This week on The Challenge: World Championship, Jordan said competition gets him out of bed. Because clearly, cheating doesn’t cause him to lose any sleep.
The Challenge has been on for 50 seasons (including all the spinoffs), but recently, some competitors have been relying less on strength and more on relationships.
On Ride or Dies, we saw people like Turbo, Tamara, Jay, and Michele go home early because the audience helped their opponents during eliminations. Then, on the World Championship, we saw Tori give Jordan very clear clues during Lock, Stack & Barrel (telling him to pay attention to details when picking up the frowning sun). When Bananas discovered his allies weren’t funneling answers to him, he was upset.
Three years ago, on Total Madness, Bananas wasn’t singing the same tune when Wes helped Dee during the Code Breaker Purgatory, but now, it’s common to see people chiming in during eliminations.
On the most recent episode of the World Championship, some teams were allegedly given the correct answer by their allies during the Points Break challenge. You see evidence of this when Tori says “try 16” without actually studying the puzzle.
We also saw Kailah steal answers from Nia during Wall of Fame on All Stars 3, and Nia went to elimination because of that. Clearly, production distanced podiums and gave players blinders to avoid cheating… but it didn’t stop Kailah.
I’m not blind to the fact that The Challenge is a reality show and not a real sport, but on a season where terms like “MVP” and “World Champion” are being used, it’s discouraging for production to allow the outcome to be based on anything but merit. It’s also odd that the show is selective when they penalize competitors for non-competitive gameplay like the people who didn’t try during Flag Down on Total Madness and Aerial Takedown on Double Agents. Yet players who win after being fed answers are celebrated.
When I look at the history of The Challenge, it has its fair share of poor judgment calls and questionable rules, but let’s give production some credit. When fans are annoyed by boring television, they have taken action — like implementing the skull twist on Total Madness after two-thirds of the finalists on War of the Worlds 2 avoided elimination.
If we’re being honest, I don’t think the show is currently being ruined by non-competitive gameplay, and I don’t think it’s been terribly disruptive to the merit of the show. But, I see the show moving in a bad direction quickly. I think it’s time to have stricter communication regulations and prevent direct, actionable guidance during elimination (but claps, cheers, and boos should still be allowed).
If we look at recent seasons, the people who have gotten to the end are also the ones benefitting from the relaxed rules. You can say “social game is part of the game,” and it’s true. But that should be reserved for voting, not for eliminations.
I hope that we see changes in the future because it’s boring to see the same people advance on the franchise by sharing answers. But who knows? Maybe the Challenge gods want those people to have good fortune.