The Spice Girls may have — at one time — insisted that friendship never ends, but Laurel and Cara Maria of The Challenge, who first met as series newbies on 2010’s Fresh Meat II, have proven over the years that buddy-bonds may, contrarily, carry a definite expiration date (or, at the very least, some serious speedbumps en route to peace).
And unfortunately, on the most recent episode of War of the Worlds 2, Cara and Laurel completed their fifth season as fellow cast mates on a downswing. They’d already explained in separate interviews on the show’s premiere that they’d fallen out — again — while together in Montana. Laurel claimed that Cara had become too invested in social media, and subsequently had allowed their friendship to falter, but Cara argued that it was Laurel’s dark side that had ultimately pushed them apart.
“Laurel had come out to move out to Montana. At the darkest times of my life, Laurel’s been by my side,” Cara said. “At the same, with Laurel’s great kindness comes also this meanness."
Very quickly, the ladies found themselves on opposite ends of Team U.S.’s intra-squad warring, which amounted to Laurel — an ally to Johnny Bananas — fighting tooth and nail to eliminate Cara, whom she’d seen as an ally to her enemy Wes.
Ultimately, though, it was Laurel who found herself on the Proving Ground at the end of Episode 4 after an explosive Tribunal vote. Though she’d helped throw the day’s challenge, “Relic Runner,” in an effort to get rid of Cara, Kam, Ashley, Ninja Natalie or Paulie, it was she who’d have to beat Ninja — Team U.S.’s choice for elimination-round contestant — to stay alive in the game.
And though Laurel looked like the technical winner of “Branched Out,” a climbing game that challenged Laurel and Ninja to scale separate trees while placing branches in designated carved-out holes, production later revealed that Laurel had incorrectly placed one of the match’s objects and was subsequently eliminated.
Cara, who had, across the years, developed into something of a family member to Laurel, suddenly — and shockingly — relished Laurel’s defeat.
“I’ve gotten the revenge that I needed to get,” Cara said. “Everything from my past, like, I’m done. Out the door. Goodbye.”
So how did Cara and Laurel get to such an acrimonious place?
Well, it certainly wasn’t on Fresh Meat II. While Cara was the top draft pick on the ladies’ side on Season 19 (Laurel was a close second), she and eventual teammate Darrell were eliminated from the game first, leaving little time for Laurel and Cara to get to know each other.
It wasn’t until the game’s follow-up Cutthroat, which found Cara and Laurel on the same team later that year, that their mercurial relationship built a foundation. With little evidence, Laurel frequently called Cara Maria a “JV player” and said she was holding the team back from greatness.
“In any other challenge, with other people, you wouldn’t be here still,” Laurel said to Cara in a moment of what she deemed “tough love.” Still, the ladies both made it to the final challenge where they shared in a second-place finish.
Subsequently, and to nobody’s surprise, host TJ Lavin made them partners on 2011’s Rivals, which paired up enduring enemies to compete as begrudging teammates. And, straight out of the gate, it seemed like they Laurel and Cara were in trouble, struggling to find their rhythm. While Cara was still reeling from the pressure Laurel had placed on her, Laurel was battling against her instinct to be overly critical.
Eventually, though, Cara and Laurel found their stride, and after winning two elimination rounds and mission as partners, they placed second (again) in the final mission behind eventual winners Paula and Evelyn.
Perhaps more impressively though, the former foes had successfully analyzed their issues, let go of their mutual suspicions and cultivated a sincere friendship. By the season’s end, Laurel had stuck out her neck for Cara when Wes, CT and Paula bullied Cara, while Cara comforted Laurel in light of the elimination of CT, who’d dated Laurel across Season 21.
“Cara’s like my annoying little sister,” Laurel said. “She’s just there constantly annoying me…but when it comes down to it, we’re there for each other, so I’m happy to have her.”
And all seemed to be well three years later on Free Agents, the first season that featured cast members competing as individual players. Slowly, though, tensions arose between Cara and Laurel — two of the strongest women in the game — and when Cara felt like she was being routinely condescended to by Laurel, she pulled Laurel aside and said their days as friends were over. Cara took particular issue with the fact that Laurel seemed too proud to apologize for her behavior.
“Honestly, Laurel, I’m done with you,” Cara said. “It’s not over one incident, it’s a multitude of things that have finally added up…Our friendship is over. You’re not a friend.”
And Laurel took the lashing hard.
“Over the years [Cara] and I have become sisters,” Laurel said through tears. “This is probably what it feels like to be sisters. I don’t know.”
Ultimately, the ladies would have to settle the score against each other in an elimination round called “Wrecking Wall,” which challenged them each to scale a tall, flat surface by punching their own climbing holes into drywall. And, as Cara had just broken her hand, she was at an extreme disadvantage.
In light of Cara’s handicap, Laurel handily sent Cara packing. But, in the process of eliminating Cara, Laurel finally apologized, and it seemed as though the ladies had finally set into motion a proper reconciliation.
“I really have no idea what’s going to happen when I get home, and if Cara Maria is going to want to talk to me,” Laurel said. “But I don’t want her to be sad, she played a great game and I’m proud of Cara.”
And Cara seemed to finally come around.
“She’s got a good heart. I know she’s a good person,” Cara said.
And the friendship continued its seemingly boundless ascent until Laurel and Cara appeared together again, three years later, on 2017’s Invasion of the Champions. The ladies were two of only four women on the game’s team of previous winners, and as the format of the game only allowed space for one of the four to advance to the finale, Laurel and Cara eventually found themselves, again, squaring off in an elimination round. This time, it was “Balls In,” which challenged each player to plow through her opponent and sink a ball into a designated goal.
When the dust had cleared, it was Laurel, again, who’d come out victorious against Cara, but viewers could at least take solace in the fact that the ladies were still as thick as thieves.
“This is a little weird because she has been my friend for a long time,” Cara said. “We have slumber parties, we go for walks with our dogs, like…we don’t fight.”
But it was only a matter of time before they did, indeed, fight again. At the show’s reunion, the tide had once again turned, and Laurel confirmed that she and Cara were no longer friends. It was insinuated that Laurel, who wound up with a girlfriend in Nicole while filming the show, did not take too kindly to the fact that Nicole had been flirty with Cara too (Nicole later admitted on the Vendettas reunion that she and Cara had kissed). And so, the pendulum, impressive in its ascent, fell again.
More generally, Laurel said that Cara had changed and that she no longer recognized the person she saw. Sadly, it doesn’t seem as though that perspective has changed since, and war between Cara Maria and Laurel rages on.
So that’s where we are — sadly, these enemies-turned-friends (and them some) are on a downturn. Will they recover again, and is it only a matter of time before history repeats itself? Share your thoughts on the latest episode of The Challenge and the most recent chapter in the saga of Cara and Laurel.