Challenge: Final Reckoning

Did Production Manipulate Paulie During Elimination?

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?


  1. Paulie totally got screwed! I just watched it now and came online looking to see if I could find anything about it because it was extremely obvious that they overcompensated Paulies bands. Totally unfair. Two bands and half as long? A bit extreme! MTV shafted Paulie and makes it look like the whole show is staged.

  2. I just watched it and looked this up because I thought it definitely seemed off. Kam could stand there up right next to the cage with a light tension in her rope. At the same time paulie couldn’t get within 3 feet of the cage. She is a big female but she isn’t that damn strong… I get that your saying that they chose women to go up against but he said he wanted to take a guy out but natalie said she wanted them. It’s about making it to the end though and winning money. If the challenges don’t have handicaps with male/male vs female/female the elimination shouldn’t.

  3. I just watched this elimination again (currently rewatching old seasons), and had to look this up as it is obvi. production over compensated Paulie’s ability. I understand the reason of equalizers, it can make the game more fair, but these equalizers must be done CORRECTLY!
    Paulie totally got screwed. You can clearly see Paulie had 4 bands attached to him, while Kam only had 2. It’s is also obvious that Kam’s bands were much longer than Paulie’s. Now, I understand that production wants to invest in Kam as she is “queen killa Kam” and it’s Paulie’s first season, but they made it wayyyy too obvi. they wanted Kam to win. I’m down for equalizers if it makes things fair, but they need to be fully tested prior to the elimination or extremely unfair results may occur, which is what happened here.

    1. I also want to point out that putting 4 bands on Paulie, compared to Kam’s 2 is unfair as Paulie can’t weigh that much more than Kam. They are the same height (if Kam is not 1 or 2 inches taller), and she has very strong legs. Paulie may weigh 20 to 30 pounds more to her, but that’s the absolute MAX! He had more than double the tension. They set it up like he was as built as CT, Brad, or someone that size. Everyone knows that Paulie is one of the shortest, if not the shortest, guys in the house. He should have had 1 more rope, and the ropes should have been the same size.

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