You know, The Challenge isn’t the only competition reality show out there. In fact, there are other shows with bigger fan bases, but they overanalyze the show just like Challenge fans. Perhaps the biggest fanbase goes to Survivor, who will try to predict the winner of a season based on the ways production edits the show.
In case you’re not familiar, Survivor is similar to The Challenge in the sense that the whole show is filmed prior to an episode airing. Production can build a story with the footage they’ve captured, and the know who wins the show. But, Survivor is a bit different than The Challenge in one regard. They have spoilers just like The Challenge (thanks Gamer), but the winner is determined by a jury vote. This means there have been seasons where hardcore fans don’t know the winners before CBS air the finale, they just know the finalists. The final votes are only revealed on live TV months after the cast leaves the island.
Even though they don’t know the winner for certain, production tends to give people a “winner’s edit.” Survivor fans have come to embrace the term for someone who is portrayed as generally likable, logical, demonstrates an ability to play a social game, and usually strong in competitions. There’s one other factor, perhaps the X factor in the “winner’s edit.” These people usually have random clips inserted into the show that seemingly have no purpose in the storyline of a given episode. For example, if Joseph doing 1,000 side crunches was randomly featured in episode 2, he might be receiving a “winner’s edit.” Just, he was eliminated in episode 2, so this clip serve the purpose of making him look quirky and disconnected from the long-term strategy of the game.
Long story short, the “winner’s edit” is part of The Challenge, but it can be harder to spot. We seldom have the opportunity to judge someone on their position in a single season because most people have multiple Challenge appearances. On Double Agents, 33% of the cast is rookies. It seems possible that someone could be getting a winner’s edit right under our noses.
Fair warning, this post contains no spoilers, but holds some pretty heavy implications.
In hindsight, it seems like Johnny Bananas had an obvious winner’s edit on Total Madness. He made a game plan to work with Wes and the two even shared confessionals. He was in multiple tribunals and made some good plays on the season. We also saw a humanizing element to him where he buried past dramas, especially when he gave praise to people like Nelson and Cory. But as the season aired, this edit wasn’t wildly suspicious. Bananas has always been central to the show. Win or lose, he’ll get camera time.
The best example of a “winner’s edit” would have to go to Turbo on War of the Worlds. He entered the game as a dark horse, but quickly became a fan favorite because of his respect for Nany and his dedication to performing well. As the season progressed, we see him take the moral high ground and assist Georgia in elimination because he wanted to create an environment where competition was the most important element. We also saw some seemingly random clips such as his respect for the medics who gave him oxygen, a montage of his love for milk, and him preparing for the eating competition in the final (it never came). In the end, Turbo wins and everyone is excited. He was such a nice guy with just genuine interest in the game.
Flash forward to War of the Worlds 2. Turbo is argumentative, stubborn, flying off the rails, and eliminated due to his temper. Even if we ignore his argument with Jordan, he wasn’t a good competitor. He was a slow swimmer and sat in the background while his teammates figured out the puzzles. This was a loser’s edit, though production probably gave him a bad edit because they knew he DQed from the game.
When competitors are new to the game, it’s easier to see how production is trying to manipulate their story line. This brings us to Double Agents, where two new competitors are getting a great edit: Nam and Lolo.
Lolo is being praised as a beast, and while she’s an Olympian, she didn’t win the first Challenge and was eliminated with Nam fairly quickly on the second challenge. If you isolate their appearances to The Challenge, neither is worthy of immense praise yet. However, they both received a good amount of attention in the second episode.
Even if Lolo isn’t a winner this season, the motive to put her in the spotlight is fairly obvious. She’s a big name on the show and she was likely a big investment by production. On the other hand, Nam isn’t a huge investment by the show. He’s relatively unknown, but he’s being edited to look like a dark horse. Production focused on him discussing his puzzle strengths and then we have a moment where Jay praised him. Later, we had the whole house gawking at him for being a physical specimen.
It’s too early to say for sure, but the focus on Nam thus far is consistent with a winner’s edit. We are being told he’s great, despite the fact that’s only been mediocre in the first two challenges.
As we see more rookies on the show, especially rookies who do not have a history on MTV, the “winner’s edit” is becoming more important to understanding The Challenge. When the show was a continuation of The Real World, Road Rules, or even Are You the One?, MTV viewed The Challenge as a continuation of storylines from contestants’ origin shows. Now that we are getting people from all over the place, rookies could win The Challenge and production is going to build a narrative around their winning story.
To be clear, it’s too early to say Nam or Lolo are getting a winner’s edit on Double Agents. I don’t know what their story will entail, but there’s certainly no reason to believe they couldn’t win. Regardless, you can tell they will be important this season. Someone who fades off the show in a couple of week seldom gets to be the focus of an incomplete storyline in an episode. Someone with staying power is worthy of being included in the final edit.