An in-depth analysis on each previous CBS reality star including their TV history, prior relationships to fellow cast members, and my predictions on how each player will fare! Welcome 🙂
When I found out CBS was doing their own version of MTV’s “The Challenge” with previous CBS reality contestants from the shows Survivor, Big Brother, Amazing Race, & Love Island… I was PISSED. My fear was the show will inevitably be more successful on CBS – a much bigger platform, and media company than MTV – and the original Challenge as we know it will cease to exist. It’s like Elvis getting credit as the creator as the King of Rock and Roll when we all know many Black musicians (Little Richard, Ike Turner, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Chuck Berry, etc.) are responsible for the genre. I don’t want CBS to get credit for the GODFATHER of reality competition shows & reality TV in general (The Real World is still recognized as a genre-creating show). Not to mention The Challenge USA has NO original MTV Challengers, who are truly what makes the show special and different from other reality shows.
This was my initial reaction BUT… once the cast list came out, I felt a new excitement for the show as a Big Brother & Survivor fan myself. We have standouts from recent seasons such as Shan Smith and Tiffany Mitchell, but we’re also we’re gifted characters who have been on our screens for over a decade – Enzo Palombo & Tyson Apostol. I’m here today to break down the cast of CBS The Challenge USA including their history on TV, pre-existing relationships, and my pre-season predictions. Let’s dive right in!
10,000 Foot Collective Cast View
First, I wanted to look at the collective cast – There are 8 players from Big Brother, Survivor, & Love Island each, and only 3 players from The Amazing Race. This eliminates the possibility of teams by show format, and we know from the trailer, it looks like players are paired in 2 person teams. I’m curious to understand why all the shows have 8 representatives besides Amazing Race… My guess is the other three shows bring more “popular” (ie. Instagram followers) characters than AR, but CBS wants to promote all these shows simultaneously and encourage viewers to watch them all. Plus, if they were focused on bringing in “physical” competitors, they would have had 8 AR, and only 3 Love Island cast members because that show is the least like a physical competition show.
To me, Survivor & Big Brother will lend themselves the best to translated success on The Challenge USA – Survivor, because of the demanding nature of their challenges as well as the nuanced, complex social play, and Big Brother partially from competitions because they do a lot surrounding memory, so I’m thinking these competitors will excel in the mental aspects of challenges. Big Brother players also have experience in social and strategic game play that’s needed on this show. Amazing Race seems very physical, but since they are not competing in the same space a lot of the time, I feel like they will have less knowledge on how to manage relationships with your competitors.
How CBS Reality Characters Fared on MTV’s The Challenge
Now… If you’re asking yourself, how did players from these shows fare of the flagship MTV Challenge… you’ve come to the right place. And can we learn anything that will indicate how players from these shows may fare on The Challenge USA? I asked myself the same thing.
Let’s start with Love Island… The following contestants have been on the MTV Challenge after first being seen on LI –
Arguably the best LI cast members on The Challenge were Georgia Harrison & Theo Campbell – Both in competition & entertainment. Both contestants were on seasons 1 & 2 of WoW, and both made it to the finals in their first season… Both also coincidentally have 4/5 elimination wins.
Georgia was paired with Hunter Bartfield the season right after Ashley stole the money from him. She quickly proved herself physically as a competitor. Small but mighty, Georgia always showed a lot of heart. She also developed an on-screen romance with fellow Brit, Bear.
Theo Campbell was paired with Cara Maria on WoW1, another Challenge icon & historically important character in Challenge cannon. Theo didn’t ride on Cara’s coattails, however, he too proved his worth as a competitor through strength and endurance, He also pulled his weight in drama, regularly stirring up arguments or intentionally pushing people’s buttons – In WoW1, he told Ashley she looked like EMINEM’S MOM, LMFAOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. Also, in WoW2, he gets into a c*ck fight with Rogan, arguing over who is tougher, smarter, and a better competitor.
Despite me gassing up these two players, they didn’t fare long or well in this game… Georgia has since been banned from the show due to a b*** face photo that resurfaced. Theo is just not relevant enough as far as I can tell, he didn’t create enough relationships or rivalries to warrant his appearance on the show again, despite his physicality.
All the other MTV Challenge LI players were one hit wonders, none truly sticking out although I have a couple caveats:
- Jeremiah White didn’t KNOW it at the time, but he had a show-mance with the future Double Agents winner, Amber… He barely spoke outside of that, although I do remember him being funny
- Priscilla Anyabu played an incredibly impressive game and was the person to finally put an end to vet alliance, efficiently ending the rookie-on-rookie eliminations in season 37 by forcing there to no longer be any rookie/rookie pairs – only vet/rookie pairs
- Gabby Allen had a FLEETING moment of romance with FESSY, but that’s not particularly unique nor interesting so she also received no callback. She was real cute doe lol so she made an impact on me ;,,,)
- Idris Virgo was the first man eliminated on WoW2, never to return, and Lauren Coogan allegedly made racist remarks to Aneesa resulting in her being entirely edited out of the show – Not a single ITM, and she leaves in the second or third episode of season 37 to be replaced by the previous woman winner on 36, Amber.
All this to say, besides a couple outliers, Love Island players traditionally have not excelled on the MTV Challenge. How did Survivor players fare?
- Jay Mitchell was targeted early for being a rookie in S35, resulting in him going into the first 3 guy eliminations. He managed to win the first two, even accomplishing the unimaginable… beating CT in a ROPE and STRENGTH challenge. Jay IMO still doesn’t get enough credit for this. He was finally eliminated by Rogan in a pole wrestle. During this season, he had a little make out session with Dee, so he really brought all the dram. He returned for Double Agents, season 36, and made good relationships notably allies with Nelly T. He also got into a childish Josh argument (caused by Josh, not Jay). To me, Jay had everything to be a great challenger – Adventurous, physical, social, and down for a hook up or fight! Why no Jay no mo?????
- Natalie Anderson – The winner of Survivor 29 and runner-up in the hardest ever season of Survivor to date, Winners at War, started her Challenge career with a BAND when she BEAT Ashley Mitchell in the first elimination premiere episode of Double Agents, an absolute SHOWDOWN – 2 time winner challenger vs. 1 almost 2 time Survivor winner, WOW. About 5 episodes in, Natalie went home for unspoken personal reasons on challenge, later revealing she had found out she was pregnant but unfortunately suffered a miscarriage.
- Michele Fitzgerald – The winner of Survivor 32 and third place finished in Winners at War made it about half way through her rookie season, Spies, Lies, & Allies. She had a fling with fellow rookie, Emmanuel, but ultimately, she didn’t make much of an impact on The Challenge
- Michaela Bradshaw – Poor Michaela… The victim of a NOTE crime in the Challenge, ie. she allegedly made a list of all the challengers she wanted out (whether this was true or not still remains to be seen), and resulted in her being the FIRST target of the season for elimination. She was the first out in season 37.
- Tommy Sheehan – Another winner of Survivor, season 39, made ABSOLUTELY no impact except on The Challenge except for that he got concussed during a water challenge and walked ashore with absolutely no pants on, lmaooooooo. Don’t worry, they covered the goods with a picture of his own face, LMFAOOO. Tommy Jr…. 😉
- Berna Canbeldek – Another fallen one-hit-wonder, Berna didn’t fare far in her OG season, but did have a brief show-mance with Nelson that definitely stirred up drama with his prior fling, none other than MISS Millionaire herself.
- Emmanuel Neagu – Emmanuel made it almost to the finals where he was taken out by Devin in a puzzle elimination… Wait, sorry, do you smell that? Smells like PRODUCER INFLUENCE, WHY’S THERE A DAMN ONLY PUZZLE CHALLENGE RIGHT BEFORE THE FINALS EXCEPT TO SERVICE UR DARLING DEVIN????
- Emy Alupei – Emy was a BEAST her rookie season, winning 4 out of FOUR eliminations, she slowly but surely gained respect from her competitors. She was seen as young and emotional in the house, but people still generally liked her. She also formed a mentorship kind of relationship with icon CT in the game, where she would often go to him for advice, calling him “Uncle CT”
- Logan Sampedro – Technically made it far in the game, but was one of the most boring people on my screen, lol. He had a brief show-mance with Big T that he cut off, then a close friendship with Josh because of their shared Hispanic roots… But ultimately, this man seems to mature and normal to make good TV, lol.
- Turabi “Turbo” Camkiran – After winning TWO back to back seasons of Survivor Turkey, Turbo joined the WoW 1 cast as a rookie and ended up WINNING. By far the most successful Survivor cast member to come over to The Challenge
Generally, Survivor players (especially on the most recent season, Spies, Lies, & Allies) are seen as an immediate threat because of the intensity & notoriety of Survivor. To me, Turbo & Jay are the most notable Survivor to Challenge Players. Turbo won his rookie season, War of the Worlds 1, and was viewed as a total beast. Jay, the most notable Survivor US player, went into the first 3 eliminations in his season, beating CT in the second. Needless to say, Survivor actually has NOT made much of an impact on The Challenge lore despite having more contestants and seemingly a more “relatable” original show.
Now the next part will be short & sweet because there’s almost nothing to really say – How do Amazing Race players fare? Mostly BAD, lmao. The one and only ever Amazing Race person, Jenn on Total Madness, was the first eliminated after being manipulated by Wes to throw herself in. Natalie Anderson & Victor Arroyo are also technically in this category; however Amazing Race was not their first show. Besides, both made negligible impact on the show.
And NOWWWW, I believe the most impactful of these 4 CBS shows on the MTV Challenge…How do BB players fare on The Challenge?
In the interest of time, I’ll just highlight the key players, but here’s the full list of past BB Challenge contestants
To me, and whether YOU like it or NOT, the most notable character on The Challenge from BB is Josh Martinez… He conjures a lot of hate for himself, but nonetheless, Challenge fans feel strongly about him. Love him or hate him, he creates great TV moments, and at the very least, gives you someone to root against. Kaycee Clark & Amber Borzotra are the only two ever BB winners (Amber – S36, Kaycee – S37, both with CT as the male champion). Everyone else provided some sparse entertainment, but generally, MTV Challenge fans view BB players as “boring”.
Another point of comparison I wanted to call out… The average age of this contestant group is 32, Survivor being the “oldest” with a group mean of 38, and Love Island being the youngest with a mean of 26. This means, on average, Survivor players are +10 years older than the Love Islanders… It will be interesting to know how that dynamic plays out.
AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST – There are SIX previous winners of their original shows on this season – Survivor brings 3 past winners: Tyson Apostol (S27), Sarah Lacina (S34), and Driebergen (S35). Love Island, Amazing Race, and Big Brother all bring one winner: Justine Nbida (LI US 2), James Wallington (S32), and Xavier Prather (S23)
And NOWWWWW, enough diddle dallying AROUND! (JK, I love history… there’s so much to learn ;,)). Let’s first dive into cast breakdown, and up first, our SURVIVORS.
Domenick Abbate – Survivor: Ghost Island S36, Runner-Up
Domenick is the runner up of the 36th season of Survivor: Ghost Island. Early in the game, he teamed up with the eventual winner, Wendell, and the 2 took control of the game. On the third night he found an immunity idol that he ended up not playing. He also employed the “Fake idol” strategy, creating a fake idol to deceive other players. Him & Wendell made it to the final 4 where Domenick won final immunity. He tried to send his closest ally home by sending him to the fire making challenge determining the third & final finalist. However, Wendell won the fire making and him & Domenick had to battle it out in the final tribal council. Both Wendell & Domenick received 5 votes from the jury, forcing the third finalist to cast the final vote for the first time in history. Wendell ultimately won the season by one vote and Domenick never was able to obtain the crown.
Although I didn’t watch this season, it’s clear Domenick is a strategic, balls-to-the-wall kind of player. And I bet he’s returning to reality competition with VENGENCE fueled by regret from his time on Survivor. I forsee him being a good player if he can form good relationships, or at least just one powerful/influential ally like he did with Wendell in his Survivor season.
Ben Driebergen – Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers S35, Winner
Ben is the winner of Survivor, season 35 “Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers”, but he’s not the typical winner. Let’s agree to be honest with each other, okay? Ben’s social game is a WRECK, and caveat, I have only seen his second season, Winners at War (S40), but he consistently doesn’t know how to act. He was self-aware of this, though – In his first season final tribal when a jury member brought it up, Ben explained he struggled due to PTSD from being a marine. Despite this, he’s a physical competitor and the definition of a “game player” – He played from the bottom of the tribe for almost his whole season, he found 3 hidden immunity idols that he played successfully at 3 consecutive tribals, AND he won his way into the final 3 by winning the fire making challenge. At the end of the season, he was able to show his aptitude for survival despite challenges and was awarded the million dollars.
He returned for season 40, “Winners at War”, 1 of 20 previous Survivor winners and placed 5th… not too shabby if I do say so myself. He again struggled with relationships in the beginning finding himself in the middle of Denise & Adam when he helped Denise find a hidden immunity idol. He managed to stay low key for the beginning to middle portion of the game, eventually aligning with Sarah & Tony in the “Cops-R-Us” alliance connecting him to them through his military experience. This alliance led to his demise when Tony allowed Sarah to vote him out in 5th place to bolster her resume. I think this is so funny that Tony “allowed” her to do this, not in a controlling man way, but in a way that it was SO clear he was running the entire game so much so that a member of their alliance was so easily cut out for their own game play.
Ben will likely struggle again with social relationships, but time has passed & people grow. And I don’t mean to come down hard on him when he is self-aware of this weakness and it’s due to mental health challenges caused by his time in the military. He will likely be a contender in physical challenges, and perhaps, will reunite with Sarah Lacina who is ALSO on the season despite her causing his exit in season 40.
Tasha Fox – Survivor: Cagayan S28 (6th Place), Survivor: Cambodia S31 (Runner Up)
Tasha placed 6th in her first season of Survivor: Cagayan S28, and was a finalist placing 2nd in her second season, Survivor: Cambodia S31 otherwise known as “Second Chances”. During Cagayan, Tasha was dealt a rough hand on the “Brain” tribe (theme of the season was brain, beauty, brawn) when their tribe was sent to the first three tribal councils, losing half of their numbers. The three remaining players, Tasha, Spencer, & Kass were able to band together and make it to the merge. However, after the merge, Kass flipped sides leaving Tasha fighting at the bottom where she pulled out three individual immunity challenge wins to take her all the way to 6th place.
For her return in season 31, “Second Chances”, she focused heavily on forming strong relationships, where she game may have lacked the first time due to natural shyness/introverted-ness. She forms strong bonds with former Cagayan “Brain” tribemate, Spencer, and new tribemate, Jeremy, who will go on to win the game. While she led a lot of the vote-outs before the merge, during final tribal (her, Spencer, & Jeremy) the jury decided to give the win to Jeremy, citing Tasha as being carried post merge.
I’m excited to see Tasha on my screen again! She is a quieter character but extremely consistent both physically & strategically. I can see her playing a good low key, floater game to at least the middle of the season or perhaps right before the finals. I also foresee once again her relationships not being as strong or long-lasting as perhaps some of the other challengers which could lead her to be targeted for an elimination near the finals, if not earlier in the game.
Sarah Lacina – Survivor: Cagayan S28 (11th Place), Survivor: Game Changers S34 (Winner), Survivor: Winners at War S40 (4th Place)
Sarah is a Survivor winner and has played 3 seasons of Survivor, her first being with Tasha on Survivor: Cagayan S28, her second & winning season, Survivor: Game Changers S34, and finally with fellow Challenge USA castmates Tyson & Ben, Winners at War S40.
In her first season, Cagayan, Sarah found herself on the “Brawn” tribe since her day job was as a police officer. Also on this initial tribe was Tony Vlachos who would go on to win that season, AND Survivor: Winners at War, becoming only the second ever two-time Survivor winner (behind Sandra, the “Survivor Queen”). Tony & Sarah quickly became an alliance when they discovered they were both cops.
The Brawn tribe naturally dominated the challenges that typically gear more physical and they both made it to the merge. Sarah found herself as the flip vote and became cocky, thinking she was entirely safe. Player’s time and time again repeat how you can never get too comfortable, and unfortunately, this was Sarah’s downfall. She was blindsided and became the 11th person voted out and first member of the jury.
Sarah returned for season 34, “Game Changers”, with a cast entirely comprised of returning players, creating a cast of more experienced and cutthroat players. Sarah was able to win this season by acquiring multiple advantages & successfully using them (“Vote Steal” & “Legacy Advantage”), orchestrating and leading many blindsides, and doing both things while successfully playing both sides of major alliances to take her to the end. The jury rewarded her as such.
Lastly, Sarah returned for her third season on Winners at War, where she reunited with Tony in their “Cops-R-Us” alliance, this time even more successful for Sarah specifically than the first. Together, they were able to use the biggest names, Tyson, Boston Rob, Parvati, as shields in the beginning of the game to make it to the Final 4 where they faced each other in the fire making challenge. Ultimately, Sarah will lose the fire making, but before she goes, she has a memorable and meaningful conversation with Jeff about how women have historically been perceived on Survivor. Her thesis was that men and women are perceived differently for doing the exact same things – If a man leads a bunch of blindsides, he’s seen as strategic and intelligent. If a woman does the same, she’s seen as conniving, not trustworthy, and a “bitch”.
That’s one of the things that’s always drawn me to reality TV… Despite the “game” producers set up for contestants to play, these are “real” people so the way they act will mirror how people act in the “real” world. If women are strong, or if they’re direct, or if they’re anything besides a submissive, passive, appeasing-the-male-gaze kind of girl, they’re seen as bitchy, or rude, or gross. Does reality TV imitate life or does life imitate reality TV?
Tyson Apostol – Survivor: Tocantins S18 (8th Place), Survivor: Heroes vs. Villians S20 (15th Place), Survivor: Blood vs. Water S27 (Winner), Survivor: Winners at War S40 (11th Place)
Tyson originally appeared on Survivor: Tocantins S18, but has since played 3 additional Survivor games – Survivor: Heroes vs. Villians S20, Survivor: Blood vs. Water S27 which he WON, and lastly Survivor: Winners at War S40.
During his original season, Tyson got a reputation as a smart-a$$ and quickly was seen in many interviews with his colorful commentary. He formed a fast bond with fellow Survivor legend, “Coach”, and the two began to dominate. He established himself as a “villain” when he would consistently poke at tribemate, Sierra. He managed to make it halfway through the game due to his alliance with Coach and his prowess in the competitions, but ultimately was voted out as he was seen as a physical threat.
He played his next season on Heroes vs. Villians, one of the most notorious seasons of all time – The first season to produce the first two-time Survivor winner, Sandra, but also containing a plethora of Survivor legends: Boston Rob, Parvarti, Cirie, Russel, and more. He was on the “villain” tribe due to his behavior on his first season, but he fell victim to Parvati and Russel and went out in 15th place.
In his third season, Blood vs. Water, he came to the show with his then girlfriend, now wife, Rachel. Rachel quickly was voted out of the game, leaving just Tyson to fend for himself. During his time in game, he found 2 immunity idols, blindsided powerhouse brothers Aras & Vytas, and eliminated former winner Tina Wesson. He went on to win the season with a 7-1-0 vote.
Lastly, he played on Winners at War where he barely ever had a chance as such a notorious Survivor player… He tried to take out Sandra, the only two time winner, but instead was blindsided by his tribe and went to the Edge of Extinction. However, his time in game did not end there. He was able to win an Edge of Extinction return challenge to bring himself back in the game. Unfortunately, this wouldn’t help him as he was swiftly voted out right after rejoining the game, ultimately leaving in 11th place.
Tyson is an absolute legend in this game… Perhaps among the top 10 best and most notorious to ever play. He also has a podcast on The Ringer Reality feed where he recaps the newest Survivor seasons, so perhaps I feel a certain revived affection for him because of that. Either way, if Tyson can somehow DOWNPLAY his notoriety and prowess for competition, PERHAPS, he can avoid being a target for elimination. And if he can’t… He’ll be able to use his physical abilities to stand a fighting chance once there. I’m OBSESSED that Tyson is back on our screens, and I can’t wait to see what he brings to The Challenge USA.
Danny McCray – Survivor S41, 6th Place
Danny’s a lesser-known name than the prior Survivor players, but he’s a former NFL footballer and played on the 41st season of Survivor – what Jeff is calling “the new era”, full of unprecedented advantages & twists.
Danny started on the blue tribe that never lost a single immunity challenge, and thus, never went to a single tribal council before the merge. Because of this, we spent little time with Danny in the beginning. Once he made the merge, he formed an alliance with fellow Challenge USA castmate, Shan, and two other Black players, Liana, & Deshawn – an alliance that alluded to an all-Black alliance (“The Cookout”, more to come here) seen earlier that summer on Big Brother. However, this alliance didn’t last as long, and Danny & Deshawn quickly turned-on Shan (we’ll get to her next 😉), leaving her to be voted out 8th and leaving Danny, Liana, & Deshawn on the bottom 3 of a 7 person tribe. This ultimately led to Danny’s downfall. At the final 6, Danny & Deshawn first tied 3-3, necessitating a revote that lead to his unanimous vote out.
He’ll most certainly be a physical competitor, and he seemed likeable enough on Survivor so I’m thinking Danny’s struggle will be making those lasting bonds that can save him in sticky situations. I’m not positive he has the strategic/social aptitude, so I foresee him making it far unless he meets his physical match or gets a puzzle elimination.
Shan Smith – Survivor S41, 8th Place
Shan is the DARLINGGGGGG of Survivor season 41, and for a long time many people thought she was getting “the winner’s edit”. Right out of the gate, viewers could tell she was strategic, intelligent, social, and the cherry on top: funny. She quickly gained control of her original green, “Ua” tribe and formed an alliance with fellow strategist, Ricard. Together the two were the only ones to survive until the merge from their original tribe of 6, manipulating the 4th and final tribe member’s exit by stealing an immunity idol she had found. Before the merge, she also convinced her tribemate, JD, to give her his advantage to “build trust”.
Post merge, she still was a clear leader within the tribe and was driving most of the decisions. Here is where she forms the alliance between herself, Liana, Danny, & Deshawn. Both Ricard and Danny start to feel threatened by her moves and perceive her as “bossy” and unable to listen to other people’s ideas. She had a hidden immunity idol that Ricard was aware of, and at final 8, he finally flipped on her. She left the game in 8th place.
Not only is she an amazing leader & strategist, but she also brings SO much entertainment to our screens. She had a beautiful, vulnerable moment with Liana pre merge when they both were sent on a special journey by their respective tribes – they talked about their moms, and Shan talked about the recent passing of her mom and how much she loved her. The two cried and helped each other and it was just really ~sad, beautiful, tragic~ as T swift would say. She also had a bit where she said if she was humming, that meant she was scheming. Throughout the rest of her tenure on the season, whenever the edit showed her “scheming” they’d overplay her humming sound. Iconic.
I simply can’t WAIT to see Shan on my screen again, and more than that, I PRAY her and Tiffany Mitchell team up since both women played similar (but different) games during their original seasons – both masterminds of most of the moves in the season, both played a great social game (up until the point where folks realized their genius & ownership of the game), and both were in MY OPINION wronged for being “strong, powerful” women, whether intentional or not. My hope is that she tweaks her game slightly – coming in with perceived humility, less outward strategizing to everyone, and overall playing the game JUST as strong, but more undercover.
Desi Williams – Survivor: Heroes vs. Hustlers vs. Healers S35, 11th Place
Desi, like Danny, is someone we’ve seen the little from. She played on the same original season as fellow Challenge USA cast member, Ben, on Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers season 35. We know at the very least there’s history there. She did win the first individual immunity post merge, but ultimately, she goes out the very next week ending in 11th place, and the second member of the jury.
David Alexander – Big Brother 21 (16th Place), Big Brother: All Stars 22 (8th Place)
David was first seen on Big Brother 21, where he was the first person evicted from the house. Ovi Kabir followed him out the door, an Asian man, which to many including myself, perpetuated the notion of people of color being the first ones voted out on Big Brother… Always for explicable “other” reasons, but there has been a pattern. And at the time, after 20 seasons, there had still never been a Black winner.
He returned for Big Brother All Stars, season 22, where he aligned with powerhouses Da’Vonne & Bayleigh, and managed to make it to 8th place & on the jury. In his time during the game, he won a “Disruptor Power” he successfully played to remove himself from the block without a veto. He played a low-key, floater game until a POV (“Power of Veto”) competition where he took $10K at the opportunity, eliminating himself from the competition and the chance to save himself from eviction, despite being on the block that week. This rubbed many of the remaining competitors the wrong way. They viewed David as not wanting to win the whole game. However, he still survived the block this week due to his alliances in the house.
Finally, he was voted out 8th by HOH (“Head of Household”) Memphis who had a very illogical irritation with David that did in fact seem like covert racism.
David is kind of just a silly guy to me, LOL, like, I remember when he took that $10K and knocked himself out of the competition and Da’Vonne was PISSSSSSSSED. She’s, like, why am I sticking my neck out to save your ass when you won’t even put in the work to save your OWN ass. So, it’ll be interesting to see how he plays this game, whether he accepts the gravitas, or if continues to take the “here for a good time, not a long time” mentality. Which I don’t judge, by the way, it helps alleviate the seriousness of the game and I feel like helps contestants embrace fun more… which is what we want to SEE.
Azah Awasum – Big Brother 23, 3rd Place
Azah played on the most recent season of Big Brother, season 23, and was part of the historic alliance, The Cookout. The Cookout was historic for multiple reasons including the first ever all Black alliance (there had not ever been more than 2 or 3 Black players in a house at one time, so this was literally never possible in the past), but also was one of the most successful alliances in BB history when they managed to make the top 6 and NOT LOSE A SINGLE PLAYER. Big alliances in the house have managed to dominate the game in the past, but not many if any (I haven’t seen all the seasons, don’t COME FOR ME) have been able to keep all their members intact along the way.
Azah herself was a BIT of a GOAT in the game (a player who everyone knows is not good ie beatable in the end, so they’re brought along as a guarantee for someone else), but a hilarious person. She would always sing songs about what she was doing in the BB house out of presumably boredom (no TV, no internet, no music, no NOTHING) and they did an entire bit making a fake album with all the different clips of songs they sang, most notably “Do what you gotta doooooo, do what you gotta doooooooo” I still sing that to myself all the time, lol, talk about lasting impact!
Azah made it to the final three with Xavier (also on this cast), and Big D ie. Derek Frazier (NOTABLY NOT ON THIS CAST, and HEEEEEEEE was the real GOAT in this situation, one of the most delusional people I’ve seen on the show for a while, LOL). In the final HOH competition, there’s always a 10-question memory challenge with all the questions based on events that happened during the season. Azah only misses ONE QUESTION AND IT’S ABOUT ONE OF HER BEST FRIENDS IN THE HOUSE…. The question was something surrounding how many times this person had been on the block (Brittany, for BB fans) and the reason I was so upset she missed it was because truly EVERY TIME it happened Brittany would SOBBBBBBB on Azah’s shoulder so I’m, like, AZAH.
My hope for Azah is that she comes into this game with a fervor to win, and that we get some BB singing action.
Alyssa Lopez – Big Brother 23, 7th Place
Alyssa also played on the most recent Big Brother, season 23, where she was the last surviving non-cookout member, ending her time in 7th place. On the show, she quickly proved herself as a strategist & a super fan. She was part of the early dominating “Kings” team, alongside eventual BB23 winner, Xavier. She also developed a show-mance early on with Christian that carried on to week 5 when he was backdoored by Derek Xiao (also on this season;,) ) Her game started to fall apart without her closest ally & show-mance – Alyssa shifted gears quickly into being aligned with Xavier and fought fervently to keep them both safe in the game. Little did she know, she was a pawn in the Cookout’s master plan (created by Tiffany Mitchell… have I really got you on the edge of your seat to read her section??? Okay good, me too. 😊 ) Each of the 6 cookout alliances members had a natural #1 ally (Xavier with Alyssa, Tiffany with Claire, Hannah with Derek X, Big D with … I guess kind of Brittany/Azah, and then Kyland with Sarah Beth) that they methodically evicted each week from the house, successfully keeping the full 6 alliance intact. SO… needless to say, it was impressive she was the last non-remaining cookout member left in the house, but ultimately, she left the house in 7th place.
Alyssa was fun on Big Brother – giving us both the game/social strategy as well as the show-mance… both are perfect attributes of a successful future challenge player… I just hope she can hold her own physically, but it does seem like she has heart. Good luck, Miss Alyssa!
Tiffany Mitchell – Big Brother 23, 6th Place & AFP
And now… the moment you’ve all been waiting for… MISS TIFFANY MITCHELLLLLLLLLLLLL. I am over the MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOON Tiffany is back on my screen. She was BUILT for reality TV – she’s super witty and quick, EVERYONE loves her ie. her social game is IMPECCABLE, and she’s a master strategist. Responsible for the creation and maintenance of “The Cookout” (how many alliances fall apart due to interpersonal issues, a LOT), AND the aforementioned “Master Plan” including using their best friends in the house outside of The Cookout as shields and pawns throughout most of the game.
The reason Tiffany Mitchell is so important is because she was the clear, clear best player on this season. Yes, you can make arguments for other players on the season’s moves, and this isn’t to say there weren’t GREAT players on this season (Hannah Chaddha, Derek X, Claire, even Alyssa), but Tiffany was just so clearly the best. One of the reasons I like BB is because of the live feeds… and not because I watch the live feeds because I don’t have the patience, I want the edited storyline, lol. But, I feel like there’s less of a disconnect between the “edited” persona of a character on the show, versus how they act… just all the time. Tiffany was someone who was consistent from the show to the feeds, and she would also often talk to the cameras when she was alone and let the audience in on her thinking. It felt like we were a part of the plotting.
When The Cookout successfully made it with all 6 members to the top 6, Tiffany was immediately targeted by Kyland & Xavier, because they said she was too bossy and dominating… Once again, a strong woman is dismissed and not credited for her moves and her success (keeping The Cookout intact!!!!), but rather seen as a snake and not to be trusted. So very tragically, Tiffany was the first of The Cookout out, placing 6th in BB23.
At times, viewers weren’t sure if Tiff would turn on The Cookout before the end in order to save her own game. But after 22 seasons of Big Brother, there still hadn’t been a Black winner. Black contestants were consistently stereotyped on the show, treated poorly or with racism from their castmates, and overall, they were not given the same opportunities to win as the white players (could be anywhere from 1-2 Black people on a season, vs. almost the entirety left being white players). Tiffany knew the mission of The Cookout was greater than her individual game and despite knowing she likely wouldn’t win if she followed The Cookout, she played for progress and representation. Despite not taking the $750K and winning title, she went out in 6th and was awarded with the “America’s Favorite Player” or AFP award. This was also historic as only one other Black person had won this before in the game’s history, and only a season before – Da’Vonne Rogers, 3 time BB player, 2 time Challenge player, overall reality TV TITAN, won the title in the 2020 season of All Stars. Tiffany was the second Black contestant to ever win. But don’t get it twisted… Yes, her historical importance to the game cannot be separated for what she’s meant to the game as a Black woman… but her importance to the game goes far beyond race. One of the most skilled players we’ve seen in a very long time – she has all aspects of play: strategic, social, physical, and the fourth intangible of uniting and leading an alliance. Not everyone can do that, and most people can’t do it as well as she did.
She symbolizes both strength and grace, knowledge & understanding, and just… FUN. One of my favorite people I’ve seen on reality TV in the past few years, I simply cannot wait for Tiffany’s return.
Enzo Palumbo – Big Brother 12 (3rd Place), Big Brother: All Stars 22 (2nd Place)
Enzo first appeared on Big Brother season 12 back in 2010 and finished 3rd. He used his likability to play a good social game, and pretty much relied on this aspect of his game to take him all the way to the end. He had no HOH wins, and only 1 veto win, but still managed to survive 3 weeks on the block. He maintained good relations for the majority of the game but used his tight 3-person alliance to one-by-one knock out the rest of the competition, successfully getting all three in the “Brigade” alliance into the final 3. Enzo overall came off as a fun, goofy character, with a Jersey twist, his most notable bit being his nickname the “Meow Meow”.
He returned for season 22 of Big Brother All Stars, this time making it all the way to the top 2. He quickly found himself apart of the dominating “Committee” alliance (one of THEE lamest alliance names in the history of this show and generally life… what an inspiring name for a group of people…. The committee? Are we planning PROMMMMMM?) and in a final two with himself and Cody Califiore (brother of Paulie Califiore) called “The Jersey Boys”, which would eventually take Enzo alllll the way to the top 2 for the season. However, at the final two, all of the jury felt that Enzo was carried by Cody throughout the season, and he didn’t end with a single vote in his favor for the $500K.
Andddd although I am excited to see Enzo on the season… the real question his appearance leaves me with is… where is CODY???? FIRST, they don’t have a SINGLE OG Challenge cast member that was also from a CBS show, ie. BIG BROTHER AND CHALLENGE CHAMP KAYCEE CLARK????, I know I’m the only person in the world who likes Kaycee but… wouldn’t at least a LITTLE continuity between shows be nice? Having someone who knows at least kind of how to deliver an authentic Challenge season? So with Cody, it seems like the PERFECT opportunity to ALLUDE to the MTV flagship Challenge show by having him, brother to Paulie Califiore, on this version of the show.
A fun little tidbit – On the finale night of BB22, they showed a facetime video of the Califiore family cheering for Cody’s win – Ma, Pa, sister, brother Paulie, and lo & behold, Ms CARA MARIA undercover in her GLASSES. You gotssss to admit that’s pretty dam cool as a Challenge fan, lol.
Enzo will be very middle of the road, very much here for a good time not a long-time vibes.
Xavier Prather – Big Brother 23, Winner
Xavier played on the most recent season of Big Brother, season 23, and was the sole survivorrrrr of The Cookout alliance, ie. He won the season. After Hannah & Tiffany were voted out of the house, Xavier and Azah were the only two left I would be happy if they won the game. I don’t want to discredit Xavier personally because although I think both Tiffany and Hannah should have won over Xavier, all 6 Cookout members were vital to the success of each other, and Xavier was a critical piece of that. He was on the dominating team “Kings”, and his main +1 was Alyssa Lopez, also on the Challenge USA cast. For the beginning of the season, he played a low key, fairly good social game… he did try to divert attention away from his true occupation of lawyer, but as the game went on, more people guessed that he was a lawyer, and by the time he finally came clean towards the end, everyone was like… yeah… we KNOW.
All in all, Xavier was crowned the winner of BB23, becoming the first ever Black US regular season winner, and the only third ever winner to unanimously win. He is medium in the entertainment department IMO, but hopefully the main point of contention will be with Alyssa who he briefly had a romantic relationship with after their season. If he’s not super vigilant and thinks he can skate by like his BB season… he could be in a world of pain… like Josh Martinez getting eliminated first on his rookie season WoW1.
Angela Rummans – Big Brother 20, 4th Place
Angela Rummans first appeared on Big Brother season 20 where she placed 4th behind winner Kaycee Clark – also as of last season, a Challenge winner – and her current partner/show-mance during the season, Tyler, who everyone thought would win the show. Angela proved herself as a true competitor during the season by winning multiple challenges to propel her dominating alliance, Level 6, to the end of the show. She also formed a show-mance with Tyler early in the season, and this show-mance successfully lead them to the end where she left the show in 4th place.
Angela, at the time of her BB season, was a fitness model, and I believe former athlete at least in high school/college. I think she could play this game well if she is able to rely on her physicality and generally maintain good/low key relations within the house.
Derek Xiao – Big Brother 23, 10th Place
Next up, Baby D!!!!!!!!!!! Derek Xiao first appeared on the 23rd season of Big Brother where he finished in 10th place. During his BB season, he quickly proved himself as both a physical competitor and a strategist. He was beloved by everyone in the house and quickly became one of the most liked people, probably right behind Tiffany. If Tiffany would have won BB23 (like she should have), then Derek would have easily won AFP.
During his HOH week, he shot himself in the foot with a move made in the game to backdoor Christian (Alyssa’s show-mance boo), but I think in another season he could have fared much better.
He also had a pseudo “show-mance” with Cookout member, Hannah Chaddha, but really, she was just using him as her plus one. Not to say they didn’t have a genuine relationship, but this show-mance seems to be mostly edited in. Because AFTER the show, Derek came out and announced him and CLAIRE from the season were dating!!! We found love in a hopeless place (The Jury House).
I’m excited to see Derek on my screen again, he’s soooo likeable, funny, and he kinda cute. 😊 Godspeed, Baby D!
Kyland Young – Big Brother 23, 4th Place
Kyland, also first appeared on Big Brother 23, and is the final member of The Cookout on The Challenge USA. Notably, the only two Cookout members absent are Big D, LMAOOOOOO (after tweeting about wanting to get on The Challenge, OPE!), and Hannah Chaddha which I wanna know why SHE wasn’t cast. She’s the youngest of the group, had a show-mance during her season, had strategy, had social game??? Where was her call?
But back to Kyland… He was perceived in the house as a bit of a know it all at times, seemingly always needing to be right. Generally, he is very friendly, and people liked him. He played a very “comp beast” game winning 3 HOHs, 3 vetoes, and survived the block FOUR times… on the fifth time he wasn’t so lucky. On his way out of the house, he got into an encounter with Xavier insulting Xavier’s ability to parent and be a role model for his nephew. Not great… I don’t mean to comment on his character because who am I to say, BUT he IS confrontational and THAT leads to good TV. He left the house in 4th place.
I like the addition of Kyland to the cast, and I’m also a bit confused if him and Tiffany are dating??? Either way, if he can translate his competition domination to The Challenge USA, he will excel. Biggest challenge for Kyland will be to tone down his confidence and try to play a more humble game. Good luck, Kyland!
Cayla Platt – Amazing Race S33, Runner-Up
Cayla played on the 33rd season of the Amazing Race and finished in 2nd place. This season was particularly funky because they started filming before COVID and had to shut down production only a few episodes in because it was March 2020 and the world was on the brink of collapse. Good times. ;,) So anyway, not all the partner teams were able to come back when they started filming again.
During her time on the season, herself & partner Raquel consistently placed in the top for their challenges which are called “Legs”, and they ended up winning 2/11. In the finale, the pair led for most of the time, but struggled in the end on a memory challenge, ultimately leaving them to finish as runner ups in the season.
Leo Temory – Amazing Race S23 (4th Place), Amazing Race S24 (4th Place), Amazing Race S31 (3rd Place)
Leo has played THREE seasons of Amazing Race, a bit of an AR all-star I’m picking up, including seasons 23, 24 – an all-star/returning competitor season, and 31. He was known for his boisterous personality.
In his first season, he played with his cousin Jamal and the two were flirtatious with another competitor group. Because of their loudness and cockiness, the team was targeted for a penalty, or what they call a “U-Turn” – where you basically have to complete additional tasks in the Leg, ie. setting you back farther than the other teams. Despite being targeted for “U-Turn” twice, the pair made it to the Final 4. However, the high stakes and pressure caused Leo to make hasty mistakes, resulting in the pair placing 4th.
For his second season AR 24, Leo learned from his past mistakes and played a more subtle, social game in efforts to avoid being targeted for “U-turns” from his competitors. He created a strong alliance with another pair that brought him through most of the game, and when he finally didn’t need them anymore, him & Jamal turned on their strongest alliance. They make it to the Final 4 AGAIN, but AGAIN hasty issues cause them to place in 4th.
In his last season, AR 31, Leo & Jamal were experienced in the game and used their propensity for deceit & theatrics to move through the game. They struggled AGAIN due to Leo’s lack of attention to detail. I feel you, Leo, I can not pay attention to a detail to save my LIFE. Because of this, they again failed to bring home the championship and finished in 3rd place.
All of this tells me that this guy is going to be “Wes-esque” in personality – an overinflated ego, confidence of someone’s who’s been on TV multiple times, and using manipulation of his other competitors to propel himself. If he’s not able to stay humble and vigilant, it seems he will likely repeat his mistakes of not slowing down to pay enough attention again. If not, the memory puzzles or any puzzles at all will likely be his downfall.
James Wallington – Amazing Race S32, Winner
James is the only winner of Amazing Race to be on the season, taking home the championship in season 32, right before the fall of the world (ie. COVID). He came in with his partner, Will, as super fans of the show and thus an extensive knowledge and understanding of the game. Him & Will ALSO used controversial but effective manipulation tactics to continually outperform their competitors. They made it to the final 3 where they captured an early lead and never lost it, resulting in their season win. At the finish, Will proposed to James who accepted. OMGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG, NEED TO WATCH NOW.
A couple more fun facts on James… Apparently, he already came from a TV background and was a producer on America’s Next Top Model where he met his then partner now husband, Will, who was on season 21 of ANTM. He also was on a show back in 2013 with his sister Rebecca called “Capture”.
It’s hard to get a read on James as a competitor… Obviously, he’s a show winner so he’s going to have an edge, but it’s just very hard for me to say if AR skills will translate well. And not to mention, I think all the AR folks have a disadvantage with only having 3 representatives from their show, with everyone else at 8. This is a classic natural divide in past challenges, and… just life. There’s been alliances built around cast members originating from The Real World vs. AYTO, etc. So, it’s hard to think there wouldn’t be the same issue here.
All this to say, James, good luck & don’t f*ck it up!!!
LAST BUT NOT LEAST, LOVE ISLAND… And baby, we’re ZIPPING through these things. I, as someone who spends more time than any other person I know watching reality TV, cannot for the LIFE of me get into Love Island. And folks, you must know I tried. I love almost ALL REALITY TV. But something about it for me… I can’t get into the characters… It doesn’t move fast enough because there’s an episode on EVERY DAY. IDK. This isn’t a Love Island shit fest because I know this show is an international phenomenon, why else would CBS bring it over to the US from the UK?
All this to say… I truly know NOTHING about these folks, and based on the show they come from, they seem to “belong” the least… So, I’m going to do a compressed intro because unfortunately, I have damn near nothing to comment on these folks. Nonetheless, let’s meet our Islanders.
Cashel Barnett & Kyra Green
Cashel was on the first US season of Love Island in 2019. Initially, he partnered up with Caro but that was quickly disrupted once Kyra joined the house. Kyra & Cashel hit it off instantly and remained a couple for the first half of the season. Kyra eventually left Cashel for another guy, and both ended up leaving the show single. They did try to reignite things after the show, but both were unfaithful, and that relationship quickly ended too
Kyra also appeared on Love Island US season 1 and as mentioned above, during her time on the show she and Cashel were together. But we already know how her story ended there… but where did it start, you ask? Well let me tell you… She was a KIDS BOP KID…. LIKE OMFGA;FHADKLSFHASKLFJDHSDKJFH. Idk why, this is the funniest, craziest thing to me. Once the kids get the taste of that Kid Bop fame, they can never shake it, LOL.
She also appeared on the elongated Pepsi Mango commercial in the form of a “reality show”, “Match Me If You Can” where she was set up on a date with Natalie Negrotti… You know, the same one we referenced earlier from Big Brother who had a brief fling with Bananas on Vendettas???? THAT Natalie.
Lastly, she also just appeared on the most recent season of Ex on The Beach that had approximately 2 viewers (one was candidly me). Anddddd, as I always do, I will stan Kyra as a queer gal, but she really is… “Dua Lipa Yes-Girl-Give-Us-Nothing” kind of vibes…
I found SOME rumors that Kyra had previously also had some sort of romantic relationship with Cely Vasquez, fellow Challenge USA cast member… But I wasn’t able to substantiate it so I’m not sure this is true… Just mere speculation.
Kyra was destined or at least she’s really trying for the reality TV fame and sustaining that for as long as she can… She was boring on Ex on The Beach but we’ll hope for more entertainment on The Challenge!
Melvin ‘Cinco’ Holland Hr & Cashay Proudfoot
Melvin first appeared on Love Island US season 3 where he formed a connected with Cashay Proudfoot, coincidentally also on this Challenge USA season (JK, obviously not coincidence, moreso PURPOSEFUL casting to put these people with past relationships together). Melvin, don’t know too much else about you, but god speed my friend.
Cashay coupled up with a few other guys after that before she was ultimately dumped from the island in 7th place, leaving day 32. Again… struggling here guys… She has dope hair though, so for now, we STAN.
Justine Ndiba & Cely Vasquez
Justine was the winner of Love Island US season 2 with Caleb, after initially being paired with a Double Agents former challenger, Jeremiah. Unfortunately… I can find almost NOTHING on Justine, but she’s a winner baby! And this is in a show where I believe the public/house votes on the final “best” couple. This tells me people like her, and she will likely have a good social game. Good luck, Justine!
Cely was also first seen on Love Island US season 2. Only fact for Cely is that she may or may not have been romantically involved with Kyra. I’m not sure of her sexuality and by no means do I mean to confirm, this is pure speculation!
Javonny Vega & Shannon St. Clair
Javonny also appeared originally on the third season of Love Island but didn’t fare quite as long, leaving the villa on the 17th day.
Anddddd as you could have guessed, Shannon also was on season 3 of Love Island US and left right before Cashay on Day 31.
AND. WITH. ALL. THIS. BEING. SAID!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HAPPY MF VIEWING OF THE CHALLENGE MY FRIENDSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS ❤
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