The Invasion is over, the first three-day final in Challenge history has been completed and the Season 29 winners have officially been named. So, after a game that found players dangling from dizzying heights and…stringing beads through twine (that’s a new one)…do you think the victors deserved their spoils?
On tonight’s finale, the show’s competitors continued to push through Day 2 of their final adventure, which had already challenged them to eat a buffet of gross food (urine-soaked eggs, anyone?) and drag a collection of rickshaws through the jungle. While CT and Ashley were totally in sync as temporary partners — and Nelson and Nicole weren’t far behind — Camila and Cory struggled to keep up.
“I’ve never done this bad,” Camila lamented. “I can’t wait to be done with [Cory]…My whole time has been f---ed up. I feel horrible.”
And while Cory finished the game’s second leg in last place — again — he resolved to keep fighting after a good night’s sleep (or whatever passed for sleep) at the Shelter. Unfortunately, there’d be little rest for the group, as TJ slapped the players with the final mission’s second time-buster: Whichever team threaded one of three long collections of string with the most Thai prayer beads would get the luxury of adding a time penalty to the two players of their choice. After hours of tedium, CT and Ashley were deemed the winners and very eagerly hit Nelson and Nicole with handicaps.
Next, after catching very few Zs, the game’s six contenders learned that Day 3 would, again, include a series of checkpoints that they’d have to complete in the final cycle of man/woman teams. To kick things off, each duo had to pick up a series of buckets scattered across the beach without use of their hands — they could only rely on one of three planks outfitted with dangling hooks. Upon completion of the task, each team would sprint to a kayak where they’d paddle 10 miles alongside a canyon onto a barge.
CT and Nicole started off way ahead of the pack, and while Nicole’s flustered paddling temporarily knocked the duo off-course, the team eventually found its footing again…that is, until they started taking on water. Eventually, their ship began to sink, and while they struggled to right their vessel, Teams Camila/Nelson and Ashley/Cory started making up ground.
“I’m not gonna get discouraged,” CT said. “I still think we can keep a good, strong lead. I just gotta finish first.”
And he and Nicole did precisely that — the duo landed on the barge first and took first place on the Day 3 leg, while Nelson and Camila finished in a close second place. And while Ashley and Cory settled for third, the gap between them and the rest of the group remained narrow. Still, Cory was pissed.
“Once again, it’s third place, and I just feel defeated,” he said.
After the teams caught their breath, TJ announced that each competitor would complete the final event individually. To end the game, players would each dangle — in separate heats — from a suspended bar attached to the side of a boat. Upon passing a particular buoy, they’d drop, swim as fast as they could to a Challenge emblem on the adjacent beach, and, finally, their respective cumulative times would be locked in.
As the competitors sprinted to the finish line, they began to consider how far they’d come, and all that they’d endured across their Invasion adventure.
“I’ve learned a lot from this season,” Nelson said. “What kind of pain I hold in me...[But] you don’t stop, you keep going. I put my body through a lot of pain. But you know what? I’m still here.”
And as Camila approached the end of the game, she reflected on what it was like to be the last woman Champion standing.
“I feel like I overcame a lot of my insecurities,” she said. “I can do anything I set my mind to. I beat the beast, I beat Laurel — that’s something that I’m definitely proud of. That’s all I could have asked for. Once a champ, you can never take that title away. I will never not be a champ.”
But who would be the official Invasion champions? And would one or two Underdogs finally add victories to their winless records? After tallying the competitors’ times across three days of competition, TJ gathered the group, and in very dramatic fashion, announced that Nicole and Cory each earned third place, Camila and Nelson each earned silver medals and Ashley and CT each earned the grand prize of $100,000 each (plus their respective shares of previous team bank accounts).
For Ashley, an Underdog who had yet to notch a triumph, the result was particularly moving, and she cried to her mother over the phone as she delivered the good news.
“I just won!” she cried to her incredulous mom. “I love you so much.”
“I knew your heart could do it,” Ashley’s mother responded.
And CT, a previous Champion, took pride in how he’d denied an Underdog a win. More importantly, he was excited to help provide for his young son with his new winnings.
“This one means a lot…more than just the money,” CT said. “I was more concerned about changing diapers and making bottles than I was about training for a Challenge.…God, I can’t wait to see that kid.”
What do you think — did Ashley and CT deserve their gold medals, and did the right man and woman win? Or were there silver- and bronze-medal holders who you think deserved it more? Share your thoughts, catch the reunion next Tuesday at 8/7c and the premiere of The Challenge: Champs vs. Pros at 9/8c!