After weeks of unease and enough trips to Purgatory to make Saint Peter weep, The Challenge Season 35 has narrowed its hulking roster down to 11 contestants, each of whom is now eligible to run the game’s final mission. So now that the Red Skulls have been awarded and the Total Madness pirate ship is in motion, the question is: Who’s got the best shot at winning?
On the show’s latest episode, and in a double-elimination battle for the ages, Bayleigh and Kyle — who both spent the season avoiding Purgatory — finally got their shots to compete in elimination rounds. And their strategy of waiting until the 11th hour proved to work in their favor: In “Knots of War,” which challenged players to thread a knotted rope through a car that their opponents would have to consequently undo, Bayleigh bested veteran Aneesa by a hair, while Kyle blew Josh out of the water.
And, for the first time in ages, both said they were able to breathe.
“I just took out one of the biggest competitors in Challenge history,” Bayleigh said. “I didn’t even think I could pull that off.”
Bayleigh and Kyle aren’t the only players whose standing in the game has remained uncertain, though: Dee’s had to fight like hell to stay in the game, besting Ashley in strategy “Code Breaker” before getting brusquely tossed into Purgatory for a second time against Mattie in “Tunnel Vision,” which challenged players to dig themselves out of narrow space in sand pits. Melissa, too, had to kick and scratch her way into the winners’ circle — both politically and physically — by taking on Nany in “Off With Their Heads,” in which the ladies had to tear plastic skulls off of each other’s jumpsuits and deposit them in their respective barrels.
Conversely, a few of the game’s remaining players have earned Red Skulls with ease. Jenny’s had one of the talismans in her pocket since Episode 2, when she got her wish to square off against newbie Jenn in “Flip the Switch.” And Rogan and Fessy barely had to lift their fingers to defeat their respective opponents, Jay and Jordan. Though Jay had been unbeatable before taking on Rogan in “Fire Ball,” a play on “Ball’s In” that included LITERAL FIRE, Rogan knocked Jay to the ground so hard at the game’s onset that nearby medics had to intervene to spare Jay additional harm. Fessy, too, beat Jordan by default in the classic “Pole Wrestle” after nearly ripping Jordan’s shoulder out of its socket.
(And sure, Nelson didn’t injure Bear during a second helping of “Pole Wrestle,” but his victory came so simply, he likened it to mowing over a teddy bear.)
Still, no Challenge season would be complete without a few close calls, and Cory nearly saw his game come to an end in “Launch Button,” in which he and Swaggy C had to illuminate a series of flashing lights while suspended from swinging harness sets. And though Bananas ultimately bested Wes in matchup-for-the-ages “Charge the Wall,” which challenged the guys to uncover three batteries they had to plant inside charging stations, the game began tensely and didn’t produce a clear winner until its final seconds.
Finally, the Challenge house seemed convinced that Kaycee defeated Kailah in “Bombs Away” simply because Kailah wanted out of the house, but there’s no denying the Big Brother export showed her grit in the game of pure power and speed.
Pretty impressive list of duels, right? It bears mentioning, though, that it might not be conclusive — though the game’s remaining players are now each qualified to run the final race, TJ hasn’t told the cast whether Purgatory is still open for business or whether there might still be more elimination rounds to come.
But whaddya think: Of the game’s remaining 11 players, who has the best shot at winning the $1 million grand prize? Share your pick, and see what happens next on The Challenge Wednesday at 8/7c!