Was This the Worst Move in the History of MTV's The Challenge?

Question is rhetorical, because of course it was the worst move in the history of MTV's The Challenge. After Johnny Bananas was nominated to go into the arena, Jordan voluntarily flipped over all three cards just so that the could face off against his longtime enemy and then he LOST. He lost badly. This wasn't the first time somebody foolishly threw themselves on the fire in this franchise, but it happened to come after a string of episodes in which Jordan boasted of his superiority, and reality TV loves nothing more than downfall of hubris. So Jordan's downfall was both literal and expected. In the eloquent words of T.J. Lavin, Jordan "got served, bro."

Probably the most shocking aspect to Jordan's ousting was Laurel's role in it. As his girlfriend and ally, she should have discouraged him from going into the arena the second he suggested the option. In fact, as Jordan told the confessional camera, he was really hoping she'd tell him not to. But instead Laurel mused that it would be a "bad ass move" and didn't seem to take into account what a hit her alliance would take if he left. If we're being real, Laurel has never been so terrifying as this season. It's not just her physical superiority (after winning this episode's challenge she coolly informed the camera that winning was "standard"), it's her mix of dead-eyed sociopathy with seemingly random personal vendettas against people who cross her. This time she targeted Aneesa seemingly for having the audacity to try and align with her. "You're a terrible salesman," Laurel flatly informed Aneesa after Aneesa had pled her case. "It was like talking to a brick wall with a ponytail," Aneesa grumbled afterward.

The second Jonna pulled the kill card we knew Aneesa would take her out and she did. Which was a bummer because Jonna has always been one of my favorites; funny, unpredictable and actually likeable, she's a perfect Challenge castmember. Goodbye, Jonna! (But hey, congrats on that secret hookup with Isaac that we learned about in the after show!)

But the real showdown came down to Johnny Bananas and Jordan, who faced off in that one drywall-punch-climb duel thing. Because The Challenge only cycles through about four or five arena challenges a season, all the players must have immediately spotted these special walls and known what the challenge would be, but there was no indication that this was a factor in Jordan's decision to intentionally pull the kill card. So did he know that he could do well in a competition that involves punching through drywall despite his, uh, physical disadvantage? We'll never know.

Another strategic decision that was glossed over earlier in the episode was something I'd never picked up on before: If you finish in the bottom three of that week's challenge you were up for the draw and could not be nominated by the winner. Meaning if you were sure that someone was gunning for you to go into the arena, it might actually be better to throw the challenge and face the possibly reduced risk of drawing the kill card. This option could lead to some pretty interesting strategizing but so far the contestants haven't given it much lip service, on-camera at least.

Can we talk about that challenge, by the way? This franchise has seen its fair share of horrible-seeming, borderline unwatchable forms of torture (its eating challenges are particularly gruesome), but this one was a different level of nightmare. Deceptively cutesy, it was a food-themed challenge in which the players were encased in plastic wrap and had to roll through condiments, over a giant grill, and then onto a piece of bread. But the end result had them all face-planting into the sand over and over as they wheezed from paralyzed exhaustion and attempted to abstain from claustrophobia-related panic attacks. That the "salt and pepper" section of the course was just a bunch of broken sea shells seemed particularly sadistic. And now, for the rest of the week, I will be forever haunted by the site of a very upset Zach bursting out of his casing like an enraged hulk. Also the pathos-infused moment of Devyn removing her wig (named "Tamara") and cleaning tomato paste out of it as though it were part of a funeral ritual. Sometimes The Challenge is poignant as fuck.

The Challenge is truly on a roll this season what with last week's genius trivia quiz and this week's Jordan incident. It never ceases to amaze me how something like the Real World can feel less and less essential every season but The Challenge still completely brings it when it comes to drama and compelling personal narratives. Could what once felt like an inessential spin-off become the thing to supplant the flagship show? At this point I honestly wouldn't mind.

[Image via MTV]

Morning After is a new home for television discussion online, brought to you by Gawker. Follow us at @GawkerMA and read more here.