Dissecting Darrell: Is The Challenge Competitor A Powerhouse Or Past His Prime?

The champ destroyed Zach in The Fortress but struggled through the preceding mission

Fourteen years ago on The Gauntlet, Darrell — who’d just wrapped up his season of Road Rules — shared in Challenge spoils as a member of the winning Road Rules team. And he did the same across his three consecutive Challenge tries: As Bananas observed on tonight’s Invasion of the Champions episode, Darrell’s the only player to have ever gone four-for-four straight out of the gate.

But is Darrell’s return -- his first game in seven years -- proof he’s not the same competitor he used to be?

After unlikely defeat in “Knockout,” Darrell and the Champions found themselves at a deficit immediately upon entering Invasion and were out for redemption in “Rolling With the Punches,” their second mission. The game challenged players to stay on a modified hamster wheel for as long as possible, and while the champs ultimately came out with a win thanks to big-time performances from Bananas and Laurel, Darrell found himself at the bottom of the totem pole and fell off the contraption almost as quickly as he got on.

“This is not looking good for me, man -- I’m looking like the weakest link on the team,” he lamented. “[I] did not do a good job.”

And sadly, Darrell’s performance was enough to inspire Ashley K and Cara Maria to vote him into The Fortress to square off against Zach, whom Laurel had hand-picked for the coming elimination round.

Still, Darrell was undeterred.

“I don’t care what the f*ck we doing, I came here to win,” he said as he entered The Fortress. “I’m hoping that I see a pit of some sort and that there’s some contact.”

And the Challenge gods must have been listening, because TJ told Darrell and Zach that they were playing “Pole Wrestle,” a throwback to elimination rounds from The Duel and Battle of the Exes II. The concept was simple: Whichever competitor could snatch a pole away from his opponent twice would stay in the game, and the loser would go home. As soon as TJ blew the horn and signaled the game’s start, Darrell uncloaked the game face he’d so far left hidden, and the enduring champion finally returned to the foreground.

In one fell swoop, and with two decisive strokes, Darrell left Zach defeated and proved he wasn’t messing around.

“That was the hardest elimination I think I’ve ever done,” Zach said. “That was pound for pound the best person I’ve ever faced…There’s a reason he’s a four-time champ.”

“This is definitely redemption,” Darrell said. “You ain’t gonna beat me on the ground -- it’s that simple.

So what do you think — have we seen the best of Darrell, and is his “Rolling With The Punches” performance proof that he’s weaker than he used to be? Or did his true self come out in “Pole Wrestle,” and did he just need a little warming up? Share your thoughts, and see how Darrell progresses next week on Tuesday at 9/8c!