It’s that time of year when season finales start creeping up on us and we must part with our favorite casts for a few months. Luckily, one of the shows I love the most doesn’t adhere to the confines of normal September-to-May programming (or normalcy in general). I’m talking about The Real World/Road Rules Challenge. It’s celebrating a 25th season, The Challenge: Free Agents. When I first heard the name of the game, I yelled “Oh, SN-AP!” at my TV, and I hope you did the same.
Sure, at this point the involvement of Road Rules is questionable at best. Yes, the new age definition of a “Veteran” is somewhat laughable, as Frank from Real World San Diego is not a veteran—Coral is a Veteran. And there’s a chance you stopped watching when they started introducing “fresh meat” participants. (Why are people who weren’t even on The Real World or Road Rules competing on The Real World/Road Rules Challenge? I know. I know.) But I’m here to tell you the show is still full of surprises, is still amazingly outrageous and is just trashy enough for a good escape from reality, but without having to judge yourself too hard for watching it.
I’m practically a Challenge Vet myself. I feel like I know these people. I’ve been through their drama, fights, hookups, breakups and makeups. Through 24 seasons, The Challenge has pushed its contestants up mountains, across oceans and out of planes. There have been deliberations, immunity and alliances. Competitors have gone up against exes and enemies and former roommates. And when Free Agents starts, we’ll be treated to the most unpredictable twist yet: this season, the game is an individual one. Let’s celebrate the return of this glorious showing of human athleticism with some of the best Challenge moments.
1. That CT/Diem Kiss
The build up to their first kiss and Diem’s reaction afterwards was almost as good as the kiss itself. To see CT with Diem is to see him at his most human. This was a big moment not only for their relationship, but also for Diem becoming more comfortable in her own skin. I’m bummed she won’t be on Free Agents.
2. Clothes Overboard
If there were ever two of a kind, it’s Beth and Tonya. One night while Beth was sleeping in the Inferno II house, Tonya threw all of Beth’s clothes into the pool, because Beth told Robin that Tonya slept with her boyfriend. Instability at it’s finest. I’m shocked these two weren’t better friends, because hot messes should stick together. Bigger question: how do people get any sleep in Challenge houses?
3. Mike vs Abram
This isn’t a Challenge-changing moment per se, but it’s one that always stood out to me. I remember Mike volunteering himself to go against Abram in the Gauntlet, saying it was his time to step up. Regardless of which team you were rooting for, everyone was thinking the same thing: Someone is about to lose the heart and soul of their team. Watch the clip to see what happened. (Sorry about the obnoxious WWE music overlay.)
4. Kenny Carries Wes Up a Hill
A moment of silence for all the Wes lovers out there. During the Rivals final challenge, Wes basically gave up, but Kenny carried the weight of the team (literally) and the pair still managed to get second place.
Another honorable mention Wes moment: when he decided to make the living room his bedroom, because he didn’t like anybody on his team.
5. The Loogie Seen ‘Round the World
Over a casual breakfast in the Battle of the Sexes house, David accused Puck of beating his wife. Everyone knows throwing a punch will get you thrown out of the Challenge house, no questions asked, but what about a giant—and I mean, GIANT—loogie? Puck hocked one into David’s face, then offered David the chance to give one back in return. Watch the clip to see just how massive this thing was.
6. T-Mobile Sidekick Product Placements
“Guys, we have a clue from TJ on our T-Mobile Sidekick!”
Fortunately, these are normal people and not actors. They realize how ridiculous they sound when they have to say things like this, and they have some fun with it when they can. They’ve been known to pop out from behind furniture or act overly surprised about the announcements, which I appreciate.
7. Julie Tries to Kill Veronica
Remember Julie? She really grinded everyone’s gears and yanked everyone’s chains—literally. During one of The Inferno challenges, Julie and Veronica were suspended on a zip line between two buildings. Instead of crossing the zip line, Julie focused her attentions on pulling Veronica’s safety harness. Nobody knew what was happening, and Veronica just kept screaming. At 20+ stories up in the air, can you blame her? The graphics in this clip date this season perfectly.
8. Introducing: Two-Day Final Challenges
Remember when final challenges were basically recreations of elimination games? That was cute. As seasons went on, final challenges started becoming way more Amazing Race-ish, and I’m not mad about it. But if we keep upping the ante every season, where will we be in a few years?!
9. When Frank and Jillian Wouldn’t Stop Winning
Every once and a while, a cast member comes along that just won’t go away. In The Gauntlet III, we were treated to both Frank and Jillian. Those two kept getting thrown into the Gauntlet, but came back successful time and time again. They were eventually embraced as the Rookie team’s awkward but athletic mom and dad, and helped bring home the win. They were pretty cute, I guess.
During the Cutthroat Gulag, to everyone’s surprise, CT stormed into the arena and basically wore Johnny Bananas like a backpack. Nobody knew what to say, Johnny included, which is the ultimate mic drop.
We’ve merely scratched the surface of amazing Challenge moments. Eliminations, fights, hookups, unlikely friendships (hi, Leroy and Mike)—what are your favorite moments?
The Challenge: Free Agents premieres Thursday, April 10 at 10pm ET! Like CT says in the trailer, “I’ve always been a free agent. Now everybody’s gonna have to play my game.” #itson