The Challenge

Cutthroat: One of the Best or Worst Seasons?

In The Challenge world, season 30 was a spectacle. It was a marking of the show’s success and a sign of its longevity. Just ten seasons earlier, when the show hit seasons twenty, the milestone was ignored.

Season 20 gave us the theme “Cutthroat.” It was a unique theme, and one that’s beloved by many longterm fans. Despite the lasting impact, the season was somewhat of a downturn for the show. Ratings weren’t stellar and it ushered in a new era a Challengers.

If you were watching The Challenge in 2010, you probably thought Cutthroat has a weak cast. At the time, the strongest active competitors were regarded to be people like Kenny, Wes, Evan, CT, Evelyn, Rachel, or Susie. Think of the captains on the Spring Break Challenge, those were considered to be the badasses of the franchise. Most of the strong competitors were absent from Cutthroat. We did have Derrick, Abe, Brad, Bananas, Paula, and Jenn. These people were considered strong, but they were not considered top-tier at the time (perhaps with the exception of Derrick).

Cutthroat MTV Cara Maria

What Cutthroat lacked in veterans they replaced with rookies. If you looked at the cast in 2020, you’d probably think it was pretty badass. If you were present for the cast reveal in 2010, you probably remember asking yourself “WTF was MTV thinking?” Only two debuts from the most recent Real World (DC), SEVEN people from Fresh Meat 2, a random chick from the Spring Break Challenge, three debuts from Cancun, and a debut from Brooklyn. Add in Dan and Chet, the two other rookies, and we had 16 out of 30 rookies on the season. Then, the veterans were missing a lot of big names. This season was a hard sell for the time.

In many ways, the increase in rookies was one of the greatest things about the season. We didn’t realize it in 2010, but this is the season where we had Laurel, Cara Maria, Camila, and Emily all competing under one roof. Add in Sarah, Paula, and Tori and there was a lot of potential under one roof. All of these girls would go one to be multi-season champs, but at the time Tori was the only one with a win. Meanwhile, the men’s side was a little less competitive. Bananas, Abe, and Derrick already had multiple wins, but only Tyler and Bananas would go on to win after this season.

Of course, the most unique thing about Cutthroat was the format. It started out really weak because the slowest girls got to pick the teams. After that, the format was one of the best. It was a more competitive team format, something we need in today’s Challenge climate. While each challenge was worth $20,000, there wasn’t a strong need for the daily challenges to have a monetary prize. Because the winning team gained immunity, there was always a motive to compete. On War of the Worlds 2 teams could throw missions, making the daily challenge moot. With a three team format, even if one team decides to throw the challenge, the other two will compete for immunity.

The secret vote also worked really well on this season, and this is likely because the cast had so many rookies. People could throw curve balls during the vote and the rest of the team could only speculate. When the cast is pure veterans, people have established relationships and trust their allies more. When competitors had to deal with the randomness of sixteen rookies, there was potential for things to go awry.

The three team format also gave us some really unique competitions. Riot and Bottleneck Stampede were unique uses of the teams. There were some dud challenges, like High Ball or Gas Problems, but overall the competitions were slightly above average. Although there was that Swat elimination that was a complete disaster, but other than that everything at least tried to be good.

Looking back, Cutthroat is one of the best seasons. It was very fresh and had a unique format and I really appreciate the fact that production tried to do something that felt different. Of course, I was very invested in The Challenge in 2010 and I remember the cast reveal for this season. There were a lot of reasons for fans to turn their noses at Cutthroat, but when the season aired there were more reasons to embrace all the changes.

While I acknowledge that we’ll never have a formal “Cutthroat 2,” I do hope that we can see Cutthroat’s spiritual predecessor. This would likely be a three team format, but I doubt we’ll ever see random teams again. Still, I think this would adapt well in the modern era of The Challenge. It’s competitive and will have fewer winners than a two team format.

Despite all of the greatness on Cutthroat, it will mostly just be remember for one thing, and we all know what that is.

Johnny Bananas Backpack


  1. Imagine if it was Real World vs Road Rules vs Fresh Meat!!! I like the old challenges way better when the rules and structure of the show were clear cut, but since Free Agents it’s been a complete cluster fux.

    1. Agreed. I also really liked the secret votes. The alliances ruin the competition for me. I want the best competitors to win. Not who has the most people in their alliance.

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