The Challenge

Who Should Have Returned? Challengers Who Retired After: Fresh Meat, Inferno 3 & The Duel

Thanks in part to CBS All Access, I’ve been watching older seasons of The Challenge. I recently did a list assessing Challengers who retired after The Gauntlet 2. Eleven people retired after that season, but only six retired after Fresh Meat, four after The Duel, and three after The Inferno 3. So, I’m taking all thirteen retirees and consolidating them into one list.

Some of these people left the show for good reason. Other people had a lot of potential we never saw. Anyone who could have given us better content on The Challenge will rank higher on the list. The people who didn’t amount to much or gave us everything they could will rank lower.

13. Jesse Stark

Jesse Stark

Admittedly, Jesse was dealt a bad hand. He was pair with an Austin cast member and was immediately targeted. Plus, Johanna was probably the weakest of the Austin kids. That’s not to let Jesse off the hook. He showed no promise and fell into mediocracy along with Johanna.

12. Timmy Beggy

Timmy Beggy Inferno 3

It’s hard to watch a solid competitor leave, but Timmy left The Inferno 3 with such grace that it almost would have felt wrong for him to return. It seemed Timmy was at a point in his life where he wanted to do something other than Challenges. He seemed older than the rest of his cast mates, and he was, but he was only 31 on The Inferno 3. Young by today’s Challenge standards, but probably four years older than the next oldest competitor that season.

11. Cara Zavalata

Cara Zavaleta

Throughout this list, you’ll see me make the argument that people should have returned when the need for Champions became prevalent in formatting. Despite having won The Gauntlet, it seemed Cara wasn’t a very serious competitor. She was more concerned with helping Susie than winning herself. She and Susie had a funny friendship, and they were an unbreakable alliance, but we didn’t lose a great competitor when Cara didn’t return. We did, however, lose a Playboy model.

10. Theo Vonkurnatowski

Road Rules Theo Von The Challenge

It’s hard to deny Theo was a great competitor, arguably one of the best ever. It’s also hard to argue he should have returned. On Fresh Meat he lost his first elimination ever, but as the show was airing he was working on an online contest for Last Comic Standing. Theo would quickly earn more roles as a comedian, and he currently is a successful podcast host. He’s accomplished a lot, left The Challenge in his past, and it’s probably for the best.

9. Chanda Sneed

Chanda fresh meat

Chanda was a good competitor, but we didn’t see too much else from her. No doubt, she would have brought competition if she returned, but she struck me as a real athlete. Not one to get caught in the drama, and probably not amused by silly games involving a tub of oatmeal.

8. Aviv Melmed

Aviv the challenge

Undoubtedly a good competitor, it took a while for Darrell and Aviv to snag a win. Aviv helped Darrell win thanks to her puzzle-solving skills, but ultimately, she didn’t have a huge role in the season until the very end. It would have been cool to see her return on The Ruins, but I never saw her becoming a Challenge mainstay.

7. Ace Amerson

The Inferno 3 was Ace’s best performance thus far, but he still wore the title of the “DQ king.” He’s one of the nicest guys on the show, and he finally showed potential on Inferno 3. However, it doesn’t seem likely he would have ever won if he didn’t win that season. The format rewarded him for being an OK player, and that’s likely why he never saw an elimination. He wouldn’t be a pushover in an Inferno, but he wouldn’t break the Good Guys team if he went home.

6. Linette Gallo

Linette Gallo

On a season that focused more on the veterans, Linette seemed to have an interesting story arc that drove the mid-season drama. She was betrayed by her alliance, developed a romance with Theo, and became an underdog competitor. Not the loudest competitor, it seemed Linette held a lot of storylines that didn’t get a great amount of attention. I certainly think she held potential, and but her experience on Fresh Meat soured her reception of The Challenge.

5. Kina Dean

Kina Dean MTV

Kina won The Gauntlet 2, giving us a memorable underdog story. On The Duel, her performance was much less noteworthy. She rode in the middle of the majority alliance, but was ultimately eliminated by Svetlana in a Duel. If you watched Road Rules: Viewers Revenge, she we saw the fighter reemerge, proving she still has a lot of potential. However, Kina never wanted to make MTV her life and chose career and family over TJ and T-Mobile Sidekicks.

4. Svetlana Shusterman

Svetlana the duel

Before Johnny or Paula ever got to a final, there was Svetlana. The Key West alumnae who shocked The Duel by taking out Beth, Kina and Aneesa proved she had a lot of fight in her. She was super close to appearing on The Gauntlet 3, allegedly changing her mind at the airport, but never made it back on the show. As much as I’d love to see her back, I think she left the show with a great legacy that would likely be destroyed by a second appearance.

3. Johnny McBride

Johnny McBride MTV

On paper, Johnny was an amazing athlete. He performed really well and probably could have eliminated some of the toughest competitors the show has ever seen. Sadly, all of Tonya’s luggage cost him the game: literally. They pair had the heaviest Exile weight, so they lost to Wes & Casey. It seems like such a lost opportunity to never have seen Johnny return.

2. Jodi Weatherton

Jodi Weatherton MTV

The fact that Jodi never returned to the show baffled me, because she’s a solid player. Allegedly, production just stopped calling, and she had to end her career with a $150,000 paycheck. Truth is, Jodi brings good competition to the show and was basically guaranteed to get into some hookup drama. Winning the Duel was a big accomplishment, but that season was missing a lot of the great female competitors of the era such as: Rachel, Coral, Evelyn, and Veronica. It would have been great for her to return to The Ruins, Duel 2, or Gauntlet 3 to see if she could roll with the best females to ever play the game.

1. Tina Barta

Tina Barta The Duel

WHY TINA? WHY? It’s upsetting to see such a good competitor leave by punching Beth. Tina’s Challenge career was getting better by the season. She got eliminated early on The Gauntlet, made it just shy of the Battle of the Sexes 2 final, lost to the Good Guys on Inferno 2, and lost to Darrell & Aviv but beat Wes & Casey on Fresh Meat. The only place for her to go was the winner’s circle, but she settled for a punch in Beth’s face. I’ve never lose hope that we’ll see Tina again, but the odds are looking slimmer by the season.


  1. I only remember Tina…& Svetlana’s name… not her…& I’ve seen every season… Where’s original Derek?…Miss him…& Mr. Beautiful-can’t remember his real name..He ended up getting with Wes’ ex, Johanna…Those 3 together would be fun…

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