If we look at the history of The Challenge, we see a lot of predictable seasons. We’ve also seen a bunch of random seasons that made no sense in the context of the franchise. Perhaps the oddest seasons of all: Vendettas.
I also feel I am in the minority here, I actually loved Vendettas. I rewatched it a second time not too long ago, and I still loved it. I also recognized that there were so many elements in this season that made no sense at all.
Let’s take one moment to look at all the elements making Vendettas an odd season:
- The introduction of UK and Big Brother cast members
- The useless grenades
- The Mercenaries, which allowed an imbalance in male and females
- Nelson’s draw, then his random Purge
- The bank accounts
- The $500,000 prize, this is the only season with that much cash
- Being included in a random “trilogy”
Every season has its oddities, but Vendettas seemed to stack a bunch into one season.
What happened here? Why would production make such a convoluted season?
To understand why production would want this type of season, we probably need to look back at Dirty Thirty. That season was a spectacle that raised the stakes with a $1,000,000 prize and this huge twist in the Redemption House. Meanwhile, The Real World has been taken off of life support and production needed to find a new source of cast members. This explains the Big Brother inclusion. As we would later find out, CBS and MTV would join under the Viacom umbrella.
Regarding the UK cast members, they were supposed to be temporary additions. Apparently MTV UK was testing out a Challenge adaptation and wanted to ease their audience into the concept by including some MTV UK stars on the US show. Clearly, this never came to fruition, but it was believed to be the case.
On Dirty Thirty, promotion was multiplied. On Vendettas, the Mercenaries were introduced to generate more buzz. The Mercenaries walking into elimination would be plastered on every advertisement. Fans of the show were excited, seeing Laurel and Frank return or having champions like Darrell, Derrick, or Jordan create another elimination battle.
Vendettas is an awkward transition phase, and a period in time where The Challenge was reinventing itself. In many ways, it felt like MTV was placing a bigger investment in the show with bigger prizes, more promotion, and more variety in casting. Vendettas confirmed the value of The Challenge on MTV, but also let production know they needed new cast members if they wanted the franchise to continue.
Upon reevaluation, I think we need to leave the elements from Vendettas in the past. No more Mercenaries, grenades, or single-winner seasons. I still think this season was perfect as a stepping stone in Challenge history. It tried so many new things that it allowed production to test new concepts. Some would fizzle out while others would live on, such as the Troika/ Tribunal.
Above all, MTV invested a lot into this season. It delivered in the ratings and set the groundwork for The Challenge to become MTV’s main show. That is why this season is valuable, and it should be viewed as a fun transition in the series.