The Challenge

Have Non-Gendered Finals Ever Been Fair?

Sometimes, The Challenge tries to take gender out of the equation. When they do, has it ever been fair?

Recently, I sparked a hot debate on Twitter by asking if Zach should have won Vendettas. This is not to discredit Cara Maria, she did performed well given the format, but the format of the final clearly lacked merits in some portions.

Most often, we see finals designed to balance male and female competitors. Some seasons, like Total Madness, have two winners totally independent of each other. We also have finals like All Stars 2 that have male/female teams to offset any gender differences. Or we have finals like Double Agents where portions are separated by sex while other portions are male/female teams.

Sometimes, production tries to remove gender differences. So we’re going to look at the five finals that attempted to create “fair” competitions without balancing the sexes and see if they’re really fair. These seasons are: Battle of the Bloodlines, Vendettas, Final Reckoning, War of the Worlds, and All Stars 1.

Battle of the Bloodlines

The first time we could have seen two male or two female winners, we did see some adjustments made to benefit one sex over the other. Most notably, the women had to carry lighter sandbags on the first day than the men. When Jenna & Brianna were the first pair to finish on that day, it’s easy to get suspicious. While Cara Maria also benefitted from this, Cory & Mitch seemed to take quite the blow.

The second days was a bit more balanced. You could argue that women can’t row with the same intensity as men, but for the most part, the game was balanced.

Ultimately, this final might be fairly balanced, but I think we all knew who’d win before TJ blew the horn.


To be quite honest, this final is an utter mess and it’s hard to assign any merits. Kam should have been in the final four, but the mercenary twist hurt her (and only her), allowing Kailah to advance. Regardless, the biggest issue comes during the first stage of the final. For a Challenge with one winner, it’s awfully odd to make the majority of the final gendered. Zach completed stage one much faster than Cara, only to have a minor lead during stage two.

This season should have had two winners based on the final. At a minimum, Leroy should have advanced before Kailah because he was the fourth person to complete day one. This is not to discredit Cara Maria – she did well with the tasks she was given, but we all know Zach killed her time in stage one.

Final Reckoning

I know a lot of people dislike this final, and I know a lot of the tasks were easier, but I enjoyed this one. The final was very competitive, as each stage provided chances for individuals and teams to make progress.

There are some variables to consider here, the biggest being that we didn’t have a male/male team make it to the end. Our only female/female teams came in last, but Marie also had a sprained ankle. Ultimately, Ashley wins, but all other teams had their chances. While many people will defend Hunter, the single biggest factor determining the win was the grenade Ashley threw at Joss & Sylvia.

War of the Worlds

This final is the polar opposite of Final Reckoning. It was grueling and tough, but not as competitive. This is another case were we should have seen a male and female win.

At the end of day two, Wes is on the verge of collapsing. Meanwhile, Ninja is in pretty good shape. She could keep going, and this is the type of endurance race she excels in. Still, her effort isn’t enough. Wes gets third while Ninja gets fourth- and no money.

This race was long, and any difference between male and female abilities are fully exposed due to the distance and amount of time. Did Ninja deserve a prize? Absolutely. She was the winner for the girls, even if she left penniless.

All Stars

I did like that All Stars required finalists to switch partners through the race, though the rotation allowed luck to play a huge role. Regardless, the point system forced a more balanced leaderboard for the men and the women.

With that in mind, it’s hard to deny that Yes was a worthy winner. But the very last stage, the one worth the most points, catered to the men. I do applaud the effort to make this final fair, but some contestants (most notably Kellyanne) have expressed their frustrations with the single-winner format.

So, were any of these finals fair?

In short, no. If I had to assess them, Final Reckoning appears to be the fairest final that isn’t dictated by gender, and if that final gets the title, then we know we’re looking at an issue. All Stars is also decently fair, and it’s really hard to assess Bloodlines.

Vendettas was a hot mess overall, but War of the Worlds proved production can’t have a final that’s both straight forward and balanced. I’d like to believe it’s possible to have one winner and make it fair. After about 40 seasons, I’ve yet to see it executed correctly.

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