A leopard may never change its spots, but a Challenge standout certainly can — just look at this season of All Stars for crystal-clear evidence.
On the show’s most recent episode, MJ and Jonna — who’ve settled on a sweet spot between brains and brawn — proved they had the potential to win the whole shebang after a victory in “Dive & Conquer,” which challenged players to complete a memory puzzle (a task punctuated by many one-mile runs and dives into a cenote).
Sadly, the news wasn’t as good for Jasmine and Laterrian. After a few weeks of hovering toward the bottom of the pack, they finally fell in The Arena to Melinda and Nehemiah, who effectively earned the very first cemented spot in the final race with a victory in “Like Clockwork.”
“This is my first time making the final!” Melinda cheered, capping off an unexpectedly strong regular-season outing.
But Melinda isn’t the only competitor whose journey has been totally unanticipated. For all the players who’ve performed exactly as we expected them to (Jodi and Brad dominating the season, Katie withdrawing from a mission over heights), most have turned over a new Challenge leaf…and then some. So whose evolution has surprised you most?
Casey, known for routinely quitting missions in the era of Fresh Meat, has outlasted her fears in 2021 and handily won a mission before using her power to eliminate legend Derrick. And before Melinda became a first-time finalist, she put on a hell of a show, winning her very first (and second) elimination round and coming close to a handful of daily-mission victories.
Even Jasmine — who came in last place three times before exiting — nevertheless got a special commendation from TJ for stepping up this season.
And speaking of ratcheting up gameplay, Jonna — who came in third place on Season 1, her very first final — has completely shelved her emotional side in a laser-focused quest for her first victory. The typically bubbly Real World: Cancun export rather chillingly admitted upon entry to All Stars Season 2 that she's not above flattering people as a means of manipulation, later noting in Episode 8: "Guys, I no longer have a soul. I’m no longer sensitive."
If you ask Jonna, though, Ayanna is the superior manipulator — still, it's Ayanna's physical prowess that has been most impressive. The Road Rules: Semester at Sea export had been out of Challenge commission for more than 15 years before returning, and while her signature take-no-crap attitude was still very much the same, her performance in The Arena has been on another level. In elimination rounds, she’s been completely unbeatable.
Then there are players like Tina, a former finalist and cutthroat competitor who threw an Arena matchup against Melinda, something she’d have never done in her former Challenge life (a renewed rivalry with Jodi really shook her up). Similarly, Darrell, who spent previous seasons leading the pack, has flown completely under the radar on Season 2, avoiding elimination rounds with Janelle but failing to amass his typical collection of victories too (Nehemiah and Laterrian angrily chided him in Episode 7 for skating through the game).
Some have exceeded expectations and others have fallen short, but it’s clear this crew of Challenge stars has changed a ton in recent years. Who do you think has transformed the most? Share your thoughts, and be sure to hang tight for the final few All Stars episodes on Paramount +!