For many Challenge fans, Johnny Bananas went from rival to reviled for his handling of the final mission’s aftermath.
On tonight’s Rivals III finale, the game’s final three duos -- each a pair of former enemies -- squared off for the game’s grand prize: $275,000. But, as TJ revealed last week, they’d also have to compete against each other through a series of checkpoints. Each in-team victor would eventually be presented with an ultimate choice at the game’s end: split the money with his or her partner, or take it all for himself or herself.
Needless to say, stakes were high, and Sarah immediately took a commanding lead over the game, edging out Bananas in a glorified test of untangle-these-coiled-wires. Collectively, the team completed the first checkpoint out in front, but Jenna and Vince pulled ahead with a long-distance run to the second checkpoint, a giant memory game. All the while, Cheyenne and Devin acted as the game’s constant caboose.
Bananas barely edged Sarah in Round 2 to tie up the game at one point apiece. Again, Sarah and Bananas finished first, but paranoia that Bananas had plans to dupe her began to wear Sarah down.
Johnny dismissed her fears, and piled on the guilt thick.
“If anyone has to worry about anyone f----- anyone over, you’re the one that’s done it in the past, not me,” he said, referencing Sarah’s infamous Exes II vote, in which she sent Johnny and Nany into Exile.
But Sarah remained undeterred and took the lead over Bananas again in Checkpoint 3, a two-dimensional, life-sized puzzle. Vince had technically finished before either but, as he and Jenna got a head start, it became unclear which team had the lead.
What was clear, though, was that Devin and Cheyenne were still in last. But at least Cheyenne finally logged a point to compete with Devin’s two.
On a smaller scale, Sarah finally felt placated as Bananas’ teammate and convinced herself that even if her partner came out with more mini-game points, he’d eventually split the cash. He had to, she insisted.
“We couldn’t be here if it weren’t together,” she said. “That’s how we came into this, and I think that’s how we’re gonna plan on leaving.”
Sadly, things didn’t quite work out that way. Though Vince and Jenna edged out Bananas and Sarah in a subsequent run and wound up in first place at the end of the game’s first day day, their victory was short-lived. Bananas and Sarah closed the gap in the second day’s final stretch. And, since Bananas edged out Sarah in the final two mini-games -- a test of sleeplessness and another of eating gross foods (cow tongue included!) -- he was deemed the first-place team’s ultimate champion.
And, standing atop a mountain’s summit, he chose to remain on an island: Johnny Bananas denied Sarah -- his fellow first-place finisher -- any money at all. Vince and Jenna split their second-place earnings, and Devin and Cheyenne went halves on their bronze spoils, but Sarah was the only person who would go home with absolutely nothing.
“I’ve dedicated nine years of my life and 13 Challenges…I don’t know how many I’ve got left,” he said. “Sarah was an amazing partner, and I couldn’t have done it without her. As far as our rivalry’s concerned, I consider that completely dead...but I need to look after myself and invest in my future, so I’m gonna go ahead and take the money and run.”
Instantly, Sarah fell to her knees. What was meant to be a celebratory moment became palpably somber, and it was clear nobody among the show’s cast knew how to console her.
“I feel like you just played with me the whole time,” Sarah said through tears. “I worked so hard. I’m ready to be done with this…I wish I’d have trusted my instincts.”
“You make me sick,” she concluded. “You make me sick.”
Cheyenne, for one, saw the move as duplicitous and said Johnny would have never even been given the choice to keep the money were it not for Sarah’s contributions to the team.
“Bananas needed her as a partner, and the fact that he didn’t acknowledge that by splitting this money with her -- that’s ruthless,” she said.
Vince, on the other hand, supported his cousin’s choice, and said the game was designed to allow for such a bold move.
“He had every right to take all of it,” he said.
What do you think: Was Bananas choice just, and is Sarah crying over spilled milk? Or are his justifications for keeping the cash flimsy, and did Sarah earn her keep? Share your thoughts in the comments.