Is Natalie Killing Her Own Chance At Challenge Greatness?

The 'Big Brother' alum is the game’s top-performing woman so far, but some see her politicking as naïve

Natalie, a wide-eyed Challenge newbie, has proven to be the game’s unlikely top dog on the women’s side of the game. But will her method of strategy land her, mistakenly, in the doghouse?

On tonight’s Vendettas episode — Cory freshly eliminated from the game by Nelson — the game’s remaining competitors were tasked with putting their penchant for hashtagging to the test. In “#Vendettas,” players would have to race around a hashtag-shaped platform raised 30 feet in the air while planting a series of hashtag-shaped puzzle pieces on other competitors’ home bases. Once a player successfully planted four pieces and made it back to his or her home base, time would be stopped, and the top three performers of the day would be named members of the Troika, and would decide on one woman to nominate to The Ring. Sadly, the injured Melissa — who had to sit out the day’s mission because of a foot injury — had already been sentenced by default.

While Sylvia put up a huge showing and shook up one of the ladies’ heats, it was Natalie who outperformed all others. In the process, she became the first — and so far only — woman to be named to The Troika, and banked $12,500 in the process.

“Little Natalie, bouncing around like she’s got one of these things built in her backyard, it’s impressive,” Johnny Bananas, Natalie’s wise choice for ally/partner-in-flirtation, observed.

Still, what came next impressed Natalie’s fellow competitors a little less. As Natalie and fellow Troika members Devin and Johnny Bananas moved toward The Inquisition, Natalie took it upon herself to pull aside Veronica and Kailah — the two players she saw as having the most political capital — to try to strike deals. But both vets saw Natalie’s move as clumsy and a little insincere.

“I think Natalie is a very calculated girl,” Veronica said. “I like to keep quiet. I definitely don’t go around and try to intimidate people. It’s gonna bite you in the ass.”

And Kailah agreed.

“I wasn’t sure if she was threatening me, if she was making sure that I wasn’t coming after her, not that I would ever admit that to her face,” she said. “I don’t understand what the point of it was. I feel like it was a negative thing for her to do.”

Still, unwitting to the dissent, Natalie insisted she was making the right moves.

“I did come in saying that I was going to play really cutthroat, and not care,” she said. “[But] I’m not a villain.”

Either way, now that The Troika’s named Natalie’s conceivable pals Alicia and Kam into The Inquisition, Natalie’s forfeited the ability to fly under the radar. So what’ll happen next?

What do you think — was it a mistake for Natalie to schmooze the way she did with Veronica and Kailah, and is she unwittingly making enemies? Or, is she still in control, and is Kailah overstating Natalie’s errors? Share your thoughts, and see what happens when Vendettas returns next Tuesday at 9/8c!