, saying that she has been “carried” through the competition. Now, this allegation is mostly true. We only have to look back ten minutes and remember Jessica declaring her strategy during BounceOut was to “stay alive” to realize that she’s not exactly moving mountains in these team challenges. However, in the first episode, she did manage to cross a beam that Jordan fell off of, giving her a direct instance of a time when she outperformed him. Jessica deems Jordan “inadequate,” a word that derives extra power because she pronounces like it is the first time those syllables have ever passed her lips. Despite the fact that Jordan puts forward a terrible case, most of his team seems to agree that Jessica is dead weight.
We’re then on to the voting, which turns out to be the most exciting, closest vote I’ve ever seen on The Challenge. After cajoling several other people right until the moment TJ walks into the room, Laurel manages to secure 4 votes for Aneesa. Aneesa calls her out, terror etched into the lines of her face, and demands an answer. She then refuses to listen to the answer, gets angry at Laurel for politicking in a challenge, and generally acts exactly like the rookie she isn’t. Luckily for Aneesa, another sizable portion of the winning team (including Laurel’s boytoy, Jordan) is determined to vote Latoya in, and the third faction of Jonna, Jessica, and Nany are trying to avoid making enemies so they try to burn their votes voting Jasmine in. This ultimately leads to Laytoya and Aneesa being tied with 4 votes, so they hold a runoff vote. Pretty much everyone sticks to their guns, and it comes down to CT to break the split, and so he votes for his initial pick of Latoya. Whew. Exciting stuff.
Aneesa is overjoyed that she might possibly live to fight another day, and celebrates the failure of Laurel’s attempt to run the game. She doesn’t have too much time to celebrate, though, because we move right into the boys’ vote, which is almost as close as the girls, with 4 votes for Brandon, 3 votes for Isaac, 2 votes for Leroy, 1 for Cohutta, and 1 for Zach. Still, there’s no runoff there. Majority rules and Brandon is sent into the elimination round.
Latoya does not cope well with being voted in, and returns to her insane, super angry-self, screaming at Jordan. It’s entertaining to watch Latoya explode, but at the same time, she got voted in because she isn’t a very strong competitor. She sent Jemmye home in an elimination round, which isn’t really an amazing feat, and other than that she’s consistently let her team down. Laurel tries to intercede on Jordan’s behalf and get people to stop screaming at him, but her intended audience of Jessica and Latoya are unyielding in their hatred.
Onward to the elimination challenge! The draw determines that Brandon will be facing Zach (ouch) and Latoya will be facing Cara Maria (making this her second elimination round in a row). The elimination challenge tonight is cryptically named “Oppenheimer.” This scientific mystique of this name is not found within the actual challenge, which involves running around a ring of wooden slats and chicken wire and trying to ring a bell on the other side. The conflict comes from the fact that the corridor is narrow enough that you pretty have to knock over your opponent to get to the bell on the other side. It’s a slight revision of a challenge classic – a classic that Zach has never lost.
The girls’ round is first, and is disappointing. During the first point Latoya demonstrates a level of coordination similar to a toddler, has a spaz attack, falls down, and gets vaulted by Cara Maria who scores an easy first point. The second point isn’t much better. The girls avoid hitting each other, and Cara Maria is a faster runner so she once again scores an easy point. Go home Latoya.
The boys round is more fun to watch, but equally one sided. During the first point of the boys round Brandon makes the mistake of trying to shoulder check Zach. Zach responds by not giving a shit, knocking Brandon down, and scoring his first point. The second point is a little stronger for Brandon, and he tries a juke and gets around Zach. Unfortunately, Zach is big and fast, so he scores that point too. Both elimination rounds are open and shut.
The end of the episode finds CT and Aneesa talking about Jordan and Laurel. They celebrate the fact that “their” power move was a failure. This begs the question, has anyone been paying attention at all? Jordan and Laurel voted for different people, and just because they’re fucking doesn’t mean they’re engaged in conspiracy. I understand their motivations — CT wants to get rid of Jordan because he’s a good competitor, and Aneesa knows that Laurel is gunning for her — but still, they’re decrying an enemy that doesn’t exist.
So, there you have it. The fourth episode of The Challenge: Free Agents. The show continued its streak of eliminating less interesting competitors, and looks like it’s only picking up velocity as it moves forward. You can watch the full episode here.