Whose Bubble's Getting Burst On The Challenge?

The promised Underdog Bloodbath sends four Challengers out of the tub. Who's all wet this week?

I don't know about y'all, but shit got tense for me last night! It's not necessarily a legendary episode, and I could have done without another "cliffhanger," but it delivered on last week's promise of an Underdog winnowing with a quickness -- and it did so with fairly straightforward challenges, expertly edited for suspense (like, it's Jenna, in a brain game, but I still thought she had a shot!).

The first "cut" strings the four remaining 'dogs of each sex up on a thresher of sorts, to collect bags of puzzle pieces that actually are the puzzle pieces; then they can unhook themselves and address the Thai-doku (and annoy TJ by calling for checks before doing the arithmetic). Last to finish goes home right there. Shane finishes first, and after a producer successfully explains the difference between rows and columns to Nelson, and Cory untangles fives and sixes ("What?" I know.), it's a weepy Hunter who's out. On the women's side, Amanda's shit-talk has zero consequences; she sails to victory easily, and despite Nicole's best efforts to panic herself out of the competish, it's Jenna who goes home (and seems kind of relieved about it; Teej, meanwhile, has a telegram-from-the-War-Department puss on as he's telling her she's done that makes me wonder what got cut).

Then it's time for a brutalistic, simple Fortress: the three remaining competitors are harnessed to a three-"pronged" rope, and must try to drag themselves to a bell on the outside of the circle. First to ring it is safe; the other two will be harnessed to a much shorter rope, facing each other, and must get both feet outside the circle, first to two points.

It's kind of hard to understand, once Nicole turns around and digs her heels in, why the other two don't do the same thing; it's just as hard to understand, once Nicole hears Amanda and Ashley plotting to double-team her, why she doesn't try to sell Amanda on flipping because Amanda's a bit too small to beat Nicole one-on-one. But it's Ashley who wrings the bell and, after an awkward couple of tussles, Nicole who gets her feet over the line.

And then it's the men's turn, and Nelson has led both Shane and Cory to believe he's pulling with each of them against the other, but what took the women an hour to accomplish, he lurches forward and does in a minute. Shane is mellow about the "betrayal" -- but sees an opportunity to get Nelson out anyway, saying in so many words that if he can get Cory and Nelson to exchange blows, they'll take themselves out. In the abstract, this is a goofy plan and the longest of shots.

But this is also The Challenge, and Cory and Nelson.

Boom goes the duh-namite. Well done, Professor Landrum.

Not that anything's likely to really come of it, but in the meantime, let's see how everyone ranks.

  1. Shane

    If they don't stop underestimating the kid now, I don't know what it would take. Beasts the first puzzle, "solves" Cory and Nelson in about four seconds after kenning that Nelson (inadvertently, perhaps, because: dumb) screwed them both.

  2. Darrell

    He's hilarious handicapping the Underdogs' chances, by which I mean dragging all the kids, and I'm with him on Amanda maybe waiting to talk shit until she's won -- at least as far as hoping she jinxes herself -- but it took a little longer to work out that way than he thought.

  3. Amanda

    Takes her time with the puzzle "'cause I'm smart," and comes close to escaping the Fortress -- and when she doesn't, she's quite gracious in defeat given how little use she has for Nicole.

  4. Jenna

    She's so happy because alliances don't matter in the Bloodbath context! She's so confident that using her fingers to do math will work, because "they never let me down before"! She's so overmatched, and the first out on the girls' side! She's become one of my favorites, but there's this Amazing Race phenomenon my esteemed colleague Linda Holmes used to call "killer fatigue," and I think she hit a wall mentally.

  5. Laurel

    I couldn't get a good read on her Whole Deal With Nicole; she's open to a relationship, but then she's in a talking-head predicting Nicole gets bounced first in the Bloodbath. Whatever the case, her goal-oriented cheering for Nicole is effective.

  6. CT, Camila

    No objection.

  7. Nicole

    Takes longer than you'd think to solve the Thai-doku and gets RULL salty with Amanda in the one-on-one, to the point where I thought she might have gotten in her own head too deeply to get out. She did, but she's looking less impressive as a competitor as the ranks thin.

  8. Ashley

    Not sure she's in a position to shade Jenna about how she's not playing dumb for the cameras, and given how close she came to checking out mentally in the first round of the tug-of-war, I don't love her finals chances.

  9. Hunter

    It's a pity he'll have to fundraise for his special-needs gym some other way, but it's still a good idea, and I wish him the best. Elsewhere.

  10. Cory and Nelson

    Each admits puzzle-solving isn't his strength; each mocks himself for biffing arithmetic; each should know better than to trust the other to keep his allegiances straight -- and should have learned weeks ago how to tune Shane out at times like this. Alas.

Episode Superlatives

MVP: Shane; it's not just that his plan works, it's that it works almost instantaneously.

LVP: Sudoku.

Best Reaction Shot:

Best Quote: "I need to take some math classes!" - Nelson, clocking himself before everyone else can.

Sickest Burn: "Ashley looks like she's in an argument with a split personality." - CT.

Crimes Against Fashion: None to speak of, thanks in part to most of the episode being spent in battle mode.

The Wrath Of Teej: Gets a bit snappish at Challengers asking for puzzle checks before they've bothered adding up their columns, and cuts a few sweet side-eyes at their freakouts.

I feel you, buddy.

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