Last week's episode of The Challenge was one of its best episodes in history. Or it would have been if the ending hadn't been chopped off in what could be safely called the tease of the year, decade, and Willennium. Look, we know The Challenge has its, uh, lower-rent aspects, but its willingness to straight up deprive us of an arena showdown ranks lower than a drunken topless floozie throwing a chair and walking directly into a swimming pool. How could you do that to us, The Challenge? And it threw off the energy of this week's episode—which was also excellent, admittedly—by starting with a climax and then ending with another anti-climax. But I guess complaining about the producers' cheap tactics would be like complaining about the constant dubstep or the instantly dated slow-mo editing of the competitions. This is the beast we've chosen to love and it's probably not fair to point out its flaws now. But still. Man, what an episode.
Every season has a defining through-line drama-wise, and this season will be remembered as the Laurel vs. Cara Maria one. We saw their alleged "best friendship" splinter after a fairly innocuous conversation led to Laurel becoming enraged and telling Cara Maria to "shut the fuck up." Then they ignored each other to the extent that Laurel decided it would be a good idea to openly root against Cara Maria in the duel. Yes, this was toddler behavior, but it took me back to some of the more pointless and brutal fights I've had with friends and their rage and hurt felt really real.
Last week's episode saw Laurel half-heartedly attempt to apologize without actually apologizing and Cara Maria informing her their friendship was over. Throughout the ensuing hour Laurel had clearly been brought to her knees with guilt (especially after the remaining dudes informed her to her face that she'd been wrong and they were on Cara Maria's side). It certainly helped Cara Maria's case that she'd decided to keep playing with a broken hand (!), thus more than earning the dudes' (and our) sympathy. But then the final, too-good-to-be-true turn of events: Cara Maria was sent into the arena by a guilt-wracked Nany only to have Laurel pull the kill card. Oh boy. SO MANY emotions on the line there. If only we'd gotten to see what happened next!
We had to wait a whole week to find out how this particular friend-drama-writ-large was going to play out, but once we saw that the duel was the drywall-punching one, the writing was on the, uh, drywall. Despite her frequent willingness to be openly annoying, Cara Maria is traditionally one of The Challenge's most sympathetic challengers, perhaps even moreso because of her flaws. For example, I will never, ever forgive Tyler and Paula and Wes for pouring Pepsi over her head that one time. So I was VERY invested in seeing Cara Maria overcome her hand injury and beat Laurel. To her credit, Laurel showed more human emotion and compassion in her talking head interviews than I knew her to be capable of, and her post-victory hug and choked back "Sorry" felt so much more meaningful than a simple postgame consolation would. She was finally apologizing for their beef, and though Cara Maria wasn't totally won over (Laurel could only apologize AFTER she'd eliminated Cara Maria from the game?) she acknowledged that it was a heartfelt moment on Laurel's part. Emotional closure, guys: We got it. I could talk about this plotline all day and sometimes do.
In vaguely related news, C.T. eliminated Leroy. After that the remaining contestants were informed that they were to immediately pack their bags and board a flight to Chile! That's right, we're at that point in the season: The relocation. Next thing we knew they were all running around a rustic Chilean cabin at the base of a steaming volcano. Also this happened:
Enjoy your new desktop wallpaper!
The next day, in one of the more hilariously arbitrary challenges in Challenge history, each of the men and women were forced to draw for the inglorious duty of facing off for another quick elimination. Suddenly Laurel and Theresa were frantically putting together puzzles (Laurel won) and our beloved C.T. fell to Bananas. I'm willing to bet there was an exact moment when producers slapped their foreheads after Portland Johnny sailed into the finals while C.T. was given the boot. Ugh, bad choice, producers. Oh well.
From there the five-leg final challenge began! T.J. promised it would be "the hardest thing you are ever going to do in your entire life, I promise," and then informed them that for the first three legs they'd have to pair off with a different player of the opposite gender and for the final two legs they'd be solo. Next thing we knew Zach was grumbling about sharing a canoe with Devyn only to immediately capsize and possibly drown. That's where this week's cliffhanger left us: An undeniably unsettling image of Zach (who can't swim) screaming and trying to keep his head above the rapids.
TO BE CONTINUED
This show! I am pretty sure Zach doesn't drown. But still, must producers ruin our weeks like this? Nevermind. I'm already panicking that we only have one episode left before a many-months hiatus. THAT is the true agony.