The Challenge: Final Reckoning isn’t dividing eliminations or teams by gender. While it’s exciting to have all team eligible for elimination each week, there’s also the question of balancing fairness within the competition. Ever since the first Inferno season, production has divided eliminations into girl/girl weeks and boy/boy weeks. This was done for two reasons: so girls couldn’t get picked off while the boys skated through the game, and to balance physical differences between males and females in the competition. Of course, this didn’t include seasons like Fresh Meat or Battle of the Exes where teams were co-ed by design, but Final Reckoning dismisses all of the previous rules and blends male/male, male/female, and female/female teams.
The first Armageddon elimination, Think Outside the Box, brought the merits of this new design into question. The most physical aspect of the competition involved retrieving pieces of the puzzle while resistance bands pull competitors back. Kam, a female, and Paulie, a male, are in this position. How is this going to be equal if a male is competing against a female?
According to Cara Maria’s interview with People Magazine, Paulie asked production prior to the elimination. This is what Cara Maria said occurred:
Paulie specifically asked production whether it would be the same bungee cord Kam and Kayleigh were given regardless of if he or Natalie ran with the cord. He was assured that it would be. Well, SUPRISE: It wasn’t. There was an equalizer.
Paulie gets TWO double-thick bands that are also SHORTER than Kam’s. Kam, with her thoroughbred legs and grit, stomps her way over to the puzzle pieces. She walks herself right over to the cage and holds herself there to help Kayleigh put together the puzzle. Paulie, who trains with bands on the regular, can barely even reach a puzzle piece due to his incredible handicap restriction. Natalie is also having a hard time just getting the pieces through the opening and putting the puzzle together.
Looking at this GIF from the episode, it’s quite clear Paulie’s bands were thicker and shorter, making the elimination way more difficult.
Likely, production overcompensated for the size and strength differences. Before I feel too bad for Paulie, I do have to question why he’s asking production about compensating for the size differences in the first place. Remember, he could have competed against Joss & Sylvia or Zach & Amanda, but Paulie & Natalie chose Kam & Kayleigh. I know Natalie has beef with Kayleigh, but self-preservation should be the biggest priority in elimination.
When Paulie asked how the competition would adjust for size/strength differences between sexes, it seems like he wants to compete against a female because she’s perceived to be weaker. He was aware of the potential for imbalances between males and females, but any doubt could have been removed if Natalie went into elimination. Instead, Paulie wanted to go in against Kam once he was told there would be no difference.
Even with that perspective, production should have been up front with Paulie, letting him know they’d try to mitigate any difference between male and female competitors. Something’s shady here. I can try to criticize Paulie, but something doesn’t seem quite right in the situation. Thoughts?