The Challenge War of the Worlds 2 — Ep 1 Recap + Extra Thots
The much heralded 34th season of MTV’s long-running reality TV competition, The Challenge, finally premiered last night! And let me tell you, it was LIT! 🔥
Not only do we have 90 minute episodes this season (or a full hour of action-packed TV if you’re lucky enough to watch without commercials), but we have:
- the return of Laurel and Jordan (both dominant forces)
- the debut of a professional boxer (Idris) and literal bodybuilder (Jenny)
- a large-team season (the first in 16 seasons and nearly 10 years)
- the most stacked team in Challenge history (the Americans)
- many champions (Turbo, CT, Jordan, Wes, Ashley, Cara, Laurel, Zach, and honourary member Ninja)
- numerous Silver medalists (Joss, Theo, Leroy, Nany)
- other finalists / strong up-and-comers (Paulie, Tori, Kam, Georgia, Dee)
In addition to loud personalities, shameless flirts, a beautiful house, lush scenery, the inimitable TJ, and plenty of eye candy, including stripper Rogan, who is not afraid to get down and dirty.
Oh, and did I mention? Innovative twists that actually seem like good ideas that will add an extra level of strategy to the game, instead of protracted Redemption Houses, convoluted rules, and unfair advantages. But we’ll get to that.
I’ll give a recap below, with some thots sprinkled through, but obviously (hopefully) you already watched the episode — so feel free to skip down the funny / interesting / polarizing part of this article, Extra Thots.
What happened in the episode?
The show starts with the US and UK teams rolling up to the opening Challenge in army trucks. We see the Americans first and their reactions as the Brits appear. The US competitors departed before the UK ones + Reinforcements did, so while most of their shock was for show, I’m sure there were some surprises.
First daily is “Trench Warfare” — essentially hardcore capture the flag. Each person has to retrieve 2 flags from the opponent’s side and transfer them back to their own side, running through a narrow aisle and climbing over a sandbag wall along the way.
It’s speed and it’s brawn, but ultimately it’s not about who is fastest. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, so the team should focus on helping their members out and not just trying to be the first to “get it done.”
Unfortunately, experience brings expertise, and most people didn’t get this strategy. Paulie is the 1st back for Team US, just like he was the first finisher on the opening Challenge of War of the Worlds 1. He’s good.
But it ultimately comes down to the biggest girl (Laurel) vs. the smallest girl (Big T, who seemed proud to admit she hasn’t been in a gym for 12 years). Laurel blocks poor Tula from running back to her side, allowing Faith to return and clinch the win for Team US.
(Sidenote — I thought Faith was better than this, tf? Also, I expected Jenny to be a tank, since she’s a bodybuilder, but Tori knocked her down with ease. Conversely, Idris rocked Wes just like Aneesa did to Jenna on XXX, and it was a beautiful sight.)
This means the Americans got to dictate who of the Reinforcements would join their team. Obviously, they pick Ninja over Dee. Not that Dee is bad (she’s under-rated), but Ninja essentially just won the previous season, being the only woman to cross the finish line of the longest final in Challenge herstory.
Then it’s between Turbo and CT. To me, it’s an obvious choice. Similar to Ninja, Turbo was the sole winner of WotW1 and stomped the final like it was nothing. He is well-rounded and his only apparent weakness is mastery of the English language (which leads to some entertaining confessionals).
So why is it an argument? Well, Cara and Wes are both CT’s Challenge besties, having worked together before and attended his wedding. Hell, Weston was Best Man!
Ashley M also advocates for CT, likely since they struck up a friendship by winning Invasion at the same time and being on all 3 Champs vs ____ spin-offs together (along with Wes). Johnny, Zach, and Kam also acknowledge his strengths
But ultimately the arguments of Jordan, Paulie, and Josh win out, as Team US picks Turbo, thereby making them the most stacked team in Challenge history. Yes, more so than the Vets on Gauntlet 3 (who were weighed down by Casey, Katie, Beth, and especially Big Easy) and Champs on The Ruins (who had the anchors of Syrus, Ibis, and Katie again).
In comparison, the only people who have done more than 2 seasons on Team UK are Kyle and CT. Neither of whom are bad, but they don’t compare to Turbo, Jordan, Paulie, and Wes. Sure, Joss and Theo got second place and Kayleigh is under-rated, but on The Challenge, experience is king.
Plus, the only debuts this season are on Team UK: Nicole, Jenny, Big T (who turns out is actually small), Esther, Idris, and Sean. Hoping it’s not a steamrolling, but a twist might help with that.
They enter the house and get settled in. Laurel and Cara are at odds, big surprise. Nany cackles with Laurel about it. CT talks with Cara (and Paulie) about how he wasn’t chosen to join Team US, which he was looking forward to. Josh and Georgia are both empaths and then he sneaks a kiss on her. Unexpected couple #2. Oh, I forgot to mention #1, which is how Laurel finds Bear cute. Ugh, no, girl, you can do so much better.
But the pièce de résistance is the famed fight between Josh and CT. Josh is in the UK room (since they’re segregated for some reason?) with Laurel and Kyle, and CT doesn’t want him there. He tells him to get out, and Josh doesn’t. CT gets pissed and walks away, and Josh calls him an asshole, which causes Chris to return. Good on Josh, though, because he does not kowtow. They go face-to-face and it’s honestly humorous, because CT is supposed to be this Big Bad, but he is the same height and size as Josh, if not an inch shorter.
CT tries to intimidate, Josh doesn’t back down (because who would listen when someone is telling him to get out of their room? is this elementary school), production gets involved, people get hyped up, and we finally see the good ol’ Masshole back. Now look, I don’t think he came out of the confrontation looking good, but I am H E R E for angry CT again. Obviously the betrayal he felt by Wes, Cara, and his other veteran friends precipitated this meltdown, but he was PISSED and I guess decided to take it out on Josh, the perceived weakest on Team US, when he really should have hashed it out with his previous allies who seemingly didn’t try hard enough.
Anyway, hilariously, CT storms into the gym and starts doing squats while grunting/yelling. It was only like 200lbs so I’m unimpressed, but I welcome problematic angry CT back with open arms.
What else happens? Bullet mode.
- Wes strikes a deal with Joss + Rogan, aka #Jogan.
- Rogan and Dee start flirting, connect about doing pole together (but Dee just did it for fitness while Rogan is an adult entertainer), and end up in bed together. Threesome goals. And maybe a bit of polidicking? I’m about it.
- Wes starts politicking, then Johnny notices and uses one of his hackneyed jokes: “Give him enough rope and he’ll hang himself.”
- Big T and Sean were both on the Shipwrecked reboot together, which Sean apparently won. They feel excluded from the group and are seen sitting by themselves by a bush. Not a good look, when people like Jenny and Esther — who knew nobody coming onto the season — seem to be integrating fine.
- This plays out in Team UK voting Sean into elimination. Big T comes to his defense and tries to get Bear voted in, but to no avail.
- During this voting, the Tribunal that Jordan hand-picked (Team US agreed for him to be spokesperson, and he selected Laurel and Wes to join him) watch it all happen. Subsequently, they grill Sean and honestly put him through the ringer. They ask him what show he came from, and Sean explains how it involves charming strangers and competing in challenges, and he ended up winning. And the Tribunal is like, dafuq? Why aren’t you using your social graces to make yourself some allies on here? But, spoiler alert: he doesn’t.
- Johnny tells Jordan that Wes has an alliance with #Jogan, which Jordan susses out by confronting Rogan, and then he and Laurel know that Wes has formed a cross-team alliance. Typical.
- Is called the “Proving Ground.” Which is legit the worst name for an elimination arena in Challenge history. Yes, worse than the “Killing Floor” and “the Presidio.” The upside is that it looks badass.
- Wes votes in Bear (they have a rivalry from last season) and Laurel and Jordan surprise the viewer by both tossing votes at Idris, the other male debut — who happens to be the professional boxer.
- So it’s male debut vs. male debut in Pole Wrestle. Sean ain’t small, but Idris has forearm strength for days due to his athletic background. Let’s remember how Darrell murked Zach in this same elimination. It’s not quite a blowout — Sean does a LOT better than people expected — but alas, he had bad strategy / fell to the ground and lost to Idris 0–2. He didn’t have a poor showing, and it’s unfortunate he’s leaving. He was the sole LGBTQ+ member of the UK squad (that I, a queer expert, know of) — so maybe that had something to do with being voted in. Homophobia is alive and well, but ultimately, we don’t know.
- Sidenote — if the Tribunal sent Bear in, he would’ve gotten demolished. Bear lost to Gus in the same elim last season, and Sean is bigger and fiercer. It would have been HILARIOUS if this happened, since MTV allegedly paid Bear $500,000 to appear on seasons 33 and 34. Alas, that didn’t happen, and now the only queer people left are women.
- Then we find out an exciting twist. The elimination winner can decide which team to return to — they can “renounce their allegiance to their country.” Many of us have been hoping for this for literal years. It would have helped Camila and Brandon N on Cutthroat and Sarah G on Gauntlet 1. So I’m psyched about it, and it adds a whole ‘nother level of strategy. I really hope we see people use it to their advantage. It’s ballsy but could be beneficial for Wes (who has his good allies Dee and CT on Team UK, plus a bunch of rookies he can try to manipulate) or Kyle (who really fits in better with the Americans, and was not in the British Alliance last season). Like RuPaul says — I can’t WAIT to see how this turns out.
- There was another twist to note, in which people cannot be in back-to-back Tribunals. I’m also psyched about this, because we won’t have a similar situation to Vendettas, where Tony and Zach had a strangehold on the game due to the power the Tribunal had. Good job, MTV, I’m loving your changes.
Ogay, that recap turned out a lot longer than I anticipated, but I am not known for my brevity, sorry not sorry. The REAL things I can add are in this section, Extra Thots (a name which could also apply to some cast members). It’s hot takes, funny confessionals, insights about casting, and the like. Enjoy, and would love to hear why I’m wrong about all of them!
- While I am excited about the cast overall, I wish they had made some slight changes. Y’all know I’m not a fan of Leroy and see him as a wasted spot, since he doesn’t actively try to switch up his game and improve upon his weaknesses in order to actually win one. I know they cast him for the RoyLee-Kam-Theo love triangle, but that’s boring to me.
- Nelson fills a similar role (goofy and muscular Black man who excels in eliminations and physical competition but struggles with swimming, puzzles, and politics) but is actually a threat to win any season. I’d rather he were on, and Angela instead of Faith (they were on the same FR team and are interchangeable casting-wise for me), to get the Nangela + Kayleigh triangle. But mostly to have Nelly back. I miss him sorely and expected the new regulars of Nelson, Kailah, and Tony would be back this season after taking WotW1 off. Alas 💔
- I know Faith also hooked up with Kyle, so maybe MTV is hoping for a pentagon with Ashley-Faith-Kyle-Cara-Paulie. But I don’t think Faith and Ashley have beef with each other or with Kyle, so it’ll fall flat. And we had enough drawma between Kyle-Cara-Paulie last season as-is.
Anygay, some funny moments and quotes:
- TJ said Ninja is “the best climber in Challenge history.” Alton & Landon found dead ⚰️
- Laurel: “I’ve run in 4 finals, won once, and got 3 second places. Oh yeah, I’m Laurel and I’m on the US team, SUCK IT BITCH.” The Queen has returned and is back to her fierce self 👑 She won the daily for Team US, was seen wearing Rogan’s “jumper,” and is shown to have a yelling match with Cara in the preview. CAN’T. WAIT.
- Turbo about Sean, right before he goes into elimination: “He’s like a rabbit, hold like this, do do do do do do. He’s nice.” and mimed him holding a bunny in the crook of his arm 🐰 ADORABLE.
- Wes in the Tribunal, like Jordan said, was “a f*cking dick.” But it was entertaining AF and I’m so happy he’s playing the game so hard, right out the bat. Is it gonna put a target on his back? Of course. Johnny, Jordan, and Laurel are already onto him. But is it great TV? Absolutely.
- Rogan lapping up liquor out of a bowl (?) in Joss’ hand - I ship it.
- Jenny: “Everything’s real about me except these lashes. And my boobs. Oh, and…. My lips. I guess there’s a lot about me that’s fake.” Lol that self-awareness! I stan.
- Wes: “WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE, YOU CHEEKY C*NTS!” 👨🦰🗣️
- Johnny about Sean: “I have some advice for you: the next time you come on The Challenge, don’t.” Puh-LEEZE Mr. Banana. You went out first on your first season too, and it was a much worse elimination showing than Shipwrecked Sean was. You weenie.
- Paulie had cupping done before flying out to Thailand. Maybe Joss and he can bond about this, to make up for how he completely f*cked Joss out of $500,000 on Final Reckoning? One can dream.
- Dee: “I’m happy I’m with the Brits. I wouldn’t want to be on Team US, ’cause there’s nobody there I want to f*ck. They’re all old and dusty.” YES!! Bitch, tell it! The only man on Team US that’s desirable is Turbo, and I guess Paulie or Jordan. But the last 2 are booed up; Zach is an asshole; Josh is a meatball; Leroy is cute I guess (but dull); and Johnny and Wes are in their 30s. I’d MUCH rather be on the team with Joss, Rogan, Idris, and Sean! 😍
- I‘m surprised (but not THAT much, because of the ego and his prowess) that Team US allowed Jordan to be the spokesperson and call the shots. He’s been out of the game for 3 seasons, and with the big dogs like Johnny, Wes, and Zach there — I wouldn’t expect Jordan to be the one to speak without at least fighting for it. That POWER.
And that’s it for now!
No guarantees I’ll do this every week but I hope y’all had a chuckle or 2.