Everyone’s favorite MTV competition show is back when The Challenge premieres its 36th season, subtitled “Double Agents.”
This year, there are 30 men and women competing for the coveted $1 million prize, putting it all on the line every week. In the description for the premiere, MTV teases, “Following The Challenge: Total Madness, which scored the highest-rated season in eight years, The Challenge: Double Agents returns to a partner format with 19 action-packed episodes. Filmed entirely in Iceland, the frigid Arctic Island sets the scene for this espionage thriller featuring 30 of the strongest reality titans from around the globe, who are forced to outsmart each other in a game of secrets, spies, and lies for their share of one million dollars.”
The cast includes Amber Borzotra, Amber Martinez, Aneesa Ferreira, Ashley Mitchell, Gabriella “Gabby” Allen, Kaycee Clark, Lolo Jones, Malkamito “Kam” Willaims, Natalie Anderson, Nicole Zanatta, Nany Gonzalez, Olivia “Liv” Jawando, Theresa Jones, Tula “Big T” Fazakerley, Tori Deal, Chris “CT” Tamburello, Cory Wharton, Darrell Taylor, Demetrius “Mechie” Harris, Devin Walker, Faysal “Fessy” Shafaat, Joseph Allen, Josh Martinez, Jay Starrett, Leroy Garrett, Kyle Christie, Lionel “Lio Rush” Green, Nam Vo, Nelson Thomas, and Wes Bergmann. It’s a great mix of veteran players and rookies.
Follow along here with our live recap but be warned of elimination spoilers. Don’t keep reading if you don’t want to be spoiled. All times Eastern.
8:00 — After an opening showcasing the gorgeous scenery in Iceland, the 30 Challengers arrive. Cory Wharton marvels at the big names they have this season — Olympian Lolo Jones, Survivor winner Natalie Anderson. Yeah, those ladies don’t mess around. Ost TJ Lavin arrives looking like a Bond villain. Nam Vo observes, “I think this guy means danger.” LOL.
After he talks about the million-dollar prize, Kam Williams hilariously says, “I want my bank account looking like a phone number by the end of this season.”
8:05 — We jump right into the first challenge. “Mission Decryption.” They must find a capsule on a volcanic mound, memorize a code and then duplicate on their station to detonate a smoke bomb. It’s a no-holds-barred fight for the capsule, so it’s being done in mens and womens heats. Right out of the gate, Jones gets up the hill like the gazelle that she is, but Tori Deal comes in and snatches the capsule, then it’s just a wrestling match. It comes out during the challenge that Kam and Leroy Garrett are serious, they’re moving in together. Awww.
8:10 — In the end, after several ladies making incorrect guesses — with CT Tamburello providing hilarious commentary from the sidelines — Aneesa Ferreira pulls out a win! Good for her. If there’s anyone it would be cool to see win a season before they retire, it’d be her.
8:20 — The men’s heat is a total dogpile… and then CT winds up with someone’s shoe and he blindly pitches it behind him, not knowing Wes Bergmann is back there and absolutely nails Wes straight in the face, laying him out. Everyone is dying with laughter, including host TJ Lavin. It’s amazing. The girls are screaming! Wes goes, “I’m glad you guys are all getting a good little chuckle out of it. I’m sure I’m going to be a GIF for the next 10 years of my life.” YOu got that right, buddy.
8:25 — Fessy Shafaat ends up winning for the men, so it’s Fessy and Aneesa as the winners. This is where Lavin reveals “Double Agents” means they’re playing in pairs. Aneesa is the overall winner by over a minute, so she gets to have first choice on her partner. She picks Fessy and he privately says he’s disappointed by that because a lot of these challenges require endurance. Oh, c’mon, Fessy. Aneesa is great. Suck it up.
8:30 — Now the rest of them are told to pair off right there, ASAP. They all look around sort of godsmacked, but then the partners end up being Tori Deal and Cory Wharton, Jay Starrett and Theresa Jones, Nany Gonzalez and Kyle Christie, Devin Walker-Molaghan and Nicole Zanatta, Wes Bergmann and Natalie Anderson, Darrell Taylor and Amber Borzotra, Gabby Allen and Lio Rush, Josh Martinez and Kam Williams, Leroy Garrett and Kaycee Clark, Ashley Mitchell and CT Tamburello, Joseph Allen and Tula “Big T” Fazakerley, Lolo Jones and Nam Vo, Amber Martinez and Nelson Thomas, and Demetrius “Mechie” Harris, and Olivia “Liv” Jawando.
8:32 — The crazy thing is that Kam tries to get CT to partner with her and he rejects her. Hoo, boy. That was not very nice. And now Kam is targeting Ashley and CT big time.
Another crazy thing is that Lolo and Nam have trouble finding partners. Um, she’s a world champion athlete and he competed on The Ultimate Beastmaster, so that’s maybe a dangerous pair to let stand, but it’s probably because nobody knows them very well.
8:35 — The contestants are now told that they will be voting on who to send to elimination. They can’t vote for Fessy and Aneesa, and the votes are held in secret. Oooh! Then Fessy and Aneesa get to choose who competes against the house-voted people. The winner of the elimination gets a Gold Skull, just like last season, but this year, there are only 10 skulls available and if you get a skull, “you’re gonna have to hold onto it,” says Lavin. What does that mean? Can you steal a skull this year? Or does that just mean if you already have a skull, you better avoid elimination because people will be gunning to get you out?
8:45 — They head out to the club. In case you’re wondering how this all worked, the show built them a club so that they would not be out and about in Iceland. Also, the COVID testing was intense — they went through about 3000 tests over the course of filming.
Anyway, it warms our little Big Brother-loving hearts to see Kaycee approach Amber B about a BB alliance with Josh and Fessy. Kaycee informs her that Wes is their enemy, so it’s a shame that Natalie from Survivor aligned with him.
8:50 — The next morning, a bunch of the women talk to Kam about how they always have to be strong and it gets so exhausting all the time. Kam and Aneesa really bond, and later, Kam brings up to her that she thinks they should target former winners, like Ashley and CT. CT knows something is up and he’s going around trying to suss out who is saying his name.
8:55 — Before the secret votes, CT makes a case to take the easy way out and vote for Lio Rush and Gabby Allen, who are rookies and seem very small and weak. But Kam doesn’t like CT intimidating people into who to vote for. I don’t really think he’s doing that, but she’s not wrong about targeting winners. That’s just good strategy. Why are people always targeting rookies every season?
9:00 — The “Double Agents,” aka Fessy and Aneesa, get to go into the voting chamber and find out who got voted into elimination — Ashley and CT. They also get to see who voted for them. It’s 22 out of 28 people. Since Ashley and CT didn’t vote for themselves, that means only four people voted with them to send Lio and Gabby into elimination: Wes, Natalie, Devin, and Big T.
It’s super interesting that Devin/Nicole did not vote together and Big T/Joseph did not vote together. Aneesa and Fessy are super excited to have this information, but they are not going to spill the beans right away to the house.
9:05 — Elimination time. The arena is in this insane glacier crater thing, it’s absolutely beautiful. First, TJ informs them that CT and Ashley are in the first elimination — Ashley is pissed, she says this is the dumbest gameplay. Actually, it’s pretty smart.
9:15 — Aneesa and Fessy vote Wes and Natalie into the elimination, which is crazy. “This is a headbanger right off the jump. Two massive teams in the first elimination. This is gonna be crazy,” says Tori. Indeed.
But then TJ reveals it’s a woman’s elimination. Oooh, so the show didn’t have to decide until they knew who was in the eliminaton. That’s dirty. Of course they don’t want to lose CT or Wes, so they decided Ashley or Natalie could go. Hmm.
Ashley is also mad that they aren’t competing as a team. Indeed. That feels like information they should have had when they picked partners. Ashley’s whole reason for picking CT was for how good he is in competitions. Instead, it just put a huge target on her back. Yeah, the show did Ashley real dirty this season.
9:20 — The competition is “Operation Fire Escape.” It involves traversing a beam while bound by a strap on their wrists and ankles that they are hanging from. They have to go down and back as fast as possible and the whole thing will be on fire. This heavily favors Natalie, so it would be quite the upset if Ashley wins.
9:25 — Natalie does win, but it’s a lot closer than anyone thought it would be. Ashley does a great job. This comp also appears to take forever. It even gets tedious to watch. As Ashley stalks off, she says there’s a “bunch of snakes” in the game. She thinks her friends “have secret hate in their hearts” for her.
9:30 — They now informed about a twist. As the winner, Natalie gets to decide if she stays with her partner (Wes), or trades him in for the loser’s partner (CT), or steals any other partner in the game except Fessy (because he’s the challenge winner).
We are left with the cliffhanger of who she’s going to pick.
Next time: Everything looks super intense. Also, it looks like Gabby and Fessy are hooking up!