Challenge Bloodbath: Which Elimination Hurt The Underdog Team Most?

The team’s women finalists have been identified, but two men are left vying for a final spot

The roster of Underdog finalists is nearly complete, and the Challenge: Invasion of the Champions climax is just around the corner. But has the game’s out-of-left-field bloodbath stripped Team Winless of its keys to victory?

On tonight’s episode, TJ announced that the team of eight Underdogs would be reduced to four finalists by day’s end in the most merciless series of elimination rounds yet. And thankfully for puzzle master Shane — who insisted he was more brains than brawn — the madness started out with a brain teaser called “X It,” a mission that challenged players to collect pieces while strapped to a carousel-from-hell and then use the artifacts to fill out a glorified Sudoku puzzle. TJ announced that the slowest man and woman in each of the day’s same-sex heats would be eliminated on the spot.

And Shane made good on his promise — though the puzzle took him more than an hour, he was the first to finish. Cory wasn’t far behind, and thanks to a stroke of luck nobody saw coming, Nelson took the final spot, meaning Hunter — who was sure he’d earned a ticket to the final — was cast off. With him went much of the Underdogs’ strength.

“I feel like I’m a lot smarter than what I displayed today,” Hunter said. “I don’t feel like I was even close to getting that puzzle. I don’t know what happened.”

On the women’s side, things went down a little more decisively (and quickly). Amanda knocked out the puzzle first, and Ashley — who’d confused just a couple of blocks — finished next. Finally, in a nail-biter, Nicole took the final spot, leaving Jenna, whose elimination round record was previously unblemished, with her first loss ever.

“I’ve been through a lot -- this was definitely an emotional roller-coaster,” she said.

And though two players were cut without much mercy, the battle was far from over -- and the remaining six Underdogs were ushered into the Fortress, where they’d compete for the final four spots. In “Inside Out,” played in same-sex heats, the remaining three men and three women would clash in a twisted battle of three-way reverse tug-of-war. The first man or woman to reach his or her respective bell would earn a finalist spot, while the other two would fight for the second spot in an additional round.

On the women’s side, proud gym rat Nicole seemed to have the decisive advantage. At one point, she single-handedly dragged Ashley and Amanda across the better part of the battlefield. But as exhaustion set in, Amanda and Ashley decided to work together to deny Nicole a spot. And they succeeded: After working in tandem, they managed to best Nicole, and Ashley eventually claimed the first official place in the final mission.

“I think Ashley’s a witch,” CT said. “Because she just put a Jedi mind trick on these girls, and they basically just stood up and let her win.”

“I’m the luckiest f---ing bitch,” Ashley added. “I did not deserve that, but I got it. I’m so excited right now.”

Then, after an intense second round, Nicole secured the Underdogs’ final female spot, leaving Amanda — known to be the brains of the operation — with a one-way ticket home.

“I think that they probably lost the smartest girl on their team, which is good for the champs,” CT said.

On the men’s side, Nelson pulled out an impossibly immediate win in the game’s first round, leaving Cory and Shane sure he’d manipulated them into working against each other. Incensed, Cory lunged at Nelson — then, the credits rolled. Will Cory stay? Be sent home? It’s still unclear, but either way, there’s still one final male Underdog spot up for grabs.

Only Cory and Shane are left fighting for a final spot (unless Cory is prematurely cut for fighting — damn you, cliffhangers!), but no matter who stays, the bloodbath came with some serious casualties. So between Jenna, Amanda and Hunter, which elimination-round victim hurt the Underdog team most, and will the winless wonders be able to pull it together in the final mission? Will they be worse off without Amanda’s brains, Hunter’s brawn or Jenna’s tenacity and experience in getting to the finish line? Share your thoughts, and be sure to tune in to Challenge next Tuesday at 9/8c!